Suicide, especially in the United States, is a topic of conversation frowned upon for those who cannot fathom what it is like to be in such extreme emotional or physical pain. Regardless of disability there are times in life for many folks where life simply does not seem to be worth living for a multitude of reasons. It can be challenging for people who are happy with their life to understand how anyone would want to end theirs because life has so much to offer in their view. To this I respond, unless you have been down that deep dark road of complete and utter desperation it can be very challenging to relate to a suicidal person’s state of mind.
I, too, used to share the mind frame of not understanding why anyone would want to end their life. I have always been the type of girl who is ridiculously positive, finds humor in life despite challenging situations, and pushes myself out of any kind of funk I might have in a relatively short period of time.
Don’t misunderstand me, I had always understood that deep depressions, anxiety, disabilities, etc. could lead people down dark roads, but believed that anyone could come back from the dark side with help. In my opinion, this may or may not be true now. I do believe everyone has the right to choose if they want to end their life or not. There are so many wonderful things in life to live for, but when one is in a state of complete hopelessness it can be challenging to come back from this without help.
When I broke my neck in 2010 I was one of the fortunate ones to never go through a major depression, constantly push forward, have an incredibly supportive family, the resources to continue to live my life, and work. Many folks are not as fortunate to have a situation like this. Throughout years of medical hell, intense chronic pain, and countless other complications I still managed to laugh, build a life after the initial trauma, and continue forward. I wasn’t happy, per say, for many years, but I managed to make the best out of an awful situation.
Life came to a screeching halt for me three years after my accident when I moved to China for spinal surgery. I could not have possibly prepared for what happened next to me over the course six months in 2013. In the beginning of 2013 we discovered I had a massive cyst in my spinal cord. We decided to move to China to undergo second major spinal surgery with some world-class Chinese Surgeons.
After surgery I developed excruciating chronic pain at the site of the injury on my neck in addition to my already burning chronic pain of pins and needles due to nerve damage from the injury that so many Spinal Cord Injury folks suffer from too. Four weeks after surgery my physical therapists put me up in a walking frame in my neck brace in order to get me moving. Within 10 seconds of being in the standing frame (unbeknownst to me at the time my osteoporosis had deteriorated severely) I heard a large crack in my kneecap, and my nerve pain when shooting to a level that was off the charts.
Video of me in the standing frame 10 seconds for my injury: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvxxVDzaBvk&feature=youtube_gdata
To make a long story short I had just underwent spinal surgery, developed severe acute and then chronic pain in my neck making it challenging for me to even sit up, and my femur (knee cap) + shinbone cracked straight through. I was bed bound and mentally alone in China for many months to follow. The Chinese neglected to tell me my leg was broken and it was not put in a cast to top it off (very long story). I couldn’t move, my blood pressure was through the roof for months, my nerve pain was higher than I could even put in words, I could not move my neck left or right, I was sweating profusely above my level of injury, and I literally could not move.
There were no immediate solutions to help me except wait. I was crying all the time, I could not breathe very well, I had radiating pain through every fiber of my being, I couldn’t think coherently, I could barely form a sentence without my voice shaking because the pain was unbearable, my entire support system was back in the United States except for my parents, and I certainly could not think how I was going to survive from hour to hour.
I definitely have an A type of personality, like to think critically, pride myself on working hard, thinking hard, and finding solutions to problems. This was the first time in my life I literally felt paralyzed, not just in my body, which I had become accustomed to, but in my mind. I could not fathom a worse form of torture for myself than what I was going through — mental parallelization.
The days rolled on, the weeks rolled on, the months rolled on, and I was pushed to the brink of complete and utter insanity. I didn’t want to talk to anybody … I couldn’t talk to anybody as I could barely put a thought together in my head.
Simply Put … I Wanted to Die.
This thought did not create feelings of depression or sadness, but it was a reality in my life that I was 100% prepared to accept. I spoke with my family about it and because they love me so much, many of them would not entertain my idea of death. My mother understood on an intimate level because she saw my suffering on a daily basis. She cried for me too.
When I did muster up the strength I found several books on suicide and how to kill myself in a painless manner. I laid out a plan for myself and I tried desperately to convey my wishes to anyone who would listen.
I thought to myself that I did not and could not live my life on its present track. Death became a comfort to me. Unless you have been there yourself you may be able to sympathize with someone in my situation, but you simply cannot empathize. This is no one’s fault, just the realities of life.
Chronic and acute pain can take away every single morsel of enjoyment in life. Pain is no joke … It can strip a person’s dignity, quality of life, and suck every last ounce of hope from your soul. In essence, my soul had been drained of any hope of living. Again, this did not make me sad, and while I do not believe in an afterlife, I thought death would be a mercy as compared to what I was going through.
I had made a silent promise to myself that if at least 50% of the pain did not abate within six months that was it … I was going to die whether someone decided to help me or not. Yes, of course this is very morbid, but this is the raw truth I was dealing with in my life at the time.
After many painstakingly long months the pain started to abate slowly. The thoughts of suicide did not abate, but I started to think more clearly and decided that I could keep suicide in my back pocket in case I ever needed it again. Life progressed and I started to recover although the chronic pain from that period in my life increased permanently. I used to live with a 5/10 pain a day and now it is a 7-8/10 a day. Eventually I found ways to cope with it and slowly started to move on again with my life.
This experience will always haunt me and stay with me as I can now empathize in a way I had never been able to before. I now live a full life as best I can and am happy, but I will never forget what rock-bottom can feel like.
This is a huge reason why I mentor fellow Spinal Injury Folks through their darkest times because if you do not have a support system or the will to live you can feel VERY alone. I am beyond ecstatic to enjoy a full life now although I still go through occasional short dark periods mainly due to care giving and medical challenges. It can be daunting having to depend on someone to constantly take care of you. I strongly feel sharing experiences like these give insight, not only to me, but to those who suffer around the world on a daily basis for a variety of reasons.