By Mia Maysack, PNN columnist
When you have lost or almost lost loved ones to suicide, it changes you.
My first experience with this happened at a young age and I took it very personally, even though it was an intimate, personal decision that didn't involve me. I guess that is one of the things that hurt most about it.
Time passed, life was experienced and as my health conditions worsened, I found myself on the stone-cold ground of rock bottom -- which granted me a bittersweet comprehension of the temptations to end never-ending pain.
Years later, someone I cared for took her own life, after secretly enduring the late stages of terminal cancer. I’d witnessed that kind of suffering before during my days working in hospice care. This further reshaped my mind around the concept.
Of course, none of us want to lose anyone, especially in a way such as this, but the question does remain. Which could be considered more “selfish” -- someone eliminating their life or someone else not wanting them to?
“I want to leave this earth because I feel as though I just can't do it anymore. It truly has nothing to do with anyone else. I am solely human and have reached my absolute breaking point. Ultimately, I make my own decisions -- though it’s impossible to comprehend the ripple effect my actions will have on others.”
“I don't want you to leave this earth because I care so much about you. I know you feel as though you cannot do this anymore, but I am here for you and have a difficult time understanding why that isn't enough. I would do anything to ease your suffering. There are others who care and need you, so stick around for their sake.”
The dialogue may as well be night and day, two entirely different realities. Both lack consideration for the other on either end of the spectrum.
Some pain sufferers may not have even one support person in their lives who they can turn to when the going gets tough, yet many seem to think the best way to deal with suicide is by not talking about it. They fear that by discussing it and making it real, somehow that will trigger chaos and we'll begin dropping like flies once the seed has been planted.
The intent of this article is the exact opposite.
Recently I took part in a class where this topic was discussed in a small group session. To my left was a person who had been in pain their entire life. They were over it, pun fully intended, literally in the process of orchestrating a move to someplace where assisted suicide is legal.
To my right was someone also in pain, who was squeamish about the subject and could not begin to relate to it.
Then there was me, a splash of irony right there in the middle.
Not too long ago, I took a mental health day at a local beach along Lake Michigan. When I am able to swim, my skills are strong. But as I approached my targeted distance, weather conditions shifted and I was both pulled under and pushed back. It was as though I'd been swept into a riptide and under current at the same time.
At this point, I was exhausted and in low temperature water far longer than anticipated. Swirling thoughts crashed into my mind, much like the waves that had begun to cover my face. If I'm not able to move into shore I will die.
I've made it through worse, and there's no way this is how it's going to end-- not without a fight. So I powered through the water at full force until I felt as I could no longer – which is when the tip of my toes could finally touch the sand bar. With a touch of hypothermia and major shock to the system, I made it.
This is everyday life with chronic pain and illness. The emotions can submerge and escort us to the very edge of sanity, a tsunami that can swallow us whole and leave us fighting for every breath. Sometimes these ailments are much like anchors on our feet, shackling us to inevitable trenches of darkness and gloom.
Many who can relate to these experiences are traumatized by judgmental stigma, so it's important that we acknowledge it is not only understandable but also normal to feel defeated.
Observing these feelings as opposed to just absorbing them is a way of co-existence. The relationship with oneself is critical. At some of our lowest points, it is within us to choose the direction of our sails and head to safer shores.
When navigating the treachery of these waters, our pursuit of quality of life against all odds presents itself as proof that we can make it through this and that we're in it together. We just gotta Keep Our Heads Up!
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, PLEASE REACH OUT
Mia Maysack lives with chronic migraine, cluster headaches and fibromyalgia. Mia is the founder of Keepin’ Our Heads Up, a Facebook advocacy and support group, and Peace & Love, a wellness and life coaching practice for the chronically ill.
The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.