It’s been almost a year since I last wrote a blog post.
I’ve been sitting here for hours, writing and deleting dozens of opening paragraphs in which I attempt to introduce the next chapter of my blogging life in some gentle, clever and uplifting guise. No introduction seems quite right, so I will be frank: I’m here to explore the topic of death, and more specifically, choosing to die.
Death has been an ongoing and overwhelming theme in my life that I have yet felt able to talk about freely (in public). I am ready to confront the presumption/fear that people aren’t ready to hear about or discuss this subject, and I’m going to do it anyway. I will preface with this: All of my internal explorations (and decisions) are ultimately filtered through a lens of love and compassion, and while I have no control over how this will be received or what it might bring up for others, it is my wish that this inspires the same.
I want to clarify that this is not a blog about desperation, loss of hope, or the injustices of being chronically ill, nor is it a stance on being pro or anti suicide; this is an experiment in being radically honest, with the hope that by sharing my personal truth’s, questions, and insights I will be opening up and creating a safe space for people to talk about and explore a subject that has been so demonized in our culture (and in most of our personal lives). This is my personal journey of delving into and discussing topics around death, suicide, survival, choice, suffering, chronic illness, self love, trauma, beliefs, social/cultural/familial conditioning and personal responsibility. I intend to spread this out over many posts because this is a blog, not a book.
Suicide has been a big part of my life since I was a child and for the majority of that time it was inextricably connected with fear, loneliness, self-hatred, and an overwhelming sense of guilt and being trapped. Over the past 2 ½ years, my relationship with myself and suffering has dramatically transformed, which in turn has allowed me to explore the idea of suicide from a place of curiosity, radical self love, and freedom.
One year ago, in the midst of a full-blown PTSD episode (flashbacks, sweating, uncontrollable sobbing, panic, terror, etc.) brought on by a sudden and unexpected threat of homelessness (due to illness relating things), it dawned on me that the source of my suffering was coming from the belief that I have no choice but to keep surviving NO MATTER WHAT. My life at this point had been almost entirely about survival and enduring what felt like unbearable and overwhelming suffering and sickness for over a year and a half straight (if you want to know more about my life situation, feel free to read my past blogs, or ask me questions directly). Out of nowhere, something miraculous happened: my sobbing ceased, a rush of calm came over my mind, the flashbacks dissolved and my body breathed. For the first time since I can remember (and maybe ever), I gave myself permission to STOP. I let go of this idea that I had to survive no matter how sick I was or what the circumstances may be. I hugged myself so sweetly and in the gentlest voice said out loud ‘I love you, you have done everything you possibly can to make your life livable, this is not your fault, and you NEVER have to endure the kind of suffering that you have gone through over the past few years ever again’. These words effortlessly fell from my mouth as though I was channeling something or someone else. It felt like what I imagine people are describing when they talk about ‘God love’. Right then and there I gave myself permission to die from a place of love if I so choose, and in that moment I felt completely free (which ironically made me WANT to live). The pressure and desperate attachment to surviving and ‘fixing’ my situation and health (especially while being homeless and sick) has caused me nothing but overwhelming stress and trauma. Just allowing the idea that ‘living is a CHOICE’ to sink in, relieved me in a way I that have never experienced. From that moment on I knew that no matter what happens, as long as I am making choices from a place of love (not acute desperation), everything in my life (and death) will be OK. Not easy, not free of suffering, but somehow OK.
I don’t know of one chronically ill person who has not thought about, considered, or currently is considering death as an option. And while suicide can be a tricky subject to talk about (for many reasons in which I will get into later), I see a glaring need for a safe space to talk about what might be the weightiest (yet least talked about) subject in some of our lives. Why should something so natural as thinking about or preparing for death in the midst of ongoing, unbearable physical/mental/emotional suffering (with no foreseeable end) be so taboo to talk about or explore?
Here’s part of the reason: A lot of you reading this know that my ex girlfriend (who was chronically ill) killed herself two years ago. Everything leading up to and including her death was incredibly painful and traumatic. Her choice to end her life was coming from a place of extreme despair, unresolved trauma, lack of resources and isolation. While I completely understand and honor the choice she made to end her life, it’s not the kind of circumstances that I would personally support someone making that decision under (which leads to many other topics!). Unfortunately, her story is the typical association that comes to mind when people hear the word ‘suicide’. Unless someone is on their deathbed, in excruciating ‘physical’ pain, with a doctor declared ‘incurable’ illness, there is not a lot of validation, support or options for people wanting to end their own life, nor is there a place to discuss such things. I don’t know all of the components that need to be in place (personally or societally) to declare suicide legally or morally ‘okay’, but my hope is that we can start dismantling the negative associations we have around the concept of suicide.
Over the course of human history, I don’t believe people have ever experienced the kind of suffering that now exists while living with these invisible, complex and chronic illnesses. The physical and mental agony that accompanies living in this state is unlike any type of suffering I have heard of or seen before (until it happened to me). A friend (who has been bedridden for almost a decade) summed it up quite well while posting a fundraiser on behalf of a friend “I know of no other illness where people lose their functioning, social lives, the ability to care for themselves + their homes for years or decades, without the luxury of death”. That is just barely touching the surface of how these illnesses can and do affect people’s lives. And while all of our journeys, circumstances and manifestations of illness (and how we relate to it) are unique, there are many common threads, one of which I question every single day: HOW AND THE HELL ARE WE ALL SURVIVING THIS, AND WHAT IS KEEPING US GOING???
Part of the reason I have not written in almost a year is because I personally do not know how to answer that question, nor can I honestly say that I still want to be here. Don’t get me wrong, I have MANY wonderful blessings in my life. I still experience profound love and connection on a daily basis and I feel incredibly loved, seen and supported by all the people in my life (and myself) in a big way. I’m still moved to tears by beautiful things, take walks at dusk, and laugh so hard I double over…There is a big part of me that is still very much alive, but the reality is that the majority of my days are spent trying to make meaning of, surrender to, distract/rewire away from or fix what feels like unrelenting and unbearable suffering. What is becoming more and more apparent to me (which is a hard truth to swallow) is that the very thing that has kept me alive for so long (my super-human will power) has become a major source of my suffering. After doing nothing but incessantly willing myself in every possible way to ‘heal’, I am finally coming to accept that I have very little, if any control over my life situation and suffering. I understand that we all have a ‘choice’ (relatively) in how we respond to our circumstances, but there are some situations that are torturous, no matter what way you try to spin it. The one thing I do have a choice about is whether or not I decide to keep going, and while I still have not made a decision in one direction or the other, I have made several commitments:
- I will never make a rash decision while in a place of desperation.
- After hearing a friend say “the only thing that goes with us when we die is our habits” I feel VERY inspired to up my game on healing any unaddressed trauma, body shame, and self destructive habits that are still lurking in the shadows (or foreground).
- I will continue to exhaust any and all options (that will not cause further trauma or stress) to improve my quality of life, and the way I experience my suffering.
- If I do choose to transition on to whatever is next, I will only do so from a place of love. I will do it as responsibly and compassionately as possible in regards to myself and everyone else in my life, and I would like to leave behind something beautiful.
- There will be pizza, cookies, mexican food, a piano, a DJ, appropriate mind altering substances, paint, dancing, and lots of cuddles.
On that note, I will end this post. I hope that my sharing has provided comfort, struck a chord, or been inspiring in any way. I have much more to share and intend to do so in a consistent way. If you have any comments, feedback, or prompts for future posts please do not hesitate to speak up!
Much love to you all,