Monday, March 24, 2014

Assisted Suicide and Depression: A personal experience.

By Patricia Russo

My concern with the legalization of assisted suicide is the psychological impact on the rest of society. I am writing from my personal experience.

I have dealt with depression for almost 50 of my 63 years. I have been suicidal on numerous occasions and at one point, within the past ten years, I experienced active suicidal ideation for a continuous six-month period almost 24 hours per day. I even carried a knife in my handbag, just waiting for the right moment to stab myself.

When I learned of the assisted suicide story of the Canadian woman who went to Switzerland, I personally heard the message that my life was not worth living. That assisted suicide death gave me the message that when things get really bad and there doesn’t seem to be any hope, I should give up my struggle. Being actively suicidal is often a terminal illness.

I have been struggling during the past 35 years, in particular, through multiple varieties of therapy and medication and through hospitalizations.

Adults are role models. No amount of denial will change that fact of human nature. Children imitate what they see their parents, teachers, idols and even their peers doing.

I am a parent and I want to show my children that one can grow through the struggle. I watched my own parents leading very unhappy lives and living in an unhappy marriage. They were not good role models for me, but I also understand that they tried their best, in spite of their limitations. My father was diagnosed with a ‘nervous disorder’ in the 1950’s and was treated with barbiturates. Looking back, I can see that he was seriously depressed much of the time and he was unable to work because of his illness. My mother’s depression was never diagnosed, nor acknowledged by anyone, but I saw her endless tears. When one is ill or depressed, one is very often also angry, even if the anger is involuntary, and I witnessed for many years my parents' anger, especially towards each other. My own depression developed in my early teenage years and I modeled my parents' anger during the next decades of my life.

I am a role model for my children, even though they are now adults. I have warned them of the strong family history of depression and that they should be alert to its signs and symptoms in themselves, in order to get help early. I want my children to see and believe that life involves struggle, pain, grief, illness and growing old. I need to grow old with dignity and even with joy, just to prove to my children that it is possible to do so. I want them to grieve for me at my natural death. If I were to die by my own hand or with the intentional involvement of someone else, I know that my children would have a much more difficult time not taking their own lives when facing a serious trial in life.

With the prevalence of suicide in our society, especially among the young, how can we endorse this truly devastating role-modeling of assisted suicide? How can we dare to call it anything other than suicide?

The idea of “dying with dignity” is being deliberately presented in a romantic manner to the public, as suggested by the image of a person dying in the arms of a loving spouse. Those who are contemplating suicide are most often very depressed, feeling hopeless, alone, isolated, and often unloved.

When the suicidal thoughts overtake me, I feel completely alone, unable to communicate, I lose any sense of personal identity and I want to scream from the severity of the mental pain.

The image of dying in the arms of one who loves you is very painful to behold by one who is suicidal and feeling unloved, and increases their feelings of worthlessness. If someone wants to die who is loved, how much more does one want to die who is not loved.

Those with serious depression and suicidal tendencies need encouragement to live and grow into healthier attitudes. They do not need societal inducement to give it all up. Unfortunately, they are also usually unable to speak publicly on their own behalf.

This article was sent by its author to the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

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Lily said...

Thank you!
I too struggle with depression as well as physical disability, I grew up in foster care, have no family and basically live as a hermit. The internet to me is a lifeline and often the only communication I have with the outside world but weekly an ad or blog or online news article will pop up promoting suicide and it is hard. It's hard to have hope when the rest of the world has given up on you. It's hard to hear others discuss lives just like mine as being worse then death. On bad days I sometimes think why bother? I wonder what I have spent 30+ years fighting for if now even doctors think suicide is reasonable option. On good days I am angry because all this discussion and promotion of suicide is making life harder then it has to be. I just really wish this entire discussion would end.

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Nancy Macri said...

It takes tremendous courage to share a personal experience such as yours in a public forum. I commend and laud your precious gifts of strength and love for life despite this "terminal illness". Chronic, reactive or situational depression is conquerable through a combination of education, awareness, support, psychotherapy and medical intervention. A medically based "terminal illness" such as cancer, ALS or even chronic pain, warrants a truly holistic approach from the medical profession (and palliative care) as symptoms of depression, fear and anxiety (all very treatable) often accompany these illnesses as they progress. I thank you for sharing with us your constant struggle and your achievements. By daring to experience the trials and tribulations of life itself, ie. developing relationships and having children, you have demonstrated the wisdom that you have acquired and your hopefulness and confidence in choosing life. It seems to me that you have triumphed! Your children must be proud.

Bear said...

Each persons situations and relationships are unique. But the human condition is the same as far as love and loss.
Patricia wrote and shared her story at a period in my life when I lost Nancy my partner and soul mate - my pure joy and purpose to exist graTeful to be alive. But Nancy's sudden passing six weeks ago just has me pining to be back with her. I ache for Nancy and loathe opening my eyes each morning pummeled by the wrecking ball of grief that is the absence of Nancy. I am in love with Nancy. We are a couple on love. Now I grieve all the time and I feel the happiness in my soul died south Nancy's passing. Nancy told me to be happy in my life if I lose her. I never believed I'd lose Nancy. But I honour Nancy's wish that I live on and find happiness again by not seeking to end my life. I honour Nancy. I'll always be in love with Nancy.

Alex Schadenberg said...

Dear Bear:

Your human struggle is normal. Your love for Nancy was very special. Many people dream of having such a love. It is normal that you are grieving.

I can only hope that you can cherish your memories of Nancy while finding others who you can care for in life. Life often finds its meaning in how we care for others.

Thank you for sharing your pain with others. I hope your pain helps others find strength.

novembermountain said...

We did not choose to be born. Living is painful. If for a prolonged period of time, one struggles to breathe properly every day, is there any reason to go on? It will only drag everyone down. If you profess you love them, it will be better to free myself and to free them of this pain.