Here’s a description of how suicidal thoughts and ideation take root when suffering from chronic pain. This article is worth reading in its entirety.
The chronically ill suffer from severe depression, grief, loss, and a high suicide rate, but these symptoms are rarely openly discussed.
I am not only going to venture into this taboo subject, I am going to share my personal experience.
The mental deterioration due to my illness is a part of me, my experience, and thought process that I rarely speak of because it makes the people around me terribly uncomfortable.
When my body first began its rapid slide to the current disaster I approached it like everyone else; go to the doctor, find the problem, and fix it.
My body kept adding more and more disparate symptoms and the doctors seemed to get less and less understanding of my situation. As the confusion regarding my illness increased so did my pain and with each failed attempt at managing the pain or finding a diagnosis, my hopelessness soared.
At first I felt adrift, disconnected from everyone and everything. The days blurred and what was once important no longer seemed real. I knew I was a part of the world, but it felt more like I was watching it from afar.
My days now consisted of lying in bed using ice, heat, medication, stretches, the fetal position, anything and everything I could think of to lessen the pain.
After months of this, day in and day out with no possibilities of relief my heart and mind came together on one thing: what I was not living, I was just surviving.
If I was staring down day after day, year after year of so much agonizing pain that I had no room for any quality of life I knew that this fight was a losing one and there was another option.
I believed that my situation was permanent and realistically there wasn’t any reason to believe otherwise. I was in so much pain physically and mentally that I couldn’t survive a life time of this level of suffering. As far as I was concerned death would be a relief, it would be an end to this awful pain.
I wasn’t kicking and screaming and gnashing my teeth. As far as I was concerned it was my path to peace. The only problem was my loved ones.
if they could find it in their hearts to understand the agony I suffered by living then they would want me to find relief.
I resented them for forcing me to continue to suffer
In this instance, to me, encouraging me to live felt like cruel and unusual punishment. Being alive and living are two different things.
I knew it was those left behind that really carried the burden. No matter how I suffered I knew if I died there were some people I would take with me. So I lived on in anger and resentment.
Living for others is no life at all. I have never been so angry in my life.
I believed and still do, that it is not the quantity of life that matters, it’s the quality.
I was lucky, not too many months later I found a new doctor that offered me the peripherally implanted spinal stimulator, a treatment that I have no doubt saved my life.
While the stimulator didn’t take away all my pain it was that modicum of relief that I needed to begin to function again. I am nowhere near my old life, but I have found small ways to pull enough pieces together so I can feel human again.
Depression and suicide are as much a part of chronic illness as all the other symptoms. The problem is that as a society we ignore and avoid it. Unfortunately this leaves the chronically ill alone to cope with some pretty strong demons.