This week is National Suicide Prevention Week. It took me a long time to write this blog and by the end I realized why. By the end a miracle of sorts happened, something that you would never ever expect. Something that made me so glad that I am alive today. And now I will wait for it to happen again and again. Read to the end to find out what crazy thing just happened to me.
Earlier this week, I posted an article on my WhatTheJules Facebook Page about the of cycle chronic pain and depression. The article, from Everyday Health had so many helpful bits about pain, and the links regarding which came first, the chicken or egg argument of pain and depression were so great that I wish I could just bullet point every paragraph of the whole article here for you, but that would take me away from the objective that I really need to get you to here, to the end of what is very much not a yellow brick road, but instead a rather craggy, rocky road, filled with potholes and ugliness. The road that takes someone who starts off, in what seems to be the life that we all start out with, all the same beginnings (or seemingly so), that first smack on the ass at birth, the wailing cry of oxygen that we take in, that promise of ANYTHING for our future being right there before us, that moment we are born. And then, somewhere down that road, something, for some of us, happens.
When I say "some of us" I am not referring to a small number, a number that passes by you statistically, and could be ignored. It's a number that, instead should alarm you, oh member of the human race.
In 2006 an Australian study revealed that 21% of all suicides were committed by people that had a physical health problem.
So, what is the difference between those that are going down the road of life and, due to forces beyond their control hit a pothole, a pothole of illness, and find themselves down a path they did not expect, and chose this early end, versus those of us that hit the same, or similar pothole, and choose a different option?
I think that is a very good question.
I think it's a question that we: society, the group of humans that live together as a community on the same planet day-after-day, need to be asking ourselves.
Because, if we start asking the questions, if we start looking around, and seeking the answers to why the 21%, we may be able to target or identify that 21% BEFORE it's too late.
Wouldn't that be a great idea, in this world, this community, this place where we all live together?
I know I talk a lot about community. It is my opinion that community is the key to so many doors that lead down so many passageways to where we, the chronic illness community must go, to find answers that we need for awareness, for cures, for understanding, and for support.
From: Killing Me Softly: FM/CFS & Suicide
A recently publicized investigation in the UK revealed that just last year, Julia Revill, age 58, hanged herself outside her family home after becoming frustrated at a lack of medical help for her Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME). ME is the name used abroad for chronic fatigue syndrome. She had shown some improvement after treatment at the UK's only ME hospital in Essex but had been refused funding by the local health authority for further treatment there, and her condition deteriorated. The loss of "one of our own" always hits hard. These and other reports sent shock waves through the FM/CFS community. Patients with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome have an exquisite understanding of the pain, both physical pain and emotional anguish, associated with having a poorly understood, incurable disease. "When you start hearing there is no hope, no treatment, and no cure over and over, you lose your will to fight," wrote Jan Murphy in a eulogy read at her funeral. "What most people saw of me was a shell of what was going on inside."
As you can see, the community was struck, impacted, and played a big role in much of what happened here.
The health and medical community did start to help, but the health authority of her local government, another branch of community, failed her.
And let's talk about the community of fellow sufferers left behind. The grief and hopelessness now in the hearts and souls of those who want to have hope, who want to live not just longer lives, but happier and more fulfilling lives. Where does this leave them?
How many knew Julia, or attended her memorial, or read her story in the paper? How many of those who heard her story were just hanging on, and this was where the rope freyed and they began their cycle into becoming one of the 21%?
This community we live in is a very small world, tied together with social media, cameras, 24-hour news media, and grants given for so many different kinds of medical research, this is no longer a big world. No longer is Julia Revill and people like her...people like us, the total strangers we all once were. We are all in the same community. We are all neighbors. And I don't know about you, and where you are from, but when I was a kid, neighbors looked out for each other.
That is what a community is.
It's time to look out for each other, and that is what this week reminds us of.
It reminds us that there are resources out there, that starting very small, and very close with just a few words, with our voices, we can be very brave and ask the person right next to us for help.
But what happens once someone asks for help? If there wasn't a week like this one, a week where people like me, and hopefully people like you can spread awareness about the next step, would you know what to do if someone asked for help? It is true that there are still those in our ever shrinking world that do not know what to do when they think, or even know that the person next to them is in so much pain, either physical or psychological, that they are at the end of their rope. Are you maybe one of those people? You really want to help, you are just not quite sure what to do, or you are afraid.
That is again when you have to remember that we are a community, we are a family. If you don't know what to do when that moment happens in your life, when you reach that point of desperation yourself, or someone you care about has you heartbroken with fear that a beautiful life may come to an end far too soon: that's where the bigger brothers and sisters in our community come out with our special brand of help. There are so many of us blogging this week, tweeting this week, and reminding you this week of resources available to those in need. We are the activists and advocates, we are the voices for those who cannot speak for themselves. If you don't know what to do when you fear for a dear one's life, or you are in so much pain you fear you cannot go on, think of who you have seen in this community, the leaders, the big brothers and sisters of this family. We are here to help you find resources.
Depending on who that small voice that whispered their confession in your ear is, will depend on who you go to, but TELL SOMEONE, AND DO IT FAST. Never assume that talk of suicide is a cry for attention, talk of suicide is... now get this logic... it's TALK OF KILLING ONES SELF!
My favorite organization is TWLOHA. Translated: To Write Love On Her Arms. I first heard of this group at a Blue October concert, and saw them represented again at a Switchfoot concert.
Let me tell you part of their mission:
To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery.
The vision is that we actually believe these things… You were created to love and be loved. You were meant to live life in relationship with other people, to know and be known. You need to know that your story is important and that you're part of a bigger story. You need to know that your life matters. We live in a difficult world, a broken world. My friend Byron is very smart - he says that life is hard for most people most of the time. We believe that everyone can relate to pain, that all of us live with questions, and all of us get stuck in moments. You need to know that you're not alone in the places you feel stuck.
So, what have we talked about here? We have talked about pain, we have talked about community, and we have talked about the farthest depths that pain can take you. This is both emotional and physical pain we are talking about here.
And so far, I have not even talked at all about how this has impacted me.
I will tell you something I have said several times. When asked if I could get rid of one of my many ailments, which would it be? It often surprises people when I say that I would give up depression before I would give up any of my chronic pain conditions. I will tell you why.
Physical pain, to me feels finite. I know that there is something they can give me that will, at the very least take the edge off. And, when it gets too much, I may even pass out.
Depression/Emotional Pain, that is like a black hole. It seems that it will never end. And the treatments available only do so much. There will be times that a depression will hit, will send me to bed. Will make me feel like I am at the bottom of the darkest, dampest well. And it feels never ending. It is THAT bad, and I would give that up gladly and keep the rest if I could only give up one.
No, I am not and have not been suicidal. Yes I have known people who have taken their lives becuase of both physcial and emotional pain (or the cycle of both), and I certainly understand the desperation that got them there. What I have that always keeps me here, and thriving, is my community. My Chronically Awesome planet of positive. That can be anyone from a twitter friend, to my own mother.
And, should I think EVER of that very lowest place, I might want to think of this very moment. The moment I could talk about how us, the people of this community, this planet; and outside my window right now is an owl, hooting, in the middle of Los Angeles.
What a miracle I don't want to ever miss.