“Hold On. Pain Ends”…
I think the majority of us take our ability to hear for granite, I certainly have. Imagine a world in which this wonderous sense has gone awry. What if your reality was, ‘hearing’ a noise so loud that it alters your life. A sound that only you hear. So is the life of a person living with tinnitus. Recently, the story of a woman who had tinnitus to the degree she wanted ‘out’ came to my attention. She actually chose euthanasia to escape the ‘noise’ in her head she’d lived with for decades. She felt she was being driven crazy and it affected every area of her life. She wanted to leave this world, far too noisy for her, on her own terms. Yes, there are Countries that practice euthanasia as a choice, one not made impulsively. Their Medical communities acknowledge a person has the right to euthanasia. A Physician works with the person and oversees this decision. Medicines known to give the result as peacefully and dignified as possible are administered by either the Physician or taken by the individual. This woman left a very detailed account of her choice, how she would spend her last days, who she would spend it with, what meals she would eat, and where she wanted it to happen… Her wishes were met.
The Vestibular Disorders Association/VEDA defines it as:
“Tinnitus is abnormal noise perceived in one or both ears or in the head. Tinnitus (pronounced either “TIN-uh-tus” or “tin-NY-tus”) may be intermittent, or it might appear as a constant or continuous sound. It can be experienced as a ringing, hissing, whistling, buzzing, or clicking sound and can vary in pitch from a low roar to a high squeal.”
The past few months have proved to be difficult ones for me and for once, it has nothing to do with my Vestibular Disorder. With the recent suicides of two American/world icons, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, I was left speechless. Two people I had huge admiration for, who by all accounts, ‘had it all’. It left me in a deeply reflective mood. Both of these amazing, talented, creative, yet obviously tortured souls had lost hope. They chose a permanent solution to temporary problems. Whatever those problems were, their perception of them, left them feeling that only suicide would bring the solution. If they were living with the darkness of Depression, one could say, “Well, that doesn’t surprise me…”. But does it really? Rarely do we get the reason they chose suicide. It gives us no answers. There’s not always a note/letter left behind explaining their choices, either. Writing a note would take time and possibly make them change their minds… I wish they had held on to hope…
I am not writing this with any form of judgement as I do not believe suicide to be a sin. Those last seconds of life are between the individual and God (or not, if they don’t hold my belief system). I was not living their lives and they weren’t living mine. I feel many of us, living with Chronic Illnesses, there are times it’s difficult holding on to ‘hope’. When we feel there is no end to what we are living. The concept of forever can be quite daunting. The idea of feeling dizzy, nauseous, exhausted, and foggy brained, until the day I die? Really? In my case, the answer is yes BUT somehow, I have been able to hold on to hope. Maybe because I know who suffers the most when someone commits suicide. The survivors suffer, usually family and friends, those who loved them.
Sadly, my life has been touched by the aftermath of suicide multiple times. My response to first hearing of it has always been the same. I feel anger. I find myself feeling furious that they chose to leave this world prematurely. I lost two close friends in High School to suicide. I thought we were close. I knew they were dealing with Depression, yet never thought they would choose suicide. For years I carried guilt that I didn’t pick up on ‘this or that’ but I wasn’t educated about the warning signs. I had not yet known the darkness of Depression myself.
When I lost my Uncle to suicide, I was livid! He was such an amazing man but the demons from the Korean and Viet-Nam Wars followed him home. He kept them at bay for many years, then they took him from us. When I was first diagnosed with PTSD, he was the first person I reached out to. I thought he, more than anyone, would understand. His response hurt me but it was coming from a 20 year war veteran. He told me ‘only weak people’ claimed PTSD. He never spoke of his time at war (Red Flag!). The most he ever said to me, “Kiddo, I saw things I can never forget”… The impact of his suicide never left me but for my Mother it was devastating. ‘Depression Era’ kids, theirs was a story of true survival but they had each other. Family was everything for Mother and as the oldest, she made sure they remained very close. She wrote countless letters and sent packages throughout his multiple tours. Her long, detailed letters always about her family. I wrote him long, rambling letters about my teen-ager, Hippie life. On paper, he sounded good, almost upbeat (Red Flag!). He never wanted us worrying. We continued a close relationship (I thought…), up to the morning Mother was notified by Police… He had lost hope with our world and I suppose wanted to leave on his terms. I am still mad at him for doing it…
I feel, suicide is not the answer because it’s almost always an impulsive act, too often meant as a cry for help that goes wrong. It’s an irrational decision made by someone who may have Mental Illness but not always. This was certainly the first time, I’ve heard of someone with a Vestibular Disorder making this choice but as I said earlier, I wasn’t living their life and they weren’t living mine. For today, I chose to hold on to HOPE, will you join me?