I’m not going to lie: there are often times where I consider suicide. Not because I want to die – far from it – but because I want so very passionately to be able to live and sometimes it looks like that will never be able to happen.
When people talk about their illnesses, this is an area that is very often left out. But I would put money on the fact that I’m not the only one who, in my lowest moments, considers ending the struggle and putting myself out of my misery.
So I’m going to talk about it, right now, and you’re going to listen.
Feelings Of Failure
Our whole life we’re taught what success is: getting a job, saving up to buy and house and being able to support your family. Even for those who fervently rebel from that, success is traveling the world, partying all night or buying that new Chanel dress. In short, success is interacting with life in the way you most want to.
When you become chronically ill, success becomes a more of a distant dream. Interacting with life in any way becomes a daily struggle and even managing to do the simplest things can be hard. I still have dreams and aspirations, I'm still incredibly ambitious; I want to travel the world and learn about the beautiful diversities of humanity and help make the world a better place by sharing my stories.
Sometimes those things don't seem possible--especially when you can't even get up and dressed for more than two days straight. Whatever your example, chronic illness invokes feelings of failure, hopelessness and, eventually, despair. It's in these moments when it's easy to consider the worst.
I will put my hand on my heart and admit 'till I'm blue in the face that being in any kind of relationship with me is hard, be it romantic or platonic. I have a lot of stuff going on, and I don't always handle it very well. Through no-one's fault, this puts a massive strain on the people around me. Either they care too much to handle watching me struggle, or they don't fully understand what's going on.
Before I learned how to communicate my needs better, I lost people because of my problems. People that I will miss for the rest of my life. The problem goes like this: when you're ill you have to think about life in a different way; you have to have a constant focus on contingency plans and escape routes and coping mechanisms. So when the people around you don't work in this way, or do something that affects your ability to access these things, things get messy.
Like I said, it's no-one's fault, but that doesn't make it any less difficult to handle. Losing someone you care about or feeling invalidated by people you love is tricky – having a chronic illness means growing a ridiculously thick skin, and understanding that not everyone's version of ‘help' will be the one that you need.
Lack Of Support
Honestly, there are very few support systems out there for chronic illness sufferers. Depending on what you are diagnosed with and where you are, getting financial aid can be near impossible because your symptoms are cyclical and non-life-threatening. In the UK, if you are mobile and don’t require constant third-party care then you’re often deemed fit for work.
Dealing with Doctors can also be tricky. Many won't address the mental strain that having to go back, time and time again without any real progress, can have. They will simply pump you through a variety of different medications, and don't look at ‘being in pain' as something that needs to be immediately resolved.
This sounds brutal – and it is – but the reality is that if you're going to live with a chronic illness, or pain disorder, then you're going to have to get your head around the fact that sometimes you just have to deal with it. Doctors are trying to do the best they can medically, but at the end of the day it's down to you to find a way to cope.
But I'm not Superman; I can't always be resilient, and sometimes I just want to give up and make it all stop.
There's something extremely significant about bedtime; the ritual of bringing the close to a day and preparing to welcome the birth of a new one. It represents a new chance, a new start--like closing one book and opening another.
This is one of the reasons that I think nighttime can be the hardest time for sufferers. More often than not, if you're having a bad flare up, then the discomfort of your symptoms makes sleep extremely tricky to achieve. Laying there in the dark, in existential contemplation, can be hugely detrimental to your mindset.
Insomnia when you're ill, and in pain, takes away your only respite. You lie there, knowing that tomorrow you'll have to face the day with no chance to regroup and mentally prepare. Imagine finishing a marathon and being told, with no prior warning, that you have to run another one. That pretty much sums up how not being able to sleep during a flare feels.
But It’s Ok…
This is a phrase I hear myself repeating to people all the time. I’m in agony… but it's ok. I didn't sleep last night... but it's ok. The reality of the matter is that, when you're ill, life is hard. Things become more complicated, and every activity requires a hundred more tiny steps than usual. However, this doesn't make life impossible.
I can't speak for everyone but, personally, when things get so hard that I consider suicide, it's because I've forgotten how strong I am. No matter how often I say I'm going to give up, no matter how hard it every gets, I always find a way to make it ok in the end.
And I’m sure I’m not the only one!
Comment, discuss, talk about your own suicidal feelings! There's still a ridiculous social taboo about these types of conversations, which shouldn't be there. Life is hard, and you should never feel bad for considering a way out – especially not here! The important thing it to remember that it's not the only option. So talk away--I'd love to hear your thoughts!