Day 22 Question 22:
Who owns your life?
Well the last blog entry I wrote was kind of morbid since it did skate on the topic of me only having one week to live so I thought why not keep up with that topic. Cheery Cheery! Ha Ha, if you are reading this and you know me personally, I surely know you can sense the sarcasm in my tone. I have to keep things light sometimes and add in humor when I can. I believe that is what gives life a good balance.
You might be wondering how and why this entry has a morbid sense to it. Well, last night I watched this documentary called Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die. This documentary really made me think a lot. I love exposing myself to things like this because it makes me learn more about where I stand on certain issues. Terry Pratchett is a fantasy writer that has been diagnosed with Alzheimers disease. This documentary takes us through a journey of different cases in which people are choosing to end their lives. Terry Pratchett met with different individuals to discuss their decisions with them in order to (hopefully) be able to make a decision of his own. Although Alzheimers is not painful for the body, it is painful for the mind and in Switzerland, assisted suicide is legal. I won’t give everyone every detail of the documentary (because I think people should watch it) but it really did make me think about my take on assisted dying and who really does own your life.
For the longest time I always thought that suicide was just the cowards way out and people that did that were just selfish because they were never thinking about those that they are leaving behind. What I started to realize was that with some people we are never truly able to understand someone’s internal pain. A lot of people where masks (like I do a lot) and for some people they can no longer do it and they are unable to go on. About 3 years ago I started dating this guy. We lived in the same development. We didn’t end up dating for long because his “true colors” started shining and I wanted nothing to do with it. He would be very happy go lucky in one moment and then the next he would be all strange and quite. I couldn’t quite figure it out. I had found out that he had been to Rehab for a prescription drug addiction (I really do attract all of the wrong ones). Well I won’t get into all of the details but the last time we saw each other we were heading to Best Buy to get me a new phone. Half way up there I realized how weird he was being and he just seemed like he was in a haze. It was obvious he was on something. I turned the car around and went back home. I told him I didn’t want to see him anymore and I was not going to put up with all of that. When we pulled in he said, “I thought we were going to Best Buy?” He hadn’t even realized I turned the car around and headed in a complete opposite direction of the store. I was furious by this point. I told him to get out of my car and to leave me alone and never come near me or where I live. He got out of the car and slammed the door so hard I thought the windows were going to shatter. His passenger side window had been opened. He turned around and said, “If you come anywhere near me I will fucking kill you.” I was terrified. I ended up calling the police just to have it on record. Well, after that day I never saw or heard from him again. About 6 months later I was heading out and I needed to stop and get gas. When I pulled up to the gas station I realized that I had been followed. It was his mother. She pulled in beside me and I immediately thought to myself, “Oh god I don’t want to talk to her.” She got out of the car and was very friendly. She told me she had a necklace of mine (he was wearing it-it was a D initial necklace) and she wanted to return it to me. I told her it was no big deal and that I had bought another one. It was kind of awkward and uncomfortable but I made chit chat. I asked her if he was in the area anymore because I never saw him. She looked at me and said, “He killed himself in June. He hung himself in the condo.” I nearly melted to the ground. I was absolutely speechless. She proceeded to tell me that he suffered severely with bipolar disorder. He had been going to the mental health clinic and it seemed like he was on the up and up and everything just took a turn for the worst and one day she arrived home from work to find his hanging lifeless body. I barely knew this woman but I reached out and pulled her in for a hug and told her how sorry I was. This was when I knew that my opinions on suicide and assisted dying were different than I really thought. I realized that I made snap judgments and had no idea what kind of emotional/mental pain that this person was going through. I know I couldn’t have fixed him and that wouldn’t have been my goal but I also was unable to know what hell he must have been going through. I truly believe his intentions for taking his own life were not meant to be selfish. He just could no longer take the agony. He had sought treatment and nothing seemed to work. A lot of people think that physical pain is the absolute worst but I will tell you that emotional/mental pain can be absolutely horrific. How would you like to feel so unbalanced your whole life-waking up one day happy and cheerful and the next you are deeply depressed and anxious and you cannot get any control over it? He wanted to end his pain. More than anything I wish people could get the help they needed and feel the relief they so desperately want but sometimes that never happens or is not an option. We are constantly talking about freedom but in this world how free are we really?
Again, don’t get me wrong, I do not believe people should just commit suicide because they are going through a rough patch in their lives but I do believe people should have a choice. In so many ways are choices are made for us. The government controls many of our choices by making us live by certain rules and regulations. I do believe we do need some of these rules and regulations in order to avoid mass chaos but our bodies are our own and we should be able to choose what we want to do with them. The documentary I watched last night made me feel such a wide array of emotions. In Switzerland assisted dying is legal. Terry Pratchett watched a man (probably in his late 60’s) take his own life. It was not anything grotesque. He went to a house where there is a staff that assists a person to take their own life. This man had been suffering for 2-3 years with a terminal illness (the name escapes me now). He was barely able to walk and he was in an incredible amount of pain almost everyday. His wife took care of him day in and day out and sometimes he was unable to control his own bodily functions. This was only the start of what was to come. His wife and him discussed it and both of them felt that they would rather see him die at a time when he was still able to be happy in life. His wife knew she was going to be devastated because this had been her partner for over 40 years but she knew that it was selfish to ask him to live for her while he experienced this horrific pain and suffering and it was only going to get progressively worse. It was absolutely chilling to watch because I saw the entire process happen and as saddening as it was to see, I felt that it was right. No one forced him to do anything. He chose this because this is the way he wanted to go. The people that assisted were very kind and care-giving and asked him several times if he was 100% sure that this was the decision he wanted. He said with great confidence that it was. He sat on an over-sized couch with his wife by his side and the process included drinking a certain kind of poison. Prior to this (only about 15 minutes before) he sat at a table with his wife laughing and telling her how much he enjoyed their life together. As he sat on this over-sized couch, his wife sat beside him stroking his hand. He took the cup out of the woman’s hand and drank it all in one gulp. He grasped onto his wife’s hand and looked at her telling her how much he loves her and always will. He shortly went into a deep sleep and not long after that his heart stopped beating. It was a painless death for him. I immediately started weeping. I did not weep because I felt that it was the wrong decision, I weeped because I knew how his wife would miss him but I also knew that there was now a relief. It was difficult to watch and going into this documentary I did not expect to see something so raw and real. You never want to see someone you love so very dearly in extreme pain. I have said (as hard as it is to say or even think about) that I would rather have one or both of my parents pass away than to live a life suffering or live a life where they could look at me and have no idea who I am. That would absolutely break me. I know both of them would rather have that too.
There was another man that was only 42 years old. He had multiple sclerosis. He had to force his body (practically fall) out of bed every morning. He crawled from room to room and almost every moment of every day his muscles felt like they were being electrocuted. This was only the beginning of the painful road he had ahead. He knew what a burden he was going to be on those that he loved. He knew how much medical care he would need and how much pain he would need to endure. He knew not only would he have to experience the extreme physical pain but he would also go through an intense emotional pain as well. He didn’t want a life like this. All odds were against him. His assisted death was not documented but it was stated that he was with loved ones. Terry Pratchett (author and narrator of the documentary) had a drink in his honor and played one of his favorite CDs around the time they believed he was about to go. It was very intense but very beautiful.
I know this subject is very controversial and I am sure everyone would be able to chime in with the opinions and beliefs and I am all ears to hear them. I love it when people introduce me to a new perspective. As difficult as it was to watch this documentary I am beyond glad that I did because it gave me a greater appreciation of life. It made me believe that unfortunately we do not always own our own lives and it saddens me that some people have to experience such suffering. I could not help but wonder what it would be like if it was me. What if I had been diagnosed with Alzheimers or a terminal illness that is going to slowly make me deteriorate physically and mentally. What could it be like to be fully aware of that? I could only think how awful that must be. I felt like this documentary was so tastefully done and the people involved were so kind and so loving. They appreciated life in a way that most people do not. They had a choice and they chose to die at a time where they could experience happiness and at least somewhat decent health. If the choice were yours, how would you want to die? Yes, morbid to think about but death is inevitable. I know I would rather die surrounded by those that I love at a time when I was still of pretty much sound mind and body. I would not want others to experience suffering because of my deterioration. It does not seem fair. I know some people may say it is not the natural way of things but I am not sure what truth there is in that. My quest in life is for peace and happiness and I feel like if you leave this world in crippling pain being unable to barely function then you have not achieved that and that is not fair. Maybe I am wrong but it is what I feel. I really believe wrong and right are almost always undefined. What is right for one person is not necessarily right for another.
This entry is probably thus far one of the most intense, serious-toned writings I have put out there. Even while writing it I teared up re-visiting the documentary in my mind. A lot of people would ask me why I watch such morbid stuff or watch things that can be sad or read stuff with such an intense tone. I do all of this because these things are reality. These are the things that are going on in the world every single day. These are the things that keep my mind fresh and open. I am not saying everyone needs to do it, but for me it gives me a different perspective and I think that is the most important thing in life. I lived in a bubble for a long time and I don’t want to do that anymore because there is so much more to learn. I will not learn it all in my lifetime but I want to learn a lot—and some of what I learn I will not like and some will bring sadness and tears but again, that is life. I can’t live in a world that is candy-coated and make believe. I believe too many people do that. There is an unimaginable amount of beauty in this world and even the things that make us cry is beautiful. It is all in how you perceive things. To my readers, it may be difficult to watch but it really is worth it so if you are moved enough definetly check out: http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/terry-pratchett-choosing-to-die/ I know I have given a lot of it away in this entry but it is still something you have to see for yourself.
I would really really like your input on the subject as well. Feel free to leave me comments or ask more of my opinions. Right here, right now I am asking for yours. Thank you again for all of your support. It is amazing!
Thanks for such a well-written post. I’m a huge admirer of Terry Pratchett and I’ll keep the documentary in mind, although I’m not sure I’m ready to watch it. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.
It is intense for sure. I would reccommend you mentally prepare yourself before you do. I was not mentally prepared but I ended up being ok with it. A huge eye opener on a very important subject :0)
What a post! I have just experienced the suicides of two brother in laws in a 7 month period and the bittersweet questions are really up for me. I really have mixed feelings on the subject. I whole heartedly believe that we do have the last say in our own lives, and on the flip side, I have personally experienced the after effects of those decisions and the pain that is brought to so many other lives as a result of the decision. We never do know how many people our lives touch or have the potential to touch…so much to consider…Great Post!
A very intriguing question! Just went to a sermon on the same question today as well. Good piece!
Sooooo.. I found your blog because you followed mine. A true blessing for me all the way around as I have been very picky of which blogs I follow but after reading a few of your entries, I will be following yours.
I had not heard of this movie, which is a little odd since I am a huge follower and avid T.P. reader but I am now about to go watch this film right now.. (Thanks for the link)
Last year I had a rough last 6 months of the year. My wife had been cheating on me for the first 6 months (I didn’t find this out until she dumped me because I wanted monogamy and she wanted an open relationship), I resigned my job for personal reasons, lost the place I was living in after my wife dumped me, and then at the very end of the year, my cousin even kicked me out of her house.
I sit here now jobless, basically homeless, family-less (I’ve been a step father for 9 years) and dogless (can’t keep my dog at the motel). If I were to pick a low point in my life, while I’ve had some doozies, this would be it.
I have been through the mental issues as well, nervous breakdowns with agoraphobia make the world seem unbearable and yet lying in a motel room trying to get a job with no family or friends to vent to has been the worst.
So, even after all of that, I wouldn’t choose to end my life at this point, still wanting to be a father and wanting to make a difference in peoples lives I know God has plans for me but I still agree with you that the option should be there, with some provisions so that you can’t just walk in on a whim. (Sort of a waiting / evaluation period like you say Terry did here) The fact that so many people in pain do this anyway, and in horrible ways that are even more traumatic for the people around them (i.e. your exes mother) it makes sense that making a conscious choice is obviously at least slightly better.
Your writing is great and your mind greater. I’m honored you followed me and even more honored to be able to ‘read’ into your mind… keep it up…
Hi g00dg33kranting- Thank you so much for your reply. I know what it is like to go through difficult times and I really admire your strength. You have chosen an outlet to express yourself that I believe can be very beneficial. Getting your feelings out of you in a creative form helps in a HUGE way. Keep your head up and keep up the positive attitude. If you ever want to chat you know how to find me. Thank you for reading and I hope you continue to…because I plan on continually following your blog. I send you much happiness. :0)
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I took care of my cousin for 5 years (Alzheimers). When he passed away I told my daughters that if I ever get Alzheimers I’m going to quit eating. My oldest was appalled that I would intentionally starve myself to death, but my youngest said, “I’ll drive you to Oregon, Mom. Assisted suicide is legal there.” :o)