The Right to Choose

Someone posted this question on the Facebook support group for people in chronic pain that I follow: is it selfish for someone who suffers from chronic pain to commit suicide? That’s a heavy question and I’d like to share my point of view – as someone who not only suffers from chronic pain myself but also who has a parent who does as well. My answer in short: No, I do not think that the act is selfish.

I have watched my mom suffer for 12 years now, from something horrible, that no one can understand unless they themselves have experienced it. I have seen the happy, brightness fade from her eyes to be replaced by dark circles and pain medications. I have watched her use up every ounce of strength and perseverance she has left, just merely trying to survive the day and be there for her children, only to have to pick it up and do the same again tomorrow. And despite this, despite her exhaustion, her never ending pain and suffering, she is still there to lean on when I too am ready to give up my fight. If this is not strength, courage and love of the purest kind then what is?

My mom is the most important person in my life. I love her more than life itself, she is my beacon of light in a world darkened by physical pain and mental anguish. To lose her would be to lose everything I hold dear in this world, every ounce of fight that I have left. But, if there come a day, when she is too tired to get out of bed, in too much pain to bear, and too exhausted to see the light worth finding at the end of a tunnel of suffering, I would not be the reason that she must continue on in agony. I would allow her to choose to end her pain, no matter how much suffering of my own that would cause, because I love her. I would not want her to press on, in a body that allows no peace and in a world that she no longer wished to belong, merely so I wouldn’t have to lose her. For that would be far more selfish then the taking of one’s own life in the end and I love her enough to not want her to have to be in pain any longer than she can truly handle.

This is my opinion, as a child who’s parent suffers from chronic pain. My opinion would stand the same if my mom’s physical suffering were replaced by mental or emotional pain, or a mental disorder. Now, my opinion – as an individual suffering from chronic pain – is this: No one on this Earth has the right to judge whether I have fought long and hard enough, through a suffering that no body truly knows but my own, to decide that it’s time to throw in the towel. That is why this is my life. To reach a place where you are hurting so much, that the prospect of ending your own life becomes more appealing than continuing to live is not an easily traveled road. It is a dark and lonely one where every bump is met with anguish and every corner turned with sorrow. One does not end their own life happily, just imagine where that person must have been to have made the decision to no longer exist, to meet the other side.

I live in a body that will cause me pain for the rest of my life and that is terrifying. This is in large part because I often don’t know how I’m going to persevere until tomorrow, never mind 30 or 40 years down the road. I think of those who have been in even more pain than I am and who’ve found themselves making the decision that they can no longer fight, that it’s time to move on, and I think how dare others judge them. It’s not like they’re coming out winners, they are losing their lives. I look at my future and wonder how many times I’m going to be at that bridge, praying for the strength to cross it instead of jumping off. The life of those who are in pain is not a life easily thrown away. The truth is, that we work far harder than many people do for our survival, and in it living becomes more meaningful because we know how hard we have fought for the mere privelage of doing so. (And no, I’m not saying those without chronic pain can’t have bad days or go through horrible things too.)

This is the unfairness of a life lived in pain – while you decide to go for dinner – many are using all of their strength – physical and/or emotional – to simply roll out of bed.

So, no, I do not think that it is selfish to say “I have had enough, I cannot take it anymore”. I think that when you’ve spent so long fighting so hard, that you should be able to choose to let go and in the afterlife find a peace that your body never allowed you here on Earth.

In the end, this is my opinion, which based on my own life experiences, I feel justified in giving.

9 thoughts on “The Right to Choose

  1. I also agree with everything you say, I think most people who think it is selfish do not understand, as they have not gone through chronic pain or mental illness. It is YOUR right to choose, not theirs. I believe euthanasia should be legal for some circumstances. Stay strong. Kat :)

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  2. I really enjoyed your blog. I can really relate to what you had to say and am in a very si,milar situation. Please check out and follow my blog on Chronic Pain at http://ohwhatapain.wordpress.com. Please let me know if you would like a link on my page or if you would care to do a “guest appearance.” Thanks!

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    • Thank you for your comment! I’ve followed you and I will read through your blog as soon as I am able to. I would definitely be interested in guest posting in the future and would be glad to have you do the same if you would like to.
      Take care and talk to you soon.

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  3. Dear Katie, You are so brave and levelheaded! I agree one million percent with you. I will never stop Vic from committing suicide but she believes that she will go to hell if she does… I so often wish that I could just walk into her room and find her gone. That the pain that you articulated so well in your post is over. Good luck dear Katie! And to your brave Mom.

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    • Thank you so much. I’ve been very glad to be able to read your blog and talk with you on here. I’m sorry that Vic feels that way, she has been through so much, I wish that I could give her the peace of mind that she deserves.

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  4. Tough situation, but an easy call. It is your life, and would be selfish of anyone to want to keep you in your life when it became unbearable. Naturally, I would exhaust all options, then exhaust them again.

    That said, I awoke very late one evening to find the paramedics over me, “saving” me, from myself.

    Hang on, for some reason, the difficulties ebb and flow related to an ability to withstand suffering. Very glad I wasn’t successful at that point. But, my future is mine, yours is yours.

    Best of luck.

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