Too many of our children are taking their own lives. We will hear from a mother whose nineteen year old son tried to commit suicide. Then we will talk to Robin-Lee Norris a lawyer in Guelph, Ontario, Jacqueline Long a social worker in Guelph and Constable Mark Pettapiece also from Guelph, Ontario about involuntary commitment. And we will discuss the age of majority. Should age be the deciding factor in sharing medical information with family and care-givers?
I began to understand the true depths of depression, the kind that leads to thoughts of suicide.
In the year 2000, I went into hospital for minor surgery and a week later came out with a colostomy bag. When it came time to go home I had to put on street clothes. I had this bag attached to me. I didn’t know what to wear. How would my pants fit over the bag? My youngest daughter went out to buy new loose-fit pants for me with a waist band that I could adjust. When I went to get dressed I fell apart. Where do I put the bag? Does it go inside my underwear or outside? Do I need different underwear to hold the bag? When the bag fills will it show through my clothes? Of all the things I had experienced, how to dress brought me to my knees. My eldest daughter was living in New York and calling me all the time. It was her wry sense of humour that put all in perspective. So, Mom, she said. Do you match your shoes or you dress to your bag? And so it began.
Just as I was recovering from my emergency surgery, I was rushed back in for more. I had developed sepsis. I was being poisoned by my own body. At this point I was physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually bankrupt. I had never thought of myself as someone who gives up so easily. I don’t know if I had lost hope or that I was just exhausted from the marathon of the unexpected. I told my surgeon-this would be surgeon number three-that this surgery was it. No more. I have a very high pain threshold but I had long passed the high end of the scale. She told me, unequivocally, that I would go through as many surgeries as necessary to get me back to health. She proudly told me of a patient who had required thirteen surgeries. I wasn’t impressed. If two surgeries were overwhelming, thirteen were inconceivable. Not one of my finer moments.
But, I began to understand the true depths of depression, the kind that leads to thoughts of suicide. Sometimes those thoughts come from physical pain, the kind that starts at the toes and screams up the legs and throughout the whole body from inside out. But, I think it is the mental anguish that is the ultimate arbiter of suicide. There is a sensation of emptiness, hopelessness, of being a burden and not just physically. Caring for someone with extreme depression is exhausting and who wants to be the one to exhaust the ones you love. And last of all, there is a sense of helplessness, which I find more devastating than any other emotion. No way out. No end to the pain; physical or mental. Total lack of control over my life because some other force has taken over. Suicide is the ultimate act of control, the ultimate expression of the desire for order. In the mind of the one who wants to die, it is a well-thought out, justified act of selflessness. My loved ones will be fine. I won’t become a burden to them. Suicide comes to symbolize peace. It all seems so normal. Except the one considering suicide is suffering from an illness so overwhelming that her decision making is not functioning. I was at that moment, mentally ill.