This is a re-posting of a comment I left a little while ago over at Mental Nurse. The post I was commenting on was discussing the sad case of Kerrie Wooltorton, a woman who had made use of a so-called ‘living will’ to ask doctors not to save her life following a suicide attempt.
We all know that mental illness usually comes and goes.
Usually. But what about those people for whom it doesn’t?
We also know that in PD patients, although the disorder is always present, suicidal feelings come and go.
But what if the person diagnosed with a PD decides that the non-suicidal times aren’t good enough to make it worthwhile enduring through the suicidal times?
I don’t have a PD, at least not as far as I know, but this is the knife-edge I walk. My depression varies over time, and I have good patches and bad patches. But the ‘good’ patches are only ‘good’ relative to the truly horrendous bad patches. I am never happy, not in the way that a non-depressed person would understand that term, so maybe it would be more accurate to say that I have bad patches and worse patches. I have not been told my depression is untreatable – who would be cruel enough to take away that last glimmer of hope? – but I have been told it is ‘treatment resistant’ and I have, demonstrably, reached the end of what MH services in my area can do for me. All that was available to me was low-key monitoring, from which I have chosen to disengage.
So, what about me? What about someone like me, who can’t be helped, and won’t ever be happy, and will – inevitably, unavoidably – experience endless recurrences of a level of mental pain that it is beyond my ability to describe? Isn’t it my right – as the only person who knows the extent of the pain I’m in – to decide whether that pain is worth enduring? What gives another individual – whatever job title they have, whatever powers an act of parliament has conferred upon them – the right to tell me that I must suffer endlessly, and without hope of respite, just because it makes ‘society’ uncomfortable if I die by my own hand?
This is why I always lie when I am asked about suicide. It’s why I will never be completely honest with a MH professional. It’s why, if I do ever decide that the time has come for me to die, I will choose a place and a time and a method which will guarantee success. The right to choose death is mine, and I will not surrender it to anyone.
Kerrie Wooltorton’s life was her own. It belonged to her, not to the doctors treating her, or to her family, or to people discussing it on blogs, or newspaper pundits, or happy-clappy jesus freaks. It was her life, which means it was her life to end. It’s kind of people to feel sad about her death, but it’s irrelevant. She had a clear, unambiguous, persistent wish to die. It was her right to die. All the rest is irrelevant.