I Contemplated Suicide
There was a time, many years ago, when I was contemplating taking my life. My progressive and progressing multiple sclerosis (MS) was unrelenting, and everyday my physical abilities deteriorated. I was more than sad; I was despondent. I lived without hope and worried about the future every day and every dark night. I feared if I waited too long, I wouldn’t have the strength or physical ability to end my life.
In my mind, I was a burden to my family, even though they were always there to lend assistance and bolster my sagging spirits. But I hated the fact that I needed so much help dressing, grooming, taking care of my personal needs, even getting in and out of bed. My husband, Dave, couldn’t even get a good night’s sleep because I’d wake him up in the middle of the night to help me readjust my sleeping position.
When I could no longer drive, walk or do even simple, household tasks, Dave had to do more. He went to work all day and then came home to be Mr. Mom, taking over all the tasks I used to do. By the time our young children, ages 9 and 7, they had responsibilities none of their friends had. In my mind, I thought the family would be better off without me. Perhaps if I were gone, Dave could find another partner to share his life with, someone who could fully participate in his life.
So why did I not carry through with these thoughts? How does one learn to overcome attitudes and thinking that don’t serve us well? It was a long and arduous process that took effort and determination, and I didn’t do it alone. Experts in human behavior say we only have the power to change ourselves and our attitude. That's easy to say but hard to do when one is struggling to gain control over an incurable, progressively disabling disease. I’m not quite sure when or how I “discovered” what really matters. But I do know it took years for me to accept my worth as a human being, an attitude that is a work in progress to this day.
Where did I turn after I first realized I wasn't ready to give up? I told my doctors about the emotional pain I was in and found that a combination of medication and talk therapy helped remove some of the dark clouds that surrounded me.
When I realized that my thoughts of death and dying were keeping me from living, I read books and sought out the wisdom of people who were more enlightened than I was. I found their words to be of comfort to me. Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning, reminded me that, “Everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms, to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” And, Joan Borysenko, reinforced that with, “The question is not whether we will die, but how we will live.”
I began to understand that even though I was not able to “cure” myself, I could heal myself. I could find meaning and significance in my life. And, eventually I also came to realize another important revelation: “… the surest way to find happiness is to lose yourself in a cause greater than your own.” (Source: unknown)
I decided to get involved in the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS). There was something very important that I could do: I could tell my story and raise awareness for the disease. I could help others in their journey with MS. I could encourage others to get involved and raise funds for research.
As my work continues, I invite you to join me on Thursday, June 28 at a major fundraising event. The NMSS annual “On the Move” luncheon will be held from 11:30 am-1pm at the Marriott in Middleton. Funds raised will support chapter programs and services as well as research. For more information or to register, call 800.242.3358
Fundraising events like the luncheon represents hope for the 400,000 people in the US who have MS, 10,000 of whom live in Wisconsin. I hope no one will ever have to face the despondent times I went through with this illness. My greatest hope is that one day "MS" will stand for "Mystery Solved."
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