Suicide Scolding

Here is something I read on Facebook.

Suicide Scolding

by Moira Greyland Peat

Suicide Scolding

My dear friends, I assure you that the scolding is primarily for me, lest you think this is to be a lecture.

Everyone who has gone through massive and repeated pain and loss has looked at their own life and wondered what it is all for, and if there is any value in continuing when pain seems so inevitable and endless.

Some of us have considered suicide as a way out of pain. Where it is easy to condemn suicide, let us not so easily condemn those of us who are metaphorically seeking to chew our own legs off to escape a trap.

Since human beings have such a tremendous ability to forget past pain, it is possible to overlook the overwhelming nature of the pain which can drive us to consider an irrevocable act.

It is easy to regard a suicidal person as mentally ill or even lacking in intelligence. Yet who among us have NOT suffered a shattering loss that caused us to question our own lives?

There are factors which go into suicidal thoughts and actions which might not be easy to understand which go beyond the loss.

First, when someone has suffered a catastrophic loss, there are ways in which our brains do not function normally. One of the commonest symptoms of PTSD, which is inevitably the result of a severe shock or a heavy loss, is that our prefrontal cortexes shut down for the period immediately following the loss, and worse, every time we are reminded of it to the degree that we are upset.

When our prefrontal cortexes shut down, as they do during a “fight or flight” response, our decision making is impaired, as is our judgment. In PTSD, instead of the fight or flight response lasting a few seconds, as it does in normal people, the “off switch” is broken, and our fight or flight response continues far longer than is healthy, often for minutes or even hours. The result is that we are going around bathed in norepinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol, and it gradually breaks down our health.

In single trauma or simple PTSD, this will heal over time, even though it is very disruptive. In persons with complex or multi-trauma PTSD, it does not heal easily, if at all, and it must be managed.

The challenge becomes learning to shut down the fight or flight response. Some people can do this through prayer and meditation, others can use tapping on acupressure points, also known as EFT.

PTSD people can act very strangely when triggered, and this can alter or destroy relationships.

A war veteran who is trained in combat can become extremely dangerous when triggered, and this can severely damage his or her relationships with family and friends.

A victim of childhood abuse can regress (freeze, panic, switch into the mindset of a much younger self) when triggered, and that can be disruptive in other ways. In both cases, the PTSD person ends up potentially alienating the very people they need to count on the most.

If PTSD has no intervention, our despair at our own behavior and the inevitable alterations to relationships can lead us to believe that literally ANYTHING is better than living in pain.

Veterans kill themselves in staggering numbers. Chronically depressed victims of child abuse also kill themselves at an alarming rate.

One thing that is poorly understood is that typical antidepressants are useless for PTSD patients because it is the dopamine system which is affected, not the serotonin system. If you need help, and you suspect PTSD, seek a trauma specialist, and don’t settle for SSRIs which might do nothing at all for you.

Believe it or not, PTSD is routinely treated with stimulants, not SSRI antidepressants. You might find that a cup of strong coffee does more for you than four or five psychiatric meds.

But by all means, discuss this with your trauma specialist, since I am not a doctor. No warranties expressed or implied. My only goal is to keep you alive, since many PTSD people have no idea that there are more ways to deal with our suffering than ever before.

This may seem counterintuitive, but I discourage fighting, since we cannot make useful decisions once we get emotionally triggered. Make decisions calmly, with calm loved ones. Nothing is solved and much can be destroyed during a fight.

Now to the real reason I am talking with you today.

Although I have been profoundly suicidal many times, through the grace of God, I am still alive. But my brother and my father are not. Both of them passively took their own lives.

My brother Mark had type 2 diabetes. Twice at my home, he went into diabetic ketoacidosis. The first time, he had stopped taking insulin, and I saw that he did not look well as he was reclining on my couch.

At that time, I was texting with my then-husband to be, my beloved Michael. Praise God, he had some medical training, and when I described Mark’s condition, he instructed me to drive him to the hospital immediately.

The doctors were able to save him, even though his blood sugar was a whopping six hundred.

Some time later, my brother disappeared into his room for a day and a half, and again my beloved Michael told me we had to check on him. Mark was barely able to sit up, and although he knew his name, he knew nothing else. When the paramedics got there, they interpreted his blood glucose not appearing on their meter as meaning he had low blood sugar.

Once more, Michael saved Mark’s life by yelling at the paramedics to not give him the packet of Glucagon they were about to administer. He told them to look on the floor, which was littered with empty soda bottles, and empty gallons of chocolate milk.

They transported my brother to the hospital, where the doctor was able to give him a real blood sugar test, although sadly, by then he was comatose. I put my huge black coat over my brother, and asked the doctor if he would make it. The doctor was so cheerful, telling me he would be fine, and I was not to worry.

When we were allowed to visit him in the ICU, the doctor told us his blood sugar was seventeen hundred fifty, the highest number he had ever seen on a living patient. He and I suspected a suicide attempt, even if an unconscious one, because it does not take a rocket scientist to know that a diabetic with long knowledge of his own illness does not stop insulin AND drink gallons of sugary drinks while expecting to survive.

In my brother’s defense, he had begun telling me he was having flashbacks about our father. He had had no psychological help, and had been living with his vicious wife and two children who needed him to be stable, and like so many other kind husbands and fathers, he had put them ahead of himself until he was nearly dead from despair.

Flash forward a few years.

I had asked my brother to live with our aunt and cousin, both since he was very close to my cousin, and because his health needed more supervision than I could provide with my performance schedule, and I knew that at my aunt’s house there was no chance he would be left alone long enough to do what he had done at my house.

Back in April of this year, my brother quit taking insulin again, and naturally he became very sick. But this time, he flatly refused to be hospitalized, despite many requests from family members. He died in his room on April 27, a few days after the anniversary of our father’s death.

I regard his death as a suicide, because it was entirely preventable. The consequences of his actions were known by him to be lethal, and he refused any intervention to save his life.

I turned my father in to the police in 1989, and his prosecution over his sexual abuse of an eleven year old boy resulted in three years of probation, since he was deemed to be a first offender. When another victim came forward, they essentially threw away the key. Although I had given the cops a list of 22 names of likely victims, nobody wanted to testify, even if my father had written extensively about his actions in his ever-present journals.

My father had long anticipated his arrest, and even believed since I was ten years old that I was going to put him in prison, and that he would die there. As a result, when he was first informed by a masseuse that the grapefruit-sized mass in his abdomen needed to be checked out by a doctor, he refused, many times. He knew, as would anyone, that a swiftly growing abdominal mass was not going to just go away, and that the most likely cause was cancer.

When he was imprisoned, he was given no choice about having the mass checked out, and a laparoscopic examination showed inoperable metastatic cancer.

It took a long time for the cancer to kill him, and a lot of determination on his part to refuse treatment as long as he had a choice. That is why I regard his death to be a suicide. He could have sought medical treatment when the lump was first discovered, instead of refusing to treat what would undoubtedly be a very serious diagnosis.

It might seem baffling that I would have wanted my father to live, when he had destroyed so many young people with his actions against them. But I am a daughter, and I loved my father very much.

Many people who commit suicide believe that no one cares about them, and that nobody would believe them if they talked about what was wrong. The inevitable wacky brain chemistry of an untreated or improperly treated trauma patient makes this worse. Trauma can make us think we are alone and unloved even if we are not!

That is why it is so essential to learn the difference between reality and trauma-brain, and to not confuse the things we think while triggered with reality.

But I digress.

What matters is that my brother left his twin nineteen year old sons bereft, as well as me, and my sons, who he was very close to, our aunt and our cousin, who was his best friend. All of these people have a Mark-shaped hole in their hearts which can never be fixed.

Some people think that they will be better off dead, and even that their loved ones will be better off without them around, but this is a lie from the pits of Hell.

I have been around bereaved family members and friends, and never once did ANY of us EVER think we were better off having lost a person.

The reason I bring my father up so specifically in this context is that even though he was a serial rapist with dozens, possibly hundreds of victims, including me, he was still my father and I loved him. Always we hold out the hope of forgiveness and redemption and return to love.

If the children and family of a serial rapist can mourn his death, and not feel relieved for a moment that he is gone, what does that say about a normal person who makes normal, even egregious mistakes?

We need our people. We need our world. When someone removes themselves from our world, it is not improved, it is destroyed, and it must be rebuilt, brick by agonizing brick, to compensate for the loss.

So don’t believe your grief-thinking or your trauma-thinking. Make NO decisions when upset. I am telling this to myself as well as to you.

My own beloved husband died on May 27, leaving me shattered, and occasionally contemplating the swan dive into Eternity out of my pain. But I will not do it.

I know how to think when I am NOT in trauma-brain, and I know that even at my worst, my children love me, my friends love me, and my silly little dog loves me. If I went, I would injure THEM. Not because I am a worthy person, I am just as flawed and craven as anyone else on earth. But having lived through the suicides and deaths of others, and observing my own grief first hand, I would not want to put anyone through this kind of pain.

Suicide is a supremely selfish act, even if it is understandable to want to escape intolerable pain. We are choosing to cause pain in others to alleviate our own pain, and that is not right by any stretch of the imagination.

Even if we feel alone, we are not. Even if we feel worthless, we are not. God loves us, and He has a purpose for me and for you, and He will show you if you ask him. He might not write it down, or give you a vision of angels. He might show you in a completely unexpected way.

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