Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Be All My Sins Remembered

Here is another post I dithered on writing for public consumption, but again I feel like I would limit future topics if I did not get the truth out there.  After admitting I am--at least for the time being--a nursing home resident, any other embarrassing items should pale in comparison.  Burt Reynolds once told an interviewer he always makes reveals the most humiliating things about himself so that any gossip is tame by comparison.  Our cases are not identical, but if I reveal my darker struggles, maybe someone will benefit from where I screwed up.
 
I let it drop a couple posts ago that right after my health collapsed in 2004, I not only contemplated suicide, but practiced a chosen method.  Asphyxiation was the way to go, if you will pardon the pun.  My mother committed suicide using a variation.  I got the idea from the film House of Sand and Fog.  It takes about seven minutes to die and it is relatively peaceful if you can keep the plastic bag from clinging to your nostrils while you still have air.  If you can prevent that from happening, you just go to sleep and never wake up.

  Suicide is a nasty business, especially for a devout Christian.  I am not one to believe Christians who commit suicide lose their salvation, but choosing death on your own timetable is an act of rebellion.  During the time I wavered over whether to go through with it, both Christopher Reeve and his wife died a short time apart.  Reeve died from complications of an infected pressure sore.  His wife died from aggressive lung cancer even though she never smoked.  It was while perusing a science fiction/comic book fan message board that I learned of Victor Frankl.

Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who survived the Holocaust by providing psychiatric care to the Nazis.  After World War II, Frankl published a study on life in the concentration camps from the objective perspective of a scientist.  Two of his observations are well known.  One is that environment has little to do with happiness.  Even amid the starvation, torture, and death of the concentration camps, inmates were still able to talk and joke with one another.  It is possible for people to transcend the misery of any environment.  The other observation is that when people lose their will to live, ill health sets in.  In other words, if you want to die, it will happen.
 
The latter observation is relevant here.  Reeve’s paralysis wearied on him late in life to the point the died from an infected pressure sore.  His wife, unable to live without him, died months later of lung cancer even though she never smoked.  Their deaths and the discovery of Frankl’s work resonated.  The loss of most of my eyesight destroyed my quality of life to the point I did not want to go on.  My colon was a ticking time bomb set to rupture at any time.  A rupture nearly killed me the first time.  Surely a second would finish me off, especially when I desired for it to do so.

 So I carried a death wish around for eight terrible years.  During that time, I was not exactly dedicated in maintaining my health.  Longtime readers from my old blog will note frequent hospitalizations over the years.  They constantly wore me down, but nothing ever forced me over the finish line.  I grew wearier of life as I aged while becoming distraught over the realization I was condemned to live anyway.  There was not much in the way of emotional support, either.  I was not a welcome addition to my sister’s house..  She and her husband never bothered much to hide that fact.

The time for life to mercifully end appeared to come October 2012.  Up until I was actually opened up on the operating table, it was assumed my colon had ruptured again.  Among the possibilities was dying of infection right there or having my entire colon removed to waste away from a clear liquid diet over a period of weeks.  Alas, the problem turned out to be a burst diverticula instead.  A burst diverticula could have caused a rupture, but inexplicably did not.  I was not happy to have survived. Everyone knew it, too.  Somewhere in my anesthetic/morphine haze, I expressed disappointment to still be alive.

I lingered for two months while spiraling both physically and mentally.  I was hospitalized four times for constantly dropping weight from lack of eating.  Finally, I was confronted with being suicidal when I arrived at the emergency room last January weighing in at 68 pounds.  I was faced with the ultimatum of a feeding tube and a stint in a rehab hospital or appropriate authorities were going to look into my suicidal tendencies.  I did not have much choice but to cooperate.

I improved--physically, at any rate--while wondering what to do now.  I dodged several potentially fatal bullets without even trying.  Mercy, I practically jumped in front of them wearing a bull’s eye on my chest!  I was still emaciated and weak in May when I was forced to go to the emergency room with what turned out to be a fissure.  I have already covered what happened next, so we shall skip ahead a bit to Oakhaven.

I got to Oakhaven in the middle of July.  Right away, it was a scary place.  There was one lady across from the nurses’ desk screaming.  Another emaciated lady was slumped over asleep in a recliner-like wheelchair.  I had to stop and let another lady holding a doll and talking nonsense to herself pass.  If I believed I was condemned to a life of misery before, I had unmistakable confirmation.  I hid away in my room for weeks.  During that time, only the physical/occupational therapy crew could drag me out.  I eventually emerged here and there on my own.  The staff was relieved, but they did not know I was only scoping out the place for where and how I could commit suicide.

It took a long time.  My options were limited because of a large staff and cameras everywhere, but over a period of weeks, I was able to swipe all the items I would need for my old asphyxiation standby.  I had a thick patient belongings bag from the hospital, a Styrofoam cup with the side torn out to cover my nose, a disposable razor to tie off the bag’s drawstring so it would not slip, and a stretchy exercise band to tie around my throat like a tourniquet to make certain air would be cut off.  I would have preferred a roll of tape, but that was always out of reach.  So was a sleeping pill to make absolutely sure I did not panic.  I hid the stuff away in a pouch I often carried around under everyone’s noses, waiting for the right time.

 I still believed suicide was a nasty business.  Not only because of the spiritual implications, but natural.  I was under no illusions anyone would care if I was dead, but who wants to wind up a suffocated corpse on the floor of a nursing home bathroom regardless?  The pain of loss soon outweighed the potential stigma when the lonely holidays rolled around.  Here I was, alone, eating Thanksgiving turkey of a tray, and watching a James Bond movie alone.  I knew it was never going to be any better than this.  I decided it was time to go.
 
I decided to go on the day after my birthda.  That would be Deceber 12.th.  I figured my birthday would either be a good day, in which I would go out on a high note, or it would be every bit as lonely and painful as Thanksgiving, which would confirm I had made the right choice to end my life.  On my birthday, a nurse with whom I have developed a close relationship visited on her day off to spend a little time and deliver some caqke pops and candy canes.   This was perfect.  Tomorrow, I would go around after lunch passing these out to staff members and residents to whom I had become friends and chat a bit.  They would all have a final happy memory of me.  I would wait until suppertime when staff would be busy feeding residents who needed such help and quietly make my exit.  At worst, I would have thirty-forty-five minutes of solitude, which is more than enough time to finish myself off.  At best, a nurse would not come around for up to three hours when my overnight tube feeding is hung.
 
But as I was passing the candy out, I ran into someone who I suppose said the right thing at the right time, but I blinked on suicide.  The details need to be kept quiet.  This blog is generally known to Oakhaven friends, but the one who intervened does not know what she did.  It is best that she never know.  I should only saw a flicker of happiness stemming from nostalgic reflection over the previous couple weeks played tricks on my emotions.  Some have said God put her in my way because I was not meant to die.  I will not argue with that.

 I was back to my usual spot--suicide was not as easy as I thought.  No matter how miserable I was, I meant to be condemned to live.  My emotional state deteriorated so horribly, it attracted the attention of of a half dozen people who tried to get me to talk.  No one knew what I had planned to do for monthsd now, and I was not about to reveal it.  That is until the social worker cornered me with a depression survey.  My answers put me with a 24/7 sitter and mandatory therapy.  Feeling trapped, I handed over my suicide “kit” much to the horror of just about everyone.  I was still carrying it around a month after I had planned to use it.  No one had any idea.  Suddenly, casual company became a suicide watch.  Therapy was no an effort to preserve vmy life.

I am going to stop the narrative here.  It is obvious I am still alive.  The journey to this point and what I learned along the way is what Cogito Ergo Doleo will be all about for the foreseeable future.  Surely you know enough now about the deep abyss I was stranded in that further elaboration would be unnecessary.  There is much left to say in spiritual and existential terms, however.  I shall get to that in short order.  

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