Life, Death & Mental Health

Trigger Warning
The content includes information related to mental and emotional distress and it might be upsetting to some people. If you or someone you know have thoughts of suicide, have attempted suicide, or experience emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1–800–273–TALK (8255) or Live Online Chat.To get general information on mental health and to locate treatment services in your area, contact SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline – 1–877–SAMHSA7 (1–877–726–4727).

Life and death is a lot different than just black and white.

It’s the ways in which we survive.

The ways in which we live our lives.

I feel like living in the IBD community, I am surrounded by others who can describe in detail experiences where physically, we’ve been on death’s door. Without medication or surgery or intensive help from professionals, our stories could’ve ended. We could each describe to you the incredibly intense pain associated with those moments. The fear, overshadowed by the incredible potential for actual physical relief, gave way. We could’ve been ready. Not to die. But for the pain to subside.

Loss

We’ve each lost people we have loved. Loss has been immediate, unexpected, prolonged, constant. It’s excruciating to say goodbye forever. To be the one standing on this side of the earth, on this side of the thick casket walls. Death is the end. But in some cases, it is the beginning too. I’ve been affected more times than I can count by deaths of family and friends, and each time it has changed me. Some of the mourning will lay rest in the back of my heart for eternity. But each person gone is not, and never will be forgotten. There have been foundations formed, friendships rekindled, chances to grow and give back and re-learn how to live in each instance. There have been reminders to count our blessings, adjust our attitudes, to be better people.

But what about the times when the line between life and death isn’t black and white?

In the past few years, I have faced multiple brushes with death. Only three of those experiences were physical. Only they involved my body physically quitting.

I know I’m not the only one

The other ones – they were mental, emotional. The stress and agony of being chronically ill, chronically in pain, of seeing no light at the end of the tunnel, it nearly did me in – on more than one occasion. I know that in this community, I know that within my friendships, I’m not the only one. I’m not the only one who thought about death as a choice, an option, as the only way to find relief. I was alive but not living. I was dying but not dead. It was so grey that I was lost within it. For me, it took months. It took a lot of conversations I wasn’t ready to have, with a lot of people I made swear to secrecy. It took writing a memoir that I won’t ever publish. It took more will than I can explain here… but if you know this place, if you’re in this place, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m here for you. I really do understand.

All or nothing

That line between living and dying, being alive and being dead – it fluctuates. Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. I’ve learned first hand that with illnesses like ours, we tend to go all or none. When we feel like we can function, we set out to accomplish EVERYTHING on our to-do list. We don’t know when our next decent day might be, and we refuse to leave any stone unturned. But then we quickly find ourselves run back into the ground, after just two hours of errands and or a trip to the grocery store. I’ve learned the cycle – it’s exhausting and beautiful and something that we as patients don’t much know how to break, let alone maintain. That line, its foggy at times like these. When we are out, we are alive. We are here. We are doing it. But then on the flip-side, we most definitely are not. We’re likely too sore to move, curled under soft blankets and gazing recklessly into space. Were numb to our surroundings, numb to our bodies, numb to the world.

The side of the line we stand on, it can change faster than a flip of a dime. Often times, we don’t realize it until we are standing miles from where we started, feeling not only lost but very, very confused.

In my next post, I’ll share some of the battle I experienced with depression, anxiety and suicidal ideations alongside my IBD, in honor of National Suicide Prevention Week.

Other articles in this series for National Suicide Prevention Week:

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The InflammatoryBowelDisease.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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