Heart Changing Voices by Jamie Thurman
Suicide illness is the single ONLY disease that is open season for judgment, shame and condemnation. Suicide illness is the ONLY disease for which our culture expects grieving loved ones to feel the burden of guilt and shame on top of anguish. Suicide illness is the ONLY disease for which the victims are regarded as perpetrators of a crime.
Sufferers of suicide illness are often the brightest, smartest, kindest, most creative and loving people in the world. And tragically their deep capacity for love enables their great ability to hide their suffering. This well-intentioned component increases their isolation which feeds their illness until it overtakes and kills them. They die from a cruel illness that reached the terminal stage. Victims of suicide illness feel ashamed and afraid and unable to reach out for help. In providing a roadmap towards support and services, Facebook and other forums are helping to change the cultural climate that makes people in complete agony feel that they must hide it and fight alone.
I hope my words bring enlightenment and comfort:
There is not a more misunderstood malady than that of mental illness. And in the substrata of this disease, the most misunderstood is what I term suicide illness. Suicide illness is what happens when depression grows up and decides to bulk up on anabolic steroids. Suicide illness demolishes a person from the inside out -- victims feel 'dead before death', so the removal of the shell becomes nothing more than a technicality. Victims of suicide illness do not "commit" their death any more than victims of cancer commit their death. I deplore terms like suicidal and suicidal ideation -- we never describe someone as being canceridal or having diabetes ideation....
Sadly our culture shies away from providing the care and openness needed to combat suicide illness. We retreat in fear or in sheer desperation, level guilt. We plead with God in the quiet dread of night, and we speak in hushed tones amongst ourselves. We become paralyzed with terror and consumed with vulnerability to our own mistakes being exposed through the collapse of our loved one.
The triggers for suicide illness are as individual as a thumbprint or snowflake. While one child may endure a savage childhood relatively intact, another may die from an acute suicide illness flare up over a bad test score or grade. Without expert intervention and care, the body hangs around even after the soul has taken flight.
Sufferers often self medicate with alcohol and drugs, or have their condition worsened by well intentioned prescribed medications that turn out wrong. Barbaric as this sounds, THERE ARE CURRENTLY NO TESTS THAT DETERMINE IF A PSYCHOTROPIC DRUG WILL WORK. The soft term used in the medical field (including psychiatry) is "trial and error" -- sadly with mental illness there is often zero wiggle room -- sufferers need immediate relief and lasting change in conjunction with immediate change and lasting relief. The current medical model goes like this: a patient visits a psychiatrist, or a general practitioner who shockingly is allowed to prescribe psychotropic drugs, is handed a prescription or sample pack, and is told to "come back in six weeks". That is akin to handing a tourniquet to a hemorrhaging amputee and telling he or she to "apply this and check back in six weeks". If the patient wins the medication lottery, they will experience relief relatively quickly. If bone luck is not on their side, they may stay the same....or die from exacerbation of their disease. The wrong drug can worsen an already critical condition. There are no 'crash carts' for mental illness, no snapping to medical attention as with physical illness. There is only "trial and error" with the "error" part often synonymous with death.
Death from suicide illness is not the ultimate tantrum or a display of cowardice or revenge. It is the end stage result of an unmanaged or incorrectly treated disease which can be fatal and is an equal opportunity killer. Being adored or famous or wealthy or educated or gifted does not provide immunity. A person in the midst of a suicide illness flareup suffers under the spell of a homicidal hypnotist that has taken up residence in his or her brain.
Much like a viral or bacterial infection can develop into spinal meningitis, depression can develop into suicide illness. And like meningitis, suicide illness must be treated at a 'higher and dire' level. Suicide illness is also a response to perceived trauma -- this response can even be encoded into the DNA from ancestral behavior patterns (epigenetics). We need to erase stigma and approach it like any other inherited propensity or response pattern.
I send sufferers and all who love them my utmost respect and deepest understanding. I stand in solidarity with you and all who are called upon to endure such heartbreak. Shared words and stories are powerful and provide valuable portraits of the ripple effect of suicide illness. In opening up and being generous with our experiences, we are changing the dangerously and tragically false assumptions that swirl around this monstrous disease. My heart goes out to all who suffer with suicide illness and to those left behind to endure the loss of a loved one due to a disease that is in the shadows, under rocks, and open season for the misinformed and cruel. We all must keep talking and sharing. It is only when we open the blinds and step out into the light will the tragedy of suicide illness be fully understood. And in that understanding, future tragedies averted. May all sufferers and loved ones continue to heal and find strength and purpose in the quest to prevent future deaths through unified heartstrings and the exchange of potentially effective healing modalities. May all whose inner landscape is a war zone, and all who love them unite in one chorus of heart changing voices.
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