Choosing to Live

This evening, I watched Choosing to Die, Terry Pratchett’s documentary on assisted dying. Aside from the poignancy of his visible deterioration, I found this very difficult to watch, for the question of whether we have a human right to choose.

In January, a tsunami-like depression swept me away with no warning (well, that’s how it seemed at the time- with hindsight, the signs had probably been flashing neon bright for a few months…)

I’ve been depressed before. Maybe time has kindly wiped the worst of the previous episodes from memory, but this was the first time I understood that depression kills. Living was too hard. I didn’t want to make that effort any more. Not even for my children (and that’s a killing sentence to type.)

I remember the Thursday morning when I finally dragged myself into the GP’s surgery, and blurted out that I wanted to die. That man probably saved my life. He managed to convey that he believed me, that he took what I was saying seriously, but he didn’t pressure me into any course of action. He gave me options. He spotted when I was beyond decision making, and steered me, but never coerced.

Writing publically about your own suicidal ideation is a tricky one. I’m only putting this out here now, because I finally feel sure I’m writing about it in a definite past tense. S’OK, no cry for help here. I chose to keep on living. And finally, almost half a year down the line, it’s mostly not so hard. The last month has definitely been more good days than bad.

Depression is probably where this blog sprang from, and why I’ve spent the last week furiously posting words and pictures about how and why I choose to live. I create, therefore I am.

(Normal service, with hills and knitting will resume shortly, but at least now we all know where I’m coming from…)

And yes, I believe we all do have a right to choose. But perhaps not always the mental capacity to make the best choices.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Choosing to Live

  1. A very thoughtful response. And a brave one.

  2. Hi Nicola, you are most certainly not alone. I have known many people in my life who have shared with me that they had wanted to commit suicide at some point in the past.
    This is only one of the reasons why assisted dying has to be very carefully applied if it does become so in this country. It was very clear in the section on Dignitas that a doctor had to certify that you were ‘of sound mind’ to make the decision (though the question ‘have you ever felt depressed during your illness’ reminded me a bit of the postnatal questionnaire!) This is in fact the very big catch-22 that faces Terry P. By the time he is ready for the end, would he be able to be certified as of sound mind? I always feel slightly mistified hearing him speak so eloquently about his Alzheimer’s when my stepmother has had dementia for the last 10 years (and just diagnosed as having Alzheimers as well) and yet we all carry on pretending around her that she is fine.

    I think depression is a very different illness and was really not covered by the programme at all (too controversial I suspect). I cannot see any way that choosing to die whilst in the midst of depression should be assisted, as there does always seem to be the potential for recovery and getting more out of life. Choosing to live is brave and you are making such a difference – I am so glad your doctor was able to help.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us too.

  3. HOW did you manage to get to the doctor? I never could! Eventually, we had a minister I could trust, and she helped me more than anybody, but I could never get to the doctor and to this day I don’t know how I got to the minister!

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