Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Too Serious for Numbers

Hyperbole and a Half has clearly been there.

I'm not entirely certain why Christians, specifically Catholics, tend to be so against euthanasia. I didn't understand it while I was Catholic, and I don't understand it now.

Here, allow me to elucidate what euthanasia means to me. Saturday we celebrated my husband's birthday by going to the casino. He loves playing poker and he's good at it, we just don't generally have the $200 necessary to play at the casino. So his brother's birthday present was the $200 stake and his company at the tables. Initially, they were going to enter a tournament starting at 7pm, so we were going to go down at 5, hang out for 2 hours, then the rest of us would leave when they started the tournament. Through an unfortunate series of events, we didn't get there until 9pm, and I didn't get home until 3am. (He came home at 7am, enough up to pay for mastering his album, which is being released the second week of June. I do expect class participation in this project.)

After 6 hours spent on my feet at the casino (they don't have chairs for people not spending money), being up 5 hours past my usual bedtime and getting 4 hours of sleep after that, this was my week:

Sunday: I managed to get from the bed to the couch. I don't really remember Sunday except as a haze of pain.

Monday: The pain was worse, but I was more mobile and managed to take a shower. Mostly, I remember nausea and pain. And everything smelled funny for some reason.

Tuesday: The pain was somewhat better, but my skin felt like it was on wrong.

Wednesday: Delighted to discover my skin was back on right, not so concerned about the pain anymore.

Thursday: Back to a normal level of pain for me. Actually, I think I'm at the level of pain that had me calling the doctor for an emergency appointment, but after the preceding four days, it doesn't seem so bad anymore.

That's my life. What might be a little soreness and exhaustion for anyone else is a sojourn in hell for me. You know what keeps me going? I know that it will end. I know what the typical rebound time for me is. Well, typical rebound used to be one day of feeling not so bad, followed by two days in hell, but it's been years since I tried anything like that. But it does end, eventually. Even in the midst of pain so severe, I was left unable to really care for myself, I knew it would end. By "unable to really care for myself", I mean my husband was carrying me to the bathroom every so often because I couldn't form the proper intent to get there on my own.

If that were my everyday life with no end in sight, you'd better believe I would kill myself. Without hesitation and without apology. I love life, but that's not life to me. As much of an endurance challenge as formerly easy things can be to me anymore, there is still beauty and wonder in this universe for me, but not when I'm in that kind of pain. That kind of pain reduces the world to nothing more than screaming nerves and an overwhelmed brain that's not meant to take that kind of abuse. Imagine walking through a fog so thick you can't see your hand in front of your face. Now imagine that the fog is pain and you are pain and time is pain and the world is pain. Now imagine that is all that is left for you and then imagine what you would do.

If that sounds unreasonable to you, well, you haven't been there. I know Red Cardigan hasn't been there, because this is how she responds to quality of life concerns:

I first saw this article at a news site which allows comments, and the
comments were overwhelmingly in favor of suicide for the terminally ill, the
elderly, the handicapped, and anyone else who no longer enjoys "quality of
life," which is apparently defined by the ability to maintain a trendy home,
dash off on destination vacations, work long hours for the right sort of people,
and shop for cool toys and couture fashion at America's most
religiously-attended structures, otherwise known as shopping centers, malls,
strip malls, or misleadingly named "town squares"
(and this is off-topic, but the couple of times I've had the misfortune of
actually setting foot in that place linked to I have honestly felt like the
whole thing is frighteningly unreal in a rather evil way; but then, I'm a
writer, and thus prone to fits of imagination).

A part of me laughs. She is clearly more concerned with some [follows link] shopping center than she is with another person's screaming agony. On the one hand, most of us, including me, are more concerned with what affects us than with what affects another person we've never met. On the other hand, does she really think that people are stuffing a bag over grandma's head because she can't shop at Coach anymore?

A part of me screams with a rage that has few words. That part of me is still quaking in fear that last week will come back for me, that the all-encompassing pain will return and never leave and it will kill me before I stop breathing, and she's yapping on about shopping centers and being a writer?

Does anyone have words for that? What kind of monster are you, Red Cardigan, that you call a shopping center "unreal" and "evil" when there is suffering in this world, all around you, suffering with no release, not even a pause, suffering ended only by death? You ignore this and call it morality.

I don't even know what to say.


  1. anyone who no longer enjoys "quality of
    life," which is apparently defined by the ability to maintain a trendy home,
    dash off on destination vacations, work long hours for the right sort of people,
    and shop for cool toys and couture fashion at America's most
    religiously-attended structures, otherwise known as shopping centers, malls,
    strip malls, or misleadingly named "town squares"

    Who is it that defines "quality of life" in this way? I'm not suicidal or anything of the sort, but I do think that when it comes to the "right to die" it should be up to the person in pain to decide when enough is enough. I highly doubt anyone with real quality of life issues deems not being able to shop at "town squares" among them.

    My grandad was diagnosed with dementia and Parkinson's disease. Before it got to the point where he was stringing fence in the empty air and calling my granny by his mother's name, before he lay in a hospital bed with my granny giving him suction so he wouldn't drown in his own saliva, before he was bedridden and dependent on her to change his diapers, he contemplated suicide. I hardly blame him. My grandmother told me she found him against a tree, eyes closed praying, with a shotgun wedged underneath his chin. He knew what he had in store.

  2. There is something very eloquent about this post. It's the truth in it, I think.

  3. Oh, god. I've been to Southlake Town Square. I can't believe she'd call it "evil." Stupid, pointless, and overpriced, sure. But evil? Not so much.

    You've got to live an extremely sheltered life to call a glorified strip mall frighteningly unreal and evil. Srsly.

  4. I suspect that, like me, Red Cardigan has never experienced the kind of pain you or D'Ma's grandfather have experienced. I think it's impossible to really imagine that kind of pain when you haven't experienced it for yourself.

    Where Red Cardigan and I differ is in how we respond to that inability to image such pain. I accept that even though I can't imagine it, such pain really does exist and many people experience it. I accept that it's a horrible experience. And as such, I accept that it really can be so horrible that the most attractive and most reasonable choice would be to escape, even if the only way is through death.

    Red Cardigan, on the other hand, seems to assume that because she can't imagine such pain, it can't possibly be real. So she minimizes and even dismisses the experiences of those for whom such horrible pain is a very tangible -- and in some cases, constant -- reality. She convinces herself, "Come on, it can't be that bad!"

    Of course, she's wrong. Even I can see that. Those of you who have endured such pain can see it, and probably want to cuss at her profusely for her attitude. I can't say as I blame you.

  5. Jarred;

    we calling it "The Catch-22 of pain" - if you HAVEN'T been in that pain, you can't possibly know what it's like.
    if you HAVE, no one else has EVER been in as much pain as you, and THEY can't know what it's like.

    of course, we're getting better about it - i can now believe that of COURSE PF hurts as much as i do, she's just luckier in her pain to be more mobile than i am [i hate you! not really, really i'm just jealous. i miss work...] but 30 years ago, chronic pain patients were attacking each other, because DOCTORS didn't believe ANY of them, and what do people do when they can't get help? usually, turn on each other.

    it's actually really interesting that you can intellectualize it and acknowledge that we DO have pain - that's a fuckton more rare than you think. most MEDICAL PEOPLE can't do it, and they've be TAUGHT for 8+ years [as in, from the very first day of their schooling] that our pain is real, and they STILL don't believe in it.

    i've been really, really close to my end-point for a while. if i didn't have *people* to live for, i wouldn't be here.

    [and yes, of course it's selfish, but so is EATING. if i hear one more time "you can't suicide, it's SELFISH" from a person who ISN'T DISABLED, doesn't know what pain is, and can't IMAGINE giving up one of her double frapple-whatevers a day to give to charity, i'm going to become HOMOcidal instead! selfish! from people who literally step OVER bag-ladies as if they didn't exist!]


  6. erm, none of that rage is directed at anyone HERE. just so you know. especially not you, Jarred - i promise, not rageing at you!

  7. @denelian,

    You are absolutely right. Unless you've experienced that kind of pain you can't possibly know what it's like living in that skin. I've never had it and, knock on wood, hope I never do know first hand what it's like. But I think what Jarred and I both do have is empathy. I can believe you actually hurt that bad. I can also understand your rage. I guess Red Cardigan has never once strolled through a nursing home or even contemplated what it might be like to be disabled. And I suppose it's as you say, there are a lot of people who can't fathom it so it's not real to them. That's just weird to me. It's weird that another person can't empathize just because it's never happened to them

  8. D'Ma

    you're just continuing to prove that you're cooler and more perceptive than your average bear.
    [no, i don't know why Yogi the Bear is in my head as a reference for this, either - blame the oxy. *I* always do :) ]

    that said - most people DO have empathy, to a point - they can imagine "pain", even really BAD pain, because there is NO ONE [who doesn't have a major nervous system disorder] who HASN'T felt pain - what they tend to have trouble imagining is how MUCH worse it can be, and what it's like for it to never go away - or even become less bad for periods.

    it's a thing that goes both ways - i remember laughing at my sister, when she was having bad cramps, because she rated the pain as a "10" - because for her, it WAS, because MY "10" is. no, let me try it this way; my *5* is beyond a 10 for most people. you become used to pain, and what would have once had you screaming for death is now "normal" and "not too bad" because you've LIVED worse. and so then we sometimes discount the pain of others, because it's not THIS bad [and i try so hard not to - but i still do. sigh]

    if any of that makes sense...

    so i now try to live by the nurse's maxim "pain is what the patient says it is, when the patient says it is". the fact that most nurses [and almost ALL doctors] ignore it doesn't make it less true.

    i'm pretty sure if a "healthy" person got my pain out of the blue, they'd *die". of a stroke or a heart attack, if nothing else. because all pain is relative, and it ONLY relates to other pain you have personally experienced.

    again, if that makes sense. i feel like i did when i tried to transpose "Moonlight Sonata" to English - taking a thousand words to describe one note and i STILL have to transpose it back for it to be meaningful...

  9. @denelian,

    I really like Yogi Bear. :)

    And all of that made perfect sense. I can't possibly imagine how much REAL pain you're in because I haven't experienced it. But I believe it when you say that you are in that much pain. I believe that people do experience that much pain and I think they should be able to make their own choices of how to deal with it.

  10. thanks :)

    all that said - i still want to know why we can't have pain meds that DON'T fuck us up. i mean, we have freaking VIAGRA, but can't make pain meds that DON'T turn one into a zombie, or make one violently ill, and aren't the most addictive things in the world?

    i'd MUCH rather not hurt than feel "high" [which i don't, not anymore - i'm so used to these meds, the only reason i still take them is withdrawl. well, and a fear that they ARE suppressing SOME pain, and if i can't deal with the pain ON the meds, being OFF them... terrifying,]


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Forever in Hell by Personal Failure is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at foreverinhell.blogspot.com.