The recent tragic death of Sgt. Bob, and his reasons for taking his life, had a big impact on me. In his final blog post, he wrote:
The time is 10:38 a.m. Eastern Time, 31 December 2022. I just swallowed 10 capsules of Lisinopril. I want the pain to end.
Around 7 a.m. I searched to find out if Lisinopril is an effective method for suicide. The internet gave no yes or no reply, but did list the drug’s usages. There were several suicide hotline numbers as well. I am well beyond hotline information.
I just want the pain to stop. Drugs do not help. Physical therapy has not helped. A dozen doctors of medicine did it listen when I told them of my pain and my idea that it was related to the 1986 cerebral aneurysm and a diagnosed right side focal dystonia. Doctors said, “There must be a problem with your lower back. Let’s get X-Rays of your lower back.” When nothing showed on X-Rays, the doctors said nothing.
So, since medicine cannot stop the pain, I have used medicine to do it.
There's more at the link. Please say a prayer for Bob's soul, and for his surviving family. They all need it, I'm sure.
I'm very familiar with the effects of long-term pain. I've suffered from it since February 13, 2004 (yes, it was Friday the 13th!), when I experienced a work-related spinal injury that's left me partially disabled ever since. It's grown worse over the past year, because as one gets older, the spine deteriorates, and that puts greater pressure on the injured nerves. That's been particularly frustrating to me, because it's interfered with my ability to write and produce more books. I'm still able to do so, but only when the pain level is low enough to not distract me from being creative. When it gets too high, a lot of things grind to a halt. Creative writing is one of them (at least for me). Pain gnaws on you, like a dog gnawing on a bone. It grinds, it tears, and it rips you in mind as well as body.
I know, too, what Bob went through in trying to get doctors to deal with his pain. I have a lot of sympathy for the doctors, too: they're trying to treat something that's often nebulous, hard to pin down to one specific location or organ or injury. Furthermore, if they treat the pain more or less effectively, they may cause other problems (up to and including shortening the patient's lifespan, or making him a danger to himself and/or others if he drives or uses machinery). To add to their difficulties, many of the most effective painkillers are severely restricted due to problems with addiction, and can't be freely prescribed (particularly for extended periods) without attracting official scrutiny.
After my injury, I was put on a "cocktail" of three medications to manage my pain: Gabapentin, Ultracet and Flexeril. Sadly, the combination made me feel like a zombie, as if a permanent gray cloud had taken up residence in my head and was blocking me from enjoying life. It didn't take me long to figure out that was no way for a man to live. I abandoned the "cocktail" and learned to live with a higher level of pain, using OTC analgesics to cope most of the time and Tramadol to deal with the worst days. I've been doing that for sixteen years now . . . (After my injury and resultant surgeries, I was also prescribed Percocet for the worst episodes of pain; but nowadays that's no longer so freely available, thanks to official restrictions. Fortunately, one can take multiple Tramadol tablets per day if necessary, which is almost as effective.)
So, you see, I really can understand how Sgt. Bob felt. There have been days when I've felt the same. I'm not suicidal at all (I have a very strong religious prohibition against it to sustain me), but there have been bad pain days when I've understood very clearly - experientially! - why some decide to check out rather than carry the burden any longer. I've never taken that step, and please God I never will: but I'm here to tell you from personal experience, pain can come to dominate your outlook on life to the point where it removes almost all hope, unless one has a very strong will to live. It's no surprise to me that many people in that situation say simply, "I've had enough. I can't take any more." Sgt. Bob was far from the first to make that call, and he'll be far from the last.
I've been very, very blessed by my wife in dealing with pain; and I think I've been a blessing to her too. You see, she was also badly injured earlier in life. One of her knees was shattered into tiny pieces when she ended up the meat in a two-car sandwich, and her shoulder has been dislocated multiple times. She's no stranger to pain in her own right. When sudden changes in the weather are imminent, both she and I have built-in pain barometers that let us know all about them! That may sound like a recipe for an unhappy marriage, but with us it's the opposite - it strengthens our bond. When one of us is having a bad pain day, the other can say from all too much experience, "Yes, I really do understand how you're feeling!" We stand by each other, make allowances for each other, and generally try to be helpmates for each other. That mutual support is worth more than gold to us.
I'm still trying to re-balance my life in terms of the increased pain I've experienced over the past year. I have to keep on writing: it's almost the only way I have to earn a living, given my physical limitations, but the pain has certainly slowed me down. I have multiple books very close to completion now (over 75%), and I hope to publish several this year if my body backs off a bit and lets me finish them. I hope my readers will forgive the delay. I really don't want it, but there are times when I simply can't produce quality output that meets the high standards I set for myself. I'm doing my best. Unless I find a literary sugar-daddy (a critter I don't think exists), I'll have to continue to earn my bread by the sweat of my brow in the old-fashioned way.
I guess the point of this rambling discourse is really to say: try to understand the people in your life who are afflicted by ongoing pain issues. It's the most debilitating, depressing, exhausting thing you can imagine, far more bitter in its effects on your mind than it is on your body. It's a burden you can never put down. You can only learn to live with it. If some people find they can no longer do that, and decide they have to end it, please don't condemn them for that. It's hard enough on those they leave behind, many of whom can't or won't understand why their loved one would "abandon them" like that. They can't understand from the inside that the burden of pain can grow so great, one can't think of anything else, and can't bear it any more. I can only thank God that so far, I've not been driven to that extremity. By his grace, I hope never to get there.
If you know a person who's battling with chronic pain, please try to help them as much as they'll let you. They probably won't take kindly to someone trying to "mother" them, or be a Karen, or smother them with unwanted assistance. Take the time to get to know them, and for them to let you through the barriers hurting people always erect (I know this: I've done it myself). Then, find out how you can help. Go the extra mile for them, if you can. Precious few others will do so in this largely uncaring world. They may even have been abandoned by their family because they're "difficult", or "troublesome", or whatever. Perhaps you can help fill that gap, and bring at least some healing to them. For those who are Christians, this falls under St. Paul's admonishment to "Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ". Pain is a heck of a burden. Some, like Sgt. Bob, find it so hard to bear that it eventually becomes impossible. Help them bear up under the load before things reach that stage.
To all my readers who suffer from ongoing pain: find others you can talk to about it, people who'll understand. A listening ear and a shoulder to cry on (sometimes literally) can be a life-saver. We can also learn from others what's worked to help them, that we may be able to try for ourselves. If we help each other stay upright, we can stagger down the road together a bit further. That's a whole lot better than despair.