Last Friday morning I was struck by a young lady I met at work. She was perfectly healthy but was in hospital to donate her eggs. It meant she would have to undergo the risk of an anaesthetic and a minor surgery. But this would make it possible for another couple, unknown to her, to have a baby. There was nothing in it for her – no money or recognition. I asked her what her motivation was. She said, “I do it because I can.”
I instantly saw her humanity shine through. I have always believed that it is in our true nature to help each other in whatever way we can. When asked, we are more than happy to help in whatever way we can. When I was convinced that I could not survive Saagar’s death, many acquaintances and strangers who reached out and helped. Many didn’t have to but they did.
Saagar’s friends have run half marathons, hosted open-mike nights, golf events and walked many miles to help raise awareness about suicide prevention. This is their opportunity to make their humanity shine and bring more light to this planet.
What can I do? I can walk. So, I am walking 50 K tomorrow to mark the World Suicide Prevention Day. It should help raise funds to create more resources for young people in distress. I hope to meet many new people and chat with them about Saagar. I shall carry his picture with me for everyone to see. I am really good at showing him off.
What does life want from me?
Now, after all this, what do I want from life?
When I was 20 something I thought that most 50 year olds had the answer to those questions. Ha! I look around and find many others my age in a similar place.
A journalist once asked Mahatma Gandhi what his message was and he replied, “My life is my message.”
I suppose life just wants us to live as joyfully and meaningfully as we can. At present it feels as though the orchestra is playing and the dance floor is ready and I am standing at the edge, listening but completely dumb-founded and frozen.
Is it my ‘ego’ that keeps me feeling this way or is it natural? Am I capable of turning this around? What does that even mean? What would that look like? I think I am doing my best but am I really? There is no yardstick. There are no comparisons. Whatever the question, the answer is love. Being with love, being in love and being love.
“Is it wrong that I secretly enjoy this bit very much?” asked a deeply religious young lady as she was going off to sleep as a result of having received some anaesthetic medications from me this morning.
The turmoil and the innocence of her question made me think about how much of our life is governed by what’s right and what’s wrong. On the one hand it in an important judgement to make and on the other it can be completely stifling if we take it too far. It can make us judge others and ourselves rather harshly. After all, the past and the present is witness that many thousands of innocent people having been rightfully and ruthlessly killed and ruined in the name of a ‘loving, merciful and forgiving’ God and ‘democracy and liberty’.
Being ‘right’ often does nothing more than instil a sense of false superiority, designed to control the feelings and behaviour of others and confine them and society to very narrow boundaries. People who believe they are ‘good’ and ‘right’ constantly look down upon others who may be different.
According to a story from Hindu mythology, Lord Vishnu had 2 wives – Laxmi, the goddess of fortune, and Alaxmi, the goddess of misfortune. Both of them believed they were the most beautiful. So, they asked Vishnu, “Which one of us is the most beautiful?”
Vishnu said to Laxmi, “When you arrive, you are the most beautiful.” And he told Alaxmi, “When you leave, you are the most beautiful.”
What is the correct answer? Who is really beautiful?
“Existence knows no right or wrong. The beauty of existence lies in doing what is appropriate, rather than relying on morals and ethics.The life process seems to be so chaotic and unbearable for you that you are trying to bring some silly sense of order by establishing your own principles, your own morality, your own ethics. If you bring your own silly sense of order to life, you will completely miss the magnificent order of the existence. There is no need to be orderly. Existence is in perfect order.” – Jaggi Vasudev.
About 5 months after Saagar’s passing, one of my close friends sent me a subtle message suggesting that I should be careful about what I write in my blog as a few of my work colleagues read it regularly and if I appear to be too fragile or vulnerable, it might have a negative impact on my professional life. I understood her concern. The medical profession is not known for its understanding and compassion for mental frailty in colleagues.
Dr Wendy Potts was a GP in Derbyshire who blogged about living with Bipolar Disorder on a regular basis. One of her patients read the blog and complained to her Practise. The doctor was suspended. A few weeks later she ended her own life.
Firstly, I don’t understand the basis of the complaint. Would patients complain if their GP had diabetes or cancer?
Secondly, I don’t understand the basis for suspension from work. If the doctor’s performance was not questionable, then there is no ground for that.
This is one of many examples of poor treatment of medical colleagues with mental health issues. I think we are a long way from seeing parity between physical and mental illnesses as the ones who are supposed to put that into practise are themselves caught in the stigma associated with mental illness.
(PS: apologies for not being able to insert the link to the article in a better way. The ‘link’ icon on my page doesn’t seem to work anymore. Any ideas? )
Coming up to Saagar’s second anniversary in a couple of months, this piece of writing by another mother really touched my heart…
When I first embarked on my grief path after my child took her life, I thought that it would be linear and each step would become easier until maybe one day I would walk out into the sunshine again. And in the first few months, I looked at others I met who were two or three years down the line and wondered why some of them seemed to be still stuck in what I thought were the early stages of their grief. How naïve of me!
I have come to realise that this grief journey is incredibly complicated and is more like being lost and stranded in a forest. To begin with everything was dark and foreboding; it felt like the forest would completely engulf me and at every twist and turn there would be branches catching at me and roots making me stumble and fall, and muddy, murky swamps wanting to drown me. I felt I was living in a horror movie at worst or a frightening children’s story book at best. After a while I was so determined not to let the forest take me over that I created a glade where I thought I would be safe from the shadows. I tried really hard to be positive and see some sense in my loss.
Now, coming up to three years on, at times the path can be straight and I think I know where it is going and there are more and more times when it passes through one of those sunlit glades and I can bask in the warmth and feel nothing can touch me. But I never know when the trees will close in and what monsters might be hiding behind them; and sometimes the path feels like it’s doubling back on itself and I have no idea where I’m going. But I have come to trust that I will always find a way through the tangled undergrowth eventually and walk with my eyes looking forward and upwards towards the light rather than into the darkness and despondency.
Along this path I have been so privileged to have met others who are walking the walk in their own way. Some sadly are completely engulfed by and lost in their forest and can barely put one foot in front of the other; and others seem like they know where they are going and walk strongly and steadfastly, sometimes wearing the cloak of invincibility to the outside world as a means of protection, but they too can stumble and fall and need a helping hand or a kind word.
But it is a difficult, painful and exhausting path however we travel it. And there is no right or wrong way to walk it and each person must find their own way through their forest. If you are one of the people I have met on this trail, I want you to know how much I respect your fortitude, courage and strength.
If you were there before I entered the forest and are still walking alongside me through the darkness and the light, I give you my love, my thanks and my heartfelt gratitude, particularly as I know many of you are finding your own way through your own heartache and grief.
And if you are reading this and know anyone who is stumbling through their own dark, tangled place then please reach out a hand to them and maybe catch them before they fall.
And to my beautiful child I want to say thank you for often showing me the way.
Scarlett Lewis is Jesse’s mother. Jesse, her youngest son, six years of age was one of the twenty children murdered in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. Brave Jesse helped save the lives of many of his classmates by encouraging them to run while he stayed behind to protect his teacher—both he and his beloved teacher were killed.
Before going to school, in what may have been a premonition of the day’s tragedy, six-year-old Jesse wrote on his home chalkboard, “Nurturing Healing Love.” Working through her grief in the midst of the emotional devastation felt by all of the parents who lost children, Scarlett embraced Jesse’s words and consciously chose a different way to manage her distress. While many parents vented their pain through anger, blame, and overwhelming grief, Scarlett went on an alternate path by deciding to consciously choose Love to come to terms with this heinous crime.
To send her message into the world, Scarlett founded the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation (http://www.jesselewischooselove.org) whose stated mission is, “To create awareness in our children and our communities that we can choose love over anger, gratitude over entitlement, and forgiveness and compassion over bitterness.” The foundation’s goal is to help manifest a more peaceful and loving world. Scarlett’s efforts in advancing Love to resolve the world’s problems has become her path to healing.
As he speaks, it breaks my heart to watch the tears roll down this handsome young man’s cheeks. I admire him for normalising vulnerability. He shares how depression makes one believe that everyone would be better off without them. He thinks that the stigma associated with suicide comes from the ‘mystery’ associated with the condition. Those left behind search within themselves and ask many questions but there are no answers. It is impossible to not personalise it. That makes it very hard for us to talk about it as individuals. Because it is so hard to speak about suicide for us as individuals, it is the same for us as a society. But it is essential and urgent for us all to talk about suicide. It is of paramount importance.
How can we encourage people to do this?
By ‘normalising’ it.
Statistics say that 1 in 4 people suffer from mental ill-health. However this may be a gross underestimation as many people are not very aware of how they feel. They may not really know and recognise their feelings.
His advice for anyone who might be thinking of ending their life is – Tell someone. Tell anyone. Once you do that, the power of that thought over you diminishes.