All I manage to read these days are short stories. Partly due to my abbreviated attention span and partly because the time has come when I ‘should’ start wearing reading glasses but I don’t. I get by, by increasing the font size and by reading for short periods of time. Also by squinting a lot.
‘The First Forty nine stories’ is a collection by the Nobel prize winner, Earnest Hemingway. In the preface he says, “In going where you have to go and doing what you have to do and seeing what you have to see, you dull and blunt the instrument you write with. But I would rather have it bent and dull and know I had put it on the grindstone again and hammer it into shape and out a whetstone to it, and know that I had something to write about, than to have it bright and shining and nothing to say, or smooth and well-oiled in the closet, but unused.”
After devouring the collection, I read up about him and was saddened to find that he suffered with depression and died of suicide. Here’s an example of the sensitivity and vulnerability of his characters and the simplicity of his story telling style. It’s called ‘Cat in the rain’.
For more than 25 years, I have practised anaesthesia. One would think that by now I would know for sure that procedures take much longer than they are scheduled for and that every list these days is overbooked. Still, foolishly I hope to finish in time every day. Even though I have had to cancel after-work plans on many occasions, at every new opportunity I want to give a chance to the possibility of a desirable outcome.
When Saagar was ill, I was optimistic. I believed that he would get better. That it was only a matter of time. The messages I got from professionals reaffirmed that belief. My faith in life and confidence in Saagar and myself kept that belief strong.
Now when I am with worried parents and friends, I hold their uncertainty and mine. Things can go one of many ways. We don’t know. We just need to be with that uncomfortable uncertainty with positivity. That is compassion. Understanding.
In quantum physics, Heisenberg’s principle of Uncertainty says that there is an inherent uncertainty in the amount of energy involved in quantum processes and in the time it takes for those processes to happen. Vacuums are often defined as the absence of everything. But not so in quantum theory. It is possible that for very, very short periods of time, a quantum system’s energy can be highly uncertain, so much that particles can appear out of a vacuum. This is well within the laws of quantum physics, as long as the particles only exist fleetingly and disappear when their time is up. Uncertainty, then, is nothing to worry about in quantum physics and, in fact, we wouldn’t be here if this principle didn’t exist.
“One misconception is that entrepreneurs love risk. Actually, we all want things to go as we expect. What you need is a blind optimism and a tolerance for uncertainty.”
Valmiki started his life as a thief — looting to feed his family. He felt that he was protecting them and doing his duty. He was about to steal from Saint Narada who questioned him on his stealing ways.
Saint Narada: Why do you steal? Valmiki: It’s my duty to protect my family. I only know how to steal and kill. Saint Narada: By killing and robbing others you are acquiring lot of bad karma. Go and ask your family members whether they can take any part of your karma. (Valmiki goes to his family) Valmiki: Can any of you take part of my karma that I have incurred for you, due to my stealing habits. Valmiki’sMother: I didn’t know anything about the bad things you were involved in. Therefore, in no way can I be part of it. Valmiki’s wife: I didn’t know anything about the bad things you were involved in. Therefore, in no way can I be part of it. Valmiki’s children: We didn’t know anything about the bad things you were involved in. Therefore, in no way can we be part of it. Valmiki (to Saint Narada): Nobody is willing to share any part of my bad karma. What’s the salvation for me then? Saint Narada: Chant ‘Rama’, all day and all night.
Valmiki chanted ‘Mara’ as he misheard the saint. He chanted for many years. An anthill formed over him. People heard only the sound. When he came out of his meditation, he wrote the famous epic Ramayana.
His career choice is dismissed by some as : “You’re just trying to fix your own psychological problems, just like all mental health professionals.” Having psychological problems is not insulting. They are common, often treatable and nothing to be ashamed of.
Surely, heart and cancer researchers are not perceived in the same light. This is another reflection of the stigma that surrounds suicide.
Stigma is fear combined with disgust, contempt and lack of compassion – all of which flow from ignorance. We need to understand that suicide is not easy, painless, cowardly, selfish, vengeful or rash. It is not caused just by medicines, anorexia, smoking or plastic surgery. It is partly genetic and influenced by mental disorders which in themselves are agonising. That it is preventable (eg. through means restriction like bridge barriers) and treatable (talk about suicide is not cheap and should warrant specialist referral).
Once we get all that in our heads, we need to let it lead our hearts.
“I am terrified of this dark thing that sleeps in me,
All day I feel its feathery turnings,
– by Sylvia Plath
Joe put an advert in his local paper which read: “Senior citizen, 89, seeks employment in Paignton area. 20 hours plus per week. Still able to clean, light gardening, DIY and anything. I have references. Old soldier, airborne forces. Save me from dying of boredom!” He said he had lived alone since his wife, Cassandra, died two years ago and had been lonely. “When you live on your own there is no one to speak to. Since she died I’ve moved into a flat and it’s a big block. Once you walk into that flat it’s like solitary confinement,” he said. He is due to start work at a cafe in the town after the owners of the family-run business spotted his request.
Film-maker Sue Bourne says it’s a major public health issue. Her BBC documentary is called “Age of Loneliness”. It tells the stories of 14 people, young and old. “A silent epidemic that’s starting to kill us. But we don’t want to talk about it. No-one really wants to admit they are lonely.”
Si is away for a week. It’s only tolerable because I know I will see him at the end of the week. I tell myself it’s ok but it’s not easy. I miss him. I have something planned with friends for every other evening of the week so that I have something to look forward to. Something to keep me distracted. I can’t imagine how it must feel to loose a spouse or a partner you love and have been with for decades.
View: An online magazine that talks about issues that matter.
Editor: Brian Pelan
If a previously healthy man recognises that he is a huge risk to himself. If he takes himself to a mental health facility and pleads for help. If they admit him and then classify him as ‘low risk’ and leave him unsupervised. If he then goes on to end his life in the hospital within hours of being there. This has got to be wrong. One would think this to be nearly impossible. It isn’t. It happens.
A Canadian study published in 2014 on inpatient suicides concluded that “It is possible to reduce suicide risk on the ward by having a safe environment, optimising patient visibility, supervising patients appropriately, careful assessment, awareness of and respect for suicide risk, good teamwork and communication, and adequate clinical treatment.”
Recently, a Coroner’s report on an inpatient suicide found the same things that came out in Saagar’s case:
-Risk of suicide was not properly and adequately assessed and reviewed
-Transfer of verbal and written information was poor
-Risk assessment and quality of observation was poor
-Adequate and appropriate precautions were not taken to manage the risk of suicide
In addition, they found that previous recommendations on risk and environmental factors were not implemented adequately. This means that similar deaths had occurred before but nothing had changed.
How many people need to be sacrificed before something changes?
Ed Mallen, 18, died while he was on a waiting list.
Many thousands are still waiting!
Ruby is a lovely young lady who shares the joys of being on a waiting list, among other things. Here’s the link. This time it’s 18 minutes.
Thank you Ruby! We wish you well!!!
Another Thursday. Another musician. Another suicide.
This Facebook post brought up the same old questions. I am not the only one asking them. They are a big problem for many families, individuals and communities. But sadly, the easiest thing to do for a medic at a consultation is to write a prescription rather than invest time and resources in the individual.
“Just reading about Chris Cornell and how according to his wife he took too much of his prescribed medication, out of it, because he was on his medication. Whether it was a suicide or “accidental death” I am outraged at the system. I didn’t really know Chris Cornell’s music until recently, but I lost my dear friend, another talented musician, to a similar situation recently. And before that I lost my mom, who became psychotic when given anti-depressants and took the whole bottle a few days after she had started taking them. I am so frustrated by a medical establishment that refuses to treat the whole disease and the whole person, and so tired of people I love dying from the very medication that is supposed to prevent it. If you work in (mental) health, please consider the risk when prescribing medications. Years ago, I myself was prescribed ativan and other medications and became addicted and had to take myself off everything completely without the support of a doctor because they thought I needed medication, while in reality the medication was making me suicidal.
Medication without therapy from my perspective is no different than drinking or smoking or taking drugs. I see the system changing as the trauma-informed approach enters the mainstream but in Nova Scotia, so many mental health problems that need deep spiritual healing are treated with drugs. Drugs that sometimes exacerbate the problem, or create a whole new problem, without leaving the person spiritually and emotionally sober enough to make sound decisions that could save lives.
I look forward to the day when the mental hospitals and outpatient aftercare support radical healing on a whole-person level-the kind of work that the International Association for Human Values and Body Talkers are doing-treating the whole person and providing them with actual physical stress and trauma relief tools.
Just a rant. I’m done. Love to all. Please no more state/big pharma-sponsored suicides…”
Eleven years ago, purely by chance, I learnt a breathing-based meditation technique called ‘Sudarshan Kriya’. It has kept me strong through deeply traumatic life-events. Our breath is a subtle but powerful bridge to knowing the ‘self’. It has precious secrets hidden in it. It energises and detoxifies. It keeps us alive. If we are willing to learn, it teaches us the art of living.