Being told that your existence is now numbered by days, weeks, or maybe only months, and knowing that each day will only get worse is a mind blowing message to receive. Is this similar to what people with severe mental illness go through? I think in some cases it does.
People living with mental illness struggle with severe limitations on their quality of life as well. Nearly half of all bipolar patients are treatment resistant for either mania or depression. Twenty percent of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder will take their own life at some point. Not in a peaceful, harmonic way, with their family and friends by their side and supporting their decision, but usually in a time of chaos, when everyone they love has given up on them and turned their backs on them. They leave behind a trail of unanswered questions and lasting regrets for the survivors.Why can't this be different?
I myself have treatment resistant bipolar disorder. I've written about the dark days of my life where nothing had meaning, and the world just saw me as something to spit at. Yes, I was emotionally unstable, and no-one in their right mind would have given me the option to peacefully end my life at that time. In fact, I had been court committed, and I was legally forced to take medication (even if didn't work) to try and keep me existing, because what I was doing sure wasn't living. But my existence was meaningless. I was nothing but a burden on those who tried to care for me, I was a burden on the system, I was a burden on the hospitals that had to work with me. This particular story has a happier ending. There was a medication that came out a few years ago, and my doctor suggested I try it. An almost magical transformation occurred, this medication actually made a difference! I started to actually live. It's been nearly 2 years that I've been out of the hospital and been a stable, productive member of society.
Unfortunately for many people living with MI, their stories don't have a happy ending. They are homeless. They are drug addicts. They have no support system to speak of. Their families have written them off. They are in jails and prisons for crimes they committed while not receiving treatment, or while receiving treatment that wasn't working for them. They are shuffled through the system and lost among the thousands of other people that understaffed and underfunded mental health providers are working with.
Many of these people are not stupid. They are just as intelligent as you or I. They are just as capable of making an informed decision about their bodies as Brittany Maynard was. I feel that if you live a life of seemingly unending agony, where every day is so emotionally taxing that you pray for an end to it all, you should be able to sit down with a doctor and discuss options as to whether or not you should have to continue this way.
I feel that I should clarify something here. I'm not talking about people who have unipolar depression and feel so hopeless that they attempt to take their lives, but with the help of counseling and the right medications (if needed) go on to live productive lives. I'm not talking about people who have bipolar or schizophrenia who are able to take medication and can function in society. I'm talking about the poor souls who want nothing more than to live their lives, but due to incompatibility with medications or other circumstances, there seems to be no help for them.
Brittany Maynard didn't want to die. She would have preferred nothing more than to continue life with her husband, perhaps having children one day and watching them grow up. Instead, she was diagnosed with a cancer so deadly that she was given only 6 more months to live. She chose to end her life peacefully, rather than becoming a shell of her former self as the disease took over her body. Doesn't someone with a severe MI deserve the same? Why should they be forced to watch their lives be destroyed by a disease, and not be able to make the same choice Brittany Maynard did, to die with dignity?
I know my opinion on this matter is unpopular. I'm okay with that. I know some will say, "Well you stuck through and finally found the right thing to work!". I didn't stick with it. I tried mulitple times to end my own life because the suffering was so intense. It took YEARS for things to change. Years where I had no real life to speak of. There are people right now who have been suffering for years as well, with no hope in sight that they will ever improve. Why should they be forced to continue to suffer simply because the illness they have is of the brain, and not because of another organ?