Is it Illness or Who I am

My high school bestie, Suki, who is now a psychiatrist and professor of psychiatry, once told me about her young patient, who killed himself while she was away for a conference. She told me that he was doing much better in the last session. “It’s because he had already made up his mind,” I said. “He made peace. Once somebody made up his mind, nobody can stop it and I guess for that person the life was too painful and if so, I can’t find a way to tell the person to live.”

“But it’s his illness that made him kill himself,” Suki said. And I have been thinking about what she said for a long time. I am not suicidal per se, but have been thinking about killing myself since I was 8 years old. The thought has never left me. It’s just how I am. I have been on SSRI for almost 30 years on and off and after the last bout of major depression, I accepted that I needed to be on meds for life just to live normally.

I explained my friend that when I was in major depression, there were no line of demarcation between who I was and the illness, ie. depression. I am not in pain. I become pain. It’s not that I want to kill myself. I just want the pain disappear. I just want to have peace from who I am.

Fortunately, when I am in major depression, I can’t initiate any major action. I just passively exist with minimal action for survival. So I am not suicidal. I am now stable and am quite happy about my life. I can not be sure but It could get better as you age.

Then I got Meniere’s Disease. Meniere’s Disease is an illness. It is a condition I have. It is definitely not who I am. When I have an acute episode, I scream in my mind, “Kill me now!” I am in tremendous pain and suffering and I want to have it stopped. But I don’t wish to die because I know once I recover after 12 to 24 hrs, I will be my usual self.

On the other hand, I’m not sure if I could survive another bout of major depression. After being depressive for half a century, I sometimes feel tired. I wonder if the day would come when I feel too tired to keep on going. But it would not be because of Meniere’s disease. It would be because who I am.

To younger suffers of major depression, I want to tell you it could get better. I didn’t imagine I could have this peaceful life when I was younger and tormented. It could get better.

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