Death by suicide leaves so many open wounds. One of my dearest friends recently chose to end her life. I post this only in the hopes that it may bring understanding and peace to some, and as a cry for help from the chronic pain community. Our health system is one of the most destructive things I have ever witnessed in my life, and the options we leave for people in daily agony are not enough. People are fighting every day to survive, against their own bodies and against a system that literally does not care for their suffering. A system that will watch you slowly dying while begging for help and not blink.
Stay strong #shaynation.
Anyone who knew Shalyn knew she was a fucking warrior. She told me stories of past traumas that wrecked me just in the listening, let alone the thought of her living through it. She morbidly laughed when she told me that she had reduced more than one therapist to tears within the first half-hour of her sharing her past. When I told her you are one of the toughest motherfuckers I have ever met, she said “I didn’t get much of a choice.”
For years Shay had been a marathon runner, destroying her ankles in the process. This past year, she suffered a horrific fall that required intense reconstructive surgery to her “good” ankle, which — in classic Shay fashion — she dubbed Shankenankle. She was told recovery would be a very long, painful process. After Shankenankle happened, she was tormented by being a semi-functional cripple. The struggle was compounded by the national crack-down on opiates, which left her on bare-minimum dosages that were constantly in threat of being taken away. She and I had a discussion last month during which we jokingly and not so jokingly talked about the fact that, old as we are and fucked up as our bodies are, this is the best we are ever going to feel. It’s all downhill from here. Even the sight of a puddle would give her major anxiety because she was so afraid of another fall. Her job required her to stand for long hours, and she couldn’t work the hours she needed to meet bills. She was in so much physical pain all the time, and she suffered from severe PTSD and anxiety that she managed to largely camouflage with her vibrant personality.
Personally, I think she fought the hardest fight I’ve ever seen anyone fight, for her ENTIRE life, and she was in unimaginable pain. She was exhausted and didn’t want to do it anymore.
As much as it hurts, I understand her decision, but what tortures me is knowing that she had to face this last battle alone.That dying by suicide is such a taboo in our culture that we can’t even talk about it, let alone allow someone to make a choice that would offer them the possibility of dying by their own choice, surrounded by people they trust and love. Toward the end of her life, Shay was in daily torturous pain from a multitude of major injuries and chronic illness issues. She suffered from PTSD, anxiety, and depression. She was a fucking survivor like no one I’ve ever known. And when she decided that it was too much — that the pain was too unbearable – unendurable — she had to make that decision completely alone. She was thoughtful even in death – she packed up her belongings and labeled them for different friends. She didn’t end her life where loved ones would be traumatized by finding her. She tried to make it as painless for us as she could, seeing through her own unmanageable pain to the impact she would make on those around her. And she did it all alone.
Shay went out as she did everything in life, on her own fucking terms. I take consolation that she is no longer trapped in a broken body. She is literally the strongest person I’ve ever known, and I am honored to call her friend.