Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Suicide, Cancer, and the Ultimate Question...

What a week it has been. Robin Williams, comedian extraordinaire, is dead. Current reports say he hung himself, and it is ruled a suicide. Having battled depression, he decided that he could no longer hold the pressures he felt, the black emptiness, the depression became too great.

I've said it on Facebook, I'll say it here. Suicide is not glamorous. It is not a glorified end to a sad life. Suicide is messy, it is devastating, and it leaves a whole lotta mess and shitstorms behind for your family and loved ones.

I am only in the beginning stages of my mental health career, and already I know there is so much I want to do when I am able to. I already have an idea on what to write my thesis on, if I want to pursue my doctorate.

Please, if you or someone you know is battling depression, don't treat them like a stigma. Depression is a disease, like anything else. Depression and other mental health issues don't affect one person, or any specific class, race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, creed, or economic or social status. It does not discriminate, and neither should you. Depression does not make someone weak or soft, it does not discount who they are as a person, it does not make them any less valuable as a person. Depression ripples among the sufferer's friends, family, loved ones; you can hear it if you listen closely. So, if someone you know ever says anything about killing themselves, or the world being better off without them, or anything of that nature, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE call the

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

It is toll-free, and confidential. You don't have to say your name, you don't have to say anything you don't want to. Just call. You might be the voice someone needs to speak up for them, to help them get the help they need.

Now.... the next item on my agenda. Cancer. Cancer sucks. It does. EXACTLY like mental illness and depression, cancer does not care who it affects. The ripples felt by cancer spread far and wide, through family, friends, and loved ones. It does not care if you are a mother, a devout Christian, it does not matter if you have been healthy all your life, or if you have a grandchild whom you won't get to see grow up. It ravages your body and mind, might make you question your faith and shake your foundation of life. 

That has been event #2 in my life this week. One of my aunts, who is all of those qualities above, went into the hospital super-sick, and was found to have an advanced breast cancer that has spread to her bones, liver, many lymph nodes, and possibly spread further. She goes into surgery tomorrow (Thursday), for what exactly I am unsure, as she is states away.

As someone who is Agnostic (look it up if you don't know what that means), I have long battled with the idea of a God who could let something like this happen. What angers me further... No, let me rephrase.... What PISSES ME OFF is that this God could let someone who is so devout find a lump in her breast MONTHS ago, but believed that the power of PRAY would make this go away. Well, Science-1, God-0. As expected, cancer left untreated very rarely goes away. When it does, it is hailed by both the medical and religious communities as a "miracle".

Science and religion share more qualities than you think. They are both based on history. Faith is based in a long history of belief systems that have been traditionalized and passed on for generations and hundreds of years. Science is much the same; it is based on a long history of tried and tested methods and hypotheses, tried and revised until they have found a system that works. Either way, they can fail you in the darkest of times. Science can fail the doctor to cure the cancer the rages on the inside if a body. Faith can fail the family who thought they were healthy and that prayer could make cancer disappear, but faith can also fail and make that family question their very faith. For the family of my Aunt, they are very devout and believe that God will perform miracles. And even if He doesn't, and my Aunt dies younger than she should have, I know that her family will continue to pray and be devout to God, because now she is with Him and her pain has been eased.

And here I am. Hundreds of miles away, and very pissed off. See, I do not know if I believe in God. Moreover, I do not know how so many can believe in some higher power who can let things like this happen, especially to a family who has never done harm to anyone. I don't understand how someone can keep their faith in time where science (to me) is their only answer and solution. I may never understand it. I was just telling my husband that I find it funny (not "ha-ha" funny, but ironic-funny) that so many people believe that God will cure her of cancer simply because they are praying for Him to do so. I want to reply to their posts with blasphemous scientific ramblings that shoots down the statistical probability of a "miracle", but that would mean condemning my Aunt to the cancer, and also interrupting their freedoms to believe in whatever they choose... So I keep my tongue in check. Obviously, I do not want to offend anyone. I know we all feel helpless to this, and I suppose the prayers are at least bringing comfort and showing my family that they are not alone, and that they are loved even from afar and in this time of need. 

No matter what you believe, no matter what craziness is going on in your life, no matter what your age, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, orientation, creed, or whatever, do not ignore a bump or foreign feeling in your body. Get that shit checked out. And don't just rely on the power of prayer or your God. Science was put here on this Earth to help everyone. Let it.

Do monthly self breast exams. Keep an eye on your freckles and birthmarks. If you suddenly find you are tired, or irritable, or something about your attitude has changed, go see your doctor. It could very well be stress, or situational, temporary.... but it could also be something else. If your family has a higher risk for any types of cancers or diseases, keep that shit in check. Know the risks. Get the tests. Trust the medicine.

That leaves one last item of business... the Ultimate Question.

I suppose it ties in with the cancer issue, and also the issue of depression and mental health.

Does God exist?

Everybody is entitled to an answer, and no one's answer is wrong, even if it is "no". And God is being used as a general term, whether it be the Christian God, Pagan Gods and Goddesses, Vishnu, Shiva, or any other applicable "Supreme Being(s)" that a religion worships.

My answer is that I don't have an answer. I don't know. I find it hard to trust that God would let people suffer the way they do, that He would take our faith and shake it up and cause someone to turn away. But I also find it hard to believe that there is nothing beyond life. I suppose on the Eleventh Hour I will find out. I just hope my going is quick, or at least painless, and that by the time my number is called, physician-assisted suicide is legal and normal, because who wants to suffer for no reason other than to prolong life?

It's a lot to take in. It is a heavy fog that we are all in, and each of us has to have it within ourselves to find the strength, or call upon the strength, to continue on.

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