Saturday, January 2, 2016

Replace Wanting to Die with Reason to Live

Dancing with the shadows
Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
January 2, 2016

If you read Wounded Times with any regularity at all, it is no secret I am a PTSD geek. Can't help it because of my own life as well as my husband suffering PTSD because of Vietnam. For me, I faced death for more years and a lot more times, yet didn't end up with PTSD. The reason has been clear for decades. It was never about what was done to me but more about what was done for me afterwards.

Well, it looks like researchers have taken a look back to discover what was known decades ago.

If you want to prevent suicides, you better give someone a reason to live.

I read a lot of reports on PTSD and suicides, not just caused by combat, but by facing death as a regular person with very unregular events.

I've thought about suicide but even worse, I actually prayed to die. Why? Because I lost all hope that the next day would be any better than the one I hoped would be my last.

After our daughter was born, my body didn't tell me I was in deep trouble. I walked around with an infection for 8 months. My doctor said the bacteria count was higher than he'd ever seen in a live patient.

Some may have thought the fever caused the hopelessness but honestly, it had gone on a lot longer than the stay in the hospital. I heard a nurse say "she's fighting for her life" but that wasn't true. Maybe my body was fighting off the infection but I wasn't trying to do anything but let go of the life I was living.

My husband saved my life when he forced me to go to the doctor. I was burning up with a fever of 104. By the time I got to the hospital it was 105. Instead of being grateful he save me, all I could think about was how miserable he made my life by his own suffering.

I had been studying PTSD for six years, getting his friends to go for help but he wouldn't listen. I didn't really try to force it in the beginning because he wasn't doing anything I couldn't deal with. PTSD was something he lived with for over a decade at that point and managed pretty well. 

Nightmares, flashbacks, mood-swings with bad days and the rest of what it was doing to him did not get out of control until I miscarried twins. He saw me hemorrhaging and that sent mild PTSD into overdrive. It had been the worst hell imaginable for both of us.

I thought once our daughter was born, he'd go back to the way he was before, but that didn't happen. My family couldn't understand, so they did the fix-it response with "get a divorce" and my friends were too busy with their own problems. I had no one to talk to.

Then in the hospital, no hope left in me, I prayed to die harder than I prayed for anything before. The next day my husband brought our daughter to see me and then I had a reason to live. All I could do was think about her and how she'd never know how much I love her unless I lived to prove it to her.

I had a reason to fight to live again. My mental health was challenged by events but my spiritual challenges were caused by how I viewed surviving them.
As suicide rates rise, researchers separate thoughts from actions
Science News
DECEMBER 29, 2015

Better understanding of risk factors could help those contemplating taking their own lives
Between 1986 and 2000, U.S. suicide rates dropped from 12.5 to 10.4 deaths for every 100,000 people. But since then, the suicide rate has climbed steadily, reaching 12.6 deaths per 100,000 people, or more than 41,000 deaths, in 2013. That continuous rise — and the lack of effective counter-measures — has prompted researchers to revisit the suicide theories found in textbooks.
Klonsky and May conducted an online survey of 910 U.S. adults, ages 18 to 70, that supports the three-step theory. Participants who reported having contemplated or planned a suicide — 27 percent of the sample — described especially high levels of preexisting pain or hopelessness, the researchers report in their June paper. Those who said they had never considered suicide, even if they had experienced pain and hopelessness, reported having close friends and relatives and usually were involved in activities they found meaningful. read the rest of the report here
Most of the time I faced death, some did something to me but other people showed up to help me when they knew I was in need.  That restored my sense of worth in this world.

We should all find it perplexing how a veteran can do everything possible to survive all the hardships of combat but find it harsher to be back home. Most suicide happen after they come home needing help the most but finding it harder to find. Why after all these years of research on PTSD would they lack anything?

We learned about the suffering from all causes of PTSD because Vietnam veterans forced the government to find out what combat did to them and that caused researchers to better understand what trauma did to all humans. What caused some to develop PTSD while others did not? What caused some of them to become so hopeless that surviving the events no longer mattered enough they would want to survive life afterwards?

Simple really. In combat they survived for those they were with and they were among others willing to die for their sake as well. They risked their lives for each other. That was a reason to live. Back home, they were supposed to be past dangers, thought of themselves as being weak needing help because they couldn't handle a simpler life with the average citizens. That notion was fed to them by the military.

In my case, facing death for most of my life, I was seen as an unshakeable rock because no one saw the price I was paying inside. First to help others, no one suspected I needed help and I, well, me being me, found it close to impossible to ask for help or even a shoulder to cry on after the limitations of time close to the events.

I was dragging the shadows of death around with me so long I forgot how to dance to my own beat.

If you want to prevent suicides, then show up before there is a funeral and everyone is supporting each other, crying for the loss. Show up when they are alive and let them know they matter enough that you will listen to them. Help them understand that their last day was actually easier than the event they survived and the next will be better because you cared enough to acknowledge they live.

Dancing With Shadows
Kathie Costos

Who would have thought I'd be dancing
with the simple joy of living
and more time to spend sharing and giving
instead of pushing away and grieving?

Everywhere I looked the shadow was on the ground
and I got worn our dragging it around
as if my life was extra time lent.
The damn thing followed everywhere I went
whispering two cents of doubt in my head
making me think I'd be better off dead.

So I struggled each day to just make it through
remembers stuff I did and still had yet to do.
Then one day I looked back and it wasn't there.
The light hit me just right and all I could do was stare
it was right by my side moving with me
and suddenly the shadow of what was kept me company.

Then I picked my foot up and moved it around
humming a tune laughing at the sound
and then all I could do was dance
knowing lent time was really a second chance.

More time to live this life
feeling joy as much as strife
giving what I could for good
and laughing at what I misunderstood
that living this life comes with feeling it all more
and I wouldn't trade feeling for numb that's for sure.

I can feel the sunrise in the morning sky and find hope
that no matter what comes each day I can cope
because I already lived though what was a lot worse
and everyday extra is not a curse
when I can dance with the shadows of death that lost
because this life I live now is worthy of the cost.