TRIGGER WARNING: SUICIDE (in the context of an advice column)
Dear Annie: I am a 43-year-old woman who has had severe treatment for resistant bipolar depression, with psychotic features, my whole life. At 10, I tried to hang myself. At 16, I attempted suicide with pills and alcohol, and again at 25.
I am an only child, and my parents were all I had. I lived with them for a large part of my adult life because I was so sick. They were and are my everything. My mother died seven years ago of brain cancer. My father died suddenly of COVID-19 18 months ago.
I am unable to work because of my illness, yet I keep getting denied disability because it is a mental health issue.
Yeah, whoa, can I just interject? Excuse me for just a minute. The law doesn’t discriminate between mental or physical health issues. If the issue in question prevents you from being employable full-time, then you qualify for disability. I mean, yes, it can be a huge pain to navigate the system, and a lot of people keep getting rejected for it and have to keep reapplying, but the fact that it has to be a physical issue is absolutely bogus. Any chance this letter is make-believe? Annie Lane often tends to answer easy letters that she could be writing herself…
The family friends who were the executors of my father’s estate royally screwed up my trust fund and cost me tens of thousands of dollars on expenses they never gave me the price for. Now I am in a very bad place. My health is bad because I self-medicate since meds don’t work. I’ve tried transcranial magnetic stimulation, electroconvulsive therapy and talk therapy. NOTHING works.
I do not leave my bed. I have been suffering bone-crushing depression my whole life and can honestly say that my life has been a horror show because the chemical imbalances in my brain keep me locked in a cycle of depression, mania and delusions.
Suicide is the only answer.
Everyone says it’s selfish, but I think THEY are the selfish ones for wanting to torture me just so they won’t miss me.
How can I express that, by guilting me into staying alive, they are putting me through unbearable hell? — Ready to Die (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com
Huh. I was wondering how this would become an easy-to-answer question, and the answer has been revealed. It’s about suicide! “Yes, by all means, please go ahead and kill yourself,” said no advice columnist ever. [Facepalm.] Annie Lane has managed to find yet another no-brainer of an easy question. We may as well read her advice. We’ve come this far.
Dear Ready to Die: Suicide is NOT the answer.
Well, gee, can’t say that that’s original. I’m shocked! Speechless!
Please go to this site https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-someone-else/. Please call 800-273-8255. The fact that you wrote your letter tells me that a part of you wants to live. Your father’s sudden death was a great shock to your system, and with professional help, you will be able to process the loss and move forward with less pain and depression. You don’t want to die; you want the pain to die.
Oh, brother. Well, while we’re giving out advice, I’ll try to offer up some that’s less obvious. I still say, though, that this is a fabricated letter. For one thing, if this person has applied for disability, given what I know about how to get accepted for it, she should’ve been accepted long ago. And the fact that she’s claiming that she’s been rejected because her problem is mental is so farfetched as to be impossible to believe. Annie Lane must’ve written this letter herself so she could have one to answer, since the suicide issue is so obviously not open for argument. (I.e., no one is going to trash her advice and say she should’ve recommended suicide. Because, suicide.)
DEAR ABBY: I have ALS, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease, am wheelchair- or bed-bound, and am unable to do anything for myself, much less around the house. My husband works, and aides come in four days a week for several hours to provide me with personal care.
I have to ask my only sister to help once a month. (She’s older than I am.) When I do, she always puts conditions on the time or complains about the traffic. (She lives an hour away.) I finally told her I’m tired of hearing it and I want her to WANT to help me. Apparently, she was offended, so she’s giving me the silent treatment. She isn’t lazy, but maybe self-centered and lacking in empathy.
I have four older brothers, but only one who lives close — an hour away. When I ask his wife for help, she never hesitates and comes bearing casseroles. The only difference between us three women is that my sister never had children and never experienced the challenges and sacrifices that come with parenting. I’m grateful for any help and always express thanks. Should I be grateful for whatever help she gives me or take her silence as unwillingness to help and move on? — IN NEED IN PENNSYLVANIA
DEAR IN NEED: Of course you should be grateful for whatever help your sister gives. It’s unfortunate that she doesn’t recognize the effect her constant complaints have on you. (You are ill, and she’s a martyr.) Considering the challenges you face every day, it’s a shame she doesn’t have it in her to be more sensitive, but she doesn’t. If her complaints add additional stress to your situation, you should definitely “move on” if it’s feasible. From your description, your sister-in-law is an angel on earth. (c) DEAR ABBY
Wow. The way this reads, the letter writer is completely okay with her horrifying health condition. That’s amazing, and I’m glad about it, and I suspect she doesn’t have a trace of mental illness, because I’d never be able to handle what she’s going through.
That said, she seems judgmental. (That’s me–criticizing the grammar of cancer patients and calling people with ALS judgmental. Ugh.) She doesn’t seem upset about her sister in the sense that she’s actively troubled. It seems more like her attitude is, “My sister’s a layabout, and I ought to just give up on her already, yeah?”
I’d like to enlighten the letter writer about a few things:
- For some people, being in her situation is the scariest thing imaginable. For me, I’d be humiliated by the healthcare providers constantly staring at my naked body all day, for one thing… and in my own house! (Maybe I just have issues? Uh… of course I do!) (And yes, that would upset me way more than my imminent death. I’m weird like that.) This letter writer needs to take a minute and thank the divine entity of choice for her ability to handle all of this without batting an eyelash. Not everyone could.
- People who don’t have kids by choice should be thanked for it, not frowned upon as lacking in responsibility or selflessness. Maybe we don’t have kids because we know we’re not up to it. Maybe we don’t want to be called inferior because we, “…never experienced the challenges and sacrifices that come with parenting.” Maybe we don’t want to be called, “[not] lazy, but maybe self-centered and lacking in empathy.” Thank you. I have spoken.
- People give of themselves what they can. It’s different for everyone. Some people can do it all, like the letter writer’s sister-in-law. Other people can only do one thing but not something else. Others can do two different things, but not the one thing. And so on. I live by this creed, for some weird reason.
I finally told her I’m tired of hearing it and I want her to WANT to help me. Apparently, she was offended, so she’s giving me the silent treatment.
Hmm. I react the same way to guilt trips.
I’m grateful for any help and always express thanks.
Huh. She does indeed sound grateful, but at the same time, she keeps pressuring her sister to do more and more.
Should I be grateful for whatever help she gives me or take her silence as unwillingness to help and move on?
Both, actually! Be grateful whenever she shows up, or phones, or emails, or whatever, but quit asking her to. Geez.