What I Told Bernie

What I Told Bernie

By Terry Longlin.

We asked our readers what they would say to a fellow chronic pain patient (who called himself Bernie)
who wrote on Thanksgiving that he was considering taking his life in December on his birthday. Your
reaction was breathtaking not only in its volume but in the sympathy and reality you expressed.
Read here (make sure to go to the comments sections).

One response in particular came from Terry Longlin, a 60-year-old married man who suffers daily from
several chronic pain conditions (and has for the last ten years), has seen his medication dramatically
reduced and has suffered other personal loss. I asked him if it was ok to republish to make sure you all
read it. He actually left two comments—it was the second one that we publish here:

Hello again Bernie. I commented previously to your plight and I just wanted to add some more
information that didn’t seem significant until I read other people’s comments.

September 20, 2017, my 27-year-old son committed suicide. He took dozens of over the counter
medications along with a lot of cough syrup. The point of me sharing this with you along with everyone
else is this. Suicide ruins more lives than just the victim, it affects EVERYONE who knows and loves you.
You would think that after 14 months I should feel better, well I don’t. I’m 60 years old and there’s not a
day goes by that I don’t have tears in my eyes and an emptiness in my heart. Please consider your family
and friends who love you, suicide is very selfish and it will affect EVERYONE that you know.

You have choices, suicide affects numerous people’s lives horribly. Try something else, counseling, anti-
depressants, etc. Myself, I have been trying a chronic pain psychologist and with some success. She’s a
normal psychologist who also teaches meditation to relieve physical pain. It’s kind of like being
hypnotized except you’re aware of everything going on. So she repeats the same visualizations every
time you go in, with the hope that you will memorize everything, so you can mentally bring your own
pain levels down no matter where you are.

The first time I saw her I was shocked, I had no pain whatsoever, for an hour after. The next 3 times were very similar with one distinction, when I was home I tried the same technique on myself and got 30
mins of relief at least five times. It’s like anything you do, practice makes perfect. She just repeats the
same words over and over until it becomes second nature, the hope is that you could use this technique
on yourself without lying down or closing your eyes. The last time in her office it lasted 3 hours! Please
try anything and everything. I would give ANYTHING to talk to my son again, he was my best friend. Your
life is so precious, please consider it all.

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Authored by: Terri Longtin

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A psychologist

WHAT I WOULD SAY TO TERRY: Yes it’s hard to come to terms with the loss of a’loved one who has decided to take their own life but their suffering was a good deal worse than you can imagine you cannot possibly know exactly what what was in je
True love is knowing what a person needs and being able to give that to them freely. Don’t guilt trip them in the grave it just makes you look like a) you failed to understand them and what they had to bear every day and every night and b) you are feeling sorry for yourself over your suffering which as I can tell from personal experience of both positions here, is nothing like as bad as daily intractable pain and all the losses that go with it. Although you have chronic pain we all have different limits to what we can bear. Suicidal persons are in HUGE pain. Sometimes suffering is so great and goes on for so long that I believe a choice not to live any more is valid. We do it for our pets and mammals have EXACTLY the same basic emotions as human beings ref. Panksepp 1998 Affective Neuroscience Yale University Press.
I’m sorry for your loss, genuinely. Your feelings of abandonment are very real as well as hard to live with but if you stop to think what living with intractable (in this case emotional) pain is like you would do the loving thing and give your relative permission to go. We all have a limit and limits vary from person to person . Please don’t complain about suicides. Those living with the severe pain of mental health problems severe enough to put them in that dark place where they are ill enough to take their life, are literally not capable of thinking of others: it’s part of the illness. They don’t need judgement they need understanding, empathy and forgiveness. A suicidal person in that place does not have choices that is the nature of the illness.

Laurie

I agree with Kimberly below. No one knows what we suffer, how could they?
And now, we have to jump through hoops because the War on Drugs just HAD to find a new scapegoat.
It’s very lucrative to swoop into our privacy and medical decisions and criminalize us, as the decades-long pot war was. Now they’ve lost that all of sudden its pain patients who can hardly get around.
I was subjected to hours of driving around because of a lab error in getting my pee test to my doctor who is terrified of the DEA and isn’t a very good doc because of it either. Back and forth to the pharmacy and the doc’s office and then I had to find the tests!
Last summer, I was really ready to go on to whatever awaits, but I feel a bit better now. I still am not well from constant dental infections over the past two years.
I think if it gets too much suicide may be the only way.
My beloved kitty died last year and part of the reason was that I was so sick from my teeth ( and dystonia) that I just couldn’t take care of her right. Talk about heartbreak!
I made the decision right then I would have no more pets.
I can barely take care of myself and I seriously doubt many would miss me if I did decide to end it all.
Don’t guilt trip people who can’t take this disastrously cruel government of ours anymore. They care NOTHING about people.
And, I think, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
Blessed be to all

Kimberly

I agree with Jen that calling suicide selfish doesn’t help AT ALL! Suicide is a rational choice when you live with no quality of life and no real chance of it getting any better. I currently have pain control but still am basically bedridden. I am unable to do much more then to watch tv and use the computer, some.

We see it as the right thing to put a beloved pet to sleep when they are suffering. Many citizens and their states have accepted assisted suicide for patients dying of cancer or another disease in less than a year. Well then give me cancer. I already am dealing with the pain equivalent to metastatic bone cancer and have been living with chronic pain since I was 14 years old. Now with no quality of life, the thought of living another 25-40 years is horrifying.

Today there was a web talk on US Pain Foundation on suicide and chronic pain and they even had one doctor stating that sometimes, especially when severe pain cannot be controlled, where suicide is not a wrong decision. My mother certainly believes that if my pain medications stop being available in the doses that I need. My father believed in quality of life, and my mom will reluctantly go along with my feelings if it is time to end it because I no longer get enough out of life to stay suffering. Certainly if my pain meds are cut and I return to intractable severe pain, it will be a no-brainer! It is very hard to choose to leave your loved ones and calling them selfish is your inability to understand the torturous life that your loved one was living. I feel bad for you. But if getting over pain and suffering is as easy as you seem to think then you should be able to get over the suicide easier than your loved one living tortured either physically or mentally.

I just recently learned that therapists are dropping patients, if one hospitalized for suicidal intent. We know pain doctors are dumping patients. Family should learn to understand and help,only if possible, or accept the choice.

Maureen M.

To Terri and all others of whom suicide has effected…I am truly sorry for your loss and effects on your lives.
Bernie, I do hope that you are reading and receiving the love, care and the prayers from your fellow Pain Warriors. Please be in touch, especially if we have influenced you in any way. We are here to help you with your story in any way. Just reach out…Thank you and please keep strong. Hugs to you. Maureen

Bernie, I HOPE you can hang on to HOPE that this government will get the REAL picture. I have spent a year trying to get a doctor because mine is not practicing here anymore. Over the past 4 months my pain meds were cut in half and I was feeling the same way last month not knowing how I would hang on long enough to see my elderly dogs through their lives…. they were my reason. I finally found a doctor who increased medication and can now care for them. Keep looking there are still doctors who “care”. For the people who are writing how SELFISH suicide is …..STOP! YOU ARE NOT HELPING…. you are adding GUILT to PAIN. When my dogs begin to suffer I will have them put down because anything else would be SELFISH of me… to want them to suffer because of the PAIN I will suffer losing them. Those dogs mean more to me then any human in my life.

F.S.T.

I did read Terry’s poignant response to Bernie, along with all the others so far. Terry’s was the most heart-wrenching of all, and I pray if not one other letter moves Bernie, that this one will. My stepfather shot himself while arguing with my mom back in the 80s. We don’t know why he didn’t shoot her too, but we’re glad he didn’t. She was already a mental patient, so our lives were altered big time after that.

The point is, many families are touched in some way by suicide. If Bernie is not moved by Terry’s letter, as a mother, I’ll have to sit down and re-think everything. And that, my friends, is something that should never be.

Dear Terry,
Thank you so much for sharing your story with Bernie not to mention all of us. It must have taken great courage for you to do so. It’s a horrible thing to suffer in physical pain but I agree it’s something else to live a life of pain over a lost loved one. I know what it’s like to have tears in your eyes and a broken heart that you carry with you from the time you get up till the time you go to bed. For me it was my little girl, really my little niece. I tried desperately to save her. My story is a bit different than yours for she still lives. I just don’t know where she’s at and they won’t tell me. Someone saw me walking stairs funny. One by one and holding onto the handrail, one thing led to the other and my disability was construed as being under the influence. I was outraged, humiliated, ashamed and embarrassed. I was walking the stairs the only way I know, the only way that I’m able to. My physician of nine years tried to tell these people what the issue was but it didn’t help. I’m so sorry for your loss. I will pray that God help heal your heart and your pain. I still think God gives his toughest jobs to his strongest soldiers. I say this a lot but I believe it with all of my heart and then some more. May God give you, Bernie and the rest of us the peace and the miracles that we so desperately need. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.
Sincerely, Terri James

Stephen Lowe

There is a huge difference when an older person, having achieved most of their life goals, decides to end their own suffering, versus a young person giving up on life as a result of depression. These cannot be compared.

In Buddhism it is considered an act of mercy to help end suffering. Why is this not the case for Christianity?

When we have the tech to extend life, and extend suffering without commensurate relief, are we not ethically challenged when we do nothing? Every person has their own unique threshold beyond which the end may be an act of mercy. And death is one of the very few universal truths – we will all die. A painless, mercyful death may be a blessing.