I chose the subject for this post because of what a former classmate, whom I’ll call Bill, told me at my high school reunion last month. We shared with each other what we had done since we graduated several decades ago. I learned that he had become a chemist. When I told him that I had left my career in engineering behind and for the last 11 years had been helping people with the emotional challenges of living with chronic illnesses, his expression changed noticeably.
Bill shared with me that his son Mark had been in a Ph.D. program at a prestigious university, but before completing the program had been diagnosed with Lyme disease. He also had other debilitating symptoms due to another illness that doctors had been unable to identify.
Mark tried his absolute best to keep up with his heavy academic load, but was not able to do so. The reality that he would not be able to complete his degree was devastating for him, especially because he had almost no one to turn to for emotional support. He was close to his parents, but they were 3,000 miles away.
Sadly, Mark took his own life.
Bill told me his son’s suicide was the most painful experience he had ever gone through. As a parent myself, I had no doubt that it was. He added that there is a part of himself that will never get over it.
One of the aspects of suicide that makes it especially painful for those who loved the person who committed it is that it can almost always be prevented, usually fairly easily, if people know it’s being contemplated.
While chronic illnesses like Lyme disease can’t always be cured, with the right caring support, people with them can virtually always have better lives. And knowing that there are others who truly care about how physically and emotionally difficult it is to live with a chronic illness has a big positive effect, just by itself.
But sometimes, as in Mark’s case, unless they are told, others don’t know how difficult living with the the physical and emotional pain of a chronic illness is.
Fortunately, the vast majority of people who are living with chronic illnesses and don’t get the support they need, don’t commit suicide. But like Mark, many of them have decided that others don’t care, and they don’t ask for or seek out the support they need.
If you are one, please start asking and seeking. There are people who care (I’m one), but you’re unlikely to find them until you do.
Best wishes in your search and quest to have the best life possible. And please share this post with others who need support and care, but aren’t reaching out for it.