Lately, when I think about killing myself, I try to remember Brazil.
I recently went on a week-long trip to the beautiful sea-side country, and although it was technically for work, I was able to experience plenty of amazing moments — moments I try to remember when I think about ending my life.
I try to remind myself that it was such an unexpected trip that came up out of the blue, and it was so incredible and magnificent, and if I had killed myself a few months ago like I wanted to, back when the pain was particularly bad, then I would have missed out on the whole thing. I would have never made it to Brazil.
From there, I try to remember that the rest of my life is still filled with so many incredible possibilities and ending it now would be a mistake.
These days, though, I’ve had to remind myself about Brazil more often than I’d like.
I just got back from a much anticipated visit to the (in)famous Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
It’s supposed to be THE place to go when you have things like excruciating random rib pain that you wake up with one day for no apparent reason. It’s supposed to be the hospital that puts all other hospitals to shame. The one that can diagnose the undiagnosable and cure the incurable. The very mecca of the chronically sick.
Except for me. Aside from the pretty buildings and the fancy tour guide facts on the shuttle bus ride between the hotel and the clinic, it ended up being pretty much just like any other doctor’s visit.
Which is exactly what I was afraid of.
I mean, sure, the doctor was nice enough. A strong Italian woman, she had the kind of fierce personality I often wish I could muster. With her relatively thick accent, she went over my medical history with a strikingly straightforward approach, saying things like, “Oh yes, you are on the Amitriptyline. It’s makes you fat.”
Oddly, that comment was among her more comforting words. I mean, at least she didn’t think it was because I was just a lazy slob, like everyone else did.
But, as we started to talk about the nitty gritty, I quickly realized that she wasn’t going to dig very deep into my pain. And in fact, she was just going to do what all the other doctors before her had done.
She concluded that she thought the pain was probably intercostal neuralgia, even though I’ve already had a test to show that it’s probably not intercostal neuralgia.
Then, she said the same thing all the doctors say, “We don’t know what caused it. We’ll probably never know what caused it. And we don’t know exactly how to cure it, but if we throw a bunch of different treatments at it, maybe something will work.”
After that, she sent me off for two days of peripheral nerve tests that had almost nothing to do with my pain — one of which literally electrocuted me for three minutes straight. Another burned the top of my left foot to test my pain tolerance. All of them came back normal.
In the end, her best piece of medical advice seemed to be to take off work and attend a three-week, outpatient pain clinic — which just made me feel like she had run out of ideas and was shipping me off to the place people go when they’ll never be cured. Also, who the heck can just take three weeks off work?
On Thursday evening, after all the tests and all the appointments were done, I reflected on the experience in the hotel hot tub, and I tried desperately to wrap my head around what was happening.
I had tried to mentally prepare for this outcome, to remind myself that nothing might come from this visit. But I also had still allowed myself to hope for more. And honestly, with so many people out there on social media rooting for me and writing messages on my Facebook wall about how they were praying I would be cured at Mayo, I somehow also felt like I was letting the whole world down.
For a half a second, I honestly thought about pretending that I had actually been cured at Mayo.
I could come back and tell everyone the news they so desperately wanted to hear. I could let my boss believe my health was no longer affecting my work, and I could date guys without worrying about whether or not they were secretly turned off by my pile of orange prescription bottles.
But then I remembered how sick I really am, and I realized that my plan wouldn’t work. I mean, how many days could I last at work without having to tell my boss I needed to sign off early and lay down? I can only fake so many episodes of the flu.
Which really only leaves me one option — I somehow have to deal with the fact that I’m just going to continue to be sick, at least for now.
But that’s where the suicidal thoughts start to creep back in. Because, if I’m being honest, looking at a life filled with unendurable pain seems too overwhelming to handle. And coming to grips with the fact that even THE Mayo Clinic couldn’t help me, makes me want to just give up on doctors and prescriptions and life in general.
But I try to keep reminding myself about Brazil. And about the palm trees, and the sound of the ocean waves, and the way the people I met there have left such a strong impression on my heart.
And I keep going. At least for now.