I Didn’t WantTo Die, But Wished I Had
I believed being dead would have been better than living the life I had
Through my depression after I had a stroke at age 35 while I was 6 months pregnant, my psychiatrist often asked me if I ever thought about ending my life. The depression came from a powerful mix of organic causes (a brain injury), being postpartum, and massively difficult life circumstances.
I truly never thought about committing suicide even when I was in a wheelchair with a 2 year old son and a newborn. But, I did have moments of wishing I had died in the emergency room or on the operating table during the brain surgery that saved my life. Even if my family would have suffered a crushing loss, I would be dead and not be feeling much.
The recovery and rehabilitation that were necessary because the left side of my body was completely paralyzed after surgery was brutal. There was constant chronic pain along with a body that would not cooperate. I spent six weeks in a rehabilitation hospital while my newborn son stayed with my parents. I had to re-learn how to walk and take care of myself. I had some issues with executive functioning where I had to learn how to think about planning actions to accomplish every day tasks.
Life at home was not the return to normal I had hoped for, but instead was a depressing, difficult battle to try to build some kind of life that resembled the old one. It was 7 months before I could return to driving. I relied on hired help to care for my two babies. I couldn’t enjoy any of my old hobbies except for reading because of the loss of motor control. My husband became disengaged.
This went on for years. Progress was very slow. But I was grateful to be alive as I knew that most people who have hemorrhagic strokes do not survive. And the ones that do are often not able to walk, speak, drive and otherwise enjoy life at all. The baby I was carrying was born healthy and was thriving.
I worked very hard at maintaining an attitude of gratitude. Every doctor I saw helped me understand how lucky I was.
With no end in sight to the struggle I was living with, I couldn’t help but occasionally feel I would have been better off dead. It would have been easier for me, but terribly worse for my family.
When I heard the news this year of Luke Perry’s death at age 52 following 2 strokes, my first thought was he was lucky he didn’t survive and have to go through what I did.
It’s been 20 years since I had the stroke. My life has steadily improved even if I’m still living with chronic pain and a movement disorder. I haven’t thought I wished I had died from it since those first five years of my recovery. I have become immensely better at being happy to just be alive and grateful for all the blessings in my life.