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NWR: A friend put me in emotional and moral distress, please help Knotties

Thank you so much for clicking on this. If you could please not quote my text, I'd appreciate it. In a clearer state of mind, I might realize that I should redact the information below.

For a little background, I was a para-professional counselor in college and frequently find myself being a confidante. I'm used to handling high-stress situations, but normally I'm in a better position to have some control over the outcome. I don't know if it's this particular situation or my being worn down in other parts of my life, but I'm having difficulty processing the situation I am in now. 

I have a friend suffering from an undiagnosed chronic condition. It's severe and constant pain and has completely disrupted the quality of her life for the past four years. She continues to seek, at great cost to the family, a medical diagnosis and some relief. Another friend and I have remained in her life and we are currently establishing a fundraiser on her and her family's behalf (all parties know this). 

Last night she decided that she was ready to tell me that she considers herself a "right to die" patient. Which means, essentially, that although she is not ready to act on suicide now (and she may never decide to go through with suicide), she considers it her right to take her life at some point in the future given that she has come to that conclusion slowly, logically, and is beyond doubt that ending her life is the best thing she can do for herself. 

Logically I can understand this opinion. Maybe I could honestly even hypothetically support it in some abstracted universe. But here, in this life, morally and emotionally I absolutely cannot condone it. If I ever have an inkling that she's considering such acts, I cannot/will not stop myself from getting her help. She knows this--she already knew it when she decided to tell me her decision. Her telling me was so that if something does happen down the road, I'll be able to have her answer as to why. 

On some bizarre level, I'm glad that her telling me is a way for her to have some agency over, what is right now, an unsolvable problem. But I'm angry and sad and an emotional mess about it and feel in my heart that she is all just completely wrong. I'm completely powerless in a way I've never felt in such a situation. She didn't ask for my help. She told me. It freaked me out not a little the incredible minutiae of detail she had already considered regarding people's feelings, reactions, seeds she was already planting, etc. Her parents and doctors already know her evidently long-standing beliefs. She's not actively suicidal at this moment (and even has some hope for the future), so I couldn't take an active role last night. 

So I'm not sure what my role can possibly be. I will not be a passive witness--I didn't intend to be ever! That's why I haven't lost touch with her. That's why we're arranging a fundraiser. But now I will always have doubt about what the reality is when she tells me what she's feeling and thinking. When should I act? Will I actually know when? What can I say or do to shift her reasoning? What are my limitations and how will I forgive myself if something did happen? Will anything I do be enough? 

Anyway, thank you for reading this. While she gave me "permission" to talk about this with whomever I need to to process it, I don't feel comfortable doing that with the people in my life. Most people either already know her, or would figure it out since I'm planning to still go ahead with the fundraiser and I don't have that many friends in such dire straits, thankfully. But right now I feel like dust. 

Then happy I, that love and am beloved 
Where I may not remove nor be removed.

 --William Shakespeare (Sonnet 25)

Re: NWR: A friend put me in emotional and moral distress, please help Knotties

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    Thank you, Lolo, you're making me cry (in a good way, I think).

    Then happy I, that love and am beloved 
    Where I may not remove nor be removed.

     --William Shakespeare (Sonnet 25)

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    I'm so sorry your friend is going through this, and I'm sorry you're going through it. I agree with lolo. You've already had-- and do have-- a huge and important role in her life. You're doing everything humanly possible in your position. Just continue to be there for her.

    She could be one doctor away from finding relief or some answers.

    I had a mystery illness for 9 years and saw one doctor after another after another. I was told it could be anything from stress to cancer and everything in between but the tests all came back normal. In the last 2 years it was incredibly painful. I was miserable every single day from the minute I woke up till the minute I went to sleep, stopped going out, hardly went to class (I was in college), and dropped a ton of weight to the point that I looked like a skeleton. I was at the end of my tolerance with it, and seriously thought about the possibility of killing myself if this was how unbearable the rest of my life was going to be, but I kept trying different doctors anyway, no matter how many of them failed to help me or give me answers.

    Sometimes all it takes is finding that one right doctor. After the bevy of tests I'd been through that all came back fine, this one doctor finally ran the RIGHT test, and found the answer. He said if I had waited 2 more weeks I would have been dead because I actually had an illness that was progressing and I didn't even know it (and wieghed 80 lbs at that point. For perspective I know weigh 102 and I'm still really skinny). But that's all it took, was finally finding him. He gave me a course of treatment, and I recovered, and the pain and misery stopped.

    Your friend still has hope. I can definitely understand her frustration, and I can't even imagine living that many years in that much pain, but I hope she doesn't give up on this.
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    Thank you, Novella. What you said about finding the right doctor/answer is exactly what's keeping her from dropping off the deep end yet. She's learned that she's the actual expert on her body and to feel comfortable challenging doctors now when they make black and white statements against her experiential reasoning. She wouldn't make a final decision while there was still hope that she knew of. And medicine is always advancing. I don't want her to give up when the answer may be just around the corner.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I know that's the kind of thing that means a lot to people who are currently struggling. She has been able to find some support groups online, but I can only imagine that living with the unknown only makes the pain and doubt worse.

    I'm glad that doctor came into your life when he did, and I am so glad you chose not to give up.

    Then happy I, that love and am beloved 
    Where I may not remove nor be removed.

     --William Shakespeare (Sonnet 25)

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    Aside from directing her to suicide hotlines, I believe you are doing everything in your power to be a good friend.

    When someone threatens or begins talking about suicide or ending life or anything implying it, you can ask them three things to find out how serious it is. I do this daily in my profession because we get a lot of suicide threats. These questions sound horrible, blunt and cold, but if someone is actually thinking about it you would be very surprised at how they react. It's usually matter of fact and they are open about it.

    You can ask:

    • If you were going to end your life, how would you do it? (example: shoot myself in the head)
    • Do you have the supplies you need to do it? (example: i own a gun)
    • When do  you plan on doing it? (example: tonight)

    If they have a solid answer for any of these, don't leave them alone. If you really think its bad, you can call the police. She might hate you for that, but it would be worth it to keep her safe.

    Here is a good guide about being friends with someone who is thinking of hurting themselves.


    This is only my experience, but the people I end up having this discussion with have many illnesses that make living unbearable. Kind of reminds me of your friend. Be there for her, keep fighting for her, love her no matter what she says or does and maybe she will absorb some of your hope.

    It's extremely difficult to be in your position. You want her to be able to make her own choices and to not suffer, but at the same time you can't just let her hurt herself and in the process everyone who loves her. Accept that you can only do so much to control what happens. 

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    levieenroselevieenrose member
    5 Love Its First Anniversary First Comment Name Dropper
    edited January 2015
    Thank you, LarryGaga. I have had this training, too, and I went through it all with her. My problem is that she's not actively suicidal at this time, but she believes in her right to be. She knows how I will respond so I'm worried that she'll be too good at hiding the truth from me if she makes that kind of decision.

    I like what you said about hoping some of my hope will rub off on her. That makes me feel more empowered.

    Then happy I, that love and am beloved 
    Where I may not remove nor be removed.

     --William Shakespeare (Sonnet 25)

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    edited January 2015

    Thank you, LarryGaga. I have had this training, too, and I went through it all with her. My problem is that she's not actively suicidal at this time, but she believes in her right to be. She knows how I will respond so I'm worried that she'll be too good at hiding the truth from me if she makes that kind of decision.

    I like what you said about hoping some of my hope will rub off on her. That makes me feel more empowered.

    I think if she wanted to hide it, she wouldn't have told you.

    Lots of people believe in their right to die who aren't even sick. My grandma died of Alzheimer's; my dad has said if he's diagnosed, he has "a ten cent cure." But that doesn't mean it's an imminent danger.

    I think sometimes just making the statement gives people enough of a sense of power over their destiny that the statement is all they need.

    ETA conversely, she may have needed you to tell her how much she has to live for, and known you'd oblige.

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    Sorry for being unclear. I think when she's made up her mind to do it, and knowing that I would do anything in my power to stop her, she will hide that information from me. She won't tell me when or how or where. She might be totally deceiving about it--she's hid her thinking about this TOO well for years.

    This isn't an imminent danger right now, which is partially what is so upsetting. If it was imminent danger I would have wasted no time setting wheels in motion. Now I feel like I'm living in doubt, never knowing if or when this ticking bomb might go off.

    I am glad that she could confide in me, and I'm glad if it gave her a sense of control. I even told her that, since I knew I could never really give her the blessing she wants but also knows she will never get from me.

    Again , thank you all for your comments and kindness.

    Then happy I, that love and am beloved 
    Where I may not remove nor be removed.

     --William Shakespeare (Sonnet 25)

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    I think if you are this opposed to her choosing her right to die, you may need to step back from this relationship. If you know you're going to do everything in your power to override the decision of a rational adult, a decision she has made in her right mind and seemingly with great thoughtfulness, I'm not sure you're in a place to be a friend to her.

    Which is hard and awful and sad but also maybe what you both need for right now.
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    I don't have anything terribly constructive to add because I support the right to die mindset but I am so, so sorry that you and your friend and all of your and her loved ones are going through this. *hugs*
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    Thank you both.

    Ic07, abstractly I share your sentiment. I would always honor a DNR or a pull the plug request. I appreciate the laws that Colorado has in place. She isn't terminally I'll and that may be part of what is so hard to accept. Or partly because this is personal and makes me selfish because I know first hand how amazing she is and I hate the idea she is okay with giving up. Perhaps some of my feelings have to do with my counseling experience. In my experience, coming forward about suicide is usually a kind of final plea for help.

    Starmoon44, I appreciate your comment. She's free to step away from our relationship whenever she needs to do that, because I am in no position to demand that my friendship/ relationship is the best or necessary thing for anyone (except for my future children. I draw the line there). She chose to share her wishes with me even knowing that I would oppose them. I think she still wants me in her life because she hasn't given up yet.

    On that note, TY again, Lolo883, for that final comment.

    Then happy I, that love and am beloved 
    Where I may not remove nor be removed.

     --William Shakespeare (Sonnet 25)

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