Driving home from the ER that Saturday evening in July I had many things running through my mind. One of them was that she was the 2nd doctor in the same amount of days who refused to believe me that I had not injured my back or had some underlying prior back injury that I refused to disclose to them. And who had also shrugged that it could "just be MS." Another thing running through my head was my friend Cary's mother who had MS. I distinctly remember the house always smelling of fresh urine, her mangled looking shape in the reclining chair in the living room, and how everyone seemed to avoid letting people into that part of the house for fear that they would see her. I looked over at my wife who was driving us from the ER to pick up a bag of dog food on our way home and telling her that if this was indeed MS, then I wanted her to allow me to kill myself.
I had never really allowed myself to consider ending my life as a solution to any problem. I have PTSD from what I witnessed on 9/11 along with flashbacks and other sensory delusions that remained whilst my brain came to terms with what I had witnessed first hand. I had several close friends take their lives after 9/11 because they were unable to deal with the lasting effects that the PTSD made them experience. I have lost a number of close friends on the job due to some terrible fires where nothing really could have been done to save them and had to listen to their final words over the radio as they asked us to save them or to deliver a final message to their loved ones because they knew their death was imminent. Yet through all of that, I never once considered taking my own life. However, this one possible diagnosis made me very strongly consider it. I even began ironing out some plans in my head as to how I was going to accomplish it.
I initially thought that I would just put my Glock in my mouth and pull the trigger. I have a .40 caliber with hollow point bullets, that would be sure to accomplish the task. But, 2 things bothered me with this plan. 1: This method is way too overdone. I mean really, what am I some kind of rock star who just gets high one night and BOOM...ends it? Besides, any Joe can blow their head off and if I am going to die, especially at my own hand, I can't go out in such a traditional and stereotypical fashion. I mean, I have never in my life been a conventional person, so I can't simply go out in a contemporary way. 2: MS eats away myelin in the "white parts" of the brain leaving lesions that I refer to as holes. Since the disease is already putting holes in my brain, thus leaving me contemplating such a drastic decision in the first place, it would be pretty stupid to add another hole to the already affected area. I mean really, I wanna die because of the "holes" the disease causes by adding another hole to my brain. In that case I should just save the bullet and wait a little while for the disease to do it for me, right? So firearm assisted suicide was pretty quickly ruled out.
Hanging. My next thought was hanging. Pretty simple in my mind. I live in the country with easy access to many trees and rope is very easy to come across. Yet again though, a few problems came to mind with this method as well. 1: I have no ladder. I would have to borrow a ladder from someone so that I could hang the rope over a tree branch and would have to fall off the ladder at the right height to hang myself. I hate it when neighbors borrow things from me and fail to return them, so I was pretty sure that my neighbor would be even more upset to learn that I borrowed their ladder to off myself. I know it would upset me if the roles were reversed, and frankly I like to be a good neighbor and hate upsetting others when I can help it. 2: Even after 17 years as a fireman, I am not good at knots. It is a secret I have kept hidden for my entire career. We mostly only use a few different knots on the fire ground, and those I could always do after such a long time without any thought at all. I thankfully didn't work with any high angle or repelling type rescues, so intricate knots I could get away with not knowing. So, with my luck I would go through all the work of trying to hang myself and get the damn knot wrong leading to a lot of embarrassment which defeats the purpose of killing yourself. 3: When you are hanged, you tend to void your bowels. I have several problems with this. I don't like to poop in public places to begin with, and let's face it, a crime scene tends to become a rather public place rather quickly. Also, as anyone with MS already knows, incontinence is very common amongst those with MS. If I am going to urinate and deficate myself so close to my death, I may as well just wait a little while and the disease will make me do it anyway. At least if I let the disease do it, I have an excuse, and frankly, that's what my children are for as I get older. I changed a number of their dirty diapers, it is simply payback that they get to change mine. I am a huge fan of revenge, and I honestly can't deny myself revenge defication!
Massive car accident! Yes! I could go on a high speed road excursion and perhaps after seeing how fast I can get my car up to I either drive off a cliff since I live at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, or drive into a big solid wall. Several problems with this scenario too. 1: At the time, I drove a Hyundai Elantra. Family compact sedan, not exactly known for speed, unless you are going down a steep hill with a major tail wind. For this endeavor I would need a much faster and flashier car. Also, my car had 6 airbags designed with life saving prevention in mind. So, I would need a fast and flashy car, preferably made before 1991. 2: I am not the luckiest of people. I know, you are thinking "why would you need luck when you are killing yourself?" Here's why: With today's modern safety standard features on vehicles, certain conditions have to be right in the event in order for all of the designed safety features to fail, allowing the impact of the accident to kill you. If I am such an unlucky person, what are the chances that those conditions would occur allowing my attempt to be successful? Thus, I would probably just end up severely injured in the accident resulting in my being severely brain damaged, unable to speak, confined to a wheel chair, drooling on myself, and most likely wearing a diaper since I would lack the mental facilities to verbalize when I needed to use the restroom. To top it all off, some people would probably nickname me something absolutely and absurdly stupid like "Lucky" and that would just piss me off and trivialize what I had initially set out to accomplish. Now, yet again, if you know anything about MS, at some point during your MS you will become wheel chair bound, lose the ability to speak or verbalize exactly what you wish to say, lose the coordination to swallow properly thus leading to drooling, and as discussed before, will be incontinent. So rather than cause myself a great deal of unnecessary pain in a possibly bad attempt at killing myself and the great possibility of earning a really stupid nickname, auto accident suicide had to be ruled out as well.
Drowning? Terribly afraid of water. Not even a slim to remote option in my mind of taking me out of the gene pool by this method. Don't even like the term "gene pool" because pool reminds me of water, and as mentioned, I am not a big fan of water. Ironic since I was in the Navy and a fire fighter, both careers which really heavily upon water. Go figure.
Death by fire. Ok, who the hell am I, Ghandi? If fire had failed to kill me in the 17 years I had been fighting it, I would look pretty stupid dying intentionally by a fire after being forced to end my career because of this disease. That option didn't even come across my mind because truthfully, I would end up as a joke told in every fire house around the country and although there are several comedians that I truly admire, I do not wish to become part of their act.
Since this left me with no other viable options in regards to snuffing out my own existence, I chose to remain living. Believe me, living is a choice. There are thousands of ways to die in this world, trust me I have watched the TV show 1,000 Ways to Die and most of them amaze even me who has seen a lot of death in many different forms. So, I chose to live every day. I chose to examine my daily life often and most of the times I am quite content with it. However, now that it has been over a year since the official diagnosis that I had initially feared, and many different symptoms have some and gone, I am glad with the choice that I have made. For anyone out there who is dreading receiving news about contracting a terminal illness that you have no real control or certainty about, look at my story. You may not be able to control much, like your memory, limbs, motor function, or energy level at any given time, you are able to control the most important aspect of your life. Your outlook upon it. Take it all with a good dose of humor and I promise you it won't seem so bad and hopeless. Remember, it may not exactly resemble what you imagined your life would be, but it will resemble something like it.