Thomas Wictor

Suicide, euthanasia, or plowing ahead?

Suicide, euthanasia, or plowing ahead?

In Belgium you can ask to be euthanized if you’re mentally ill and want to escape it.

A forty-four-year-old woman named Ann G. suffered from anorexia nervosa. Psychiatrist Dr. Walter Vandereycken—an internationally renowned expert on anorexia and a sexologist—treated her. He also had sex with her. After Vandereycken was not punished, another psychiatrist euthanized Ann G. at her request.

The above link shows a photo of Dr. Walter Vandereycken. Here’s another.

Dr. Vandereycken has been having sex with his female patients for years. What do you suppose are the odds that he’d be able to have sex with attractive, mentally sound women?

The case of Ann G. is controversial in Belgium. The Belgians don’t seem to know whether or not they should judge a psychiatrist who has sex with his female patients. I’ve known a few anorexics. An extremely large percentage of them were sexually abused, which is why they have such severe body-image issues. It seems to me that there should be no doubt in peoples’ minds whether or not Dr. Vandereycken committed terrible crimes. As an expert on anorexia and a sexologist, he knew exactly how much damage he was doing to Ann G.

Also, I’m amazed to discover that in Belgium, psychiatric patients are allowed to request euthanasia. You’d think that the very fact that they’re undergoing psychiatric treatment would indicate to the authorities that they’re not in a position to choose whether to live or die. Are there any people who would argue that a psychiatric patient standing on the ledge of a skyscraper should be allowed to jump without interference?

I’m not interested in debating the “right to die,” mostly because I’ve discovered that too many on both sides of the issue aren’t arguing in good faith. They have agendas and are only using this particular, narrowly focused societal question to further a grander scheme. I care only about the individual person struggling with the decision to live or die. In this case I care only about Ann G.

So it might be useful to talk a little about my own history.

I tried to kill myself once. It was—like almost everything I do—idiosyncratic: I drove all the way across the country nonstop in seventy-two hours. By the time I arrived here in California, everything looked two dimensional. It literally looked as though I were in a driving simulator with one screen in front and one on either side.

Call it a passive-aggressive suicide attempt. I didn’t care during those three days if I lived or died, but I wasn’t committed enough to my demise to deliberately yank the wheel to the left or right and drive into a bridge abutment at a hundred miles per hour. I’d thought about suicide constantly from the age of six. This was my only serious attempt at it.

The reason I drove across the country nonstop in seventy-two hours, not caring if I lived or died, was because the previous three weeks convinced me that my life was absolutely worthless and would never get better. All I knew how to do was wallow in sewage. If there was a sewer anywhere within a thousand miles, I’d find it and dive in. So I just drove for seventy-two hours without stopping, curious to see what would happen.

That was thirteen years ago. The pain I suffered in 2000 was NOTHING compared to what I’ve gone through since 2011. I’ve plumbed depths you wouldn’t comprehend. Yet now I’m happy and look forward to every second of every day. I love being alive.

What changed?

I accepted and let go. Also, I realized that I was surrounded with beauty, art, and goodness. In 2007 I began taking two psychotropic medications. They helped, but not much. What “cured” me was Meniere’s disease. It showed me that every single instant of non-negativity is precious. Losing everything brought me happiness by allowing me to be grateful for that which I’d once had and that which was left. I understood that what I’d once had was rare; I was lucky, not cursed.

This worked for me. It may not work for anyone but me. I would never attempt to do the unbelievably difficult, dangerous work necessary to save someone like Ann G. That would be irresponsible of me.

But if you ever come to a fork in the road the way Ann G. and I did, with life on the right and death on the left, I can tell you that I found meaning in gratitude. I found meaning in tiny, almost imperceptible flashes of beauty and benevolence. I’ve discovered what I think are patterns and signs that tell me to not give up. So I won’t.

Don’t get me wrong: This is goddamn hard. It can be very discouraging. I’ve experienced and continue to experience things that you really wouldn’t believe. My life has been extremely difficult. I’m talking serious mental illness, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder with secondary psychotic features, anxiety attacks, paranoia, and agoraphobia. My poor family has incredible problems. And I attract lunatics, ripoff artists, stalkers, and grimly efficient sociopaths.

However, what worked for me was to think of everyone who’s experienced the same things I’ve gone through. Mostly, I think of those who didn’t make it. They’re my brothers and sisters, and they give me the strength to continue. I live for them as well as for myself.

I’m sorry, Ann G. You were horribly abused. What I can do to honor you is to plow ahead, regardless. I’ll continue living and aspiring, in part for you and all the others who chose to stop. I understand your decision. You were betrayed by those you trusted to help you. I know two utterly evil non-humans who work or were trained to work in the mental-health field. They prey on people like you and me, Ann.

But by living on, in your name, I keep you alive. It’s my pleasure to do so. Even though your strength failed you in the end, you make me strong. You can be proud of that. One of the reasons I won’t give up is because I refuse to let you down, the way so many others did.

Since I carry you with me, you’re not alone. My triumphs are yours too.

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