Friday, 15 July 2016

Bravery Unto Death

Generalizations are dangerous, especially this one. When I was diagnosed with ALS, one of the generalizations I heard was that when you get it younger, it goes slower. I know this is true in some cases, but it is certainly not true in others, especially for those with Familial ALS. I also know that my ALS has not been all that fast. Perhaps the only real predictor of progression is where it starts. If it starts in your throat, it goes fast.

I saw a post in one of the ALS forums right now about someone losing a father to ALS, and how it was progressing. It made me think of my own progression, they way it has been more aggressive of late. As the person railed against the losses, the difficulties, and the guilt, I could easily identify with her. Her father was younger than me, diagnosed at a younger age, living with ALS longer. It seemed to be moving along slowly, until the disease went after his bulbar regions. Now the PALS is struggling to breathe, facing a life ending decision.

Last night I was thinking about this too. These days when I think of ending my life, it's more about how, than when. The "if" of it all doesn't even enter the picture anymore. Like that man in the forum post, I've had a slow progression, but it's been speeding up lately. I know it is going to go after my throat and neck eventually; it's already started there, slowly but steadily.

As I thought about this last night, one thought stood out in my thinking. It was about having some scotch to get up the courage to end it all. I didn't want to last night, that's for sure. But I thought about the impact of alcohol on my thought process. I am not going to take my life because alcohol will make me depressed. I will take my life because alcohol will take away the fear, the inhibitions around it. It's a form of self-medication.

Alcohol has long played a part in raising the bravery component. It's not called liquid courage for nothing. But I don't think it makes you braver; it just reduces your fears of what might happen. I know what will happen, or at least I think I do. I will have a few glasses of scotch, take a few extra sleeping pills, and call it a day. Just not today.

I want to live, for as long as I can. And when the time comes, I want to die gracefully, with some degree of dignity, not in a drunken stupor. I want to be aware of what is happening, of why I am doing what I am doing, of those around me. I want to be thinking, acting instead of reacting. Like the man in the forum post, there are thing which will force my hand, things which will make my decision. I just hope I am brave enough when the times comes.

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