Having Scleroderma Has Helped Me Understand My Father’s Suicide

Amy Baker avatar

by Amy Baker |

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Editor’s note: As the title indicates, this column discusses suicide. Helpful resources can be found at the end of the column if you need support.

In June 2011, my father died by suicide.

The day I learned about his death was my first day at a new job at a long-term care community that I was very happy to be starting. The grief was instant and overwhelming.

Two days later, my beloved grandfather went home to be with his maker. They were gone, and I was inconsolable. The following week, I attended two funerals. One I knew was coming and the other — a complete and tragic surprise.

Living with my father’s death

My healing and grief process with my father is ongoing; I will always feel like I’m on an emotional roller coaster. A ride I never wanted to be on is a ride that I will always be on. I realize now that my father had numerous mental health issues that led to his passing. I wish I had been able to have had an honest conversation with him about his feelings. 

It has been more than a decade since my dad ended his life. I have been married. My oldest son is getting his master’s degree. My youngest, who my father never met, is in fourth grade. And I have been diagnosed with several autoimmune diseases.

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Fighting Chronic Illness With a Positive Mindset

Having scleroderma has helped me understand my father’s suicide. For many years, I could not understand his chronic illnesses. He had severe kidney issues and horrific back pain. I was unable to fathom the concept of constant pain, or the effect it had on his mental health. Take a Tylenol and keep it moving, I thought.

I am able now to see some of the warning signs I had missed with my father. My pain from my own diseases has helped me understand how much it must have agonized him to be in constant pain. My father was someone who needed to stay on medication and who needed therapy. He received neither. 

Mind your mental health, too

It is important to maintain good mental health when you have an autoimmune illness. The constantly changing diagnoses, the tests, and the uncertainty can overwhelm our emotions. Our quality of life changes, which can be difficult to accept. But how do we begin to do that? We are suddenly faced with a brand new normal that we didn’t ask for and that we don’t want.

I have sought professional help to assist me in the continuing saga of Amy’s Breaking Down Body. I am not embarrassed, and I don’t want anyone else to be embarrassed, either. There is strength in seeking help.

We go to our physicians when we are ill. In fact, chronic illness patients spend the majority of their time running from one doctor’s office to the other. Why not see someone when our brain and souls are tired, too? Our mental health is as important as our physical health. It is OK not to be OK.

Take a mental health day. Take a knee. Take a breather. Scleroderma is a thief and it steals so much from us. Let’s not allow it to steal our hope.

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

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Note: Scleroderma News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Scleroderma News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to scleroderma.

Comments

Denise Scoggins avatar

Denise Scoggins

My father also died by suicide. It was in 1994. The pain is unimaginable! My father was in so much physical and mental pain. Daddy was always very active and when he couldn't be active anymore he gave up. I was not diagnosed with Scleroderma until 2004. I now understand the pain, grief, and anger of losing the life I had just like my dad. I do has a counselor and have been seeing one for years. I am so very sorry for the loss of your father and grandfather! That is such a heavy burden to bear! Hugs and prayers.

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Amy Baker avatar

Amy Baker

Denise, as you know, this is a survivors club. None of us want to belong. I am so sorry you, too, have experienced losing a parent in this manner. I never understood the why's until my diagnosis. But, we have something they didn't have; we have each other. We are strong. We are resilient, and we will NOT let anything bring us to that point!

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