I read the headline and thought there was no way it could be true.
My heart sank at the thought it might be.
As I read the story and my heart continued to sink further, I kept in mind how many things on social media are not necessarily true. So, I did some searching.
On the first day there were no reputable, solid news sources I could find reporting on it. Whew, a sense of relief.
That changed the following day. There was a reputable source sharing the story. With the new reporting there was also a significant change in the headline.
The original headline was that a 17 year old girl chose "legal euthanasia" as a result of her unbearable “suffering from sexual trauma and anorexia”.
"After years of battling and fighting, I am drained. I have quit eating and drinking for a while now, and after many discussions and evaluations, it was decided to let me go because my suffering is unbearable.”
Now, it seems her death may have been a result of refusal to take in nutrition and not with the help of the medical community.
Either way, this is a heartbreaking, gut wrenching story.
While the law was intended for those with terminal cancer or other physical conditions, it allows a child as young as 12 in “psychological pain” to petition for euthanasia if they experience “unbearable and hopeless suffering”.
Unbearable and hopeless suffering…
There were many things about this story I found troubling, but the thing that stood out the most is the idea that the government and anyone involved in the facilitation of this law (doctors, government) would concede there may be no hope for people who struggle with the impact of sexual trauma and/or anorexia (which generally stems from sexual trauma). Or more generally, any significant emotional struggle.
If professionals who are charged with our care, with our children’s care, believe there is no hope for Survivors how can a Survivor ever hope for something more?
I felt like giving up too many times in my early life to count. If I had known that experts in mental health might agree there was no hope for a different future… well then, what would be the point.?
Our brains are not fully developed until our mid(ish) 20’s. The part (prefrontal cortex) which continues to develop through our teens and early adult life is the part that allows us to consider the long view. To weigh conflicting thoughts and feelings. To not act impulsively.
It’s hard enough for anyone to see a possibility of a brighter, more peaceful future when they’re in the midst of intense struggle. If your brain hasn’t yet developed this capacity then it’s virtually impossible.
The suicide rates among Survivors (as well as adolescents in general) are already far too high. Mostly for the reasons stated above.
The goal should be to help them believe in the possibility of hope. To help them heal. Not just treat symptoms and hope they feel better. And certainly not to align with their sense of hopelessness.
The day I attended my first support group for Survivors of CSA (child sexual abuse) was the first time I ever felt an inkling of hope. Though I wouldn’t have called it that in the moment. But, in recognizing I wasn’t alone or crazy, I knew there was a reason I felt the way I did which released a little of the weight. It allowed me to consider a different possibility than what I had always believed for who and what I was and how I felt.
If someone had told me at that time, in my early 20’s, that I would be living the life I have, experience the things I’ve been able to experience, or feel the joy, happiness, and connection I have, I wouldn’t have been able to believe them. (Remember the inability to have a long view).
Yet, here I am. And, I am not alone.
It’s not some magic thing. It’s not that some are capable and some aren’t. Or, that some are deserving and some aren’t.
It’s having support to help you see the hope when you aren’t able to. To reflect back to you the truth of who you are and what’s possible for your life.
A suicidal client once said to me that she had never been hopeful and couldn’t imagine a time when she would be. I let her know that the hope (and belief) I had was enough for both of us and that I would continue to hold it until she was able to take hold and feel it in her being…
It took a little while and quite a bit of work but she was able to meet me in the embrace of hope.
Whatever the emotional wound, whatever the struggle, whatever the “diagnosis”, however long it’s been a part of your life, there is ALWAYS hope.
Hope is the thing that keeps you going day after day. Keeps one foot in front of the other on this journey of life when you fear you can’t go on another day.
Hope is the light and love within you which allows you to see glimpses of possibility.
I’d love for you to share your thoughts and reactions. Would knowing this could be a sanctioned option have made a difference for you as a young person?