Mental disorders and MAID: Clemie’s story

Personal Stories | December 23, 2022 | Clemie

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A photo of someone in distress holding their head in their hands

When the Federal Government announced its plans to request an extension to the sunset clause on MAID and mental disorder, Clemie reached out, motivated to share her story and why she supports MAID for mental disorders. She wants people across Canada to understand that suffering from a mental disorder can be as intolerable as a physical condition. She is hopeful that the extension is short so that those living with mental disorders no longer experience discrimination in the law. 

Warning: This blog post mentions suicide.

Note from DWDC: If your sole underlying medical condition is a mental disorder, you are not eligible to apply for medical assistance in dying (MAID) until March 17, 2027. Learn more

My light at the end of the tunnel

When someone talks about their light at the end of the tunnel, they say it’s their partner, a new job, a vacation they plan on taking, the start of summer. But for me, it’s medical assistance in dying (MAID). Yes, you read that correctly, my light at the end of the tunnel is being able to apply for MAID once it’s available for the mentally ill. Removing the discriminatory exclusion of those with a mental disorder from MAID was the right thing to do. I realize that I have to go through the approval process, but having access is the first step. 
I started showing signs of mental disorder very young, my first suicide attempt being at only nine years old. I am now 25 with over five attempts in my life. I struggled with this deep darkness inside of me that nothing and no one could soothe. I thought I had the devil stuck inside of me, this demon that couldn’t let me focus, build healthy relationships; a demon that had one goal in mind: to end me. I’m still standing here today, writing this testimony but that demon won several battles, ending parts of me little by little. I started self-harming at eleven years old. When girls my age would wear dresses and bathing suits in the summer, I had to cover up the battle scars I had on my arms, legs and stomach. Unfortunately, I still have to hide scars that are old and new. 
When I was seventeen, I ended up at the hospital for chest pains. I begged the doctor to give me something to soothe my pain, but not to treat me. I wanted to die. I begged them to let me die. I ended up fine, but the doctor set up an appointment with a psychiatrist where I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Then treatment began, but sadly, nothing worked. I was shipped from therapist to therapist and none of them knew what to do with me because, despite treatment, I was still self-harming, I still wanted to die. I started abusing painkillers and alcohol to numb the pain, yet it still felt like my insides were on fire. I felt like I was suffocating under my own skin. I still feel this way today. Throughout the years, I could keep a job, but my attendance was bad because some days I was too depressed to get out of bed, the sun would burn my skin and seeing people was enough to make me have an anxiety attack. It never got better. 
I tried several medications, group therapy, I went to crisis centers, rehab, Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous meetings, nothing worked. I still felt like my life had no use. I felt like a ghost inside of my body. Then, in March 2022, I was hospitalized in a psychiatric ward because of a suicide attempt. I stayed there for a week, they adjusted my medication, and I started an outpatient program when I got out. A few weeks later, my psychiatrist decided to let me go because in his words, I was “too depressed to benefit from therapy” because I still felt suicidal, and I couldn’t go back to work. The fact that my psychiatrist said that just confirmed to me that my condition is intractable, and it’s okay. I’ve accepted it. Right now, I can’t hold a job, I can barely get out of bed, all I knew and will ever know is darkness. 
Now that medical assistance in dying will be accessible for those of us with an intractable mental disorder, I can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. I could die with dignity, with the help of a clinician and my loved ones. I could say my goodbyes to everyone I ever loved and appreciated – from old teachers to coworkers, childhood friends or my pharmacist who always gave me excellent service. I could say thank you to those who helped me, I could help my loved ones get closure without breaking their hearts. I could go in peace. 
I do understand the concept that there’s always hope, that my life could get better, but my anguish won’t. I will always be mentally ill. I will always be depressed. My heart can’t handle this pain anymore, my soul is exhausted, and I deserve equal access to assisted dying. We all deserve to reach that light at the end of the tunnel, whatever it might be. 

Note from Dying With Dignity Canada (DWDC)

DWDC is sharing the perspectives of those with lived experience who are considering applying for an assisted death when the sunset clause ends.

When the sunset clause on MAID for mental disorders concludes, individuals whose sole underlying medical condition is a mental disorder will be eligible to apply for medical assistance in dying. This does not, however, mean that anyone with a mental disorder who applies for MAID will be found eligible. Clinicians will be looking for evidence of the longstanding nature of the illness, a history of interventions and treatment attempts, and the voluntary, repeated nature of the request by the person in question (being 18 years of age or older). 

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