Opting out

Unfortunately, mental illnesses are on the rise as far as their prevalence and position in our workload. Whether or not this is due to an actual increase or an improved ability to diagnose them we don’t quite know. Point is, there are a lot of people hurting, and unless you know what to look for, you can’t see it.

So picking up a patient who’d overdosed on whatever pills they could get their hands on wasn’t really a surprise. They were drowsy and quiet as we drove in. When I asked them if they wanted to talk about it or fill me in on things, they replied no. Queried as to whether or not anything had prompted the suicide attempt I received one of the most elegantly simple replies I’ve had to date.

“I simply wanted to opt out for awhile”.

The rest of your life, is kind of a long while. Eternity is a whole lot longer.

In short, we’re all going to die one day. I hope you’ve come to terms with that, and if you haven’t I suggest you work out how comfortable you are with what will happen to you when you do leave this Earth (and not to another planet as so many would hope).

As we walk through the certainty of our own demise, it is horribly distressing to see people who are in so much pain and sadness that they wish to prematurely exit the life filled with bright exuberance and opportunity that had been offered them.

Some people had those opportunities stolen from them. The idea of meaningful existence dashed long ago by a sexual assault, a trauma, a betrayal, a drug addiction or simply losing the chemical lottery.

To know that Jesus was witness to all these things with either his own experience or seeing it enacted out in the life of one close to him, is an enormous consolation. The greatest of all however, is knowing that I do not have to carry my patient’s burdens. Jesus does this for us. I am yet to discover how paramedics who aren’t Christians cope with what they encounter. But to know that the God I pray to knows exactly what I have been through and welcomes our off loading to him makes the job easier than most find it. It makes life easier than most find it.

In the end, we all crave for justice. That those who have abused, taken advantage of and neglected the vulnerable will be brought before some kind of authority and be forced to reconcile with their actions. For Christians, we have the hope and faith that on the last day God will pull out the roll and convict everyone of the things they’ve done wrong.

The end result will only alter depending on whether or not you accept his grace.

Next time you’re struggling with baggage, instead of merely trying to drop it or pretend it’s not there, I advise you to challenge those thoughts and actually ask yourself: why is this coming up again?

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