Physician-Assisted Suicide, The Freedom of Ambivalence, and Why Our Heads are Round

I grew up with the saying “The head is round so that the thoughts can change direction.” When the debate around legislation permitting physician-assisted suicide in California hit the news lately, I was reminded of this saying when I examined my own thoughts and opinions around this law. Urusla-ambivalence-300x200As a member of the disability community, I am engulfed in the discussion around its implications for disabled lives. I wrote against proposed assisted suicide laws from a disability activist position when I lived in Europe and they were introduced there. The nightmares Jack Kevorkian and Peter Singer created are still powerful and the concern over a law that could ever be used to suggest from the outside that anybody’s life is unbearable (or less worthy, or too expensive) and should therefore be ended prematurely is well justified by history.

But then I was diagnosed with cancer some years ago… (Continue to read in Psyched in San Francisco Magazine)

A Strange Ode to a Weird Friend

Mirrored IamgeYou make my skin crawl when I hear a noise in the night

You send jitters down my spine when I climb to scary heights

You make me run, run, run…

Forward, don’t look back, never rest!

You remind me I have a heart that can beat out of my chest

You come to me in the night with memories and visions, a punch to the gut

And then you push me out of the gates with incredible speed.

Fight or flight! Freeze or death! You keep me going, my weird friend, my racing breath, forward, don’t look back, never stay, never rest…

In this short poem I was trying to touch on some of the contradictory aspects our experience of anxiety can contain. While it originates in our basic survival mechanism of “fight, flight or freeze,” our emotional makeup as humans that comes with the knowledge of our own mortality, a keen memory and a sense of imagination of the future can transform it into a force that works against us. I sometimes describe this aspect of anxiety as an “emotional and mental autoimmune condition.” Like our immune system, anxiety is there to let us survive but it can turn into an enemy. When we experience the detrimental effects of overbearing anxiety, we tend to lose touch with not only its truly protective aspects but also with its potential as a driving force. I will certainly write more about this in future posts but would love to hear more from you about your thoughts and reflections on anxiety.