I Don’t Want to Die Ugly
There are many ways to commit suicide, and Mr Wong considered them all but one -- jumping off the building. He was not fearful of death itself, but he was terrified of dying ugly.
Dependence on Others
For the past two decades, Mr Wong (not his real name), 68 years old, lived his life relying on his trusty right eye as he was visually impaired in his left eye. However, it all changed when he suffered from a stroke, which caused partial blindness in his right eye.
As he could no longer see clearly, the doctor told him that it was unsafe for him to continue working. Thus he was unable to support himself financially and had to rely on financial assistance from charitable organisations. Being dependent on others made Mr Wong feel helpless. This also caused him to have countless sleepless nights, which could not be resolved, even with the sleeping pills prescribed by his doctor.
Cigarettes are Mr Wong’s escape from the harsh reality. He would spend most of the money he got on cigarettes. During months when he received more money, he would spend it on more expensive cigarettes. It was his way of coping with the losses caused by the stroke. He would be smoking whenever he had the opportunity to. This coping mechanism however exacerbated his financial challenges.
Mr Wong used to have many friends in his glorious years, but he lost these friendships after the stroke. He perceived that people did not want to be involved with a person who is partially blind. Neither did he want people to think he socialised with them because he wanted a favour from them. Hence, he kept to himself and slowly became socially isolated.
The Idea of Suicide
One night, Mr Wong could not take it anymore. The loneliness during the countless sleepless nights was too overwhelming to bear that he decided to end it all. He counted 40 sleeping pills from the bottle and swallowed them all, in the hope that his suffering would end in his sleep.
Contrary to his wish, he survived, but also suffered greatly from it. Mr Wong woke up to a throbbing headache and began to throw up uncontrollably. Deep down, he knew that he should go to the hospital, but he was fearful that the doctor would reprimand him for committing suicide. So he decided to endure the gagging and retching all by himself in his toilet. The ordeal he went through felt more painful and ghastly than the misery of living. There and then, Mr Wong swore to himself that he would never attempt suicide again. It was a blessing in disguise.
After the incident, TOUCH Home Care referred him to O’Joy for counselling. From then on, we were with him on this journey. Fiona, his counsellor, would listen attentively to him speak about his thoughts and feelings. It helped him to process how he perceived his impaired sense of sight. She also assessed his suicide risk.
Over the course of a year, Fiona continued to actively listen to him and explored how he could better cope with his limited vision and improve his social support. Mr Wong has now come to terms with his partial blindness. Even though he cannot see very well, he is still able to conduct his day-to-day activities. He knows that help is just a phone call away. That made him feel less helpless. Fiona also arranged a para-counsellor to visit him fortnightly to relieve his social isolation.
Fiona’s help made him realise that there are people who care about him, and that has given him the courage to live on. For that, he is very grateful to Fiona and O’Joy.
Mr Wong no longer contemplates suicide. In the meantime, he continues to indulge in smoking frequently and dye his hair to maintain his image.
* The names, photos, and some details in this story have been changed to protect the privacy and confidentiality of the client.
O'Joy serves vulnerable elderly like Mr Wong who suffers from depression and social isolation as a result of illness. By supporting our Services for Older Persons, you can help such elderly find comfort and company for the rest of their lives.