by Chris Caulkins
Eleven years ago we were in the midst of a massive search for my wife, Mary. She went missing on March 4th and her location was unknown for almost two weeks. Many of you were part of that search effort and for that you have my deepest gratitude to this day.
On March 17th, Mary was found dead in her van. She was yet another casualty of suicide--a syndrome that is the 10th leading cause of death among all age groups in the United States. Mary battled severe depression and anxiety for a long time and the pain simply crushed her.
There are those who say suicide is selfish and ask how someone could do that and not think of their family, friends, and future. To those people I say imagine I hit you in the head with a hammer every five minutes and you were helpless to stop me. If I continued to hit you with no sign of stopping would you be thinking of your significant other, family, friends, great job, or nice home? No, all you would be thinking of would be ways to make the pain stop. If the pain persisted long enough without relief, you would take your own life.
A psychache is akin to that hammer blow. It is unrelenting and punishing. It is often the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain likely caused by damage to an area of the brain called the amygdala. On an MRI lesions to the white matter of the amygdala can be seen in those with severe and chronic depression. On a PET scan we can see that areas of the brain are not as active in the clinically depressed. Still, many expect those afflicted to "pull themselves up by the bootstraps" and to "snap out of it." Saying that is as unrealistic and cruel as giving that same message to a cancer patient.