JoAnna gets euthanasia today: ’I’m euphoric’

Original article in Dutch

This afternoon, JoAnna is going to die and she can’t wait. Indeed, she herself has embarked on a euthanasia process to end her unbearable psychological suffering.

Disclaimer: This article is translated in order to encourage discussion about euthanasia on psychiatric grounds and does not represent the view of OAK Ry as such.

Trigger warning: drugs, abuse and thoughts about suicide

JoAnna (48): “This afternoon, at 2 p.m., the time has finally come: I will be euthanized, and I will die. It’s not like that I woke up one day and thought: you know what, I’m going to go into a euthanasia process. I’ve known I want to die since I was ten years old. I did not have an easy childhood. My parents, especially my mother, are the cause of much of my trauma. As a child, I was mentally and physically abused, had a severe drug addiction, and ended up in a relationship with a partner who also beat me up. To make a long story short: I had quite an eventful life and don’t want to go on. I was so upset that I made a number of suicide attempts, including two when my daughter was already born. After the last attempt in 2018, I ended up in the closed ward of an institution and realized that I want to end my life humanely. That is why I started the euthanasia process in December 2020.

It is difficult to get euthanasia for psychological suffering. When you have cancer, people can imagine that you want to die. But in my case, psychological suffering is just as much a terminal illness. That cannot be solved with a walk, as I was often advised. I was on the waiting list for over a year and a half before I could start the euthanasia process, and in the meantime, I had to try different therapies and take medication to see if that would make me feel better. I did all that, but only to get closer to my end goal. I never thought that my problems are solvable, they run far too deep for that. Some therapists didn’t even want to help me because they didn’t think treatment would matter anyway. The wait and the therapies were killing. By talking about my traumas, I fell into a huge downward spiral over and over again. Over the past two years, I’ve often found it very tempting to harm myself — precisely because euthanasia was still so far away, and my situation seemed with no end in sight.

From September 2022, the time had finally come: a doctor, second opinion doctor and euthanasia team would review my situation and decide if it is indeed bad enough for euthanasia. Waiting for the green light took a month or two, that long. It was perhaps the hardest eight weeks of my life. I had a very bad feeling about the conversations and was afraid that my request would be denied. My sister often doubted whether she would speak to me the next day, so afraid that I would commit suicide in the uncertain meantime. That fear was justified; I also often thought I was better off doing it myself. I don’t know how I did it, but I made it to the final interview on November 21. And then, fortunately, I got the green light.

The date of death I had in mind was December 12: my grandmother’s date of birth. I had a very good relationship with my grandpa and grandma, they are the only ones who gave me the most unconditional love ever. But another euthanasia was already planned on that date, and then the next date was December 15. My daughter really wanted to spend Christmas and eat sushi together, so I chose the second option: January 23. Despite the fact that I don’t really want to experience 2023 anymore. When I told my daughter that, she said: “But mom, if you want to go on December 15, you can go.” Really a superkid, that daughter of mine.

I feel really bad about leaving my kid behind. She is now 22 years old, and it is very difficult for her that her mother wants to take her life. I don’t want to hurt her, I never want to see her cry. And the fact that I’m the one making this choice makes it even harder to see her pain and sorrow. I told her that it’s not her fault that I’m euthanizing. She knows that too, she said. I don’t feel like she blames me. We are best friends. But if I keep living, I know there will come a time when I’ll end it myself. And I don’t want my daughter to find me and have that last image of me on her mind.

I sometimes get comments from people — mostly strangers — who find me useless for leaving my child behind. Or they don’t understand why I got pregnant when I’m living such a tough life. My pregnancy was unplanned, but I still find those preconceptions heavy to bear. Of course, it breaks me to see my daughter sad. I avoid feeling her pain. It’s not that I don’t love her, but I don’t love myself enough to stay alive. Fortunately, she also has her own treatment team. And she has a good safety net, a lovely friend. I’m glad I still know him and who she’s with. That reassures me.

In spite of my daughter’s sorrow, I’ve been in a very euphoric state since I had a date and time of death. The end is really in sight, my death is concrete. Bridging the time until January was doable. Normally, I draw a lot when I’m feeling bad, but in the past few weeks I’ve barely been able to draw. I still had a number of assignments left — friends and family who wanted a picture of me — but I didn’t know how to do that. I was also more casual when it came to money. I was living on benefits and was able to spend 55 euros a week on groceries but bought a 15-euro piece of salmon last week. And the heating was also on all day. Damn it, I’m going to die anyway. I still wanted to live a good life. My last weeks on Earth were filled with fun stuff: spending a day with all my nieces and nephews and their kids. A fun day with my group of friends. And I had a Harry Potter night. I wanted to spend as much time as possible with the people I love and who have stood by me in recent years. I’m just concerned with how others feel and that they’re okay with my decision. As a result, I sometimes forget that I am also in a grieving process myself. I’m also leaving a life and my daughter behind that makes me very sad. I find it quite difficult to deal with my own emotions.

Another important process I’m going through now that I know I’m going to die is forgiveness. I’ve always kept in my head: if I die, I want to be able to forgive everyone. I forgive my parents for what they did to me. We are now out of contact and they are not coming to the cremation either. I’m sure they know I’m going to die and they haven’t said anything, that’s okay with me. I found that resignation. Many family members and friends distanced themselves when I told them that I was going to euthanasia. For example, they think it’s getting too close and don’t want to hurt themselves. The euthanasia process is therefore quite a lonely process. A little bit of compassion could have made a difference. But I also forgive everyone for that.

Today, only my daughter, sister and favorite aunt are there. Before I get the injection, we’re going to eat sushi first. I think I’m going to have a hard time when I close my eyes and become happy but see the sadness of my loved ones. For a long time, I was afraid that I wouldn’t end up in heaven if I ended my life myself, but a vicar reassured me. I now believe that I will be in heaven and I will be together with my grandpa and grandma again.

The script for my cremation has been completed since I was a teenager, so that if I committed suicide, everything was on paper. I have two services: a consolation service on January 26, after which my coffin stays in the church overnight and my coffin bearers watch over me. The Moluccan cremation with pies and lempers will take place on January 27. I don’t want to burden my daughter with grave maintenance and expenses, which is why I’m being cremated. On the internet, I read about eternal reefs, your ashes are then made into artificial coral and they do that back into the sea so that new coral grows. That seems like a nice destination, but my daughter can also scatter me under the weeping willow opposite my house or keep my ashes. I’ve been growing my hair for the past three years so I can shave it just before I die and donate it to women with breast cancer. I donate all my clothes and shoes to a women’s shelter. I’m giving away furniture, my sister has already claimed the egg chair, and what remains goes to the thrift store. I’ve never received the right help for my problems myself, maybe that’s where the need to do something for others comes from.

But I’m not going to donate my organs. In fact, my uterus was removed a few years ago and I keep it at home in a special pot. It goes with me into my coffin. I’ve came into the world with it, I’m going leave the world with it. Before the cremation, I recorded myself singing The Family Tree by Venice. That will be played when they carry me out to church so that we can all still sing that song together.

A memory box will soon be ready for my daughter: I knitted a blanket — I never knit — for when she has a child later. She can put that in the crib. And I want to put videos on USB so she can always look at me and hear my voice. And there is a whole stack of cards, so she’ll still get a congratulations from me on her birthday. My cat Trixie goes to see a friend when I die. Then, after my death, my sister only has to cancel the rent, because everything else is arranged.

As far as I’m concerned, it can’t be 2:00pm soon enough. Many friends and family ask if I want to give them a sign after my death. If I have to do all that, my mind won’t rest for the next two years. I’m going to die to get some rest, not to have to go see all the more people. It would give me a whole day’s work if I had to blink everyone’s lights. I just might want to visit my daughter as a butterfly. When people say they’re going to miss me and love me, I can’t imagine that. Who’s going to miss me? I was never allowed to be there. That feeling has been with me all my life and has now meant that this is my situation. The chances of me still thinking about myself today are really zero. My time is up here, I can’t wait. ’


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