between ridiculous

Psychiatry 4: Acute Observations – Poem 57

it’s a fine line

we’re saving a woman
from killing herself
because her life
is a form of dying

she says if she has to go on
it’s not worth it
she might as well pull out the PICC line
that delivers liquid nutrients
to feed her
and just bleed for a couple of minutes
till it’s over

a very fine line

sometimes it makes sense
to be thinking in terms of
an ending
I can understand that
yes I can

no really
I can
when life is reduced
to never tasting food in your mouth again
never being allowed
to bounce a grandchild on your knees
lest you start bleeding again
and always always having the bloody PICC
to remind that you’re an invalid
I can understand

and the anger too
to have your life destroyed like this
through simple mishap in a routine procedure
in the operating theatre

I know about the anger

it’s just that
before you can decide
it’s not worth it
and that you want
to pull the plug
you have to be sane

and if you’re miserable
because your life seems to be
in a terminal state
of appalling
that’s not sane
it’s a depression we have to treat
before you can do
what you have to do

you can’t be allowed to kill yourself
unless you’re of sound mind

the line doesn’t get any finer


the medication
and the shock treatments
have shaken her memory to the foundations
she’s started making little written notes
just to try to catch up on
the place where she was
before treatment

her husband helps
reminding her of what has gone before

and she may be no better
how can we choose any better
between what’s rational
and what’s mad
even when I might think
that I too would rather die
if I were in the same position

I can’t imagine
never being able to eat real food again
or living the whole of the rest of my life
through an intravenous drip

and in the meantime
the treatment has to go on

I wish she and her husband
would remember that
and not hold us responsible
for shooting her memory
to such very small pieces

or blame us
for not letting them act
on understandings they’ve reached
about what to do
when it becomes intolerable

it’s no good pointing the finger
we’re only trying to help her
to be rational
when deciding

it’s a terribly sublime line


one of the nurses told me
that there was a murder
a double suicide
up in the hills

the details were in the local paper

in the end
sanity prevails

© Frank Prem, 2016

Next – raising the pride



22 thoughts on “between ridiculous

  1. Funny, this piece, has my head spinning in all directions – because that’s life – in out of context – one minute things are “okay” – blink – everything changes. And situations like this? wow – what is the line? where does it get crossed? and it makes you have to stop and really think, for yourself, which may be the hardest part, about what “procedures” and protocols must be followed. And when you are part of this process, in some way, every day, it really can change one’s perspectives.

    I’m going to go out on a limb here, and honestly, you don’t have to respond to this, because it’s really rather personal, but I’m guessing that all of these experiences have really affected you Frank – and I wonder, if now, for yourself, and for your family, how this has affected your “clarity” regarding your wishes regarding your safety, well being, care etc. – “if ever the need arises.” I know many people who suddenly make very detailed and legally documented plans etc. but still, you’ve seen so much, and from so many angles, so I’m just sitting here thinking, I wouldn’t even know with 100% certainty what I would want for myself.

    Anyhow, great piece – it resonates on many levels.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, I’m a fellow who’s still not ready to make those kinds of contingencies, Pat, although recent experience suggests to me that I should attend to Powers of Attorney and Wills and such.

      I tend to drift along, watching the lives of other people.

      Liked by 1 person

      • well … first off, thanks for sharing what is rather a personal detail ….

        funny, sometimes it’s necessity that breeds the actions, but either way, for whatever reasons, it’s a complicated subject – not only personal for the people living with (insert X) … but for those in attendance …. and if it’s after the fact? of a decline or death? well, that can and most often usually is a royal nightmare too.

        I was just wondering I guess, because of your life’s work experiences and then, with aging parents etc. etc.

        And since you are working these thoughts from the “professional” side, it also brought to my mind the right to die with dignity – I happen to live in one of the few places in the world where this is permissible, if the conditions and protocols are met etc. – so this just had me thinking in general.

        thanks for sharing this piece and your thoughts too

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s a constantly changing ‘thing’ to have an opinion about. I think we’re only one incident or event away from changing minds and hearts about what’s right and what’s not. Classic moral dilemma. I think.

        Still, the best we can do is probably all we can do.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think you’re right. Human nature. Human folly? perhaps just – being human. The constant? the unpredictable and changing nature of life – we can never be 100% certain about anything – at best, we run around thinking we are …. and do what we can, in the moments.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s a delicate matter. My wife, due to complications with cervical surgery, mostly eats via a gastrostomy tube to her stomach. She remains very happy, as a person, but carries a heavy burden. Some people, unfortunately, get more than their share of pain and suffering… as the cards of life are unfolded and revealed. Some people cope with it better than others. Suffering is universal; we all share in it, some much more than others.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Very delicate, Tom. I’m glad your wife is coping with a hard situation as well as it sounds. My recollection of the situation in the poem is that the lady in question had decided she could not live that way any longer, but this decision was then countered with treatment against her will under the Mental Health Act – reacting to the conundrum with anti-depressants and ECT.

      Horrible situation.


  3. I cannot begin to express the level of empathy I have for this subject, this woman.

    Many U.S. states have the policy that the state of Oregon pioneered on October 27, 1997: The Death with Dignity Act allows terminally ill Oregonians to end their lives through the voluntary self-administration of lethal medications, expressly prescribed by a physician for that purpose.

    Sanity is a prerequisite. The statistics show that those who go through the long process of applying for this option do not end their lives in this manner. It is a relief to know the solution is at hand, quite literally at hand. It allows those who love this individual time to react and find their feelings.

    Perhaps I will one day be able to reblog on the subject. Thank you for embracing the depth of life and finding its expression through your poetry.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sandra, you’re very welcome and thank you for commenting. It’s such a difficult topic, isn’t it? In this case it felt as though there was a mandatory punishment applied on top of the illness. The irrational attempting to demonstrate its own opposite, or some such.

      I’m glad there is some better sense available out in the wider world.

      Thank you again.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Frank, unfortunately I think it is perfectly sane to feel depressed in such a situation. Who are these people to make judgements that depression means one can’t think rationally. This is my bug bear with the Vic legislation as it stands. It fills me with absolute rage, but not yet enough to get off my behind to get myself an advanced care order. I must stop procrastinating. Regards. Tracy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly the dilemma, Tracy. You’d be mad not to be depressed, and yet, if you’re depressed …

      A weird world we live in. As a nurse, I’m unable to support some courses and choices. As a person, I can understand and perhaps empathise with them. Such is life, I suppose.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Much as rules and laws are necessary, no law can predict every exigency. This makes it necessary for people to take their lives into their own hands. These people seem to have had a good amount of time to determine what they wanted for their own lives. I think the real tragedy would have been their both being the prisoners of what laws told them their choices should be. When we take away human choice, it is a torture of the worst kind. Is your torment that they took their own lives or that they were forced to? A thoughtful, evocative poem. Thanks for sharing it.

    Liked by 1 person

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