The Power of Support

10 Stories for 10 Years

Receiving a diagnosis for a degenerative illness can feel like a devastating ending. It can be life changing — and life saving — to consider that it might instead be a beautiful beginning for meaningful connections.

When “Walter,” a 65-year-old Caucasian man living in the West, learned he had Parkinson’s, he knew life was going to look a lot different in the future. But with the support of his wife, he felt confident that he could handle it. All of that changed when Walter learned she had been having an affair. As soon as his wife left, he acknowledged starting to feel like he’d rather die than experience what was coming.

When Walter voiced these suicidal thoughts, the clinician with whom he had been working heard and appreciated his note that the Parkinson’s diagnosis contributed to his suicidality. But she used the CAMS Framework® to question what specifically related to Parkinson’s was driving suicide as a primary option for him. As they refined their shared understanding, he insightfully realized that it wasn’t the reality of his diagnosis causing his suicidality; he didn’t feel he could live with the perception of “no longer [having] anyone in my corner.” The pain of living with this alone was overwhelming.

As the dyad discussed “relationship problems” on the SSF, Walter’s clinician learned that he had two estranged adult children. The wife from whom he recently separated was verbally abusive to them, causing them to distance themselves from their dad after they married several years back. They together wondered whether there might be an opportunity for reconnection now that his relationship was ending. He contacted his children and they gratefully received his efforts to reconnect.

As Walter’s condition due to Parkinson’s worsened, his desire to live improved. He no longer had “no one” in his corner; he had two people who meant everything to him. He did not need to change his diagnostic experience to change his relationship with suicide; rather than his story ending in pain and devastation, he continued writing a new chapter, this time full of love and support.