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  • Writer's pictureClaire Freeman


Updated: May 24, 2019

It’s been a crazy few weeks (that sentence seems to becoming all too familiar with me!). I’ve been desperately trying to encourage people to think of some of the darker issues associated with the assisted suicide Bill in New Zealand, through personal experience and through friends I know. It’s not easy as it’s not the popular idea that we have been sold. The idea that the Bill is about compassion, it’s safe, there will be no coerced or wrongful deaths. No matter what I or others say to warn otherwise, I guess people don’t want to hear the messy stuff. A younger, naïve Claire understands that.

What has been interesting, heart-breaking, and heart-warming, has been the journey of my little fight. I’ve been misquoted by media, I’ve seen photos of me with abusive messages, and messages which are untrue but cause me to giggle (apparently, I can walk and am faking my injury, why didn’t anyone say! – disclaimer – ‘mild’ sarcasm). I’ve seen first hand the dirty tactics people speak about when you become ‘political’ about an issue. I’m totally naïve to be honest because I feel everyone has good in them and lying is always revealed, even if it takes time for people to see the lies.

I’ve met a lot of Ministers of Parliament from every political party and what is obvious is that we are all individuals, we have our own values, thoughts and beliefs and the Ministers who met with me, were kind, courteous and most were concerned about the Bill in various ways. I guess we all want the right thing, it’s just how do we make that happen.

Last week I was filming for a programme on TVNZ called ‘Sunday’. I met some of the loveliest people filming the programme. The lead journalist Janet McIntyre has been kind, considerate, fair, hard hitting at times… but I appreciate that, because sometimes the gritty questions need to be asked, even if it’s questions I can’t answer. I don’t want bias, or sugar coating, I just want people to think. I took journalism at University, I am a firm believer all sides of an issue need to be respected and explored. I hope this documentary portrays that.

Perhaps what I didn’t anticipate is how this whole fight has taken a toll on me. On the one hand, my partner and I are so much stronger. He has been there, scraping me off the floor, holding me tight as I cry, putting ‘clear eyes’ drops into my eyes before I appear on TV so I don’t look like I’ve spent the past day crying. And there has been a lot of crying. From the suicide of a young friend, from issues with my dad who has been released from hospital after months due to a catastrophic brain bleed stroke among other issues. From confronting head on demons of family who don’t agree with me and have acted so poisonous it’s made me vomit and my heart has broken (always in secret).

And yesterday after a weekend of sleep, pain and crying, scrambling to obtain photos for the documentary, old x-rays, medical records. Then being asked if I was doing this for money. Questions that I know have to be asked but at the same time, break my heart because all I’ve ever wanted is to help people in the best way I know how. I have nothing to hide, my life is an open book. A complicated open book. I don’t envy the documentary teams job. Yet yesterday, I thought I was ok, and strong, I could handle it but suddenly that old feeling returned, the stop. And I wondered how my beautiful friend had died, how many pills she had swallowed, how many did I have….

I’m not a rock, I’m a ball of glass. I seem hard, I roll, but I can shatter. Why anyone would want to love my little glass ball self is beyond me, but he does. So he held on closer. He knows the signs, and like times before, he stopped me rolling and just held me and I was safe. But that’s what it’s like to live with someone like me. I’m headstrong, I fight and am good at fighting because I’ve done it since I was 17. I believe in good, I want to help, and I love people, all people, even the ones no one else does, in fact I probably love them more because like me, they are the most vulnerable and hardest to love. Perhaps that’s why he also loves me.

In the cynical back of my head, I worry if he’s not around. How would I cope? It’s unhealthy to rely on someone to save you from yourself. My next life journey is to love myself, to know I’m of value because I often don’t feel or think that I am. That might be a bigger journey than the one I’m on but like anything in life, I know I need to be prepared for the worst, because often the worst does happen. And he’s a wise old nut, he often tells me I need to love myself. So like with anything, I’ll try, because I owe him that, and I owe myself that and those who have stood by me. But perhaps more than anything, I owe it to myself, to this little body I broke so many times.

I know there are other fights to be had in the future. Life will never be easy if you’re a minority, disabled, of colour, gender or just different. But he says I have a good heart and I have the tools in me to fight and sometimes, fight well. So if loving myself is what needs to be done, so be it, I’ve faced bigger obstacles… perhaps….

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1 Comment

May 29, 2019

Hello Claire, Mum and TVNZ. Thank you for sharing this very important life story. Like others of us who have been traumatized by unforeseen life events, you Claire, your Mum and TVNZ Sunday have the courage to closely consider and discuss health and disability within New Zealand's current climate of service delivery. Thank you as I believe you have successfully identified a key service delivery gap. In my own journey I begged services to consider adjustment and grief counselling for my son whose life was significantly changed following a cycling accident. The current priority for mindfullness as a systemic approach to trauma I believe can be likened to giving all diabetics a barley sugar. I intend to imp…

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