My Fear of Death and Depression
Health problems and the fear of dying caused anxiety and triggered my depression …
I remember sitting in a car outside a Medical Clinic, scared beyond any other memory, as I opened a letter to hear if the scan had found a brain tumor.
I remember one year later (my wife 7 months pregnant with our third) being told to lay still on the hospital bed as the nurse tore off the ECG printout and ran to the hallway calling, “He’s having a heart attack!”
I remember some months after that, booking in for surgery to cut out a large portion of my lower lip where a doctor had diagnosed a cancerous lesion.
I remember staying in bed most weekends and avoiding any engagement or fun with my kids because my days were numbered.
I remember thinking it was only a matter of time and I was going to die … despite a series of false alarms, something would eventually get me.
I remember considering driving into that other lane so many times, because a quick death would be much easier for me and those who loved me.
I remember a series of health issues had put my anxiety through the roof and I began self diagnosing every sniffle, lump and pain as some symptom of a life threatening illness.
I remember after a long period of constant illness, sitting in front of my GP sobbing and saying, “I’m sick and tired of always being so sick and tired!”
It was very clear to me that I was going to die and all I wanted my GP to do was book me in for a full body scan and blood tests to find whatever it was that I had.
I was afraid of leaving my kids without their protector and provider.
I was afraid of how my death (through some terminal illness) would destroy my kids emotionally.
I just wanted to know what I had in me and how I was going to die.
Fortunately, I had found a very good GP and she guided me through accepting, understanding and treating the illness that I now know I have … it was none of the ones I imagined … and it was not terminal.
My Depression and Fear of Death
So today … almost 10 years later, after medication, reading, cognitive training, and a better understanding of my mind … I am again worried.
Because I no longer fear death.
But that’s a good thing right?
It would be a good thing if it was just about accepting fate. But it feels almost like a numbness … an indifference … I don’t know …
When I was first diagnosed and began treatment, I would go straight to my GP for any ailment that worried me and she would do all the tests I needed (or wanted) to eliminate my anxiety. But lately I have been ignoring my ailments (even when friends say I should ‘get that checked’), I tolerate a lot of pain … and today when I sliced my finger open on something I was working on in the yard, I just looked inquisitively at the depth and length of the cut, watched the blood begin to run out, and continued to work.
I worry that because of the emptiness at times … because of the shell of a man I am compared to what I was or could have been … my mind’s eye sees this body as having no value or worth.
These past 10 years have taken my pride, which was not such a bad thing.
But, these years have also taken my dignity and self-respect.
I’m not the husband I hoped to be.
I’m not the father I dreamed my kids would have.
I’m not the friend I wanted to be.
I’m not the author, artist or CEO I could have been by now.
I think subconsciously I despise my body for so often failing me, slowing me down, getting me lost … and as such it is dismissed as already broken … any other injury or illness is therefore null and void. I know it is a mental illness and not a physical one that I have, but given the part my body played in triggering this illness, they are both partners in crime and I do not differentiate in their judgement. The poor treatment of my body is compounded further by the masochistic tendencies I have at times (will leave that for another post).
Only way I can see of changing with this is to accept, respect, and learn to love the “Me I am” … not the “Me I was”, or the “Me I could”.
Easy … right?
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Also Being Mentally Ill, I Can Relate, Sir.
My Mental State Can Be So Horridly Bad, It Will Cause A Wide Variety Of Physical Health Issues And Complications.
I Don’t Fear Death.
I Never Have.
I Simply Fear Long-Term PAIN And ANGUISH On Top Of That Which I’ve Already Experienced.
I Can Never Love The Me That I Am.
Yet I Can Always Love The Me I Was Supposed To Be.
I’ll Never Be That Person, I’ve Accepted As Such.
You Just Try To Take Care Of What You Can, Sir.
So, Please Take Care.
Mr B, Thank you!
I am trying my best to take care of myself and whatever or whoever else I can.
I wish you all the best with continuing to do the same.
You are right about acceptance. I think it is a very important step in moving onwards and when we can, upwards 🙂
Please make sure you take care too!
I’m sorry anxiety and depression has had such a huge effect on your life. You are doing really well though, and things will get better. I know what you mean about feeling indifferent about death, but in time you will fight this depression and anxiety, and you will feel better. Thanks for sharing your story, I hope it helped a bit to get it written down xx
You know … it really did help to write it down. When I started writing the post, I didn’t know the answer or reason for my indifference. I just hoped the process of writing would help me work it out.
In hindsight I can’t say that I feel 100% right in the answer I found, but there is no harm in using it as a start.
Thank you so much for your comment and encouragement. 🙂
I very much resonate with your post. Although I was never afraid of dying (the opposite, as you also describe), I now find myself ruminating on the incredible professional failure I have become, relative to the very promising start I had. And then I have to discipline my mind and tell it to stop that rubbish, because I am who/what I am (as Popeye the Sailor Man would say, toot-toot!).
Yes. I know what you mean and (as you said) it is not healthy to ruminate on our failures. I had a promising start too, but now feel well and truly hobbled in most areas.
Thank you. I’m trying to apply the same discipline.
Sounds like you’ve come a long way and are on the trail that will get you to where you need to be. We learn wisdom from pain and it sounds like you’ve had more than your share. God Bless!
Thanks John. I am glad that more often than not, I am able to agree with your kind words.
Thanks for sharing – as husband and father and I can empathise with your feelings of not being what you’d hoped to be and the realisation you next to accept who you are right now. Not an easy road to travel. 🙂
Thank you Ken. Really appreciated your reply and understanding of my feelings.
BTW. That is quite an incredible life you have established and a great work you are doing there in Bangladesh with your wife and children. You have my admiration.
I read the post and then I decided to sleep on it before I said anything. Then I re-read the post but I still can’t find the words. Not because I don’t understand or don’t relate. On the contrary. Because it hits too close to home. Only difference is that I never feared dying. But the health problems, the disappointments, the not caring. And most of all, being haunted by the “Me I could”. If you find a way to deal with that, please let me know 🙂
PS: Hope you’re doing well now that you’re back to work
I’ll keep searching myself and my ways and will absolutely let you know if ever I find the definitive answer that works for everyone – wouldn’t that be great!!
Work? It is ok. A few dramas, but I got some big tasks out of the way which was good. Right now I am busy, but coping well. Thank you 🙂
he he, yeah, that’d be great! Not only you’d be helping a lot of people but you could also become very rich too!
I like my life a lot but I can’t forget all that it could have been… so different. Feeling you never reached your potential is a terrible thing, isn’t it?
I like my life too. It is not so bad compared to so many others in the world.
But that feeling of falling short of where we could have been still stings a little at times.
Thanks SSG! 🙂