The ultimate dissociative experience.


Death isn’t something I like to think about, much less write about.  In fact, it’s my biggest fear (outside of the death of one of my children).  Oh, I know all the pat arguments and rationalizations that it’s not so bad–death is a part of life, death is nothing to be afraid of, if you’re a good Christian you will go to Heaven and there will be no fear, nothing at all will happen so there will be no fear, even the idea that death is beautiful.

I woke this morning, as I often do, thinking about how much I fear my own death.  I think this is a little obsessive-compulsiveness on my part, and probably something I should talk about more in therapy.   The mental health field has a name for the irrational or excessive fear of death: thanatophobia.    So far I’ve only talked to God about my phobia but I feel like He isn’t listening.     People in my age group (50’s) say they’re beginning to come to terms with the prospect of death, but so far, for me, that hasn’t happened.  I get more scared every year.

Maybe death terrifies me because it entails complete ego loss–it’s the ultimate dissociative experience, and as someone who has had massive panic attacks usually instigated by dissociative experiences (feeling out my body, feeling like things are dreamlike or unreal, etc.) it would be natural for me to be afraid of what it might feel like.   It’s like someone who had a bad drug trip and is mentally unstable to begin with being slipped some acid when they’re unaware of it–and never being able to return to reality.

I don’t like to write about death, because even thinking about it too long makes me extremely anxious.  But I need to write about it, and need to talk about it with others, and maybe find comfort in the fact that others have the same sense of trepidation and worry.  Maybe I’m not alone in my fear of death and dying.   So I’m going to plow on. Writing about it surely can’t hurt.


I’ve been told by many Christians that, if I am strong in my faith, that there is nothing to fear, because I can be sure of my place in Heaven after I die.   But this makes things even worse for me, because I do have doubts in my faith and I am not at certain I am going to Heaven, or even that there is a Heaven.   No matter how much I pray for perfect faith, I can’t seem to make my mind rid itself of its many doubts.   There are just some things about Christianity I can’t make myself believe or at least not question.  Again, maybe it’s my obsessive-compulsiveness.   As someone who is afraid to trust anyone and is hypervigilant, it’s even hard for me to completely trust God and not worry about what will happen to me after I die. I look at others–even narc abuse survivors who should be as hypervigilant as I am–who seem to have attained perfect faith and I marvel at this. How do they do it?

Although it’s hard for me to believe that if I question Christianity or what the Bible says, that God will send me to burn in Hell for eternity even if I’m otherwise a good person (that seems like a terribly cruel, narcissistic God to me), how do I know for sure God isn’t like that?  Maybe God is really that cruel and narcissistic, but in that case, why would I want to even spend eternity in Heaven, trapped there with sanctimonious, self righteous, insufferable believers? (I’m not saying all believers are like that, but I’ve met more than a few who are).  In that case, maybe Heaven would be more like Hell.     But Hell…well, I definitely don’t want to go there.

But Christianity is only one way to look at the issue of death.  Let’s face it.   No matter how sure you are in your faith, whatever it is, none of us really knows what’s going to happen after we die.   What if the New Agers are right and what happens is you look back and see yourself lying on the hospital bed, pavement, or whatever, see your own broken, bleeding, or used-up body there, and then watch as they pull the sheet over your head?  What if you are swooshed at light-speed down a long tunnel toward “the light” and meet angels and see otherworldly landscapes and other inexplicable things?   Or what if you float around the earth as a disembodied spirit, revisiting your friends and relatives you left behind?   People who have reported NDE’s (near death experiences) have said that at some point they become aware they have died (that’s usually when they “come back”) and most say it’s very disorienting and even scary at first, because their bodies just aren’t there.   All of these things, no matter how pleasant others have said they are, strike terror in me, because they sound like dissociative experiences that you can never escape from.   I’ve struggled with episodes of dissociation my entire life, but no matter how terrifying they became, I always knew I’d “return” and the experience would probably only last a few minutes.   Does something happen after you die where you’re no longer afraid of such things, or do you just learn to deal with it?


Maybe this is true, but I wish I could believe it.

What if the atheists and existentialists are right and nothing happens after you die?  What if you simply cease to exist?   While I find that prospect extremely depressing,  it actually causes me the least anxiety.   Eternal sleep and unconsciousness doesn’t seem so bad to me.  If you’re aware of nothing, well, there’s nothing to be afraid of or get depressed about, is there?  But I still don’t like the idea that this life is ultimately meaningless.   What is all the struggle for then?

Reincarnation doesn’t seem so bad, and actually does make some logical sense to my scientifically-leaning brain, but it flies in the face of being a Christian.   I don’t know of any Christians who acknowledge that reincarnation is a possibility after death.  But why couldn’t it be? As a Catholic, we believe in the concept of purgatory, a place of purification (not punishment) after death.  But no one can explain what purgatory might be like.  Maybe living additional lives is what purgatory actually means?   Again…we just don’t know.

'It's not that I'm afraid of dying, Doctor... It's just that I don't want to be there when it happens!'

‘It’s not that I’m afraid of dying, Doctor… It’s just that I don’t want to be there when it happens!’

Maybe we just go back to wherever we were before we were born, and have amnesia for this life. Or maybe it’s like eternal dreaming (that doesn’t sound too bad). Again, we don’t know.

Besides the inevitable experience of death, which seems bad enough, I’m terrified by the prospect of dying.   I’m in my 50’s, and figure I might (realistically) have about another two or three decades of life left.   To someone my age, that doesn’t seem so long.  Twenty years ago was 1996; thirty years ago was 1986.   That means that in that same amount of time, going forward, I will probably be leaving my body permanently, but before that, I may well suffer either unbelievable pain or a few moments of sheer terror.   Few people just die peacefully in their sleep or just suddenly keel over while out on the golf course (that’s the way a 90 year old great uncle of mine died).   Most suffer first, either for months (as in a long illness) or a few seconds (as in an accident).   I’m terrified of both.  I know there’s no way to get out of this life alive, so the inevitable is going to happen, and there’s not a whole lot of time left before it does. Even worse, each year time seems to hurtle forward twice as fast as the year before. What seemed like “a long time ago” to me twenty years ago now seems like the blink of an eye.

As someone who tends to overthink everything,  I probably think about death and dying way too much.  I know I should just stop and enjoy life while I still have it.   But the more I try not to think about it, the more I seem to.   It’s like that game where you try not to think about an elephant.  I pray about this all the time but it hasn’t helped very much.    I just keep feeling guilty because  no matter how hard I try, I can’t embrace my Christianity with perfect faith.   I have no guarantee I’m going to Heaven.   I keep questioning everything and then I worry about going to hell.  Or being eternally dissociated, which to me would be hell.  Or just worrying about the intolerable suffering that will precede my exit from this planet.    Maybe I need to talk to my therapist about this because it seems like it could be a form of undiagnosed OCD.

Further Reading:
My Fear of Death

35 thoughts on “The ultimate dissociative experience.

  1. I’ve no fear of death and I believe in an afterlife. Time seems to be a constraint for humans in this world; maybe here is just an elaborate waiting room / testing area to decide what happens to us next!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I am afraid of death, but maybe that’s because I’m a family scapegoat who feels much of my life has been wasted already. It seems the clock is ticking, there’s not a whole lot of time left or resources to go on and ‘make a plan’ with. Maybe if my life thus far had been fuller, it wouldn’t bother me so much. But it does. But, I go on, planning, each day trying to do better and have some faith that luck in general will improve. I get what you’re saying. The unknowns about it too. But I will say this much. I’ve decided that God determines when your number is up because I’ve been saved too many times. So that part I’ve made peace with. That ‘the when of it’ is not something under my control.

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  3. I am 72 and living in an assisted living center. I see people dying all around me. This is the place we go to live until the end. Some of the residents are suffering a lot but most are not but many have dementia. I am considering this an opportunity to embrace death on a very deep level before my time comes. I loved Bowie’s last album because it seemed that’s what he was doing too. It all seems so perfect. I’m looking forward to death as, in Dumbledore’s words, “the next great adventure.”

    Please don’t feel guilty about your doubts. Your reservations are rational. Even some famous Catholic said, “I believe. Help me my unbelief.”

    I have experienced unconsciousness. It’s weird that there’s no sense of time passing. One moment I am here and then I am there. I think the possibility of total oblivion is the scariest possibility because it’s the only one in which there is no time. All the others, Heaven, Hell, Reincarnation still keep one in time. I think there is some conscious “life” after death. Look at all those near death experiences.

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  4. “No faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see” Hebrews 11
    ” For it is by faith you have been saved, through grace, this not from yourself it is the gift of God…”

    I think it is only natural to fear death. The unknown is always difficult. I have read that is good, that God wants us to question what we believe. If you do not question it and dig deeper, you never really know why you believe in Him. But we have faith as it says in Hebrews even though we are not sure but are certain in the end Jesus will take us home.

    Even though Faith is something we have doubts in, know we are not the reason we have faith in God. That is the work of Jesus in our hearts, souls, and minds, and if you wish to have less doubts pray for him to give you greater faith and to doubt less. Seek answers in the Bible, you may not always understand but often a verse or piece if scripture sticks and makes you think, then understanding comes as you experience life.

    Also, know “nothing can separate you from the love of God.” Yes, you’ve been told this but it’s important to know not death, not your doubts, not fear can every make God forget us, leave us. He brings us home when it is our time. Until then live life.

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  5. I am afraid of death too and many of your questions are similar to mine. I don’t follow any sort of religion though and don’t really believe in God.

    I was at a talk once where a Buddhist Rinpoche spoke on death an dying. I remember one thing he asked the people in the room how we felt about death…if we were afraid of it. I remember there were quite a few ppl who said no. One woman in particular said, “I’m looking forward to it because I’ll finally get to rest.” And she was young…maybe late 20s and didn’t come across as being depressed. It was just sort of a matter of fact statement. I found it interesting and I was envious. lol.

    Maybe that she was so young and so far away from any sort of natural death may have given contributed to that feeling, I really don’t know. I’m kind of projecting there because I remember when I was really young, like high school age, I was sort of cocky about any thoughts I had on death and just felt invincible.

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    • It surprises me too, how many people, even those nearing the end of life, aren’t afraid of death and dying and even look forward to it. I just can’t wrap my brain around that. I wish I could though, and like you, I often feel envious. I have noticed younger people seem less afraid of it too, but even older people don’t really fear it. I guess it can’t be so bad if so many people think it’s almost a good thing. But I still dread it. I have very complicated feelings about it.

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  6. I don’t want to admit this, but I could have written this post. Every single word, except for the part about being Catholic. I prefer the Assembly of God denomination, although I have gone to mass at several Catholic churches over the years as a visitor and I loved the beauty of it. But everything else you said in this post… it’s me, exactly.

    My husband had a near death experience at the age of 19 when his appendix ruptured. He was pronounced dead and an orderly was taking him to the hospital morgue when he came back to life in the elevator. It freaked the orderly out, lol.

    My husband said his experience was so wonderful, that he is looking forward to dying and going back to heaven. I wish I could feel the same way! I also had a near death experience many years ago. My experience was also very wonderful. I felt perfect peace, perfect joy, and perfect love. I felt ecstatic over the realization that I would never have anything to fear again! But I made the decision to come back, and ever since then, despite that wonderful experience, I have been afraid of death the same way you are, for all the reasons you mentioned.

    Thank you for writing about this. I think it helps. At least it helps to know we aren’t alone. ❤

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    • I feel like God answered a prayer today after I wrote this post: I found a site about Christianity that eliminates all or most of the legalism and presents Jesus as loving and explains and answers many of my questions and concerns. It also presents the Bible to me in an entirely new way, and makes some things more understandable to me.

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      • I have actually had two near death experiences, but with the first one, all I did was leave my body. I was fifteen at the time with the first one, thirty-nine when the second one happened.

        Unlike my second near death, I did not have a heavenly experience the first time. Just… ultimate dissociation, like the title of your post. It happened after that evil doctor drugged and raped me. I was floating above my body, which had collapsed on the floor. Two nurses came rushing over. I heard one nurse say “I can’t find a pulse!” The other nurse said “Her lips are blue!”

        That experience was so awful — maybe this is why I still fear death, despite my wonderful heavenly experience years later. Anyway, I already wrote about the first experience, in a guest post here on your blog about a year ago, back when I was using the pen name Alaina:

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  7. I really relate to what you wrote here and thank you for the honesty. That web site is a great resource too I will be reading it. I’m a former fundamentalist that is in the process of recovering from the tremendous damage to my mind and soul that they inflicted, believe me as judgmental as they are to “heathens” they have special torture for their fellow believers. I was part of a church plant team, I questioned our lovelessness and within 2 weeks got kicked out of the church. I got excommunicated in a deeply shaming way. The pastor put the service of our (me and my now ex) excommunication on a tape, send me the tape, telling the congregation that I was a counterfeit planted in their midst by satan. That helped my orphan spirit a lot (ha)

    Right before he stopped recording the tape he said “I have something to share about Katies counseling sessions with me so that you understand how messed up she is” He turns it off, leaving me to wonder the rest of my life what deeply personal thing I shared with him in counseling that he announced before the congregation to prove I was a loser sent by satan. (The church folded eventually–you can’t excommunicate upstanding members that donate everything they have to the ministry and not scare off new congregants)

    That is one story of many of horrific experiences with my fellow fundies. I relate to your discomfort with them because the most toxically abusive people in my life have been bible thumpers including my momster. The oddity of course is that the bible is my life line and I trust it because I have absolutely no one else in my life to trust. NOT one soul.

    My fear of death is fearing the process of it. TRIGGER WARNING ABOUT ASSAULTS
    Its the not breathing part….(batterers in my life have attempted to choke me, bruises on my neck and broken vessels in my eyes from the lack of o2 and the pressure shutting down my trachea, more than once a batterer meant for me to die…. It shakes you…one held a pillow over my head for extended time and only stopped when I played dead. so I have real trauma about not being able to breath.. To this day before I go to sleep I panic about not breathing in the night and hyperventilate before going to bed, its like a ritual. Lots of gasping breathes to make sure I’m well oxygenated before I shut my eyes.

    Not breathing is a terrorizing thought for me but I have this hope..that came from another terrorizing experience.
    I’m really claustrophobic but have to have MRIs and get drugged in order to do so if I push the button to be let out I’ll only have to repeat the process. Even getting drugged I feel like I’m being put in a coffin and I’m going to die in that tube. tears of exertion and sweat roll down my face from trying not scream .. One time I prayed and told God, I can’t do it its too much I can’t.

    A truly miraculous thing happened, Since I had to drive myself home they couldn’t drug me, I asked Jesus to carry me through this because it is a sort of emotional suicide to lay on the table with my head still in a plastic frame. Jesus hold me, hold me Jesus, Jesus hold me I said in my mind and a funny thing happened, the image of a green field came into my view, by still waters, and sheep and a shepherd and being led gently through the valley of death. My whole body went into such a deep meditative state that I fell asleep and woke up with the test ending feeling refreshed. It doesn’t always go like that but it puts in my mind it is possible for breathing to end while felling deeply peaceful….

    So… death, Jesus is going to have to carry me like He did in that MRI. And whether I have the faith or not, I’m going to pray that one of those mysteries we don’t understand, can’t explain and don’t deserve happens for me. Your post caused me to remember that MRI, my own fear of death and see whatever it is, whether I believe or not I will be comforted in the valley of the shadow of death.

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    • I’m very sorry about what happened to you in that “church”. That preacher was definitely evil to do that to you. I was reading on the website I linked to, that Jesus was only short and impatient with the Pharisees–the religious legalists of the time (the equivalent of the fundies today). I do see and have experienced so much hypocrisy, and intolerance and judgment from fundamentalist churches. If you question anything, it’s always a self righteous, “it’s in the Bible.” That never helped me AT ALL. I’d just question why the Bible was the word of God since so much of it made no sense to me. It still doesn’t make a lot of sense, but the website I linked to is explaining A LOT and doing it in a way that is NOT judgmental or legalistic and speaks to me on an emotional level. I think a lot of people are turned off to Christianity because of all the legalism. Another thing I noticed about this site, is the author says Jesus is only judgmental toward NARCS–not anyone else, not even people of other religions. Hell is also a fiction, and not Biblical at all. No, not everyone goes to heaven, but there is no hell. If you are displeasing to God you simply die and don’t have eternal life. This brings me a lot of comfort and makes sense to me on a logical and emotional level. The concept of Hell is used by legalists to terrify and control. A person can’t be a real Christian if they are serving God out of fear and terror of going to Hell. WHy would a just and loving God send most people there, just because they don’t accept him? That would be a very narcissistic God and God hates narcissism. It would make a hypocrite of him. There are so many other things from this site that explains so much to me and brings me relief and a feeling that I’ve been lied to by so called “Christians” who are really just legalists. Some may be sincere and truly believe what they do, but they are being controled by evil, hateful people who have turned God into an angry and jealous monster who hates humanity.

      The really interesting thing is after I wrote that post, I had prayed all day for some kind of enlightenment and a resolution to all my misgivings, and then I found that website. I’ve never seen anything like it before and I believe with all my heart God sent me there to learn the truth. I feel like my religion, for the most part, is leaning in the direction of a loving and just God, and the emphasis in recent years seems to be taken off the legalism and threats of hellfire and brimstone, so it’s not perfect, but I love my church and in combination with sites like this, and the ability to read the Bible with a new set of eyes (of God as a loving God and not a punishing one) I can finally find spiritual peace.
      Thank you too for sharing your miractulous story about the MRI and seeing the green pastures. I believe in miracles and believe Jesus will step in when we sincerely ask him to. He does love us.

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  8. I’m so glad that you found the Jesuswithoutbaggage site. I don’t know it but will look it up. As a scapegoat HSP with “religious” narc parents, I grew up immersed in the protestant church. As a result of the hypocrisy that I saw in my parents and among some church members, I walked away from established religion. But God came looking for me and through HIs love and kindness to me, I learned to believe and trust in Him.

    What I really wanted to say about your post is this: Perhaps, like me, you have great difficulty trusting others and equal difficulty believing when someone says that they love you. All because of deception and betrayal at the hands of narc parents (in my case, particularly on the receiving end of a covert narc mother). I was raised on a steady diet of guilt as far back as I can remember. It made it so hard for me to believe that God really was able to love me, forgive me, support me, protect me. But now I have all the proof that my fearful heart needs because, through the course of 30+ years, Jesus has never given up on me. Sometimes, I cannot feel Him near and I’m afraid of death, but He always comforts me eventually. Maybe this time of waiting for comfort while still believing is part of what faith is all about. Many places in the Bible talk about “waiting” on God.

    God IS so good, yes He is. I thank God that he answered your prayer through the Jesuswithoutbaggage site. There’s also a very good book by Max Lucado called “Traveling Light” that speaks about God’s loving care of us based on Psalm 23. I will have to spend the rest of my life, I think, asking God to help me walk His path and no let myself get detoured. Worry is such a wasted effort but I struggle everyday to not get sucked into worry. God has asked us not to worry. Another great but tiny book is by Corrie Ten Boom called “Don’t Wrestle, Just Nestle”,

    I’m glad I found your “haven”. Your experiences and writing are a help to me as I’ve just had to severely limit contact with all family in order to protect myself. I just read your post about HSPs and Narcs – Match made it hell – I’m not sure if I remember the title correctly. I’m doing a lot of reading online these days and a lot of leaning on God for strength. It’s nice to meet another sister in Christ, and I wish and pray for God to hold you by your right hand every day of your life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jackie,
      I love your reply. Yes, I have read Max Lucado, he is wonderful. I’m so grateful I found this website yesterday. It’s exactly what I’d been praying for and brings me great comfort. Much of what we’ve been taught are lies intended to control and frighten. The only thing Jesus hates is narcissism, and the only people Jesus was impatient with was the Pharisees, who are the equivalents of today’s legalistic churches that continually threaten eternal punishment. Please read my reply to Katie, which I just posted.
      Thanks for finding my blog and your kind comments. 🙂 Have a great day.


      • Thank you, Lucky. I just read your reply to Katie. I grew up the daughter of a Baptist music minister – not too distant from fundamentalists but maybe more “asleep”. Even though some inexcusable and terrible things take place in churches, I’ve met some true loving Christ followers there. I don’t know if I will ever be able to worship in a church again, but I do worship and pray in my own way quietly. I think God understands my limitations and the reasons why I shudder at the thought of going to any church.

        I have wondered, myself, about hell’s existence and recently read in Luke 16:19 a passage where Jesus describes the fate of two individuals. He does speak of Hades (hell) in various places in the New Testament. I don’t wish to contradict anyone else’s interpretations but wanted to share what I’ve read.

        There are many things I don’t understand, but I take great comfort in what Jesus said to his disciples about the Holy Spirit (verse is below). I believe there are people on this earth that may never hear a word about Jesus, but I believe His Holy Spirit is able to communicate with any person whose heart is not clouded by evil. I, too, have trouble believing that God operates in a legalistic, unmerciful way.

        John 16:13 (New American Standard Bible) where Jesus says:
        “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.”

        I think what matters most is that our eyes are on Jesus. His Spirit is able to teach us all that we need to know : )

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  9. Hi Lucky, I read your post here and all the comments. Though you have had great struggles, it seems you address them very reasonably and intelligently. And you express your thoughts very well–both your feelings of distress and your thoughtful responses to them.

    I am a 64 year-old cancer survivor (so far) and have no fear of death at all, though I certainly empathize with those who do. It must be terrible. I am very impressed with your blog–you are helping a lot of people.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for commenting, and for your kind remarks too. I’m also VERY impressed with your blog and still reading. I think it’s going to be my new addiction lol. I’ve never seen your approach before (except in liberal Christianity which requires nothing from you and says everyone is going to heaven, which I don’t believe either). Your words and explanations of the Bible are like a breath of fresh air to me and helps me A LOT with my phobias about death and religion.

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  10. Pingback: Death, dissociation, Prince, and loss of control. – Down the Rabbit Hole

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