It might be an old meme, but it’s just so perfect right now.
It might be an old meme, but it’s just so perfect right now.
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.
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.
My Fear of Death
I practically live on my laptop. But this morning, when I tried to start it, I kept getting a message saying Windows couldn’t open because a fan wasn’t working.
I panicked, not only because of my two blogs, but also because I’m running ads online right now for a new roommate to move in after Oct. 1 (my roommate is moving back to Florida). I pretty much live paycheck to paycheck, and my car needs repairs (I’ve been driving the company vehicle for the time being but it’s really only for work purposes). I was all set to take this thing over to Geek Squad tomorrow and worry about the price later, and I told my roommate I needed a few minutes a day to borrow her Notebook for a few days so I could check my messages about the room (and write a short, sad post saying there wouldn’t be any new posts for an indefinite period of time).
I always thought my roommate was sort of a mental lightweight, but she actually is smarter about computers than me. She had me take the battery out and clean up its compartment, and blow a fan into the vent area in the back (where the fan is). Both were caked with dirt and now it’s working fine. So that’s one thing I can stop worrying about for now. I felt pretty stupid, but that’s better than not having a working computer. I need that like I need a hole in the head.
Oh, wait. Maybe I do have a hole in my head — where “common sense” should be. 😳
Over the past few days I have been extremely anxious, even panicky. I can’t focus enough to write anything or do much of anything else either. I really have no idea why or what might have triggered it.
Last night instead of writing anything, I poked around on nostalgia sites, reminiscing about the things of my childhood, particularly the snack food. My childhood was terrible, but I have fond memories of the various sugary and salty foods I ate (why in %$#& did Buitoni ever stop making those awful but delicious toaster pizzas? Where’s a chalky, non-chewy Giant Sweet-Tart when you need one?) and the toys I played with (those over 45 or 50 or so will remember that Fuzzy Wuzzy soap that grew “hair” just like a Chia pet and had a small but high quality prize inside). These memories bring me a measure of comfort. Things seemed so much simpler before everything started going to hell about 30 years ago and hearts began to harden and greed became good because a movie character named Gordon Gecko said so. Life has just become way too complicated and stressful for someone like me (although I couldn’t live without the Internet, which for someone like me is the best thing that could ever have happened).
Sometimes I feel like I just can’t cope anymore. I’m so tired. I’m getting old. I have too many unresolved psychological issues. I worry about the future constantly. I have a pervasive feeling of nameless dread, as if something terrible is about to happen.
I don’t know where these feelings come from or what might have triggered them, but I feel like a raw nerve and even at work have been jumpy, quick to take offense to everything, and paranoid. I have too many disorders to function well at a job for any length of time, especially when it comes to dealing with others. Sometimes I just wish I could go off by myself and live as a hermit, never having to deal with anyone, but for that you need money and I have no money. I’m caught in a no-win situation.
The job might be part of the problem. I’m burned out; I hate my job. There. I said it. I hate the politics at work, and the favoritism. I’m not a favorite. I have never been a favorite at any job. I can’t play the game; I have never been able to play the game. I wish I didn’t have to work, or could just write and make a living that way. But I can’t, not yet anyway. I don’t want to look for a new job because I know it will be as crappy as the one I have, that I’ll still be forced to deal with people I dislike and who dislike me just as much. I’ll still feel like the odd one out, the employee who is most expendable and always overlooked. I’m so ill suited for the service industry but I can’t get my foot in the door for anything else. I burned all my bridges a long time ago, and now I’m well past 50 and it’s too late to start over in an employment situation or going back to school. My only hope left is to become a professional writer.
The DBT and self-soothing tools I normally use to focus and center are not working. My thoughts are racing and my hands are shaking. My sleep has been fitful. Maybe it’s the heat but I think it’s more than that. I feel like my head will explode. I don’t know what’s really going on with me right now. I need to find a good therapist. I need to be in a relationship but am too scared. I need to write more.
One thing that might be contributing to my high anxiety is caffeine. I’m addicted to coffee. I’m craving some right now, but I don’t think I should make any. I might have to cut down on my favorite beverage–a prospect which itself causes me anxiety.
I spend most of my free time holed up inside the house on this laptop, which is fine when I’m actually being productive, but last night all I did was poke around on random nostalgia sites and Facebook and wrote absolutely nothing. And then felt guilty about it.
I know what I need to do is go out, do something outside the house, get off the computer, but I don’t have the motivation.
Finally I got the idea to just write about my panic-stricken state. After all, this blog was intended to be my therapy, so what have I got to lose?