I was back in for a pretty major surgery on November 15th, this is a blog in conjunction with the healing process.
Death. It was not a pretty moment. I did not see puffy clouds, a golden village, or feel warm fuzzies as my last breaths happened. I writhed in pain. I was terrified.
When I speak in front of large groups of people the one question that is ALWAYS asked is, “Do you remember dying?”.
We have this insatiable need to know the unknown. I am a pretty open book. Where I struggle each and every time is discussing this very significant moment (or series of many moments) in my final moment/s of life. Just writing about death makes me want to close the lap top and grab a double IPA or take my crutches and walk in circles around my fireplace humming the theme song to Friends until my pain is so severe I fall asleep until morning.
This last surgery awakened my memories in ways I hoped would stay asleep. Perhaps having an empathetic connection to my younger self is valuable in the fact that I stink at suppressing anything, thus forcing me to in one way or another deal with my “crap”. I am a control Freak. If you are also a control freak you will in some ways empathize with me when I say I hate being out of control. I am more than certain with my Irish roots I would be an alcoholic if not for my control issues. I need to know what is happening at all times within my body and my surroundings, and that’s a major problem. I have learned time and time again I can’t know what is about to happen, or what is happening.
I have chosen to live my last 7 plus years of new life (since I was brought back), working on accepting my control issues. I learned the lesson loud and clear while being locked in a coma, that I did have a say so in what was happening to me. You read that right. I may have been locked in that state on a respirator with tubes feeding me and draining me however my soul was very much alive and present 24/7 of each and every of second of those five hellish weeks. I could not move my limbs, I could not speak, I could not focus my eyes on anyone or anything, I could not understand words clearly, but your damn straight I was in there, and I was in control in a very indirect way.
Our beings are so very strong, created by a creator who breathed into the lungs of our ancestors and awakened our spirits and souls. We are interwoven with thousands of years of other humans who have walked similar paths, struggled with similar afflictions, felt pain, sadness, joy. We are woven with ancestors that exhaled their last God given breath and now live on somewhere in eternity. So, what was it like to die, and why do I not want to talk about it? It was horrifying. I have vivid memories of the entire trauma until I arrived at the emergency room and then the pain became so severe I blacked out. I did not see heaven. Perhaps this is because my soul was in a limbo state as CPR Was being administered. Perhaps I did not remember heaven because I was too hopped on medication, (Damn that Fentanyl).
Did I feel the presence of a divine creator? I did. Did I feel a peace? Eventually. However, that peace was disrupted as I awoke with the world blurred and my lungs expanding. I knew I was alive, but I felt lost in my own being. My fight reflex kicked in and I clung to the peace of those my soul recognized, and I dug into my library of memories to play in my mind hoping they would cross into dreams when I fell asleep. When my body fell asleep rarely did my dreams of love cross over, the fear in my mind and the pain crept in. I would become overwhelmed with horrid dreams over as my mind whirled with confusion. Every dream was one of excessive violence, however I never gave up in any of my dreams. I fought through every dark moment.
The reason I’m purging this is to come to the point of dealing with depression, anxiety, and panic issues. The reality is that death is inevitable. God gave me one hall pass, however eventually I’ll get up to go to the bathroom and get denied.
Dealing with a thriving mental health diagnosis has been eye opening. First, I know I am far from alone as I type this from being the only person that deals with a fear of stillness and the unknown. Whether you’ve had a near death/death experience or not, we all fear pain and the unknown. It shakes us to our core.
When something bad happens, we want to know the facts:
We need to make sense of tragedy to talk ourselves out of something terrible happening to us. Something that use to come up in therapy for me was learning how to deal with panic attacks when they were “in infancy phase”. I remember my therapist saying to me “Did you tell yourself you are safe?”, and I answered her “we are never safe”.
She looked at me with her caring eyes and said “well, for the time you would be”, and I said “no, we are never guaranteed to be safe for any certain time, I think that conditioning ourselves to tell ourselves we are safe is a farce. We are never totally safe.”
So why in the hell am I a motivational speaker? This sure seems dark. Yep. Life is pretty intense and raw, and we make choices. I hope in dealing with my own life, it might help you deal with yours. No one wants to scrub the bottom of the pool. Nobody wants to skim out the nasty floaters. Reality is, I will forever have levels of depression, panic, anxiety, and fear. If you are reading this, you will probably always have some affliction that nags on your body and soul every day. I have learned to reach out and tell people and tell myself when I am not ok.
I have learned to be angry, to be sad, to be scared shitless, and then know it is time to keep moving. In this deep woven blanket of humankind, we are all so interconnected. It is ok to talk about deep things. We live such surface lives because we fear judgement when in the end each and every one of us will indeed be judged in one way or another. I am writing this, so I think, we think, about how incredibly purposeful our lives are and incredibly imperative it is to be kind to one another, support one another, and love one another. I have way too much time on my hands post operatively which is why my brain is opened up like a playground with an entire classroom of sixth graders. I know that my active lifestyle is a way for me to keep not only my body active, but also my mind from not going to those dark places. I know the concern with always being on the move and choosing NOT to be “inactive” with mindful practices such as yoga and meditation is that my mind doesn’t know how to process in a calm manner when stillness is forced. I adore the idea of yoga, and if half sessions were offered I would take them regularly. Making my way through and hour of yoga and quiet creates a rouse of emotion and feelings that are unable to be dealt with through breathing alone and inevitably erupt into a mild panic attack.
So, this brings me back to the here and now. I know what I am going through is indeed temporal, eventually I’ll be strong enough and healed that I will be walking without crutches again, driving, running, cycling, swimming, dog walking, and jet setting to talks around the world. In the mean time I have this intense honor of sitting in my pain and processing. Not everyone feels comfortable opening up about being uncomfortable, not me. I long to share the power of this messy and beautifully connected world with you. If I am judged for it, and I am sure I am, so be it. I know that in being honest, many people are knowing they aren’t alone. That makes my heart smile.
Is processing hard? Yep. Does it make me sad? Yep. Do I know if a year from now I’ll be able to still do this work, write another blog, hug my husband, and breathe the fresh air? I don’t know. I do know I will cherish every raw unfiltered moment with you, because we are on this journey together, and together we are unbreakable because the human spirit never dies. I know I am a child of a loving creator and someday this world will all make some sort of sense.
Until then, Ubuntu.