Tag Archive: Death


Near Death Experience

The other day I watched a David Nichtern video, it was one of three on something called Lojong Mind Training (they and others can be found here), which was a new term to me, from Buddhism, but apparently it is pretty foundational and important. I can’t remember everything it involves so I won’t reduce it by trying to explain what I can remember, but he said something about getting old and dying. He said that we can expect to live to about 70-90 years old. That was the span, but he mentioned ages in between which, for me, brought it into sharp relief. I’m 56, and I calculated the years between now and 70 years old and realised it is only 14 years. That brought me up really sharp. When you are 56, 14 years isn’t a long time, especially if you think that could possibly be the end of it all, as far as life’s opportunities on earth are concerned. I had watched another of his videos previously on old age, sickness and death and it had nowhere near the same impact on me as the mention in this video.

I thought about it, this sudden awareness of how short a time I had left, potentially, and I thought that from now on my life is, literally, a near death experience.  Many of us are afraid of death all our lives, sometimes manifesting in denial or defiance, from the point we understand it is going to happen to us.  People say that young people think they are immortal and will never die.  When I was young I think it was something I couldn’t get my head around, that I wasn’t going to live for ever and that, one day, I would be like a lot of the older people I saw.  I still can’t, really.  I have moments when I dread becoming incapacitated and being alone with it, maybe put into a care home.  I can’t imagine anything worse, given my own experiences in hospital and the stories of abuse that somehow manage to get out and go public.  It’s a bit like the way some people view mental illness.  It’s scary as a concept but they hope and think it is never going to happen to them.

I’m a pretty isolated person these days and, in some ways, always have been, so I don’t know how much I have in common with other people in this, it isn’t something I remember having talked about. But when I was in my teens I had this idea that I wouldn’t live beyond 20 or 21.  I just couldn’t see life beyond that point.  I wondered about it a lot.  Maybe it was a bit of a Victorian novel idea of dying young, and I suppose that, psychologically, that sort of thing might be described as a near death experience in the way I’m using the term for this post.  But it is very much an ‘in the mind’ thing.  I’ve known for a few years now that I have lived most of the life I am going to live.  I feel as if I’ve achieved nothing and there are things that are important to me, I like to think, that I would like to achieve, and potentially I now have ONLY 14 years left in which to do it.  Possibly even fewer.  Of course I don’t live with that intense awareness all the time.  If I did I’m sure it would be unbearable for me.  But, at the moment, it can loom over me like a sense of impending doom and fear of failure.  And I see myself beginning to understand and handle and cope with my life experience better than I used to, like little shoots of hope and growth, then I hit a wall and have these crashing waves of despair and regret and feelings like it is all a bit pointless to begin to feel this way NOW when the time I really needed it and it could have made a real difference in my life and perspective was when I was much younger.  It’s like, ‘what’s the point of this, now?  I’m going to die soon.  It’s too late.’.  It is preceded by real joy, but the joy is quickly extinguished in painful feelings of hopelessness and fear and it being too late, and that death is very close and ready to pounce.  Often, along with that, there are feelings of, ‘why didn’t I get this before?’ and ‘what have they done to me – and why?’.

I didn’t mean to end up here.  I feel as if I had better stop, I’m not sure where else to go with it.  I’m OK, though.  If some of my friends felt able to help me laugh about it that would probably be the right way for me to deal with it.  It feels that way at the moment, anyway.  Laugh at life’s tragedy, at least your own.  It’s the way forward.  As the song says, ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’.  I really think that, to a great extent, it’s a choice.

I hope you won’t mind that I have written this way and that some of you might find it helpful. Thinking about it, I’m thinking I might be describing what has often been termed a mid-life crisis, though maybe I’m past that age, I don’t know.  These days at this point I feel as if I should do a Google search.  Communication and accessibility of information are definitely changing since the birth of the internet.

And ANOTHER of my messy offerings flies into the ether!  I do love to write, though.

At Home

I have been in my new home now for a week and a half.  I’m sleeping on the sofa because the bedroom is full of boxes, and I have the radio on a lot.  I can’t have the tv on at the moment because I have to find my Freeview box.  I’d rather find it than buy a new one but in reality it might be like looking for a needle in a haystack, it could be at the bottom of a box that ends up going straight in the shed.  The nurses on the Assertive Outreach team have been helpful, yesterday they put my table together for me, so now I can eat sitting down instead of standing in the kitchen.

The gap in the kitchen for the washing machine is too small by 2 centimetres, so at the moment I am waiting for them to contact me to visit and assess the job to have it widened.  They have been making excuses about why they’re not getting in touch.  My Moving Forward worker has been trying to get them to contact me for about 3 weeks now.

I’ve been feeling ill and very lonely.  I was with other people in hospital for two and a half years, I’ve got used to being around people, even if most of the time I felt I was being bullied.  I’ve forgotten how to cook nice meals, and the kitchen is so small I have to close the kitchen door to get into the fridge, and there’s not much cupboard space.  I had to have one big cupboard with lots of shelving taken out because it was in the way of the fridge-freezer space. Gone are the days of eating in the kitchen, now I have to eat in the lounge.  There is really only room for one in the kitchen.  Whatever was wrong with my old flat, at least it was huge in comparison with this.

I left hospital with about eight big black bags full of stuff which are still sitting in half of the lounge.  At least as a bungalow there is no noise from upstairs, which is good, and so far the neighbours are quite quiet.  I wish someone would play some loud music, that would give me permission to do the same, at least occasionally.

I fell asleep this afternoon, and I dreamt that my grandmother was lying in bed behind me with her feet intertwined with mine.  I dreamt I thought that I didn’t want to lose her and thought about going to the doctor for her.  I actually lost her when I was 16.  I don’t remember I’ve ever dreamt about her before.  It seems like a huge coincidence that I dreamt about her on Halloween.  Tommy Boyd said that when pagans celebrate Halloween they remember the dead, people they have lost.  I was afraid that my grandmother had come to collect from the other side, and that maybe I didn’t have much longer to live.  Just because it is Halloween . . . .

I don’t know how to finish this.  I’m not a very good writer so I suppose the best thing would be to acknowledge that and just finish it here.

Robin Williams RIP

Today I like so many others mourn the death of Robin Williams.  It came as a complete and unbelievable shock to me in the midnight news last night.  Robin Williams, the world has been a better place because you were in it. Your depression got the better of you, but you were an inspirational man.

Like so many people I laughed at Mrs Doubtfire, the man who was so desperate to be with his children that he pretended to be a woman to become their nanny.  It was light and entertaining but with a serious message to the children that sometimes mummies and daddies split up but still love the children.

Dead Poets Society, Awakenings and What Dreams May Come are some of my favourite films.  Serious films with serious and heartbreaking material.  I don’t remember as much of them as I would like to, a lot has happened since I saw them.

What Dreams May Come made quite an impact on me, as Robin Williams, the man killed in a car crash, is guided through the afterlife and told that everything he sees around him is the product of his own mind.  He goes on a rescue mission to hell to save his wife who died later through suicide, and he is reminded that all the turbulence he is experiencing is also the product of his own mind.  It is a very painful film, showing the pain of interplay between the wife’s surviving world after the crash and his attempts to comfort her from the other side.  There is a scene where he embraces her from behind and she screams.

Awakenings is a fictionalised drama based on the true account by Oliver Sacks about some victims of encephalitis who have been catatonic for years and then a new drug wakes them up to a new life.

In Dead Poets Society Robin Williams played the part of an English teacher who sought to inspire his pupils through poetry.  He tried to draw out their individuality and self-expression.  He was later fired after being blamed for the suicide of a boy who played Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream against his parents wishes.  The boy had wanted to be an actor but his father had wanted him to go to Harvard.  It was a traditional school where Keating (Robin Williams) used to go himself and he was challenging the system.

I liked Robin Williams because he could play roles where he was both moved and moving.  I found all three of these films completely absorbing.

Death is always hard.  Suicide is harder.  I asked some people this morning if they had heard about the death and most of them had.  I asked a couple of the domestics if they had heard and they ended up saying it was selfish.  I was horrified by the judgmentalism, especially from staff working in a place like this, it made me feel sick.  Robin Williams was loved, and for good reason.  One of them said it wasn’t as if he didn’t have a pot to piss in.  Depression can affect anyone, regardless of their status.  I was disgusted by this.

I have been heartened today to see and hear the tributes to him.  I feel as if I am going to be affected by this news for the rest of my life.  One person I didn’t expect to be going anywhere soon was Robin Williams.

I’m a Christian.  I have been taught to believe that Christians go to heaven and non-Christians go to hell.  I don’t know where Robin Williams stood with things, but I hope God will be merciful.  I hope he will rest in peace.

Coping With the Unavoidable Passing of Time

I can identify with this tonight.  I’m moving away from being vegan, or even vegetarian.

The Seeker's Dungeon

I compromise my
truth with lies in order to
take step after step,

breath after breath as;
I caress my illusions
with death after death.

Grasping fantasy
as I compromise my truth
with lies, illusions

sooth the pain of a
soul whose warden can’t accept
life ticking away

– victimize every
lesson as I compromise
my truth with lies. Bent

on self-destruction
instead of realization
of truth; perceptions

are all moot when to
great lengths I’ll go to hide, that’s
why I compromise

my truth with lies, and
become the person that I
had once most despised.

 

For the Weekly Writing Challenge: Haiku

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In a sermon called ‘Final Words’, David Shearman’s last sermon as the Senior Minister at the Christian Centre in Nottingham, David talked about a man who had come to Talbot Street several years before claiming to have a message from God that was to be delivered to the people and not run past the leaders first.  David would not let him speak without first telling him, and when he tried he was drowned out.  He left in anger shaking the dust off his shoes, literally, saying the Spirit had been quenched.  David or another leader said yes it had, but that it was his spirit, not God’s.  He went to another church where, apparently, he caused a stir, because he was allowed to speak without checking it out first.  Eventually the man came back to Talbot Street apologising and asking for forgiveness and David said of course he forgave him and said ‘let’s pray’.

What worried me was what David said next.  It worried everyone else as well, because it was followed by several seconds silence.  I don’t know that it worried everyone for the same reasons.  What he said was, ‘he didn’t live very long after that’.  It seemed to me that he was saying that God had judged him by ending his life early.  He didn’t say that, but the suggestion seems to have been there.  Someone said to him in the past that he had noticed that if anyone opposed David things didn’t go well for them after that, and David told him he had learnt a good thing or that he had done well to notice it.

The Bible has stories of people’s lives ending early in judgment, even in the New Testament, so it isn’t easy to oppose the idea of it happening today.  But I do think it is rather dark and unhealthy if David was putting that idea out in relation to himself, especially given that the man had come back to ask for forgiveness.  I also think it is dark and unhealthy to be trusting the church to new leaders with the impartation of such an idea as his parting gift and reassurance.

I’ve thought about this several times since hearing it.  It is only over the last day or so that I have thought I might have misunderstood, and read something in that wasn’t intended, but in light of what he said before it isn’t unlikely that I understood it right the first time.  And if that is what he is saying about a man’s death, it makes sense that that belief will translate also into how he treats the living.  Some of the living he treats as though they were dead, as do other ministers.  Faced with ministers who behave that way the ideas of love and forgiveness have become inadequate for resolving and mending relationships.  This has been my experience.

As well as this, I was in a meeting where he preached and talked about where God had said something like heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool, where is the house you will build for me?  He interpreted it as God challenging the hearer to build Him a house.  That didn’t make sense to me, although now I can see the possibility that that was the right interpretation, but I thought God was saying He didn’t need a house and trying to stop the would-be builder.  The only reason I am doubting my own interpretation is because we could be said to need a house in which to worship God in peace and safety.

This Is Madness

I’ve read a bit more of this book and I’m finding it very interesting.  For me one of the most important things it says is that with physical illnesses diagnosis starts with something happening in the body and ends up with the diagnostic concept, but with ‘so-called’ mental illness it is the other way round, that it starts with a concept and mental conglomeration in the minds of physicians and they then go looking for people who fit the concept, like crusaders.  The concept is fleshed out in committee and applied to individuals, rather than subjective symptoms first being recognised in the individual and a remedy sought.  That is my memory of what was said in the chapter called ‘Diagnosis’.

I’ve just ordered another book as well called ‘Untrain Your Parrot’ by Elizabeth Hamilton.  It is a well grounded and often humorous approach to Zen.  The book is in the Multi-Faith room at the hospital but we are not allowed to take them out, and sometimes no one is there who can unlock the cabinet where the books are kept.  It makes sense that the books shouldn’t leave the room, it keeps them available and in good condition.  I have found that when I have spent time reading it in there I approach things in a better and lighter mood.  I’m looking forward to having my own copy because I think it is something that I will read and dip into more than once

I’m a lot more open and self-controlled on the ward these days, but I still feel angry, hurt and frustrated at what I see happening with other people.

I’ve got a bad cold at the moment.

We have started making approaches to accommodation.  It seems to me it could move either very quickly or more slowly than I would like.  I would like it to move quickly.

I’ve been reading a few ‘Freshly Pressed’ selections and really enjoying them.  They are so interesting.  I just read one called ‘There was no escaping his father’s words’ which made quite an impact on me.  It’s about a man who meets up in later life with his father who had told him that he was going from fad to fad and I felt those words from his father had partly shaped the man’s life.

I don’t feel able to write much more today.  I am generally feeling quite upset and that I need to cry.  That is what I usually feel inside.  I’ve had no intimacy for a very long time now, and I feel very much that I am getting old.  I am nearer death than birth.  For a wonderful period in my 30s I was unafraid, but now I feel a bit wobbly.  I’m not sure if I’m a real Christian, and I have been taught and believe that only Christians go to heaven.  I have not been taught to be a liberal, and my emotional attachments don’t really allow it.  I have been taught, and believe, that there is a hell for people who are not Christians.  I know to some people that will make me sound really archaic.  I have found myself praying that love and mercy will be my judge in the end, that love (God is love) will save me at death.  There is also the teaching that not everyone will die but Jesus will come back and some people who are living will be caught up to Heaven.  I suppose many people want to believe they will be among those who do not die.  I would like to live beyond 80, even to 100.  I’m afraid I will die much sooner.  I’m really afraid that I might go to hell, and I’m afraid that there will be no one who cares for me intimately when I die.  I have no children and no partner, and the only member of my family I am in contact with is my mother.  I would like not to feel so tired and worn out, and upset and vulnerable, and as if my time now is not worth anything and won’t be, that I have passed a point where there was a point.

Possible Side Effects of Abilify (Aripiprazole)

This is my medication and the leaflet in the box lists these possible side effects:

Common side effects (affects 1-10 users in 100) uncontrollable twitching or jerking movements, headache, tiredness, nausea, vomiting, an uncomfortable feeling in the stomach, constipation, increased production of saliva, light-headedness, trouble sleeping, restlessness, feeling anxious, sleepiness, shaking and blurred vision.

Uncommon side effects ( affects 1-10 users in 1,000) some people may feel dizzy, especially when getting up from a lying or sitting position, or may experience a fast heart rate.

The following side effects have been reported since the marketing of ABILIFY (sic) but the frequency for them to occur is not known:

Changes in the levels of some blood cells;

unusual heart beat, sudden unexplained death, heart attack;

allergic reaction (e.g. swelling in the mouth, tongue, face and throat, itching, rash);

high blood sugar, onset or worsening of diabetes, ketoacidosis (ketones in the blood and urine) or coma, low sodium level in the blood;

weight gain, weight loss, anorexia;

nervousness, agitation, feeling anxious;

thoughts of suicide, suicide attempt and suicide;

speech disorder, seizure, combination of fever, muscle stiffness, faster breathing, sweating, reduced consciousness and sudden changes in blood pressure and heart rate;

fainting, high blood pressure, blood clots in the veins especially in the legs (symptoms include swelling, pain and redness in the leg), which may travel through blood vessels to the lungs causing chest pain and difficulty in breathing (if you notice any of these symptoms, seek medical advice immediately);

spasm of the muscles around the voice box, accidental inhalation of food with risk of pneumonia, difficulty in swallowing;

inflammation of the pancreas, inflammation of the liver, yellowing of the skin and white part of eyes, reports of abnormal liver test values, abdominal and stomach discomfort, diarrhoea;

skin rash and sensitivity to light, unusual hair loss or thinning, excessive sweating; stiffness or cramps, muscle pain, weakness;

involuntary loss of urine, difficulty in passing urine;

prolonged and/or painful erection;

difficulty controlling core body temperature or overheating, chest pain, and swelling of hands, ankles or feet.

Adolescents 15 years and older experienced side effects that were similar in frequency and type to those in adults except that sleepiness and uncontrollable twitching or jerking movements were very common (greater than 1 in 10 patients) and dry mouth, increased appetite, and feeling dizzy, especially when getting up from a lying or sitting position, were common.

In elderly patients with dementia, more fatal cases have been reported while taking aripiprazole.  in addition, cases of  stroke or “mini” stroke have been reported.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~//~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If the symptoms listed are really seen as possible side effects I don’t like the fact that such chances are being taken with my physical health and even my life, no matter how slight the possibilities.  Twitching and jerking are symptoms of tardive dyskinesia, which in the case of Jenelle (see the last link on my Essential Links page) has put her in a wheelchair and is thought by doctors to be irreversible.

It is almost as if listing them in this way makes it OK to take the chances.  But as someone on this drug (and others act like it) I think it is dishonest and the worst kind of bullying to be told that this will improve my quality of life while these side effects, some of them resulting in death or incapacity, are possible.  Most of the time they can’t be bothered with us and they are not interested in how we feel or what we have to say.  That is the truth.  Psychologically and relationally they, among others, have abandoned us even while they have a duty of care.  They force these drugs on us while ignoring our requests and assertions that other things are the problem and there are better and different and less harmful and more effective answers and therapies.

My Imaginary Friend

I have a friend, at least in my imagination, that I always want to contact with sensitive and intimate information.

On Friday I was walking along Queensway/Bayswater Road and for some reason I was remembering the time when an old lady died who had always been in Church, never said much, or anything at all, that I remember hearing, but always, without fail, had a smile on her face.  I thought she was lovely and beautiful and serene.  I know nothing about her life.

I was remembering that, when I heard she had died, I went back to my grandparents’ house crying my eyes out.  When they asked me why I was crying and I told them, one of them said ‘what are you crying for?  She wasn’t family’.

I can’t remember who it was so no one can be betrayed by me saying so.  I can’t remember if and how I answered the question.  I know my feelings and crying were not affirmed.  For a moment in Queensway I felt the pain and the emotion again, and I wanted to write and tell my imaginary friend.

I believe my imaginary friend reads my blog.  Imaginary because we have never had a close up relationship, and imaginary because, except for when things seem very simple and obvious in his favour, I feel and believe and know that things are far too complicated.  It is imaginary because I am in denial, even having it as imaginary.

But there is pain in my heart as I am writing this, and it is always him that comes to mind when this kind of thing comes up and I want to tell him.  I used to write to him a lot.  Almost always, as soon as I started, I had to push through my ambivalence and anger to do so.  He knew that, I told him so.

I once heard him saying, in answer to someone’s question, that if someone attacked him (or something like that) he would hold them in a bear hug.  On my side there is often so much resentment, and on his there must be some exceptions, that even if no attack was involved not everyone would be treated equally.  Even if there are no exceptions for him, I think, apart from my imagination which tells me I am wrong in the strongest possible terms, that I would find it awkward and difficult.

 

 

49 Or 50?

49 or 50?

(Or, as I heard a politician say today, neither fish nor foul!)

50 IS a special age.  If they say it isn’t, they’re lying.

I just thought I’d get this in now to be awkward – here in Bulgaria I am 50 years and 1 and a 1/2 hours old.  In the UK I am still 49.  Which counts and why?

When I realised I was 50, I smiled.  It was automatic.

Then I looked at where I am and felt suicidal (I’m not exaggerating).

I don’t know why or if I’m right (I’m probably not), but I believe 50 is God’s age.  That is, a special age to God.  It’s God’s reaching of majority.  5 is, my tradition tells me, the number of grace.

Whatever anyone might pray for me or try to bless me with in the future, no one can ever give me back the attaining of my 50th birthday.  That has gone.  Reconcile that for me someone, please.

I feel embarrassed making a big thing of this, because now I’m actually writing it doesn’t seem that important.  I also feel as if it is an insult to God to be so faithless for the future.

But I still felt that way, and it still is a big thing.

Check out WordPress’s Freshly Pressed.  Awesome.

PS Premier likes playing a song which I believe they are at least in part directing at me, and it’s a big part.  I can’t remember all the words I want, but it goes something like:

“I have come . . . down the road of my own mistakes . . . wasted years” etc.

For balance, I have to recognise that I am not their only intended audience, or at least I shouldn’t be.  They also play songs rejoicing and triumphing over enemies.

They say it is always your choice, and the bottom line is, that is true.  Sometimes the choice can cost you your life, and the church won’t be on your side.

It seems to me though to be a rather polarised approach to the human condition, including our spiritual condition. Blaming yourself for everything is no less the blame game than blaming other people.

I don’t know any more of this girl’s songs, but I hope that isn’t her settled position towards herself.  The Bible doesn’t mind saying that sometimes other people are to blame.

And the ‘blame game’ (I got that from Anne Coles).  Is it REALLY a game?  Isn’t it a necessary part of owning responsibility.

Blame isn’t a game, it really exists and needs to be dealt with in all healthy and growing relationships.  It is, or at least can be, a heartbreaking experience.  But surely nothing is more deadening to the soul and spirit than to live in a fuzzy, wooey, vibrating mulch where no one is allowed to recognise that blame exists, and also that it might not belong to them?

You can’t just say, ‘let’s not talk about it, let’s not play that game, let’s go and watch a film/go to a restaurant/go out witnessing.

Fuck me, you bloody can’t! (trans. I feel strongly about this and want to cry).

Emerging From The Dark Night

Working through the Dark Night of the Soul to emerge as me.

The Elephant in the Room

Writing about my experiences with: depression, anxiety, OCD and Aspergers

The Sir Letters

A Tale of Love

The Seeker's Dungeon

Troubling the Surf with the Ocean

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