Last June  I had my first psychotic episode; during which I tried to kill myself. I know that sounds highly dramatic, but that’s what happened, apparently. I say ‘apparently’ because I have no memory of it. I left work two hours early one day and when my husband came home at 5pm I was nearly unconscious and vomiting profusely from alcohol and pills. I had also been cutting myself. What I remember is going home at 3pm and then being in a hospital bed at 11pm. Then there’s another blank space followed by being at home about twelve hours later. Roughly eighteen hours are missing; though it was a very active eighteen hours. I’m amazed at the thought of being physically present for such a momentous occasion as my near-death while remembering nothing of it. It’s like seeing yourself in pictures in a place where you can’t recall being.
The entire episode is something that puzzles me. It’s been a bit over four months and I’m just starting to get my head round it.
What I’ve been thinking about most (besides how badly I feel at scaring K, my husband, so much) is when people say, regarding death, “At least they didn’t suffer.”
Suffering can only be appreciated from the point of surviving said suffering. If I had died that day I would have had no memory of being crazed or whatever was going on and so it wouldn’t’ve made any difference if my last moments were spent shouting at the universe or quietly meditating. Suffering before death is only important to the people who are still alive. Once you’re dead that’s pretty much it. Whatever pain you are in ceases to be once your heart stops beating. I used to be of the mindset that a person not suffering just prior to death was vastly better than being in horrible pain just before. Now I see that doesn’t matter. This is a good thing and this is why…
I’ve known two people who were murdered. One was killed during a robbery at his workplace and the other was killed in his bed while he slept*. I used to think, “Well, at he least was asleep and had no idea what happened,” and, “Christ, how horrible to know you’re going to die–to spend your last moments fighting and pleading for mercy.” But now I see those thoughts are only tormenting/comforting the living.
In Judaism, the funeral service and shiva are for the living–to support those still alive–not really for the soul of the person no longer of this earth like in Christian ceremonies. The deceased has far better things to be getting on with. I’ve always found wakes and Christian-style funerals to be wrenching to no good purpose, though I can see why some people feel compelled to say goodbye to their loved one. I would not begrudge people wishing to say goodbye to me even though I wouldn’t have been in the room for some time.
Unlike the previous post (a quote from a dear friend) I have no great concept of what happens when one dies other than decomposition to the organic matter from which one came. To me, you get your time on Earth, spend it as you will. When you’re gone some people will remember you kindly and others won’t care one way or another. That’s fine with me. Hopefully no one will be actively glad I’m gone, but if that is the case, I won’t give two shits by that point.
The idea of suffering v. not suffering prior to death not being of any consequence was a real eye-opener for me, as I’ve been socialized to think that one’s last moments are best if they are peaceful. It’s better to go quickly rather than painfully. Now I see that’s more about the living. The people who survive you don’t want to see you suffer–they don’t want their last memories of you to be horrid. Your last memories won’t count for anything because you won’t know about them once you’re on the other side.
You may say: You’d feel different if you’d actually died, but I have. I was clinically dead (drowned) when I was five years old. I remember the drowning, but there was no white light or whathaveyou. That experience was similar. I was swimming, swimming, swimming and then nothing and then I was on the beach, awake and surrounded by people. No breathing or heart-beat for several minutes. Death is a nothingness that happens when it happens. In many ways I find this comforting…
Anyway, just some thoughts I wanted to put out there/down for my future self.
*For those who care–the people who murdered my brother-in-law and my friend have been put in prison.
[This post is from a previous blog. Original post date: 18 October 2007]