What Does True Fear Look Like? Fear from the Perspective of a Near-Death-Experience Survivor
DISCLAIMER: When I wrote this, I was very emotional and it was late at night. I still mean everything I said in this blog post, but this isn't meant to demean or belittle anyone else's trauma or illnesses. This was me attempting to process what I was going through, and recognizing the fear I felt in comparison of what I thought real fear was before, even though here, the anger and frustration I felt toward myself is targeted at someone else's experience.
There's a lot on my mind, and yet nothing at all.
I have something to confess.
I've been struggling a lot more than I would like to admit.
In fact, denial has been my best friend. Which is something I can imagine my therapist is none to happy with.
Ever since October, my first surgery, I have been incredibly dependent on my parents and family. Up until this point, I considered myself pretty good at asking for help.
This ruined that for me.
I have a very bad case of survivor's guilt. Which is odd, considering I'm the survivor and victim in this scenario. My heart has convinced me that this is all my fault. It's illogical, I'm aware. But, it's the truth of what I'm feeling.
And I hate to say that. I hate that I feel guilty that I didn't die.
For real. That sentence sounds horrible.
I'm not suicidal by any means, especially not after having an experience where I literally almost did die. I'm not saying that at all. I don't want to die, but that doesn't mean I'm necessarily enjoying being alive either. My brain and heart are in a high-stress conflict right now.
And, I get so mad. I get so mad, because I was watching the news the other day, and this patient who had recovered fully from COVID-19 was on. And, he was a completely stable case the entire time. He was never ventilated. The doctor's compared his case to mild pneumonia. So, please don't take this the wrong way.
But, I will never forget what that man said when he was being interviewed. He said he couldn't sleep because he was so stressed and anxious that he was going to die in his sleep. Which, 1) why wasn't he sedated and forced to sleep? Being sick like that, and being awake all night every night only makes things worse, and 2) the illness was not keeping him awake nor truly harming him. It was his own anxiety. He made it worse. And I understand better than anyone anxiety is a nasty beast that can be very hard to deal with.
But, seeing that interview made me furious. Not because he had and recovered from COVID-19. I'm sure that is a stressful and traumatic experience, and I don't want this to be taken as me belittling this man's mental health and problems. Because I'm not. But this is what I'm feeling because of it.
I was furious.
How dare he? was the thought that ran through my mind. How dare this man, who had an over-glorified stable case of pneumonia act like it was the end of the world, after the fact? How dare he make this big explosion over how he thought he was going to die because his chest hurt and had a mild cough? How dare he act like he was on his deathbed when he had a completely treatable case of COVID-19?
I was so angry and hurt that I cried with fury.
How dare this man, this man who wouldn't know death until it looked him in the face, pretend that he experienced that?
None of you, my friends, my family, anyone reading this, not a single one of you will ever know what death looks like until you are there yourself. He wouldn't be acting the way he was if he had truly been on his deathbed.
No one knows what it's like to be laying in a hospital bed, seeing your friends visiting you, but not really seeing them. Not truly remembering. No one knows until you're so delusional you start yelling out your name and birth date because you think the nurse is coming in to give you meds when there isn't even a nurse there.
No one knows until your nurse forces you to get up to go to the bathroom and you have tunnel vision. You can't even see the nurse. And when you go to sit back up after taking off your underwear, the world goes black. Poof. Gone.
You will never know true fear, the true feeling of being on your deathbed until you wake up, surrounded by doctors and nurses and you start crying because you don't understand what's going on and you don't know where your mom is. You can't see her, and there's so much movement that you cry. You can't really see, nothing makes sense, but then your mom shows up and you start to cry and the only thing you can say is, "Mom, I'm scared."
And she says, "I know, I know."
And then you see it on her face too.
There was this fear on my mother's face that I wish I had never seen because I will never unsee it. In that moment, I knew exactly everything my mother had to lose.
You don't know fear until your body is in so much pain that you can't even feel it.
You don't know fear until you can't fully remember what happened. Only bits and pieces, and things that people told you.
You don't know fear until you're laying on your back in an ICU bed, with your grandmother holding your hand, and the bed is so big but so small, and you see your mom's face, but you also can't.
You don't know fear until you hit the point where sensation is but a concept.
You don't know fear until the room starts to disappear again, but this time it's different than before.
You don't know fear until you are so tired of fighting. You are so tired of fighting that you don't want them to fix you. You just want it all to be over. You're ready for it to be over.
See, the funny thing is, being on your deathbed doesn't look like what everyone thinks it does.
Your life doesn't flash before your eyes.
You don't relive all of your good and bad memories. You don't see your regrets. You don't have any at that point. You're just too far away to care.
Your brain is so high off of itself, locking out the pain, projecting hallucinations, giving you that sense of comfort, because it's time. It's time for you to go, and it's not going to be painful for you. Because that was a gift God gave us. That was the gift. You won't hurt.
Do you want to know what I saw in those early hours of the morning? Those hours where I was fighting the anesthesiologist and the surgeon to stop because then I could just rest? In those hours where I was so afraid that I became unafraid? Those hours of my life that I will never forget?
I saw sunflowers.
I was standing in a big, open field of beautiful, amazing, wonderful sunflowers.
I was the person I always pictured myself to be.
It was so warm. It was sunny, and bright, and everything was yellow.
I was wearing a straw sunhat with a green-ish yellow ribbon tied around it. I was wearing a spaghetti strapped pastel yellow sundress.
I was barefoot.
The wind blew in my hair.
All of the pain that I didn't even realize was pain was suddenly just...
You don't realize how painful it is to be on earth, to be away from the One Who Created You, until you're with Him.
You don't know, because you never get to experience it.
But I was with God.
I placed my hand on my hat, holding it in place. I was smiling so big. So broad.
So, at peace.
And in that moment, I knew with all of my heart, mind, body, and soul if I had turned around, I would have seen the face of God.
But, as I turned, it was all over. I didn't make it all the way around.
If I had, I know with everything I am, that I would have died.
And I know, because of my separation, because of all of this, because I almost died, and for a moment, I wanted to, I know that I have PTSD. I have PTSD, I have Survivor's Guilt. And that is so hard for me to admit.
I've been mulling it over how to share this with everyone who reads my blog, because I just couldn't form the words. I couldn't admit it to myself. I couldn't do it.
Now, though, it's something I'm taking very seriously.
It's late, and honestly, I should be going to sleep, but I'm going to talk for a little bit longer.
I'm doing everything my power to create that connection I'm missing and restore the hurt that the trauma has caused me.
I have vivid flashbacks, I have nightmares, I shut people out, I criticize people, and above all else, I struggle.
I am but a human. I make mistakes. There is no true way to restore that connection, and it will be something I long for until the day the Lord comes to take me Home.
But, I have found Victor Hugo has said it best.
"And remember, the truth that once was spoken: to love another person is to see the face of God."
Written: April 21st, 2020 at 12:12am
Current Read: The Last Wish
Current Binge: Community
Current Listen: The Les Miserables Soundtrack