My mother told me about how I nearly died of spinal meningitis at the age of 18 months. I don’t remember it but it scared my mom. A lot. She had lost her oldest child a few years before in a playground incident involving a small knife and another kid. I realize now that I may have discovered FEAR at 18 months. Fear of dying and fear of life.
I was in a psychiatric hospital for very troubled kids when I was 8. Anxiety issues. Scared shitless of everything. Kids locked the teacher or monitor outside a play room and the kids, finding it hilarious how I would cry, held me outside a window by my legs. I remember it vaguely. Mostly how I could see the parking lot very far below. Like in a movie I felt the hands slipping, the frenzied yells of the adults outside the door then the door bursting open to rescue me before the hands slipped too much.
Was that a near death or just possible death experience?
I think I was out of school that winter when walking a dog on a pond I thought was frozen, I fell through. I remember the highway far away. Houses as well. The dog looking down at me from the ice edge. The darkness. The oddly warm black water mud sucking me down. Seeing the sky above. Feeling shock that I was going to die. Die and nobody would ever find my body. I have always felt how funny it was that I was glad the dog did not fall in with me. There is a gap of memory. Like something edited out. I remember being on the ice. Face down. The hole behind me. The dog excited to see me. Rising, looking around. Nobody in sight for hundreds of yards. The muck that had risen to my hips freezing on my body. I was in shock as I walked that 2 miles home. Walking with frozen clothes. I tried to beat the ice and mud out of them before I went into my parents house. I think I down played it all fearing my parents anger. They had lost one kid. That was too much for them. All my life I have wondered how I got out of that hole in the ice. When I was a god believer I thought god or angels had done it. Now an atheist I think… some things we will never know. All my life I have pondered that incident. What deep profound meaning did it have on me? I was too young to figure it out.
Shortly after that time in years. Still living with my parents. Maybe I was 19 years old. I had had panic attacks on a job my dad had got me. I could not go there anymore. It was pure fear. Dad screaming at me. I could not bear it anymore. I heard of how someone had killed themselves by accident with some cleaning chemicals, mixing them by accident. Oh that sounds like a good way to go. I got the chemicals I had read about, went into my parents basement and added some together. It was not enough. Suddenly I felt myself slammed up against a clothes dryer and then looking down on myself from above. Or so it seemed. That tunnel of light thing and looking down then going back to my body. At the time I was sort-of religious. I knew about that whole out of body thing. Wow… I HAD DIED AND COME BACK! Later as now, I changed my mind about all that: It was simply the brain, deprived of oxygen freaking out and then finding oxygen and coming back to a normal only mildly freaky state of mind. I was shaken-up for a long time. Maybe I feared my dad less having faced death and feeling stupid for trying to kill myself. Maybe I felt more of a loser because I had fucked-up my own death. At the time I felt I had been a loser in life and then a loser with death. It stuck with me as you see.
I used-to go out drinking with a former best friend. I had a decent job by then and he was sponging off his wife after he got out of the army. I was the stupid friend. Very gullible and thinking my friend so cool because he had been in the army. I was a fool because A) I was buying the beers and booze all the time and B) THE IDIOT DOING THE DRUNK DRIVING! The brush stroke happened one summer night when my friend and I were out driving late at night. VERY DRUNK. Nothing bad could happen. I was with my trusted friend, right? HE said something like hey there’s this old abandoned gravel pit. Let’s go skinny dipping over there. Wow! When drunk it sounds like a GREAT idea! We got there. I parked. Stripped. Never done anything like that. I remember asking where the water was. He told me something about “over there”. I SOBERLY remember running and jumping when I saw it was a… CLIFF. I had no idea what I was jumping into. TOTAL DARKNESS beyond the ragged cliff edge. I sit here remembering falling. I could not swim but also… I jumped off a cliff not knowing what was beyond and beneath. It could have been water. Rocks far below. Old machinery and garbage. I fell into water. Nasty mucky water. There were people sitting on the edge of another cliff edge I could barely see. I somehow climbed that cliff face with rocks falling around me. Rocks thrown at me. I got up over the cliff edge with my friend I think shocked at what a crazy stupid thing I had done. I was in shock too. SOBER SHOCK. All booze and beers adrenaline burned out. Went to look for a tire iron to go after the stone throwers. Never been a violent person but… “adrenaline”. My friend and I got into the car and I drove him home then myself. I have no idea how I survived that jump off a cliff into the unknown.
Stupid shit luck.
It didn’t make me quit drinking. I kept on for years. Eventually I quit about 19 years ago. On my own. I got tired of being stupid. Using it as an excuse. I love being sober now.
In May, 2017 I got a cold. Simple thing. It was running it’s course. One night lying in bed coughing, I felt shock waves of pain in my left leg when I coughed. There was a dark area beneath my left knee where a large mass of varicose veins were jumbled like a veinous traffic jam. The dark area was painful and hard. Above it, an inflamed line going up my thigh toward my groin. I found it difficult to walk. Went to an urgent care place and the idiot with an M.D said I might have a blood clot. I went to another M.D and he said yes I DID have a blood clot. Much dramatic talk about how it could break off and go into my lungs and heart. Bye bye life with drama. A week later I went in for an ultrasound of my legs. Yes one big clot and a partial near my groin in a surface vein ready to fall off into a large deep vein. Appointment made to see a hospital specialist a week later. Should have been sooner the specialists told me. That clot that was about to fall DID fall creating a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Serious shit. Life threatening. I did not know HOW much so until I read the docs faces. They offered me a deal: Save your life by stabbing yourself with needles of $80 a shot medicine. Lovonox. I could have had someone else do it for me. I faced it myself. Pull off cap, pinch belly skin and inject blood thinner. THEN take a pill later. Warfarin. A component of some rat poisons. I gave myself 2 shots a day for 12 days. 1/4 inch needles. Freaky. Over my mind that gun talking to me: Either you thin the shit out of your blood and let your body eat the clots or you fucking DIE just like the docs said you might. I had to get blood tests to see how thin or thick my blood was. After 12 days I got to stop taking the shots. I was screaming on the way home. JOY! Only pills now… After a month the redness faded in my thigh. It was a dead vein and my body absorbed it. NOW my body is slowly absorbing the big rock-like clot. For a long time I could not bend my knee. Now I can. I can walk normal. Better than in years.
IF you got this far, you wonder what this is all about. Maybe something about death.
I recently went back for a follow-up about my blood clots. They are going but it seems I have propensity for such things NOW with the sick veins I have in my legs. Big bulging and varicose. In the follow up I found that the docs were not trying to scare me about the death stuff. Before blood thinners it was fairly common for people to die of those things. Blood clots. They still do. I have made a great recovery due to diet and drugs. Healthy life style. Blessing and a curse. Good health but must take blood thinners for life. Oh hey added side benefit: I did not die from the clots. Yeah I can imagine people saying “oh the poor bastard got clotted to death!”
Oh yeah – the meaning of all this writing and personal dark sometimes stupid history:
I have always been a very anxious person. Terrified of simple drives into the big city. Hospitals especially. My brother-in-law drove me to the hospital back in May. No panic attack while there. In July my oldest brother needed me to drive him from the ER due to some problems and later back to it. Years ago I would have balked and begged to not help. Chicken shit me. THIS TIME I jumped at it. Read a map and DROVE. A wrong turn once but I did ok. When I had to go back for my follow-up, I drove alone. Only used a parking structure once but I pushed PAST AND THROUGH MY FEARS and just DID IT. Yeah old me acting like a scared kid I was but I did it.
I bought an exercise bike a few days before I went back to the hospital. I KNEW I was doing good. I started biking and going for walks. Had to quit for a week due to exhaustion and back pain related to work.
You see what the Light Brush Stroke With Death has taught me is that fear is bullshit. So much is what I have ONLY IMAGINED. I feel like it has less meaning to me and that LIFE HAS MORE MEANING.
I read that one way of facing fear is to see fearful situations as, “ADVENTURES”. It helps. My whole big clot thing was a big adventure.
Death is not to be feared.
So many freak-out about possibilities of dying in a nuclear war and they miss life while they are fearing death. Life goes on while we are paralyzed by our own fearful imaginings. If we do die, life simply goes on without us. It happens constantly to others.
I do not fear death so much as I now fear not having lived enough. Loved deeply enough. Given enough.
I recently got a small cut on my arm and only noticed it when I saw a pool of blood under my arm as it rested on a table. Blood thinners. Years ago I would have panicked. Now? Fix it and find it interesting.
I have looked back on my life and instead of looking for deep deep meanings in the possible death scenes simply found one simple meaning to it all:
Stop thinking about it and LIVE.
Live as healthy as I can as a salute and thank you to life for this life and the many opportunities to BE ALIVE.
Drive wisely to avoid death.
Don’t fear death but live to avoid it.
Live with GRATITUDE.
That kid could have laughed so hard he could have lost his grip.
My bones could be in that pond to this day.
The docs may not have saved me when I was a baby.
I could have drowned, been crippled or killed jumping off a cliff drunk.
There were other times when I was drunk and stoned I did things I cannot remember but lived through. Times maybe I could have killed someone else.
Whatever happened in the past, look around you around ME with gratitude and stop being afraid because that fear clouds our ability to appreciate the present blessing of this moment ALIVE… ALIVE I AM ALIVE !
No I was never shot at or hospitalized with cancer. No wars survived. I had my little scrapes and scrapes of stupid. I spent a life looking for deep answers and it finally came to me:
Fear clouds the vision to see and appreciate life and be grateful to simply LIFE for all I have… WE have.
I have constant small aches and pains from aging now but they are the pains of BEING ALIVE and at times I grin and feel them as nudges to remember, “hey asshole – you are still alive so enjoy that next breath!”
Breathing is not given enough credit.
To be alive is to breathe.
I once read that the only cause of death is that we “quit breathing”. I often remind myself that: That no matter how bad things may seem, if I am still breathing then I am doing pretty damned good!