I was having a sneaky read of The Guardian at work today. The topic was death.
More precisely, our fear of death.
A lot of the comments suggested that what people feared most was dying a painful death.
I don’t fear pain. I sleep with pain, wake with it and have lived with it everyday day for the last 8 years.
And no, I don’t mean spiritual existential pain, but actual physical pain.
Pain I can come to terms with. Yes, it grinds you down, can make you numb. But it’s known.
Pain is not the thing I fear about death.
I fear the idea that I will cease to exist. That the thing that makes me me, can and will vanish.
Where will I go? Where will my thoughts go? How can I just not be here?
To vanish into darkness, how is that possible? I mean really? How can the sum total of all our experiences and feelings over the course of our lives just disappear in the blink of an eye?
Maybe there’s a heaven, or at the very least an afterlife.
But maybe there’s not.
What if there’s not?
Sometimes self harm looks like suicide.
Typically we cut and there’s blood and making yourself bleed means you want to die. Right?
Then it’s very small leap to make to think that instead of just self harming, you really do want to end your life.
I remember, not long after my eldest child was born, sitting in the bath as he screamed in the next room. I remember my husband treating me with disdain as I asked him to help me with the baby.
“He’s your kid” he said. “You wanted him”
I remember feeling confused. Wasn’t he the same man who openly wept as he held his tiny child for the first time only weeks before?
Entirely hopeless, my mind buzzed as I broke open the disposable razor. I hated the sensation of the sharp edge against the thin skin of my wrist. I hated the sting.
But the red blood signified something. It offered something tangible.
“This how I feel!” Help me.
And in the other room the baby still cried, and somehow that lonely noise pulled me out of myself.
He was alone too. And whatever I was doing there in the bath, in my despair, placed him at risk.
What if I did kill myself. What if I died and he grew up to blame himself?
That was not a burden I could put on him. I was hopeless and floundering, but I couldn’t abandon my helpless child.
The blood didn’t mean I wanted to die. It meant I needed help.
It would be a long time coming.