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Question
Posted by: Al | 2011/11/20

Death

Sorry if this seems like rambling but I''m writing this in the midst of a panic attack - only because I feel like I can describe my experience best that way. I fear death.

I wonder why I exist. Life suddenly seems empty and meaningless. I picture death as this void of nothing. All my accomplishments can be nothing. Everything I know now will be gone. It''ll come whether I''m ready for it or not.

I look at the people around me and wonder what I''ll do when they die - because they have to. We all do. I wonder where they go, where I''ll go. Why I can''t remember anything before my birth and if death will be like that?

I tried to find some sort of comfort in religion (but I know that believing something doesn''t make it true and for all I know religions could have been created simply to deal with the same fears that I have now - I can go into a discussion about the Gods and archetypes but that''s another story).

Death is inevitable. It suddenly becomes my greatest fear and I realize that it''s the one I can''t escape. I''m trying to enjoy life while I can but then this sudden horrible fear hits me.

I''m not coping well, Doc. I wake up at four in the morning and end up rocking myself back and forth usually saying the same thing over and over again (most of the time something like: " Can''t die. Won''t die. Not ready. Not now. Why do we die? Why do we live? Pointless. All of it." )

I started cutting again because the pain focuses me.

I''m manic depressive and I potentially have a panic disorder. I''m honestly terrified. Nothing comforts me anymore - and even though I''m slightly suicidal at times it would be impossible to go through with because it''ll only bring the fear closer.

In case you''re wondering, I''ve experienced some bad things with death. My mom had a heart attack and I had to see her being given CPR, I almost died after an operation and had to be given CPR myself and three people I talked to regularly online died - one I was extremely close to. This happened all in maybe two years.

Some people talk about this white light. I never saw anything.

Would I be committed for this? Put on something like Lithium?

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

At first, I'm wondering whether this fear of death is usually a part of your panic attacks, or more broad and wide-spread, and separate from the panic attacks.
Panic attacks are sudden outbursts of severe anxiety, as you well know, and often, by their psychological and physical effects, they cause one to fear that one is about to die, soon, or go mad, or both. Maybe this experience has sparked off the broader questions.
But lets also look at the broader points you raise. For instance, whatever you achieve in life remains achieved, whether or not you're there. Maybe you won't individually be remembered for all of them, but that's a matter of celebrity, not of achievement. The house you live in was built by someone, maybe not you, and that house remains, even after the other guy has gone.
Yes, you can't remember anything before your birth ; but that doesn't mean that nothing happened before your birth - just that there's a whole lot of history of which we don't have personal memories. Gosh, I'll bet there's masses of what happened in your own life which you don't remember. Recall exactly what you had for lunch 3 years ago today ? Maybe not, but it doesn't mean you didn't eat lunch. Those are issues of memory and recall, not of what did or didn't happen.
As you've recognized, if one concentrates too much on the fact of death, you fail to enjoy life until then, which is really a gross missed opportunity. You seem to be assuming that life must be meaningless UNLESS it lasts forever. Is that really so ?
No, you wouldn't be committed for such concerns.
But proper treatment is surely an excellent idea. You mention manic depressive - you need to see a good local psychiatrist for a thorough assessment, and a proper diagnosis, then a discussion of treatment options. If there is manic-depressive / bipolar disorder, there are many options which could help ; ditto for depression and panic disorder. In addition to mdes, of course, you should be helped to find a good psychologist to work with you psychotherapeutically, to help unravel the negative traps you have built for yourself, and to find a more positive way to enjoy life again

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

2
Our users say:
Posted by: Dave | 2011/11/21

It sounds like your going through an existential crisis. A lot of people (myself included) battle with the exact same issues and to an extent it is normal to think about them. However, an underlying mental ilness such as panic or bipolar disorder can aggravate this by causing you to rumminate and think irrationally about things. There are a lot of things that we simply cannot comprehend as human beings as it is completely out of our frame of reference with death being one of the biggest of them.
Good luck and remember you are not alone

Reply to Dave
Posted by: cybershrink | 2011/11/21

At first, I'm wondering whether this fear of death is usually a part of your panic attacks, or more broad and wide-spread, and separate from the panic attacks.
Panic attacks are sudden outbursts of severe anxiety, as you well know, and often, by their psychological and physical effects, they cause one to fear that one is about to die, soon, or go mad, or both. Maybe this experience has sparked off the broader questions.
But lets also look at the broader points you raise. For instance, whatever you achieve in life remains achieved, whether or not you're there. Maybe you won't individually be remembered for all of them, but that's a matter of celebrity, not of achievement. The house you live in was built by someone, maybe not you, and that house remains, even after the other guy has gone.
Yes, you can't remember anything before your birth ; but that doesn't mean that nothing happened before your birth - just that there's a whole lot of history of which we don't have personal memories. Gosh, I'll bet there's masses of what happened in your own life which you don't remember. Recall exactly what you had for lunch 3 years ago today ? Maybe not, but it doesn't mean you didn't eat lunch. Those are issues of memory and recall, not of what did or didn't happen.
As you've recognized, if one concentrates too much on the fact of death, you fail to enjoy life until then, which is really a gross missed opportunity. You seem to be assuming that life must be meaningless UNLESS it lasts forever. Is that really so ?
No, you wouldn't be committed for such concerns.
But proper treatment is surely an excellent idea. You mention manic depressive - you need to see a good local psychiatrist for a thorough assessment, and a proper diagnosis, then a discussion of treatment options. If there is manic-depressive / bipolar disorder, there are many options which could help ; ditto for depression and panic disorder. In addition to mdes, of course, you should be helped to find a good psychologist to work with you psychotherapeutically, to help unravel the negative traps you have built for yourself, and to find a more positive way to enjoy life again

Reply to cybershrink

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