Death is the inevitable conclusion to life, as we know it. Experienced by all, loathed by most, this phenomenon is quite possibly the most important contributor to the shaping of anyone’s worldview.
The avoidance of death is the primary driving force behind life. The experience of a close relative or friend’s death can bring on some of the strongest emotions that human being is capable of producing, or it may numb you to the core. The event can be traumatic enough to induce or significantly worsen a mental illness, but it can also bring about life-altering positive revelations.
Death is one of the most interesting and mysterious aspects of existence (or inexistence), yet it is a topic that is often swept under the rug as quickly as it was brought up. I like to drag it back out.
On September 18, 2007, my mother died. She had spent the better (or worst I should say) part of six years battling infection and other complications of diverticulitis. At her time of death she was a shadow of her former self, and was mercifully unaware for the final few weeks. I suspect that I was hypomanic during the time around my mother’s death, because there is little else to explain my reaction.
I felt incredibly relieved, happy, even thankful that this woman could finally detach from the frail body that was holding her prisoner. These views are perfectly fine in many cases, but my level of enthusiasm was alarming, as I could find no flaws in death. I was completely content with the situation for a few weeks, until the inevitable crash of reality happened. Still, even when I was emotionally stricken by her passing, I have always been thankful that she did not linger anymore than she already had.
Fast-forward three years and one week; a friend of mine falls to his death in a freak accident. He was under 30, in his prime, and with one misplaced foot he was gone. I was already quite down when this happened as I was having some relationship issues as well as difficulties dealing with the anniversary of my mother’s passing, during the same period. I became despondent, possibly even delirious. I wasn’t suicidal but I was personally identifying with death, becoming absorbed in the concept in a feeble attempt to control my reactions. I could literally feel death inside of my head, I saw it in everyone, and all of my thoughts were colored by its influence. The fog wouldn’t lift for weeks.
Now the anniversaries are coming up, and I’m feeling relatively stable. It helps that a lot of good things have happened in my life recently. I’ve found a source of income that could potentially sustain me while still being within my limits, and my personal relationships have been incredibly stable. With this view I can see that death itself is a good example of having bipolar traits.
Each death affected me in a completely different manner (due to the circumstances surrounding them, and my state of mind at the time), and neither was healthy. I still relate with many of the ideals I expressed during the time around the death of my mother, but I realize that there are aspects of both views that are completely valid if they are considered together. I get into trouble when I go to either extreme, and really, isn’t that the way with most things in life?
Good vibes all,
Photo by Don LaVange, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.