Content Warning: Death and Dying
I have always dreamt of dying gracefully. By using the word gracefully, I didn’t mean dancing or doing yoga at the time of death. And I don’t mean to imply that I have a death wish, I don’t. I want to live a long life if I am fortunate enough. By gracefully, I mean my attitude. I want to be thankful during the process of dying. I want to rejoice in the beauty that was and will continue. I want to be grateful for all that I have seen, done, experienced and that I was loved and knew that love.
Nine days ago I was in the E.R. for seven hours – the diagnosis was diverticulitis. My heart raced with fear and anxiety. For several days afterward I had to take an extra dose of medication to deal with that anxiety. My mental health was harder to deal with than my physical discomfort.
I realized that I might not die gracefully, not because of a lack of thankfulness or gratefulness but because of a mental illness that often dictates how I feel.
I can desire to be happy, carefree, or in the case of my wish for how I face death, grateful and thankful. But if anxiety overcomes me I will be unable to express those feelings, and to me, that is the most tragic part of having a mental illness – at times it robs me of who I am, what I stand for, the very person I long to be.
I am rarely bitter about having schizophrenia, and I rarely feel sorry for myself. I do think it is difficult to live with an illness that has a high level of control over my attitude. When I am anxious it is hard to be humorous; it is hard to be kind and loving and supportive. Of course, anxiety is only one symptom – psychosis is in a whole different realm. When I am psychotic which happens far less frequently than anxiety, I am not myself at all. No one can rely on me. I can’t be trusted to be “the Rebecca” that people know, love, like or dislike. I am a different person entirely. But it isn’t psychosis that I think will disrupt my dreams for how I wish to live and die – antipsychotic medication does fairly well to keep me from a full-blown break with reality. I fear it is anxiety (which is much more prevalent on a daily basis) that will steal the most from me.
When people profess and preach, that you can think yourself to happiness and health it is an ableist attitude that disregards those of us who have thought disorders or those people who have a physical disability. I can no more think my way to happiness than I can swim across the Pacific Ocean. I have an illness in my brain and believe it or not; I can’t think my way out of it.
Photo by ** RCB **