Thanatophobia Or In Laymen’s Terms a Fear of an Inevitable Part of Living…Death

For as long as I can remember dying young (as in before I’m 92 and have seen my great grandkids) was always my #1 fear. Was…it IS MY #1 FEAR! I can’t even remember how old I was when I would plan for earthquakes, fires or other natural disasters before I’d go to sleep at night.

  • Clothes laid out so I could be dressed if I needed to run out of the house? Check
  • Shoes next to the clothes? Check
  • Items of particular importance (depending on age these changed) next to the shoes? Check
  • Is there anything that could fall on me and pin me in my bed? Nope good
  • Is the path to my window and door clear so I can run? Check

    img_5681
    Me at probably 6 or 7…if you asked close family they’d tell you I was always “cautious”

Seriously this was my nightly routine, every night. My family home has a huge tree in the backyard and during storms I’d move my sleeping arraignments either to the playroom across the hall (which didn’t have a tree that could potentially fall on me) or into my sisters room which was also across the hall next to the playroom. By the way I’m 7 years older than my sister; so here I am a teenager crawling into bed with my 7 year old sister during a wind storm because I’m afraid the tree might fall on me in the night.

A huge limb from our large tree in our backyard destroyed our trampoline, had it fallen in the other direction it would’ve destroyed the roof.

I also suffered from night terrors and would routinely wake in a panic that my mom or some other close family member had died tragically right in front of me, I had graphic dreams and a strong imagination so these episodes were horrific. Panic stricken and scared to death to close my eyes I’d lie awake until I either passed out from exhaustion or had to go to school. I loved to sleep but I feared what would happen when I closed my eyes.

Flash forward to the year 2012, I had an awful case of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth which caused me a lot of pain. It also shocked my nervous system and sent me into complete and total panic attacks. On my birthday that year, after a wonderful trip to see the Mariners play I made my husband (who wasn’t my husband at the time) take me to an ER in Longview because I literally thought I was dying. Nope just a really a panic attack. That wouldn’t be our last trip to the ER during the next couple years because of a panic attack. I eventually had to be put on anti-anxiety medications to help me keep from having panic attacks as I drove to work. I feared I’d just up and die while driving and kill someone else with my car. It was a really hard time.

img_5675
Danny and I at a Mariner’s Game for my birthday…within 5 hours I was in an ER thinking I was dying…really I was just having a panic attack.
img_5678
This little bottle has been a lifesaver when my anti-anxiety meds are just not enough. Plus it’s safe for children, babies and animals!!

Then I got pregnant and my anxiety went away.

However, when I birthed the most beautiful baby boy, my anxiety returned. I forced myself to stay awake for almost 2 weeks straight because I was convinced that if I went to sleep he’d die. Tragic right? I couldn’t even enjoy those blissful moments because I was so scared of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Those were some tough days. I was so absolutely paranoid that I wouldn’t even utter the word “SIDS” so telling my husband or family/friends why I was bat shit crazy from lack of sleep was not an option. Now sleepless nights only really occur when my son is sick and then the panic sets in like a bad dream. You hear of healthy, happy children dying from the flu every year. You hear of healthy, happy children getting cancer. It’s a tough world and since he’s an only child I live in a constant state of fear that my child will be taken from me. No parent should EVER have to bury their child.

img_5679
Can you see the exhaustion in my eyes??
img_5672
This is how I would spend all my time…staring at my son. Not just because he was beautiful but because I was so scared of what would happen if I stopped looking.

 

So then 2016 happens. I’m starting to live a healthier life, I’m really working through my fear of death and what I call “dark thoughts” (those thoughts that make me lie awake all night because I fear my son will suffocate in his blanket) with my acupuncturist and BAM I get cancer!

img_5670
First chemo…I’ve mastered the “Smiling on the outside, freaking out on the inside” thing!

 

Seriously! Are you F-ing kidding me?

Nothing jolts you quite like facing your worst fear head on. Guess what I don’t want to die. So when everyone commended me for my positivity and strength through the last 2 years, just know that it’s pure STUBBORNESS! Basically my positivity is like telling the cancer to F-off because I’m not ready to die.

I DO NOT WANT TO DIE.

I REFUSE TO DIE.

Lord do you hear me? Please, please do not let me die. Not before I get to see my grandchildren and my great grandchildren.

My refusal to die also extends to some of the people I’m closest to. My mom, dad, sister, grandpa, grandma, husband, child, besties…if you could hear my prayers when I’m on my knees during mass, or when I make a pit stop at the Catholic chapel to pray, you’d pretty much hear me praying for two things:

  1. That those closest to me will live, LONG, lives.
  2. Financial security…”Lord let me be able to pay our bills and buy that cute outfit I saw on Instagram!”
img_5677
My grandpa is my hero!
img_5671
My beautiful and wonderful mama with little man.
img_5680
4 generations! My grandma is my best friend and is ALWAYS there for me.

 

Usually I’m not even praying for myself. Most of the time I’m praying for my grandpa and grandma and my son (sorry honey you are on my prayer list but they are unfortunately at the top). They are my world. Seriously I cannot fathom life without them. I’ve told my grandpa this, as recently as yesterday, that if I could give anyone eternal life I’d give it to him. He’s the backbone of the family and my hero. Right now my favorite great uncle, my grandpa’s brother, is fighting for his life. I was so lucky that I got to spend a few hours with him in April (when he was healthy) while I was at a conference in Tulsa, OK. Before that it’d been almost 5 years since I’d seen him. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a super close relationship, but mostly it was distance holding us back. Yes I should’ve been calling them, yes we kept up on social media, but at this time I look back and wish I’d done more. I’m sure that he would’ve been my best bud had there been less miles between us. This has put a lot into perspective.

img_4331
My great uncle Larry, my great aunt Sammie and I in Tulsa this past April (2018).

 

Dying is inevitable. Living in fear of death is like living in fear of breathing. It’s taken a lot of years for me to openly discuss this fear that I’ve carried with me for as long as I can remember. It took getting cancer and having to come to terms with my own mortality that pushed me to open up. My relationship with God has been tested because of my fear of death. I may have my Faith but it changes nothing. I still wake up in a panic because I had a nightmare that my mom died or I relived my little Pomeranian Penny Lane dying in my arms from heart failure as I ran into the vet (by the way that dream is awful and I wish it’d go away for good). I still check that all the fire alarms are working and that there’s nothing that could strangle or suffocate my son in his sleep. I still wake up and check on my husband in the night to make sure he’s breathing.

img_5683
This is me and Penny Lane about 5 months before she tragically died of heart failure, she was barely 4 years old!

 

The burden is real. And exhausting. Knowing that every day that I get older, so do my grandparents and parents, is hard because the fact of the matter is we all die.

**On a more comedic note if you or someone you know has access to the fountain of youth I’d be eternally grateful for the information. xoxo – Coop**

Leave a Reply