Death is my greatest fear. I expected to have this healthy and unworldly understanding of death after having my throat swell. That didn’t happen. Instead, I continued to become more afraid. Dealing with this fear isn’t simple. It’s not like a fear of heights. Not that that’s simple because I’m still afraid of heights. My point is, how does one overcome a fear of death? This has been the theme of my OCD, when it senses something as a fear in my life I get anxious. It starts to pick out things that aren’t threats. Identifying what’s real and what’s not is very difficult. Anyone who’s dealt with anxiety can understand that. So now I’m on a journey to overcome my fear of death.
My therapist and I work together weekly to combat my intrusive thoughts and anxiety around death. Exposure therapy works by exposing ourselves to triggers and then control the response to them. One example is bridges. Like I mentioned above, I don’t like heights and I’m scared I will fall. So what do I have to do? I have to stand on a bridge. It’s not that this strategy hasn’t been working, but I wanted to take a new approach. When I see a problem in the real world, I need to understand it. I analyze it, in order to make educated decisions about how to deal with it. I don’t understand death. I don’t understand why it has to happen.
This is where the work begins. When it comes to my illness, I have a whole philosophy about why and how. I trust the universe in a general sense but not in this regard. My therapist assures me this fear is natural. This fear hits people at different stages of life. I’ve never thought about death before. I’ve lost loved ones and the grieving process ended with acceptance. I didn’t look for a reason, I accepted that it was their time. I’m not religious other than practicing buddhism as a lifestyle. Adhering to what others believe won’t work in this situation. I need to find the answer for myself. Given, none of us will ever know the answer until we’re gone. What I mean is, I need to find the answer for myself. At the end of the day if it matches the Buddhist tradition, great but if it doesn’t that’s okay too. All this is a coping method.
Together, my therapist and I worked out how I could find this information in a safe and healing environment. Even discussing and writing this post makes me anxious. I’m writing it because based on the small number of people I’ve met with OCD this is common. It’s never discussed though and that makes it difficult to feel less alone within this struggle. One afternoon, after having a small meltdown about everything going on, it came to me. I need to talk to death. This may be too spiritual for some but this is how I deal with a lot of my problems.
Whenever a part of my body is hurting, I speak to it. I ask why and if there’s anything I can do to help. I apologize to it that I can’t help the pain it’s enduring and assure it that we’ll get through this together. That works well for me. It helps connect my mind and body. I also talk to the universe. I speak manifestations and goals. I may pray or send well wishes depending on the day. Much like believing in any religious tradition, it’s a trust or hope that someone or something is listening. It gives you some sense of control. How does one talk to death? This got me thinking on a different level, how do I view death? What do I believe about it? Multiple people suggested to me researching other cultures’ death practices. I haven’t started that yet, everything in moderation. Now I have a project. It’s changed the way I look at my OCD and fear. It’s given it a new purpose. Much like my illness serves a purpose, my OCD does as well. It’s been significantly more challenging to find but I think this is it. I don’t think I’ll ever fully get over the fear of death. I do think that I will be able to go days without having anxiety about it.
My point in writing all of this is to point out that everything has a journey. Everything serves a purpose. Baring my soul and literally my biggest fear is not something I enjoy. I do it because I know there’s not a ton of resources out there as far as personal stories or accounts. Anxiety is an interesting and complicated thing. For about two years, I thought I was rid of it completely but looking back, I still had it. I didn’t let it get the best of me. I don’t think I’m letting it get the best of me now but it’s trying. I’m ready to take back control, because it’s possible.