A letter writer finally has everything she ever wanted… only for terrifying thoughts to start creeping in.
Our elder has some strategies to break free from these fears.
I used to be severely depressed for about five years but ever since I’ve received help through counseling and medication I’ve been a lot better in the past year and a half. I have really become content with my life and everyone and everything in it. I am 18 years old and am a senior in high school (which I know is young) but I really am enjoying myself. I am finishing high school, waiting to go to college. I am really happy with my family, friends, and boyfriend. Mentally, emotionally, physically, and financially everything is amazing. I feel like everything has been so peaceful and stable in the past year and a half to two years and my future seems bright and laid out.
I feel so secure right now that I keep thinking that I’m going to lose all of that. I keep thinking about dying and fearing death or losing my memory. It makes me terrified that sudden death could just happen out of nowhere. I’ve never really feared death before in my life since I was depressed for so long and wanted to die. Now that I’m truly living out my life the way I want it to be, I am terrified of it. I keep reading online about after death experiences and watching documentaries about dying. I can’t stop thinking about it before I sleep that I feel like I am becoming an insomniac. It’s been eating away at me for a month and I’ve even considered becoming religious to cope with the terrifying idea of death. But even then I know I’d be lying to myself since I’ve been reading too many scientific articles about how there’s no afterlife/heaven (no disrespect to religious people, and I’ve been atheist all my life). Basically this entire ordeal eats away at me and makes me feel like none of these amazing things in my life even mean anything and also that the people in my life are going to die. I feel like reality is distorted sometimes too and keep thinking about how crazy fast time keeps passing by. I have terrifying dreams about dying and aging. I don’t know why I can’t stop and just enjoy my life since everybody dies anyways. Somebody please help and sorry for rambling without much structure. How do I cope with these feelings of anxiety? Should I seek out religion? Should I talk to someone?
I’m sorry to hear that you are struggling with this new challenge after coming so far from where you started. The Elders are always here to listen and offer advice, and I will do my best to offer some suggestions for how I think you can overcome this challenge, too.
Coming to some kind of acceptance about death and dying has always been a human challenge. Certainly, the feelings you are having are not uncommon, especially in young people who have their life ahead of them, but when those feelings begin to dominate your daily life, it is indeed time to ask for some help.
First, I strongly suggest that you discuss the dreams and the increasingly obsessive thoughts with your psychiatrist or doctor who is prescribing your depression medication. I think you should find out if this thought process could be a side effect of your prescription since treating depression involves the chemicals of the brain. Perhaps this fixation is a result of some imbalance that can be adjusted to lessen the impact you are feeling.
Second, talk to your counselor about the specific fear you have. In a way, you are like a lottery winner who has gone from nothing to an abundance of good stuff. Having a life that you must have dreamed about when you were depressed may seem too good to be real or to last — and “dying” would certainly be the ultimate way to see that end. While your intellect understands that the chances of you dying young are statistically very slim and not worth much worry, your mind is recycling thoughts that it is just around the corner because you now have what you’ve been working for. Your counselor can help you with ways to block negative thoughts that lead to more negative thoughts, and perhaps also help you realize that you are worthy of all of the good things that are going on in your life now.
Finally, to address your discussion of the religious belief in the afterlife versus no afterlife, I think that whatever you believe is what you believe. Certainly, religion gives comfort to millions of people, but there are also millions who are comfortable with the thought that there is only life and death. My personal thought is that we all should live our lives being the best humans that we can be, and what happens after we die doesn’t matter so much. However, every individual must find their own definition of the great unknown. If religion interests you, I certainly think that you should find out more about it because it can be so much more that just a theory of what happens when we die. In any event, at some point I hope that you feel okay accepting the fact that our time to be in our physical bodies is limited.
I can remember feeling some panic and worry at about your age about dying or losing those people that I loved. But, as time passed, and I continued to grow older and more comfortable that I was worthy of living a good life, those fears left completely. I think you can find the same path with just a little help and support right now. Don’t give up, you can do this.
I wish the very best, and remember that we are always here to listen if you need us.
Letter #: 434823