Still here

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This is the sign on my door. I’m reverse quarantined. My nice, marginally bossy nurse told me off sternly for leaving my room to seek out ibuprofen. She also won’t let me eat any fruit or veg with the peel on. I asked her to peel my blueberries to which she laughed mightily. So it’s bananas and tinned fruit for today. I’m looking forward to the tinned fruit, a little blast from an unhealthy childhood. I was too quick with my praise for the vegan menu here yesterday. It seemed no matter what I ordered I got lentil stew. The food lady blames the ‘main kitchen’ where they are all “lazy”.

I should get my bloods taken any minute and know by lunch if I’m in again tonight. I was really into staying last night but I’m getting a bit lonely in my hygienic bubble. I had my immune system booster yesterday and am feeling the dreaded bone ache today so I think it’s doing its magic.

The wind is blowing outside and the sea is peppered with white waves. I’ve been pondering death. Being in isolation has been like being on a mini retreat. My nurse is German and says half the people here are elderly and death is handled badly in this setting. She told me the story of a young Syrian lad who died here recently and his family couldn’t be with him. But he had joined a Coptic church and people came to see him every day. I guess the loss of religion, albeit liberating on lots of levels, means a vacuum exists for dealing with these big life and death events.

I’ve been thinking that acceptance of death might be a good process for me to go through. I’m not saying I’m giving up on positive thinking. I actually think it might be an extension of that. To fully accept the thing we can’t change and be free of the anxiety related to it. Not that I intend to die soon. But we all die. So it could be a good investment for my healing now as well as for the inevitable future event.

I posted on the breast cancer forum the article Kat mentioned in a comment on Bursting the Bubble about the use of psychedelics in existential crisis about death. There was a mix of reactions from the women there. One was firmly on the rage against the dying of the light approach to her own death. Another was excited about finding a way to accept death and go with grace. Both have been diagnosed with secondary cancer so death is closer for them. I respected both their positions but I was much more drawn to the second view.

Even though it’s still an abstraction for me, I am wanting to face it. I will have to live with great cancer for the rest of my life. Even if it never comes back there will be monthly breast checks, yearly scans, as well as the constant paranoia about it coming back. A good portion of the anxiety about these things will be connected to fear of dying. I described it as an abyss before. I would like that to change. I don’t want to live with that level of terror at the edge of my vision. A shadow following me around. I believe it would be a relief to let it go leaving me more room for all the good lifey stuff. So anybody got some LSD?

13 thoughts on “Still here

  1. Joba

    I’ll see what i can do…x

    Kisses and love for you…lemme know if you change your mind about your own personal audiobook.x

    1. Heidi

      ha ha I was only joking ; ) I might go on a trial or find a therapist who already practices it. xxx

  2. Paula

    Hello darling,
    I am really moved by your post. Embracing death as part of life has helped me deal with my parent’s sudden deaths and later with those of very close family members and dear friends (including heart failure, car accident and suicide). It definitely helped me with making the decision to have my child, as until then I had grown so terrified of sudden loss that I couldn’t think about life past my present day. As I cannot properly word my feelings of admiration for how you manage to process the present events and the prospective way your future will be affected by all of this, I’m gonna go straight to the drugs. If I take the psychedelics post seriously, I would not advise you to dive straight into LSD but instead begin with some outdoor organic weed – pure in a vaporizer as it is healthier than smoking. Even better would be if you could get your hands on some cannabis oil (which by the way seems to really help with cancer and just gives you a slight buzz perfect for sleeping). There, I said it. LSD is a very strong hallucinogenic that might also give a really scary trip you as you have no idea which doors it will decide to open (and how many of them at the same time). I would strongly recommend not getting any more frights at the moment plus the possibility of flashbacks. What LSD does, is really help with knowing yourself by unveiling what has been lurking behind the folds of your subconscious/unconscious. Having said that, there are other processes, like deep meditation, that can have just as powerful an effect. There are so many different forms of meditation that I am quite sure you can find one that would fit your purpose. In my case, daily meditation helps me separate my physical sensations from emotions of fear and anxiety or exhausting thoughts about work. It also helps me keep sane while writing a PhD 😉
    And, I am sure you’ve studied all there is to be researched about nutrition but, since I am on an opinative roll, one thing I would definitely leave out would be soy as it has a devastating effect on the endocrine system. Unless it’s fermented – miso and tempeh are totally ok, of course.
    I hope I didn’t just manage to write a bunch of clichés above in my fear of incurring in lack of appropriateness. If you’d like me to go deeper, lemme know.
    So so much love from here
    (with a pic from one of my projects)

    1. Heidi

      Hi lovely. Thank you sharing that open and honest comment. I’m humbled with the way you’ve you have been able to find peace with death and at such an early point in life. I feel I have had death in my life a lot in the last few years but I haven’t been able to process it fully. I think this fear thing is what is holding me back.

      And thank you for your advice and notes of caution. The LSD thing was a bad joke. Another example of me looking away from death? Anyway you’re right LSD has a lot of problems. The therapists actually use psilocybin which is a lot less scary trippy. I would only do it in a structured environment too.No going off into the woods to face my demons ; )

      xxxx

  3. Karen

    hello love,

    I’m thinking of you in your strange hygienic retreat! I’m sorry it’s feeling a little lonely today. We’re herd animals and we need our posse. At least your posse is here online as well as in the flesh.

    About death – well that’s such a massive subject and one we don’t talk about much, considering it affects every aspect of our lives. I appreciated Paula’s comments a lot too.

    I’ve been with two of the people I’ve loved most in my life when they’ve died, and luckily they have been very positive experiences of the process of dying. It felt like a peaceful letting-go. So the actual death wasn’t a scary thing, it was a sort of beautiful thing in those cases.

    But I suppose how it affects the living, speaking for myself, especially dad’s death, was that it made me feel as if I was old/ill and likely to die soon. And it made me panic about the deaths of the other people I love. I felt like that for a long time, and I still feel like that when I’m feeling weaker. And I have tried to think about how making peace with the idea of death – our own, and other peoples – can help us actually live better lives. I think about my aunt Rie, who died when she was 96. She must have seen 95% of the people she’d ever loved die before her. And yet she managed to be a positive person all her life. She had a positive kind of acceptance about the cycle of life. I mean I’m sure she had inner dramas and anxieties I wasn’t aware of, but she had a very earthy relationship with life/death.

    In relation to our own deaths, I think finding peace and acceptance is important, but we mustn’t taint our lives with some sort of assumption about when our time will be up (or our loved ones’ time will be up). We can spend our lives worrying that one thing will cause the death of us or our loved ones, and then something else entirely comes along and slaps us in the face! Not sure if that’s a helpful thought! But what I’m trying to say is that we can waste our lives panicking about a chosen fear, and that can derail our enjoyment of life as we’re living it.

    Maybe the acceptance thing is the route to just living with the reality that we will all die at some point. None of us know when or how. We have to try to live our lives in a way that we feel satisfied with how we’ve lived it. Sometimes when really difficult things have happened in my life, I’ve looked back at times I’ve taken it all for granted, and just been ticking along with simple contentment, and realised “wow, maybe that was true happiness?!” I think sometimes we need to be able to feel we can take things for granted, just for a little while, even if it’s an illusion.

    I’m just meandering through my thoughts here, but am just thinking that what you wrote is absolutely right – that acceptance of death could be an extension of positive thinking. Yes, I think that’s it. Maybe being aware that we’ll all die at some point is part of being able to be fully present in our lives.

    That sounds like something we need to work on for the rest of our lives!

    lots and lots of love
    Karen xxxxxx

    1. Heidi

      Another amazing, insightful and open comment. Thank you Karen my darling for sharing that. I think you’re right that we shouldn’t ponder death every day especially at the moment when maybe our experiences are fear driven. Yes perhaps once we’ve faced those fears we needn’t then be focusing on death all the time. That would free us up to take things for granted a little, but in a profoundly changed way from before. Maybe a truer feeling even as I feel now when I’m taking things for granted it’s because I’m actively ignoring death. Shying away from it. This is all incredibly powerful stuff especially thinking it through with my chosen herd. Xxx

  4. Karen

    Wow, yes, I think that’s right. Not to think about it from a place of fear, but to allow the knowledge to sit healthily in our bodies without frightening us. I do think that challenging life experiences do deepen our experience of living. There’s no doubt there’s a lot to be learned from tough times!

    Another thing I sometimes think is – imagine how excruciatingly interminable immortality would be!!! Maybe it’s absolutely perfect that we are just these creatures who have a finite life, we cycle the energy through our bodies and come out the other end and turn into something else! So maybe we can be satisfied with that deal – it’s probably better fun than immortality!

  5. sokari

    Very insightful and moving comments from the bosom buddies. One positive is that being in solitary has provided you with the time and quietness to contemplate life and death. For me its the process that can be difficult. My parents are in their mid 90s and my mum extremely frail of body but strong of mind. The changes in her physical being are profound and frightening compared with only 5/10 years ago as she moves towards her physical finality and now speaking with her I know she has come to terms with her own death, and I suspect she is ready. For me its not so much embracing death as embracing life and trying my utmost to do the things that give me pleasure. Cancer can be a wake up call as you begin to realize the uncertainty of our time on this earth and that death is real. I see cancer as an opportunity to move in new directions and rid oneself of any unproductive habits [assuming these exist] . Somehow its OK to make a stand and begin to say NO! this is not in my best interest right now. Embrace death but celebrate life. One thing I am certain of is I am never certain about anything!

    1. Heidi

      Thanks Sokari. More amazing thoughts! Death is really inspiring us! I already feel lighter just expressing this stuff and getting such insightful feedback. I agree that this kind of crisis gives you permission and inspiration to say no to the stuff that makes us unhappy. I’m also feeling the urge to finish the projects I start. I suffer from too many ideas and not enough focused action. This is something I’d like to change too and I think it will bring me some happiness. And yes the only to be certain of is that things will change.. xxxx

  6. Daphne

    Heidi, your openness about all of your feelings is giving us permission to do the same, so thank you for that gift. On that note, I experienced something a while ago that comes close to what you may be feeling and it has been a touchstone ever since. I was very ill. I had taken months of different antibiotics, for different infections, had come down with C-difficile and had to go to the emergency room to treat it, then the pharmacy gave me the wrong antibiotics. After months of taking other antibiotics, and being deathly ill with C-difficile, this was a potentially fatal error. I only discovered it after closely examining the prescription about a week into my “treatment” when I wasn’t feeling like I was getting any better.
    I was weak, couldn’t walk up stairs, had lost about 15 pounds. And I was starting to feel like I didn’t mind if I died. I was a single mom and all alone far from the city, my son with his dad while I was ill.
    A friend came to check on me. She took one look at me and drove me to the hospital. I remember lying in the back of her car and watching the leaves pass by in the windows overhead, and feeling completely at peace, kind of happy actually. It felt completely safe. No worries, no fears, just a comforting sleep.
    Later, as I started to regain my strength, and remembered I had to get strong for my son, I looked back on that time and no longer felt a fear of death. I am afraid of pain, of not being there for my loved ones. But death doesn’t seem that scary any more.
    Anyway, not sure if this brings you or anyone else any comfort since it was a very personal experience and hard to sum up in words.
    But I know we have nothing to fear.

  7. Julie Chadwick

    Wow, one of your most profound posts. It’s an amazing thing to ponder, whether accepting something is condoning it and giving in to it or if it means actually freeing yourself from all the negative associations with it. Death of course is something you already ponder way more once you have children. The vulnerability associated with both your and their fragility and one’s utter lack of control over it. I think I have reached similar conclusions, that I need to simply accept its ever-present possibility as a way of releasing me from its terror. Its an important consideration for all of us regardless because death is inevitable. Perhaps it is even a gift to have to confront it. I agree and believe it is part of the positivity, and I think you can breathe love and acceptance into it without giving in to it. It’s funny, but it is a total microcosm of many discussions we have had about activism: how do you fight what is happening and never give up while also knowing and having a sense of acceptance about the brutality and injustice taking place in the world. Is accepting it giving up? That’s been something we’ve long pondered, haven’t we. I don’t think so. I have long thought that fully understanding the dire odds of actually changing the world and still continuing to try, as one of the most beautiful endeavors any human can strive for. Of course your situation is decidedly more favourable. I think accepting all possibilities without dwelling on or assigning fear to any of them is a win-win option. So grateful for you and your sharing this journey, it’s so deeply interesting and helpful.

    1. Heidi

      beautiful post dear woman. thank you for the privilege of being included in it. xxxxx

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