Have you ever wondered what you’ll think about in the moments before you die?
I know, it’s not really a fun or light topic to discuss at your next dinner party. But I’ve often wondered what would cross my mind if I was ever faced with my own death. Would I sense it? Would I have some kind of premonition? Would I be at peace with my end?
Unfortunately, I recently had the opportunity to find out. A few months ago, only three days before Christmas, a fellow driver ran a red light and smashed into my car while I was on the way home from the gym.
A near-death experience pushed me into trying therapy
A few minutes before my accident, I’d been fighting with my husband while still in the gym parking lot. We had the most ridiculous fight about wrapping paper. I was still grumpy when I headed through the green light and felt the first impact of the car on the side of mine.
In that instant when the driver hit me and I realized exactly what was happening — namely that she had clearly run a red light on a very busy road and my car was now flying into oncoming traffic — I thought it was over for me. And what was my reaction?
I was incredibly, ridiculously furious. I was so angry that unlike anything I’d ever imagined, the end could come so swiftly, unexpectedly, and mundanely. One second you’re stressing about something as stupid as wrapping paper and the next you’re gone.
On some level, I think we all know about living life to the fullest and YOLO. But I really didn’t absorb that lesson fully, like deep down in my bones fully, until I was back at home that night. I was shaking underneath my covers, bruised and battered, but otherwise unharmed, feeling like I had cheated death.
Realizing that nothing short of anger was my reaction when I was about to die made me take stock of my life. I needed to face the uncomfortable truth that something needed to change.
How therapy forced me to confront my innermost fears
I don’t want to die angry. I don’t want to face death while flying through the air. I don’t want to be furious that I didn’t accomplished the things I wanted to or let my family know how much they mean to me.
It’s been a weird few months for me, but since my accident, I’ve been taking small steps to try to be a better version of myself. And to make sure that I am living life with no regrets.
Along with focusing primarily on de-stressing my life and enjoying my family more, I decided that it was time to see a therapist.
Not only did my accident send me to a rather dark mental place, but I’d been struggling with a lot of anxiety and unhealthy stress coping mechanisms since having a miscarriage last summer. With four little kids, a work at home career, and not a lot of time for friends, the truth is, I spend a lot of time pent up in my own little world. And it can get scary there.
I was nervous about spending the money to see a therapist (our insurance didn’t cover one near me) and more than apprehensive about the fact that I doubted that she could actually help me. An hour of talking about myself? Wasn’t that, um, a little selfish? Aren’t there real problems in the world to worry about?
The answer is yes. However, that doesn’t necessarily change anything about what’s going on in my life. Making myself feel guilty certainly won’t help anyone either.
I canceled and rescheduled and canceled my appointment over six times, but eventually, I found my way to the calm and quiet of the therapist’s office.
Did I feel awkward as heck on her couch? Absolutely.
Was the experience relaxing, like a day at the spa? Not a chance.
Was I challenged and stretched, and forced to face my own biggest fears, triggers, and even own stubborn areas of resistance? Totally.
It was like my therapist saw right through all the little tricks and lies I tell myself on a daily basis. She wouldn’t let me off the hook. She called me out on my absurd work schedule and the stress I insisted on heaping upon myself. Most importantly, how I was hurting not only myself, but my children as well. Ouch.
In some ways, I thought therapy would be something pretty and indulgent, like an hour gabbing with a friend about all the ways your husband annoys you. Actually, therapy was nothing like that. It was hard, hard work. Therapy is emotionally draining and challenging, and it’s not a quick fix or a magic solution. To get something out of it, you have to be willing to do the work.
I’m starting to see that now. And in perhaps the greatest lesson that therapy has taught me so far, I’m also starting to see that I deserve that work. I deserve to put in the time, investment, and energy. Should I be faced with the end anytime soon, my last thoughts won’t be about wrapping paper. They’ll be about knowing I did everything I could to be the best mom to my children and the best wife to my husband.
Thinking about seeing a therapist for the first time? Follow these tips from the Psych Central blog: