Modern aches and pains

This is quite a heavy post. I will talk about death. Just scroll down if this isn’t what you’d like to read about at the moment.

Earlier this year I had my heart tested. I was healthy, but anxious, my pulse rising rapidly at the sight of a doctor. Just the thought of my heart beating fast was enough to scare me. This humbling experience made me realise a couple of things; the NHS is pretty amazing; our minds can cause us a lot of heartache.

This happened after a period when everything felt so dark I started to wonder what the point really was. During this time a small voice popped up in my head every now and then. “You’re going to die today,” it said. Now this wasn’t a voice as in “who is that in the room speaking to me”, it was more like a premonition, my subconscious playing a joke on me… let’s see if she believes this. I was standing in the shower – “you’re going to die”, I was doing a live report on radio “you’re going to die.”

These constant thoughts of death and dying was making everyday life tiresome, especially since my life was otherwise going pretty well. If you had looked in from the outside you’d had wondered what all the fuss was about. I was newly married with my first book out. I should have been happy. But as most of us know, shoulds don’t really work when it comes to happiness or mental wellbeing.

I know that contemplating death is sometimes encouraged by Buddhists and Stoics. Their reasoning is that if you’re aware of death then you will appreciate living more. What’s better than staring the reality of what being alive really means in the face? Well I can easily come up with many things that are better than thinking about death all the time – ice cream, kittens, fallen eyelashes on your fingertips, kissing, a rainy day, deadlines… pretty much everything. Although that doesn’t mean I think the Buddhists and Stoics are wrong in this instance, it was my own thinking that had become a bit warped.

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Over the last fifteen months I’ve slowly climbed my way out of that valley. I stopped eating gluten (which seems to be what people do now days when they’re depressed), I started doing things (that helped a lot). I got better, happier. I started to feel more like myself again. The voice in my head stopped babbling as much.

And now I realise that during the times in my life when death has seemed like the only thing I can think about I’ve not been living fully. I’ve stopped taking risks, pursing dreams, doing things because they’re fun and I’ve become afraid. Maybe this voice was just a part of me asking “are you living fully right now, are you doing your best to get the most out of your life?”

This mood has struck me two times before. Once when I was nine and couldn’t fall asleep because all I could think about was getting or having cancer. Once after I’d moved back to Helsinki after an Erasmus year filled with infatuations, friendships and parties and it felt like my life had ended. Fear and change can cause this, fear and change that leads to me spending a lot of time by myself trying to think myself better. But just thinking isn’t going to help. Doing will help. Talking will help. Loving, laughing and living, those are the things that will help.

*I’m no expert on mental health, I’m just sharing my story. If you stumble across this on the internet because you feel like this or if you feel depressed, talk to someone (see your doctor or a counsellor), ask for help.

Top image by Yume, second image by Sylwia Bartyzel.

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Lotta

Journalist, writer and coffee lover in London.

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