Dying is something you have to tell people.
Once, I died.
No one is really sure how long I was gone. I was flat lined for just about an hour. But I was also hypothermic which was why – when they warmed me up, the defibrillators, along with a massive dose of epinephrine, brought me back. That’s what the doctors say anyway; however, I have a different opinion about why I’m still among the living. But it’s something I wouldn't consider telling people about.
Did you see a light?
It’s the first thing my mother says when we get in the car this morning. Actually, it’s the first thing really regarding the incident. All through my stay at the hospital and my time tucked up in bed ‘recovering from my ordeal’ she had never said anything about it, she was just concerned for my wellbeing, like all mothers are. I can see that she blames herself for what happened; I try to convince her that it’s not all the time but I can still hear her murmuring to herself.
“Did you see a light?” her voice wavers and then she retracts her sentence, “Meg, I shouldn’t have said that, you’re still healing, still sensitive –“ she goes onto a full worry rant. The incident was a whole month ago, a month of doctors appointments, and watching movies and TV show re-runs while pretending to be a duvet burrito on the sofa, and the question ‘how are you doing?’
“Mom, it’s okay,” I assure her, laying a hand on her arm, she looks at me quickly and turns her head back onto the road. “Generally all NDEs will tell you that when they died they saw something, some kind of light,” I remember that off of the internet, “And really I’m fine...”
“No you are not, Meg,” mom says sharply, “You’re acting just like your school report said,” ah that dreaded doctors report:
Megan has a tendency to disengage. Sometimes she just drifts off. When she does choose to show attention she tends to hyperfocus, but not necessarily on the topic at hand.
That may be true, but I was handling it. I was fine.
“You talk about it so nonchalantly, Meg, all NDE this and died this and – “
“But I did die mom,” I’ve come to terms with it, my parents, however, had not. NDE refers to a near death experience and I’ve been told that I should count my lucky stars for being just that. I tend to state that I died in as many of my sentences as I can because, contrary to belief, it’s not an excuse for wacky behaviour – it’s the truth. The truth is easy for me to say, but it isn't easy for people to deal with. Maybe if I lied, saying that I hadn't died, life would be easier. Then I'd probably be pestered about how I made it all up, or how I didn't take it seriously enough. Society won't you make your mind up?
Mom exhales a sharp breath, blowing her tousled, mousy blonde hair further into her face. We pull into a parking lot, which was mostly barren on a bright and early Saturday morning, and only then do I notice where we are. Bright House Clinic, therapy for troubled teens and trauma recovery, that wasn’t really the headline but it was close enough for the building that was the host of counselling sessions.
“I’m not going in there,” I state clearly, and my mom sighs again as we reverse into a parking space. I can just about see the sickly sorrow clinging to the building. I am not going in there.
“Please, for me.” My mom looks like she is going to cry, I hate it when she cries. “You never know, talking about it may help you find peace.”
I almost scoff at that, “Talk about it, all I ever do is talk about it, and you refuse to listen,”
“You talk about that you died not about how or why,” mom is pleading with me but she doesn’t understand that if I did tell her, she wouldn’t believe me, no one would really. They would say that I was delusional, that I had concocted the whole story to get attention, that I was mad and deserved to be locked away in a padded room. But I kind of had to do it eventually?
Can life just be a little bit easier for me? Please?
My resistance falls on deaf ears and I find myself walking into the building, my mother signing me in, more walking, endless walking. It felt like I was walking to my doom.
I think that's just my teenage dramatics, though.
We end up sitting in hard, green, plastic chairs, staring at grey walls covered in motivational posters.
Life is short. Do stuff that Matters!
Will it be easy? Nope. But will it be worth it? Definitely.
Life always gets better. If it's not better, then it's not the end.
My mother is flicking through a magazine talking animatedly about this Dr. Linda Dashner, the therapist I'm going to see, and about how after these sessions, I would have one once a week for 6 weeks. Oh joy, I would finally be back on track, yeah we’ll see about that.
You see, I've never been into therapy before. Never wanted to, never had to. Therapy is great for those who need it. But I'm not one of those people. I wouldn't even be here if people could handle the truth properly. I, however, don't think that that is something that is written in our genetic makeup.
Finally, she comes out. The therapist is a short woman who is trying to gain height by black, lace up heels and who looks all prim and proper with red glasses that almost hang off of her nose. She calls my name, her voice is too sweet, it’s hinting at her fake persona of lending a helping hand. I am not going to enjoy this at all.
The room is the same as the rest of the building mostly, it's grey but there’s a bookshelf on one wall (it’s top shelf was filled with teddy’s and other kids play things, the next shelf was awards dedicated to the therapist and the rest was filled with books) and on the wall opposite there's row after row of artwork and papers full of scribbled handwriting, there's a desk with a computer on it and opposite that sits a reclining chair, almost like a dentist's chair in looks. I’ve just noticed that my mother has waited outside. The Doctor notices me looking at the closed door, “Your mother is waiting outside because this is all strictly confidential, whatever you say will never leave this room,” she says, yeah right, my mother would probably be sent an email or letter detailing my progress and everything that I had said. “Sit, sit,” the doctor motions to the reclining chair and once I lean back on it, it is surprisingly comfortable, she sits down herself and crosses her legs. “Now, I want you to call me Linda and can I call you Megan?” I nod once and she continues “You’ve been through a hard time, would you walk me through it?” I say nothing, she should know what happened, and my mother would’ve told her so she didn’t need me to repeat it. “I can’t help you if you don’t help yourself,” she says and I just simply cross my arms. “Now I understand that there was an incident last month on the 13th February,” she looks at the computer, “It says that you were legally dead for 50 minutes caused by drowning, how do you feel about that?”
I realise that the sooner I talked, the sooner the session will be over. But this is the typical sessions where it’s all about my feelings but what if I don’t know how I feel, or what if I don't want them to know. They won't believe me whatever I said. Would it be easier if I tell them and made them believe in one way or another, or never tell them at all?
Do they really have to know? Could this work without them knowing?
“I died and that is all that there is to it. I’m grateful that I lived but it’s hard that my parents blame themselves or that they won’t accept that I died. Death, even if it’s for a short time, changes people.”
“How did it change you?” Uh, I’m sick of this already. Is this how everyone feels when they go to therapy?
“The usual, when people die they realise that life is short and that you have to make the most of it."
That's what everyone says. Death, however, shows you that your ordinary senses - seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and touching - are all dulled down to what they could and should be.
“How did you die?”
“You know, you just said,” I don't want to repeat it, I'm not ready for the assault of assumptions and taunts and questions, I don't want to face that. I admit, I'm scared. It's a peculiar feeling to be scared.
“Humour me,” I look up at that, it's like the facade has dropped, no longer is the too sweet Linda here but it is a person who just wanted to know, like the rest of them. I quirk an eyebrow up and she takes her glasses off. She looks serious, I hate serious.
I relent, and I know that when put under pressure I'm not strong, I'm far from it. “I drowned.” There I said it. My mom told me that this was a place to vent all of my frustrations, when I came out of the hospital I vented the only way I knew how; I researched. I spent copious amounts of time glued to my computer screen, finding out all I could about what had happened and the different possible outcomes. And now, I feel like I'm floating. “You know when you’re drowning you don’t actually inhale until right before you black out. It’s called voluntary apnea. It’s like no matter how much you are panicking; the instinct to not let any water in is so strong that you won’t open your mouth until you feel like your heads exploding. Then when you finally let it in, that’s when it stops hurting. It’s not scary or anything... it’s actually kind of peaceful.”
I'm going to go all cliche and say that's not when it started, not really. You know some psychologists say that you associate things, may it be an object or a word, with particular behaviours. Classical Conditioning they call it. Thinking of drowning, or just the mere thought of water, makes me feel free and...
I can't explain it. But you have to know why, I have to tell someone. Even if it's you.