Scared to Death

So many of us have fears.  Phobias even.  Fear of heights.  Fear of tight spaces.  Fear of flying.  Fear of spiders.  And the list goes on.  Fortunately, in many of these cases an avoidance of the fears can help.  Staying out of elevators.  Not jumping off the high dive.  Taking the train.  Asking a friend to kill the eight legged creature crawling across the counter.  The fears are still inconvenient and can be life altering, but they are specific enough to be avoided.

I have a fear too.  But mine I can’t seem to get away from.  It follows me everywhere.  It creeps into my thoughts throughout the day and even wakes me from my sleep.  I don’t know how to get out of its way.

I am petrified.  Of Dying.

Not just afraid of one day dying.  But worried that I am dying.  I know it sounds extreme.  It may even sound ridiculous, but it is not an exaggeration.  I guess I have some form of hypochondria in that I do fear that every symptom I have is an illness, but unlike most hypochondriacs, I don’t complain to anyone about my maladies.  I don’t take myself to the doctor weekly.  I don’t moan and groan that I feel sick.  No one even knows to the extent that I have this fear.  But it eats at me.  Not Every day but Too Many days.

I have not always been this way.  I suppose it’s since I had kids that it’s grown to a new extreme.  Which on the surface makes sense with all I now have to live for.  But even in the past year it’s worsened.  Every headache, every cramp, every bone pain, every memory lapse, every bout of nausea, I become anxious about.  Paralyzed really.  The longer the symptom lasts, the more I dwell.  I am a Google maniac when it comes to checking symptoms.  And I diagnose myself regularly.  Just like every day you can make your horoscope fit your day, I make terminal illnesses fit my symptoms.  And then I go about my day with thoughts of death in the back of my mind.  Until the night, when I lay in the silence and cry.  Imagining the worst.

I wonder if you are smirking or rolling your eyes at the ridiculousness of this admission.  You may be.  But this is real for me.  Very real.  Something I’m confessing in this forum because I need to get it out of my head.  It’s not something I can talk about.  With anyone.  And yes, Tim may read this and then I will talk about it, but it’s a conversation I won’t look forward to.  Because I’m smart enough to know, this makes me a little nuts.  And I’m quite sure he’ll blatantly tell me just that.  And so I deal alone.

Why, you may be thinking, don’t I take myself to the doctor to have all of my symptoms checked out?  Because I’m too scared.  I don’t want to admit to the doctor I’ve been having these headaches (for example) because I don’t want to have the slew of tests to determine the worst case scenario (that I’ve convinced myself I have).  I guess I’d rather keep hoping it’s nothing.  I did actually go to the doctor a year ago for the headaches and she looked with a light in my eyes briefly and prescribed Xanax.  Anxiety.  And I skipped out of the office with unbelievable relief.  But a year later, my headaches still come and go, and I won’t go back to the doctor.  I’m too scared.  Don’t get me wrong, I go for a yearly physical (which is coming up next week) and to the OB once a year but I don’t discuss some of my symptoms because I figure, they’re the doctor, they should  be able to figure out something is wrong, without my list of complaints.

Why this fear ?  I can’t think of an exact time it arose but a few factors have played a part.

I had a friend die of cancer.  She was in her early 30’s.  She had a one year old daughter.  A wonderful husband.  From the day she was diagnosed, until the day she died was only 9 months.  I saw her a few times early in the radiation process and once when she thought she was in remission.  And then she was gone.  And even today, 6 years later, I still find myself wondering how awful it must have been for her.  How scary.  How sad.   How unfair.  I cry at night thinking about it.  About the last conversations she had with her husband.  About the last time she saw her daughter.  I’m crying now as I write…

I’m not religious. And don’t have a set of beliefs as to where we go when we die.  I like to think I will be welcomed in heaven and will reunite with my beloved that have passed,  but I’m not totally sold on it.  I read many blogs written by extremely spiritual and religious women who believe so strongly in an Almighty God or a Savior or Lord and they believe they have a Plan.  I’m certain they find solace and comfort in these beliefs that I don’t have.  And this unknown, this grasping for something that makes sense, scares me.

I read too much.  I’m that person who can’t turn away from an horrific car accident.  I read stories, blogs, articles about people dying of awful diseases.  I learn how they were diagnosed, and what their symptoms were and then I follow their stories and pray for their recovery.  I cry for the sick young children and their parents.  And as lucky as I feel that these situations are not my own, I imagine that they are.  And I make myself crazy over it.

These worries overtake my mind.  Often Tim thinks I’m tired or cranky from a long day with the kids but really, I’m dwelling on a sickness I’ve convinced myself I have. I become withdrawn.  Angry. Bitter. Impatient. Snippy.  But I can’t talk about it because I don’t want to hear I worry too much. Or even worse, I don’t want to hear that I should go to the doctor.  I just want to be told I’m FINE.  I want to be held and told with 100% certainty without all the tests that I have nothing to worry about.  But no one can do that for me.  Except me.  And on the days that I go for a run, play two hours of tennis, spend the day on the ski slopes, or manage to run nonstop after my kids all day, I am able to convince myself that a very sick person wouldn’t be able to do those things.  And I pull myself together and move forward.  Until the next set of “symptoms” roll around.

It’s amazing to me how dramatically my mood improves on the days that I feel GREAT.  These ache-free days I feel I can conquer anything.  And I look up at the sky (at who knows Who) and promise that I’ll be a better person if I’m kept healthy.  I grab my kids and swing them around and cherish this time of feeling Like Me.

I’m so embarrassed to be admitting all this.  I apologize for being so morbid.  I’m ashamed that I’m not able to appreciate my health that I (most likely) have.  I feel selfish that I am so concerned with ME.  But I am so concerned because I fear not being Here.  Being here for my kids.  For my husband.  For my parents.  The problem is that since I’m so worried about not being here in the future, I am missing being here Today.  Too many of my days are wasted worrying about tomorrow.  But I don’t know how to get passed it.  To get passed this fear.  To Live instead of Fear Dying.

And when I ask Google, it doesn’t give me any good answers.



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34 responses to “Scared to Death

  1. I hope that you can find some sort of peace.

    But, I’m not the best person to respond to this right now. Dh was in a car accident this afternoon, that, had anything happened even slightly different than it did, he wouldn’t be here right now. We’ve both been crying all night.

    He’s fine, but it made that chance of something happening so real.

    So, I’ll shut up before I say anything that makes you feel worse.

  2. Do NOT be embarrassed by this.
    When I had my over two month long migraine (yes.. you read that right…) I was convinced I had a brain tumor or an aneurysm, and that I was going to die. It was awful.
    My fear? That something is wrong with my kids. I wish I could send them in for a full body scan that would tell us if something was wrong, or if something was in the works to go wrong… I read all those blogs about horrific diseases and cancer that strike children. Those stories stop me in my tracks, paralyze me.
    I hope writing it all out helped a little, if only for today. So much love to you…

    • A two month migraine?? Yikes. I’m glad that’s over for you… I would not have handled that well. And yes, this definitely did help me, tremendously. Thank you.

  3. joely

    Let me tell you this is not an unrealistic fear. It will happen but here is the answer to conquering your fear. Live….Live everyday as it were your last. Leave no stone unturned. Challenge yourself every moment of everyday. Let your heart be worn on your sleeve. Be exactly who you you are to everyone you meet not just who you want to be but be it. Never be fake , be true. Flaws and all. Let your children know everything about you. This blog is the perfect place. A permanent reminder of your thoughts and ideas. You are an exceptional writer and woman and your honesty influences people. I believe that death is a beatiful moment and when your time comes you will embrace it and not fear it as long as you always are true to yourself. Life is difficult, fun, unpredictable at times and just plain complex. Run further than you thought you could tomorrow, sign up for the marathon, drink too much wine some nights, have great sex with your husband, kiss your children too much, love the messes and love the exhileration. Life is a short play (78.1 years if you are a woman in the US) and you should not spend time fearing the inevitable but embracing every moment of the play you are writing: flaws and all. Best worded by Walt Whitman: “This is what you shall do: love the earth and sun, and animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence towards the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men; go freely with the powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and mothers, of families: read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life: re-examine all you have been told at school or church, or in any books, and dismiss whatever insults your soul.”

    • Joely, thank you. Thank you so much for these amazing words that I will absolutely try to LIVE by. I have reread it a dozen times already and plan to continue. You are so right. Life. Is. Too. Short. And I need to LIVE. Thank you.

  4. I think you do need to see the dr., not so much for the headaches but for the anxiety causing you to worry like this.
    I feel for you, I have been in a similar situation.

    • Thank you DM,

      I am going to make a list for my doctor and give it to her at my physical. That may be easier for me than talking about it. It may keep the emotion out of it.

  5. You shouldn’t be embarrased about this or worry what we, your readers, will think. I suspect you would be surprised how many of us feel the same. Death is a major fear of mine as well. I was exposed to it at much too young an age (my mother died when I was 4) and now I fear it on so many levels. I decided to get help for many reasons but largely because my anxieties were affecting others around me. I think you should see someone, talk about how you feel and validate your feelings. They are real and need to be acknowledged before you can find a way to heal.

    • Thank you Christine. I can’t believe how much better I already feel having written this all down and read the amazing responses. my next step is to talk to my internist and my husband. I think he needs to understand what I’m going through. I’m hoping he does in fact understand. But in the end, you’re right, I do need to address this fear.

  6. Nicki

    You need to tell the dr that the headaches continue. It is possible Xanax is not the drug for you. Without a listing from the patient of what might be wrong, a dr is not going to guess. It is our jobs and our responsibilities to tell the physician symptoms so he/she can check them out.

    We all, I believe, in some way fear death. We fear it for ourselves. We fear it for our children. We fear it for our families. Death is an unknown and what is there to fear more than something that we know nothing about. We can’t look it up. We can’t see what others’ experiences have been like. It is the final change in a life full of changes.

    I agree with joely. LIVE! Live every day!

    • Nicki, I know you’re right. The intelligent side of me KNOWS I need to tell the doctor my symptoms but the fearful, emotional side is having a really hard time with it!
      I’m glad I’m not alone in this fear. I just wish I was better at handling it! Thank you.

  7. I remember I went through a seemingly long phase, where all I thought about was dying. Horrible, horrible. It really was all-consuming and depressing. It was after I had had children too and my own mortality smacked me in the face.
    I don’t know how, but eventually I thought about it less and less and have reached a point where I am not fearful anymore. If I look back, I can’t believe I’ve reached this point. But thankfully, I’m here.
    I truly can empathize with you; and maybe give you some hope that it really won’t always be this way.

    • Thank you Christine. It’s so nice to hear that you went through this but you’re in such a better place now. I am looking forward to thinking about it less. A lot less. I’ll take babysteps and hope to get there eventually!

  8. I think that’s what having kids does to us–makes us fearful. Maybe about ourselves dying, or our partner dying, or something happening to the kids, or debilitating medical illness…we can (and do) make ourselves crazy, worrying all the time.

    I do it, too. You’re in good company.

  9. Becca,

    Your post brings several things to mind.

    First, I think we all become more aware of our own mortality when we become parents. The stakes couldn’t be higher. If you weren’t concerned about what might happen if you died, it wouldn’t say much about you as a mother.

    Secondly, TELL YOUR DOCTOR YOUR CONCERNS!! I promise they’ve seen a bigger hypochondriac than you before. So get it off your chest! If it’s nothing, you’re on easy street. If it’s something, you can nip it in the bud. You gain nothing by keeping your fears to yourself.

    Lastly, if (God forbid) something really were wrong, I’m confident you would harness the best aspects of yourself and deal with it. And you’d set an incredible example for your kids in the process.

    I totally understand these fears. But this post alone is the first step in harnessing them. Good for you!

    • Gale, thank you. I’ll admit I got teary eyed reading this imagining something could in fact be very wrong but You Are Right… I would deal if it was. I’d stay strong and make it through. I’d have to. And that’s a really positive way to look at this situation.
      Yes, this post really did help. It’s my first step. And I hope to move forward slowly but surely one way or another. Thank you.

  10. I was just about to say (but TKW beat me to it) that’s what having children did to me. Suddenly I was forced to face my mortality and I go through jags when worry can be paralyzing. You are not alone!

  11. Liz

    Oh Becca, how sad this post made me for you…mainly because I have felt THIS EXACT SAME WAY many, many times in my life. I have gotten better through the years, and most days, I do not think this way. But everytime something scary happens (like my little cancer scare in Dec., or even a local story about an illness, whatever), it looms its ugly head. I have been called a hypochondriac. I have been called neurotic. I have even diagnosed myself as “a little crazy.” And I have had to work this all out, WITH doctor visits, with conversations with a trusted friend (Hubby and others), with yoga, with all of it. After I had my kids, I can not even THINK about this stuff…because what would happen if I could not be there for them? What would happen if I could not see them? I can not even dwell on these things. I can not read stories of illness, I can not watch movies of illness. It is all too scary, mainly because we know it is all too real and too possible and too…too…everything. I was saddened by this because I remember the feelings of being completely paralyzed emotionally by these fears when they were there…the terrible, aching feeling in the pit of my stomach…dread, horror, terror. And no, you can not live like that. Yes, everyday I lived in fear was certainly not a day I truly lived. I still battle with these feelings, but I have worked through a lot of them. I have often written about my need to learn how to let go, “surrender”, and stop worrying. This is connected to all of this as well. I truly, sincerely hope writing about it (and now all of us responding to you with our unsolicited advice) will help you in some way, but I do think you need to “tend” to this. I know from personal experience that you just can’t live like this. *hugs*

    • Liz, thank you. Really, truly, thank you. You seem to really get what is inside my head. You’re right, the days that I’m dwelling and worrying are days that I am NOT living. I’m not present with my kids. I’m not there with my husband. It really is all too scary. My brain takes me to such a scary place, one that I Can’t deal with. But I am going to tend to this. Thanks to all of this great advice and support. I am going to kick the fear or at least how I handle the fear. Thank you.

  12. I couldn’t even finish reading your post today. In fact I am going to e-mail you right away. I just wrote the exact same post. Well, not literally but really freaky.

    I am right there with you.

    I love feeling great. I live life with gusto well aware that it can be taken away at any minute. And that’s what scare me do death.

    And the day I have an ache or pain, like today. I am convinced I’m dying.

    It’s awful. But I’m here for you. I understand completely. Too well.

    I guess we should find comfort in knowing we are not alone!

  13. I just want to thank you all. Really. From the bottom of my heart. You’ve made me feel normal. You’ve made me realize that I NEED to talk about this fear. Which I will continue to do. Thank you for being here for me.

  14. I think you are honest and brave and human. I think that we all have fears, particularly after seeing people die or after welcoming little creatures of our own. We are mortal beings and we are aware of our lingering mortality. I think you should print this wonderful and raw blog post out and hand it to your doctor. I am sure he will smile and then talk to you about it all. Because you are not alone. Far from it.


    • I think that’s a great idea Aidan. I will print this out and show my doctor. It will be so much easier than discussing my fear with her. Hopefully she will be able to ease my mind in some way. Thank you so much.

  15. I’m glad you’re going to talk about it. I want to add my voice to those encouraging you to talk to a professional. For me, if something’s wrong, I want to know now so that I can do something — anything — to take care of it. And if nothing’s wrong, then I can exhale that toxic fear and get back to enjoying my life.

    I hope you’re able to talk about your fears and try to resolve them.

  16. You are absolutely normal. I am not nearly as afraid of dying as I am of my husband dying. Go figure. Yet, I have so many debilitating fears that seriously haunt my dreams.

    Talking about it often helps. I am so glad you felt comfortable enough to mention it here, on your blog, so that we can all learn something.

    You rock, Becca, I hope you know that.

    • Thank you Amber. thank you for making me feel normal. I wish I was less selfish and worried more about my husband dying! And I am most comfortable talking here. With all of you. This community Rocks!

  17. I agree with so many of the wise women here, Becca, and join them in saying that you’re not alone. We hear you and we still want to hear more.

    I dealt with a medical situation last fall that plagued me for months. As soon as I found the courage to talk to my doctor, the problem was solved almost immediately. Yes, there was medication to help my symptoms, but, more importantly, I started feeling better just to have the worry off of my chest.

    I hope you can find a way to relieve these feelings.


    • Thank you Kristen. I’m so glad to hear your medical condition was resolved. If I could just find the courage to get to the bottom of it all, maybe mine would be resolved as quickly. I wish I wasn’t so fearful… but with all the sage advice I’ve received, I’m confident I’ll get there!

  18. I think about death all the time. If I were to die… If Peter were to die… If one of my kids were to die…

    I think it is normal.

    One day I realized that if I were to die tomorrow I would be satisfied with the life I had lived. And then the fear part of it was removed. Even though I still tend to over think worst possible situations for things. I am more scared of living with long term painful illnesses than death now.

  19. Oh Becca. I don’t know what to say. So much has already been written, and I hope you feel the love and support of our community here.

    First, I hope you know you are not alone.
    And second, find what it is that DOES make you feel better, stronger and more confident, and DO MORE OF IT.

    Hugs and love.

  20. Came here via Twitter… staying here because in the quick perusing of your blog, I saw myself on so many different levels.

    And dying? My. worst. fear. Debilitating at times.

  21. I have this fear to. Of dying. I used to not really be afraid to die, in fact, for myself, I don’t think I’m that scared, but it is the thought of leaving my children without a mother that is paralyzing for me. I’m a huge hypocondriac, as I’m sure you know by now. I worry all the time, about everything. Why wouldn’t the headache I have now be brain cancer? These things happen! I just don’t get how some people DO NOT worry about these things. I also worry NON-STOP about my children, too. When they are sick, I rush to the doctors. I don’t wait like some people. I worry all the time. SIGH. I totally understand you.

  22. Tracy

    Wow, I could’ve written what you have said here… It has helped me so much knowing that someone else is like this. Thank you for being so honest. And thank you also to the person who said she is terrified of something happening to her kids. That is also a huge fear of mine…

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