For a couple of hours, I didn’t exist. I was under anesthesia during breast biopsy surgery. I was wheeled into an operating room and started counting. Then I was no more. No dream, no memory, no me. Slowly I came back into being. It was the most peaceful waking up I ever had. I smiled. If death is like this, it’s a blessing. No dream, no memory, no me, total oblivion, that’s what I yearned for. I looked for the peacefulness I experienced during the surgery. I found Ambien provided the similar effect. When I didn’t take the pill my nightmarish dreamscape came back with vengeance. Eventually the nightmare started to seep in to my peaceful Ambien coma. I stopped taking it.
Death was my parasite twin. He was always with me so long as I remember. I don’t know if a 5-year-old can have a concept of death. Nevertheless I remember myself telling my aunt that I was considering to “leave” but decided not to because if I left I wouldn’t be able to have my favorite cake anymore.
I’ve never been suicidal. I was pretty careful about self-preservation. Still there never was a day I didn’t think of death. Suicide ideation, DSM V would say. There is a code for that. But where did it come from? I wasn’t depressed when I was 5.
When my father was about my age now, he started have a cough. His X-ray image showed a legion in the lung and he had a surgery. Everybody including the doctors were sure that it was lung cancer. My mom called me to come home to see him. Everybody thought he was going to die soon. After surgery, they found it was benign. Still he had a lobe of left lung removed. After he recovered, he showed me the long scar proudly multiple times. We were not close but I visited him at the hospital. My mother left for some errand and I was alone with him. He suddenly said, “I thought I was a goner this time,” and he cried. I didn’t say anything. Neither of us were used to show vulnerability and neither of us knew how to deal with it. That day I realized my father was afraid of death. “So you are afraid of death and your daughter wants to die, Ha,” I thought. It’s a joke, isn’t it?
He passed away at the ripe age of 86. I started to understand where his fear came from. My father was diagnosed to be diabetic when I was about 4 and my mother was pregnant with my brother. It was early 1960s and a diabetic was not expected to live a long life. After my father passed, I heard the family history from my aunt. He lost his father, my grandfather, when he was very young. My grandfather was diagnosed with diabetic when it was a death sentence. He quitted his job as a police officer and stayed home doing nothing and lived another 7 years. My father only knew his father as a sick man waiting to die. Soon after, his older sister was diagnosed as diabetic. She was married and had a kid. When she became ill she came back to stay with her mother, my grandmother. She soon died from complication when the kid was still young. My father took care of his young nephew for a while as his little brother.
Now my father found himself diabetic. He had a 4-year-old daughter and his wife was pregnant. No wonder he was afraid of dying. For the first time, I felt sorry for him. I grew up watching him have an insulin injection every morning. With every syringe he must have been fending off death.
My younger brother was diagnosed with diabetic when he was in 30s. Last year I was diagnosed with diabetic. We are both physically active and not obese. I’m sure we inherited it from my father, and my father’s father. Neither of us has kids to bequest the gene or fear of death.
I still occasionally have suicide ideation when I’m depressed. But most of time I just enjoy my life. Every day is a beautiful day to live.
Recommended Reading if you are interested in this kind of stuff.
It Didn’t Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle
by Mark Wolynn