My first introduction to death was at the tender age of eight.
My aunt died unexpectedly at 52 from a stroke.
I was brought to the funeral home because someone thought I was old enough to process what was going on.
To this day, I want nothing to do with open-casket funerals. In my opinion, it’s only a few steps above death masks, parlor wakes and selfies with the body.
We need to evolve. In my mind, respect for the dead means they get to keep their dignity in a closed casket or an urn of ashes.
But, this story isn’t about our country’s death traditions.
It’s about me if I can be so bold.
Even by that age, I was already a professional dealing with anxiety, depression, and terror.
I figure five years of late nights spent in kitchen cupboards and dark closets added up to the 10,000 hours one must achieve mastery of something.
Too bad that mastery has never included tools to compartmentalize my anxiety and terror. No. More like I just call it a “good friend.”
Come to think of it; anxiety is the only friend I’ve had that never let me down.
Where was I?
How DID I end up processing that first funeral?
By the end of it, I could visualize what the anxiety attacks and night terrors were trying to teach me.
I understood where I would end up one terrible night when hiding in the kitchen cupboard of pots & pans wouldn’t work, and whatever I was hiding from would finally get me.
From that point forward, my childhood started fading.
Like a wood-clad house that’s needed a paint job for so long, you can watch the flakes falling off with a good gust of wind, so did what was left of my innocence.
The rest of my life has been ruled by this anxiety. Therapy, medication, nothing worked ultimately.
As I got older, the paranoia, PTSD, and cluster of other issues would add some variety to the party.
I am writing this after another anxiety attack passed. It lasted a few hours. I got through it by driving 80 miles an hour over a few southern California highways, returning to bed shortly after sunrise.
At least I don’t have to hide in dark spaces any longer.
That’s an improvement.
Funeral home picture used under a creative commons license.