In my waking life, yesterday was a pretty good day. I can feel myself slowly and steadily climbing out of depression, and even though I know that’s supposed to be something to fear, the week before hypomania goes south is glorious. I saw my hometown best friends and for the first time in a while, felt like I could indulge in the frivolity of the mundane without the overarching existential despair. The only downside of having more energy than my friends is that the night ends long before I’m ready.
But eventually I settled down for five hours of sleep, and my dreams were like, “lol DEATH.” At the risk of sounding like I’m on hallucinogens, manic dreams are psychedelically vivid, which is why I woke up from this one thinking I had reached some strange afterlife that was unfortunately the exact same as my before-life. Once I reckoned with still being in real life, I had to talk myself out of a panic attack for about an hour. Wtf dreams?!?
It started in media res – as most dreams do – with me already being in my room vaguely aware of my oncoming death, which corresponded with the dying of my laptop battery. This might have something to do with the fact that my laptop keeps warning me the battery needs to be “replaced soon,” but in the dream, it was more like a countdown to my demise.
So my laptop reached 10%, and I was like “shit. Better get some closure and resolve all conflicts with people in my life before I die.” But my mom was the only one home. Like none of my other family members were the least bit affected by my impending doom. Cool.
I went downstairs to tell my mom I was about to die, but all of a sudden I got really dizzy and decided to lie on the couch instead. But I missed the couch, and ended up falling on the floor, which prompted my mom to run into the den and put a pillow under my head. She hugged me, and I let out a tearful confession that I still believe in god (wut?). Then, I guess I died. Because I woke up sweating and panicking.
Naturally, I googled “dreams where I die,” and apparently a dream about one’s own death marks the beginning of a transition period in his or her life. Great. I have a religious devotion to my routine and comfort zone. Change makes me excruciatingly anxious, so transition periods aren’t exactly my cup of tea. So my mania-induced superstitiousness was like, “okay. What am I transitioning from and to?” Depression to mania? Atheism to Christianity? College to a real job? My room to a psychiatric facility? Life to death? Financially dependent riches to independent rags? Real life obscurity to, well, internet obscurity? Passing to failing? Single to in a relationship? Idealism to reluctant pragmatism?
None of those sound incredibly appealing to be honest. So of course that dream turned into an existential freak-out because I don’t know how to handle any attempted gerrymandering of my comfort zone any other way, which then became a manic I-have-nothing-to-look-forward-to-I’m-going-to-party-my-life-away attitude. That’s how I differentiate between depression and mania: does my nihilism make me want to die or does it make me want to drink/have sex/spend all the money?
But back to the real question at hand. Why is my subconscious so obsessed with death? But not even death, really, because that’s terrifying. It’s more like the death-aesthetic. Like, dramatically fainting in a silk robe after drinking a bottle of wine and never waking up. Or arguing with the grim reaper a la John Donne. Or flat out romanticizing the color black, coffins, and infinite sleep.
All that obsessiveness probably stems from my desire to micromanage my death. “Sure my body might be useless, but what does it look like?” That might seem completely crazy. I’m not equipped to objectively analyze what I’m saying; however, my constant meditation on mortality definitely removes the taboo. It normalizes it enough for me to be able to focus on the more frivolous aspects of death like if the color of my coffin complements my skin tone. I know this sounds very Lana-Del-Rey-tumblr-sad-girl, and it probably is because honestly is there any other way to make death less horrifying than to trivialize it? I don’t know of one.
But then again, that’s the very nature of death: common enough to be trivial at a distance and terrifying enough to be profound when it’s in your face. The only way to cope is to anesthetize ourselves to it. Even if the throes of depression when I so desperately long to stop existing, if I was actually faced with the reality of nonexistence, I’m sure I would snap into a panic attack immediately. There’s skulls and crossbones and Sartre, and then there’s eternal nothingness. (Or eternal whatever-your-beliefs-entail. Because be honest. Eternal anything is terrifying.)
Finality is not something my mind can really even attempt comprehend without panicking or dissociating, so in the mean time, I’m just going to worry about keeping up appearances and hope thoughts of mortality have the decency to leave me alone and stop catching me off-guard in my dreams. Just let me LIVE. Please. Also, this video adequately captures the spirit of everything I just wrote. So enjoy it, and then read all of her poetry/essay books because they freakin ROCK.