View Full Version : How do you feel about that time you almost died?

09-03-2015, 01:51 AM
I'm not necessarily asking about what happened that almost killed you, although those stories are always fascinating and welcomed here if you feel like sharing.

What I'm looking for is, if you're willing, the lasting changes to your psyche and behavior (if any) your this-close-to-being-dead left you with.

- If it's been a long while since The Incident, how often do you think of it?

- Do you tell the story of that time I almost died in new company or is it a revelation that you save for closer friendships?

- How do you feel you handled you near-demise? Are you proud of yourself? Do you wish you had handled it differently?

For example, I was almost killed by a mistake during a common medical procedure. As it was, I was fine. But I was literally inches from being irretrievably dead. It was not something that I would have been able to be revived from. I tell the story easily and often, because it's crazy how close you can come to being dead, and yet walk away without a scratch. But the moment is a source of damned near self-loathing for me. I think about it all the time.

I have handled myself admirably in other crises, but this one time, I knew what was happening and I froze. I couldn't move or speak and could only watch myself nearly die over the course of a good fifteen seconds. I just sat there. (In the end, my head started twitching in some sort of involuntary reaction to my horror and a nurse saw it and saved me with almost nothing to spare.) I was just going to let it happen because I was frozen in horror and I am very disappointed in myself - even more than twenty years later. I don't trust myself to do the right thing in quick dire straits and I hate that.

So, there's my story. What's yours?

09-03-2015, 02:06 AM
I haven't really had a near-death experience like yours. Mine were mostly close calls, or an injury that put me into shock.

The near-miss was a car running a red light and missing my car by inches. If I hadn't good reflexes, I would have been wearing that car in my lap. I remember swearing, shouting, and my heart pounding.

The other was when my cat slipped between my legs and got outside to chase a fox. Like an idiot, I went after him and pounced. He turned on me like a furry grey tornado, and ripped my arms to shreds. I stood, bleeding, while my husband threw a blanket on the cat and got him inside. I followed and flushed the wounds, then hubby drove me to the hospital.

It wasn't until an hour or so later that the shock wore off and I got dizzy and nauseated while sitting in the waiting area.

Weeks later, I finally looked out the window and thought, "Nice day." I didn't realize until then that I was probably in the throes of depression.

The incident, and my outlook on life certainly changed the ending of my current manuscript!

09-03-2015, 02:23 AM
I was in a car crash driving on a state highway, going about 50-55 mph. The other car made an illegal turn, and I hit their side. I don't bring it up in new company but neither am I hesitant about it. If we're talking about cars/crashes/near-misses I'll mention it.

I don't think back on it very much specifically, but whenever I'm passing an intersection I'm very wary of what others are doing. And I don't trust other drivers, ever.

I think I handled the crash pretty well when it happened. I wasn't injured at all (to which the responding EMT was amazed), had to forcibly kick open my door to get out of the car, dialed 911, and checked on the people in the other car (no major injuries). I don't know which, but I think I was rigged up on either adrenaline or shock at the time because I was a little shaky and wasn't thinking straight. Ex. I couldn't figure out why my ignition key wouldn't come out of its socket, then realized it was still in the 'on' position.

09-03-2015, 03:53 AM
I almost lost my sight in one eye because the chief of an emergency department didn't have a clue what was wrong with me. I don't tell many people about it. Of course a doctor needs to know and a friend. I got a diagnosis of atypical migraine. I mention this because it was like a death.

The next year I almost died from a rare heart disease. Again I got a diagnosis of atypical chest pain. It took 11 visits to the ED to get a diagnosis and by that time I was near death. I was labeled a hypochondriac by several ED doctors. Very rude when you feel as if you're going to pass out and never wake up. I was in denial about how bad it was until my husband told me about his fears of me dying. That's when I realized how serious the heart disease was.

I learned that persistence is the key to getting the correct diagnosis.

And I started writing about those atypical diagnoses in a novel called Atypicalitis. That was my personal therapy.

I've used the experiences in my novels in part.

09-03-2015, 05:10 AM
I've been in a couple crashes that could have easily killed me. To be honest, I never really think about it.

09-03-2015, 10:56 AM
I had cancer a few years back. I'm not really guarded about it, but I don't discuss it much either.
At the time, I suppose I was in shock. I had the tumour and sort of knew what was going on before the official diagnosis, but when I got it I didn't flip out or anything. I just went along with it. Even during treatment, I remember being... well, nearly calm. I would either survive or I wouldn't, there was no room there for anything else.
It was only a few months after treatment and entering remission (still there for a couple more years) that the enormity of what I had faced caught up with me. It's taken me some considerable time to come to terms with that and I imagine I'm still not there.
I think about it... not as often as I did, but a fair amount. The chemo left me infertile, so that's something that's always at the back of my mind.
Mostly, I think, it's done my mental state good, though. Quite frankly, I grew up. It's given me confidence and even pride. Sure, it's shattered what tenuous religious faith I may have had, but that seems like a fair enough trade to me.

09-03-2015, 11:16 AM
I'm of the 'life is short,' 'no guarantees' mindset. I've had a few, a couple shudderingly close ones, and all from doing something stupid (calculated risks in my mind). To me, no matter how traumatic they are supposed to be, i just think of them as a lesson learned, and i get smarter. There's never been anything traumatic about it for me. No time for that. Now, top-40 music, popular TV, thats traumatic...

09-03-2015, 12:06 PM
I've never had a brush with death, but my husband came very close to drowning when he was around 11 (on a canoeing trip with his dad). His foot got stuck between two rocks underwater, and he got to the point where he had given up. He went limp, and his shoe slid off, so he popped to the surface (he was wearing a life jacket).

He says it was odd, not panicky at all past a certain point, but simple resignation (so this is it).

He said he was a lot less nervous after the experience. He was an uptight kid before, he says, but after that, he just wasn't as worried about things (he's sitting next to me and I'm prodding him for details), but he says he can't really explain.

Neither of us are at all religious, and he's a lot less scared of dying (and the prospect of his own non existence) than I am, but it's not just about death, he says. He does seem to be less prone to anxiety and depression than I am, and though I love him dearly, I actually get a bit annoyed about his tale of how he used to be more like me (that's not how he puts it) before he had this experience as a kid. It's not like I can arrange to almost drown to see if it makes me less worried about things.

But I wonder. Are near-death experiences the ultimate cure for depression and anxiety? Or does that only work if it happens in those pre-adolescent years? Not like there's any way to do a double-blind, controlled clinical trial.

09-03-2015, 12:31 PM
I nearly died on a passenger ferry when I was maybe 10 or 11. We were on an overnight crossing to Denmark and I'd gone down to the car deck to get something out of our car (no, I don't know why my parents let me go on my own either).

I got whatever it was and went back to the lifts, pressed the button, the doors open and I remember thinking "wow it's dark in that lift" and was just about to step inside when I realised it was dark because the lift car wasn't there and I had one foot almost in the empty shaft.

I tell people if we're in a "swapping war stories" type of mood (i.e. drinking) but it doesn't come up all that often. I'm not scared of lifts or ships or anything, although I do occasionally catch myself wondering if that shaft went down into the watery bilges at the bottom of the hull.

Edit: Just remembered I never told my parents about it at the time, or anyone else. I just used a different lift and sort of got on with it. Hope no one else fell down the dodgy lift shaft!

09-03-2015, 12:41 PM
Edit: Just remembered I never told my parents about it at the time, or anyone else. I just used a different lift and sort of got on with it. Hope no one else fell down the dodgy lift shaft!

Kids are so matter of fact about things, aren't they? An elevator/lift that opens to an empty shaft is definitely malfunctioning, but kids don't think to tell grown ups when things like that are wrong. And when they do, grown ups don't believe them anyway.

But aren't the auto decks on most ferries pretty much at the bottom level anyway? How long of a drop would it be to the bilges? Of course, being trapped at the bottom of a lift shaft could be dangerous, even if it's not that long of a drop. Yipes!

Last time I was on a ferry, they didn't allow people down on the auto decks when it was away from port anyway. Maybe this is why?

09-03-2015, 01:16 PM

But aren't the auto decks on most ferries pretty much at the bottom level anyway? How long of a drop would it be to the bilges? Of course, being trapped at the bottom of a lift shaft could be dangerous, even if it's not that long of a drop. Yipes!

Last time I was on a ferry, they didn't allow people down on the auto decks when it was away from port anyway. Maybe this is why?

Yeah I think the car deck was at or maybe below the waterline so probably not all that far in reality, but I don't think I'd want to be trapped in the bilges of a ship - probably not the first place anyone would look for you. This was over 30 years ago now so hopefully safety has improved a bit since then!

09-03-2015, 03:23 PM
This is all wonderful stuff. Fascinating.

And good lord, people! Do be careful with yourselves!

09-03-2015, 04:21 PM
I've died twice, once from anaphylaxis and once from sepsis. Death is a pretty cool dude. Don't play chess, he'll beat you, just ask for dice. Coming back into your body hurts


He took a lot of my anger and fear and asked for nothing in return.

I saw the gates of Heaven. I know they exist. God's even cooler than Death. That took all the magic out of religion. It just didn't do it justice.

09-03-2015, 04:32 PM
I've had 2 brothers who've also died and came back. One froze in the mountains and his spirit floated high enough to see where to go, came back to his body and he stumbled to a church. He became a better person.

One died during surgery and was in the process of being devoured by wispy black creatures when he was slammed back into his body. He became an even worse person

Sam Argent
09-03-2015, 05:13 PM
The first time in a car wreck, the almost dying part didn't stick with me except I always remember how close my face was to the windshield when the force of the hit drove me forward, and my seatbelt saved me from going through it. I knew a lot of people my age who hated wearing seatbelts, and I was the odd duck who insisted on wearing them. I do have to think about how it affected my body afterwards since I'm left with permanent health issues.

The second time was a near heart attack because of my anemia. I get angry at myself when I think about it because unlike the car wreck where I had no fault, this was about me being stupid. I assumed since I was in my mid-twenties that I couldn't have a heart attack and ignored the chest pains for a month. Also, I had been anemic for years, so I didn't think it was that bad. Turns out I was wrong, and I almost didn't make it to the hospital in time. I want to smack myself every time I think about it, but it's changed how I take care of myself. I listen to my body and eff the bils, if I feel half that horrible again, I'm going to the ER.

As far as less worries, for me it was true. Writing was supposed to be something I pursued on the side while I had a regular job. After the near heart attack, I said to hell with it, I'm going all in. I don't know if I would have had this much persistence before getting that sick.

09-03-2015, 05:48 PM
The closest I've come was during jaw surgery. I was put under general anesthesia, and when the doctor removed the intubation tube, my throat closed up and I stopped breathing for a few seconds. Because I was still under, I had no awareness of it--only when I woke up and found myself with a tube up my nose to drain fluid that had gathered in/around my lungs did I find out what had happened.

Surprisingly, it didn't affect me all that much afterwards (except that I decided then and there I'd never go under general again :)).

09-03-2015, 05:49 PM
When I was a little kid one of my buddies didn't understand the fact that I couldn't swim at the time. Of course he thought it would be fun to climb on me for a game of "chicken". I was small and couldn't support him as it was, AND I slid into the deep end of the pool! If it weren't for whatever mindless flailing that must have resembled swimming, I might have been six feet under today.

I can look back on it and laugh for the most part, but when I think long about that period of not being able to breathe I get shivers.

09-03-2015, 09:26 PM
Good ol' Chuck Wendig wrote a post about death and writing. I printed out a portion of it and posted it near my desk, mostly to give myself a kick in the pants:


09-04-2015, 12:47 AM
I've been given up for dead three times, and had close calls besides this. If any of them had lasting effects, I have no idea what they might be. I don't feel any different, I have no scary memories about it, and as far as I know, I don't act any different.

But none of these events frightened me in any way, so maybe that's why there are no lasting effects. I mean, really, we all die, and I can't see the sense in letting a close call with the inevitable affect the rest of our lives.

09-04-2015, 01:35 AM
But I wonder. Are near-death experiences the ultimate cure for depression and anxiety? Or does that only work if it happens in those pre-adolescent years? Not like there's any way to do a double-blind, controlled clinical trial.I don't think so. I think it's a case-by-case thing. I nearly drowned when I was little. Today I'm a cautious person still, even though I'm pretty calm, although I think those were a result of watching my father be so reckless and also because of my own life experiences (non-death related). It's also a cause for my tendency towards depression at times.

To answer the OP, that swimming incident was the closest call to death I had. I try to avoid putting myself in situations where I can potentially be harmed or killed, I think more so than others.

There was one time though where we got in a car accident when we were clipped by a truck on the freeway and spun out of control and hit the median. For months afterwards I subconsciously changed the way I drove whenever there was a truck nearby, even though I hadn't been the one driving at the time of the accident.

09-04-2015, 10:12 AM
But I wonder. Are near-death experiences the ultimate cure for depression and anxiety? Or does that only work if it happens in those pre-adolescent years? Not like there's any way to do a double-blind, controlled clinical trial.

Like Chompers said, it's probably a case by case basis. For me, fewer situations stress me out because, compared to taking on death and winning, what's a little public speaking/whatever?
On the flip side, I push myself far too hard to write, get published, etc. because should I ever find myself in that position again, I want to have something to my name. Then I feel like I'm wasting the extra life I've been given and push myself even harder. When I get caught in that loop, it ain't pretty.

09-04-2015, 12:32 PM
I once nearly choked to death on a piece of meat stuck in my throat. Got rescued by somebody who knew the Heimlich maneuver.

It was an extraordinarily unpleasant experience. But it didn't generate any epiphany, other than to be more careful about chewing and swallowing.


09-05-2015, 04:18 AM
I never almost died, to my knowledge, but I FELT like I was suffocating to death several times after waking up from general anesthesia. I woke up too early, while still under the effect of the muscle relaxant I was given, so I was paralyzed and could not alert anyone to how I felt. This traumatized me pretty badly, and I wish I'd said something about it the first time it happened, rather than assuming I was a wimp for not being able to deal with it. Since explaining the details of why I was being knocked out three times a week kind of requires going into my mental health issues, I wouldn't talk about it with people I hardly know. "They tried to treat my depression and accidentally gave me PTSD instead" is not really casual conversation, IMO...

09-05-2015, 07:53 AM
I've been doing research on Near Death Experiences for my novel and I picked up a great book called Life after Life by Raymond Moody. It's a short book, which published over one hundred case studies of people who experienced clinical death and were then revived. The book focuses deeply on what people experienced as they were dying, but there are plenty of stories that include just the thing you're talking about. People talk about their changed psyches and behaviors, some of them mention how frequently they talk or don't talk about the experience and of course they talk about their emotions as they went through the process. Many people talk about what they felt of themselves after they returned. For going into such dark territory, the stories are strangely uplifting. Many people had positive emotions after their experience.

It's a really interesting book. Here's (http://www.amazon.com/Life-After-Bestselling-Investigation-Experiences-ebook/dp/B00JTYBWMI/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1441424594&sr=1-3&keywords=life+after+life) the amazon link if you're interested.

I haven't had a NDE but I have witnessed two deaths. One was the drowning of a friend. The other was my uncle (he was way too young to die) whom I was tasked with caretaking for the last three months of his life. Fucking cancer. Their deaths have affected me in horrible and incredible ways but I never talk about it. Oddly enough, the rare occasions I do mention these events are to people who don't know me well. Can't tell you why that is.

lianna williamson
09-05-2015, 09:02 PM
When I almost died, my life flashed before my eyes-- but it went backwards, like a VHS tape rewinding, until I could remember being in the womb. After that, I felt very peaceful-- no pain or fear.

Having this experience at age 13 has left me with the following beliefs:

1) Whatever happens after death, it's nothing to be afraid of
2) Every memory you have ever made is stored somewhere in your brain

09-05-2015, 09:26 PM
He says it was odd, not panicky at all past a certain point, but simple resignation (so this is it).

That's exactly how I felt when I drowned. It was the coming back to breathing that was the horrible part. It hurt like hell.

I don't think it about much now. It's an amusing/interesting story from my life that I tell when the subject comes up. I don't think it changed the way I look at my life or the world or anything like that. Probably cos I walked away from it with no lasting damage.

The thing that has changed my life completely is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome but that's not a near-death thing. It's just dying by small stages.

But then again so is living so what the hey! :D

09-05-2015, 09:29 PM
This is such great insight and it's helping me develop the idea I was having - quite a lot.

Thank you for your candor and for being so articulate. You've all ruined the rest of the internet for me.

09-06-2015, 12:30 AM
I had a strange near death experience. About 10 years ago I had an incredibly painful stomach ache, accompanied by all the symptoms of a violent flu. I took to my bed vilely ill, and about the 2nd day I was in that state of being asleep and awake, when I "dreamt" about 2 women I knew. They were sitting silently at a small table covered by a white cloth, drinking tea - that's all they were doing. I awoke and thought "how odd, Val and Cynthia together - and they don't even know each other!" Then as I was musing upon it some more, it hit me - the only thing these two women had in common was the fact that each had died suddenly and unexpectedly at home. With that I decided to get up and have my painful "flu" checked out that the ER. Turned out that it wasn't the flu at all but a ruptured appendix and I had peritonitis. I was in surgery within an hour of arrival and I spent almost a week hooked up to morphine and various antibiotics. The only lingering affect (apart from wondering about the timely appearance of my dead friends) was a tendency to cry for no particular reason for weeks after. I recall being driven home by my dad (a Country and Western fan) and the song "Patches" ("Patches, I'm depending on you son, to pull the family thru…" yadda yadda) came on over the radio - and I burst into big noisy sobs. Now 10 years on, when ever I hear that song it will bring me to tears, but since its an old song and I don't listen to country, that's a pretty rare occurrence.

09-06-2015, 12:41 AM
I did have a certain experience when i was very young, that is still very vivid. For personal reasons, i shall not speak about it. One thing i did know that for sure, there is something about waiting for our spirits after we day, and that thing could be somewhat different than what most religious traditions teach us.

And it is a thought that comforted me whenever it happened to loss a friend or a relative. I knew he or she did not perish, but went to a better place.

09-20-2015, 07:24 AM
I don't.

I'm here and that's the salient point. I find that most emotional freakouts are due to dwelling on could've, should've, and might have beens...none of which ever happened. If it never happened, then what are you so freaked out about? Makes no sense. Can't wrap either my brain or my would-be emotions around that one. I get a similar sensation, or lack thereof, with nursing too. Many things could have or should have happened but what actually happened is what's sitting on my exam table and will be thus be dealt with accordingly. Could have, didn't, and that's the bottom line.

There's nothing mystical to it. No shitty ignorant statement like "everything happens for a reason" applies. Just, life happens. And then you deal with the reality of it and move on, or speculate on might have beens and circle the drain. As for how or why people settle on reality as opposed to might have beens, I've got nothing for you.

I can say that having people fluttering about you while they freak out about would haves, could haves, and might have beens after an event is like fingernails on the blackboard of life. I then feel like I need to comfort them which is the wrong side of things to be on after such an event. I will say the post event period is one of being like a wrung out dishrag, a want to do and process nothing for at least a day. Likely the stress of the moment having used up all your available resources. Which is why the fluttering of others is so damned annoying afterwards...there's nothing left with which to process their emotions and worries.

Hope that helps.

09-20-2015, 03:44 PM
When I was twelve, I was swimming in a river with a friend when the current overtook me and I nearly drowned. I remember not thinking, "Oh God, I'm going to die," but thinking, "Where is everyone? Why isn't anyone coming to help me?" So it goes, a happenstance passerby pulled me out and revived me. This is why I'm always kind to strangers: you never know which one of them is going to save your life.

09-20-2015, 06:40 PM
This is why I'm always kind to strangers: you never know which one of them is going to save your life.
Now there's an excellent takeaway!

09-20-2015, 07:19 PM
Indeed! It's been my credo ever since that day! :)

09-22-2015, 12:19 AM
In 2010 I had to bring my 18 month old son to emergency on New Year's Eve. He had thrown up 10 times in two hours and couldn't lift his head anymore so my husband and I rushed him to the hospital. We stayed with him in pediatrics that night and around midnight I started feeling really sick. By 2 am I could barely stand up straight but, assuming I had the flu, no one paid much attention and just told me to visit the ER. Doctors ascertained my white blood cells were way up, but they called it a virus and quarantined me for two days. Since it was the holiday they were low on staff. My husband was sent home with my little son and we had no family in the city, so he was alone at home and I was on my own at the hospital. After two days with scant visits from medical staff, I was incredibly sick. A doctor came in and said maybe it could be my appendix so ordered a catscan. The attendant didn't follow instruction and the test was unreadable. No ultrasound tech was onsite due to the holiday, and they didn't want me to have more radiation in one night, so they pumped me full of high strength antibiotics and painkillers. In the middle of the night I felt a pop in my side. The next morning I had an ultrasound (lovely having that wand pushed over my excruciatingly painful belly) and the ultra tech said it was my appendix but couldn't tell if it was perforated so I had to have another catscan. The second catscan, now performed properly, showed a ruptured appendix (remember the "pop" I felt in my side?), an abscess due to appendeceal fluid spilling into my gut, and my bowel had shut down. I was still alone because the emergency doctors told my husband not to call in family help in case someone caught flu from my son. I had emergency surgery and thankfully I was fine. They were afraid I would lose part of my bowel, but the surgeon was able to save it. I was left with what I consider to be PTSD, being alone, neglected and falling through the cracks of a health system I used to trust. When I arrived in hospital for my son I had been fine, but all my symptoms started after I was onsite so I ruptured after two days in hospital while under medical care! I also had anxiety about the fact that there was trouble brewing in my body but I had no idea. The "what-ifs" were at times crippling. It has taken me five years and some therapy years ago to calm my health-relayed anxiety. On a positive note? My husband became ill two years ago and I diagnosed his appendicitis. I made him rush to the hospital and within 6 hours he was on the operating table. So, when he is being difficult I remind him I saved his life :) My grandfather's sister died of appendicitis in the 50's and my dad mused that if it weren't for us being born into modern times both my children would be orphans now, since their parents would both be deceased from ruptured appendixes.