18 months on - fear of dying young

It's been almost 18 months since I was critically ill and physically I have recovered amazing well. I do everything I used to and can look after my young family. My cardiac function was mildly impaired, my kidneys haven't quite got back to normal and I have a lot of scarring but I am managing just fine with no medications or doctors appointments. I do not have flash backs or post traumatic stress disorder. Being poorly wasn't ok but I'm ok with what happened if you know what I mean.

Just recently though I've been struggling with the emotions of dying and the fear of dying young and leaving my young family and husband. One day I was fine and the next day I was so close to death. I feel very aware of how fragile life is one day you are alive and well and the next day you could be dead. I suppose the death of peaches geldoff in the media has aroused some emotions for me. Also a friend in her early thirties has just had a pace maker fitted. And another has had an organ transplant. I just can't believe all these life threatening things are happening to me, my friends and others in our 20s and 30s.

No so long ago I was a 23 year old newly wed and I was so happy and felt like I had my whole life ahead of me. Now I do not. Almost like I can't see my future, I can't make plans, I don't dare to dream because I just don't know what is around the corner, and sometimes consider what if this day could be my last. It sounds a bit extreme as we all die eventually, death is not something that happens to "other" people. I don't want to live thinking like this all the time. But it don't want to be ignorant of how precious life is and I'm not done yet and I have so much to give to the world. I did try some talking therapy but the NHS was impractical appointment wise and paying privately got too expensive.

I just wondered if anyone else had perhaps experienced similar feelings and how you mange them and do you have a perspective on your life after critical illness?

My life has been saved twice by doctors, medicines and machinery. I must still be here for a reason right now. And I just hope so much I can get back to dreaming of my wonderful future again, which I always though I'd see, and grow old, but now I'm not so sure. I just hope it's meant for me.

6 Replies

Hi Summerwine,

The thoughts of morbidity are quite common for all of us that have been through such a traumatic experience, suddenly you evaluate everything in your life, I was 52 when I was in ICU 3 years ago for 3 months, one day I just had a chest infection the next I was fighting for my life, with my wife told I had a less than 10% chance of survival,, somehow I survived but in my nightmares I believed i had died, I now know how lucky I was to survive such a critical illness, the thought that I nearly died is never far from my thoughts, I look at life very differently now I've been given a second chance of life and now have a wonderful 10 month old grandson which make surviving even better. Have you got a ICUsteps support group near you? It's a great way to meet others that understand what you have been through.

Best wishes for the future.

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I have always had a an attitude of living with death. The way I see it, if it is going to happen it will. Live with what you have with the time you have. No one wants to die but that is the only guarantee we have. Live for NOW! Not tomorrow.

Enjoy your life and family.

Be Well

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Hi summerwine, I have also experienced this. Having been diagnosed at a young age with cancer. I got through my treatment, which was grim, and came out the other end determined to move forward and put it all behind me. apart from a few long term side effects like scarring, some pain, fatigue and nausea, all relatively minor physical symptoms, life went back to "normal". Except its not normal is it? once you have faced death, especially at a young age, it's not the same. we have lost our unwavering sense of an infallible future. Maybe it is the naiivity of youth but, I never even considered in a billion years that anything would ever happen to me! Yes to "other people" maybe, but not to me, and this loss of security in the future, (my cancer may well come back), is really hard to get your head round. So while Offcut is right, we should be living for the day, and savouring every moment, but sometimes those black doubts creep in.

My only advice would be, don't feel bad or guilty for feeling this way. You have a billion reasons to wobble. If you cant afford or don't have access to talking therapies, which I believe are one of the best ways to help your brain make sense of it all, then write it down. Have you looked on facebook, for example, to see if there are any chat forums for young people who have had life threatening conditions or been in ICU? I found a couple to do with young women with breast cancer and it is amazing the relief you feel when other people post about similar things to what you have gone through. It is somewhere to share those feelings and thoughts that you maybe cant share with anyone else. and the best (or worst, depending on which way you look at it) thing is that they have all been there and understand exactly how you feel. if there isn't anything on facebook, why not start one?

I am an ICU nurse, so I know there are many many young people who have faced critical illness out there, you are definitely not alone. Hope this helps, and good luck with your continuing recovery. sending lots of love



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Thank you for the replies particularly yours nuraemakeyouwell. A few weeks on from this post in feeling a lot more positive. I've started some new training for a new direction in my life/career and it's giving me new purpose in life. A big part of my recovery has involved the journey to breastfeed my son. It's take months to get it all written down but now I have I feel a huge weight has been lifted and I can move forward again. I will share the story on another post. X

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There are some really good replies from people who understand how you feel.

My perspective mirrors what has been said but I would like to add this.

It is very early days for you...I am three years on from ICU and am still improving psychologically. Am much much better than where I was 18 months ago and know that it will continue to improve.

I had some great support through my GP related to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and I believe it helped ...everyone is different.

Living with your mortality is inevitable after your experiences but it eventually falls into perspective and into some context.

Make plans and try and have things to look forward to

K x

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Hi Summerwine,. You do struggle with lots of different emotions, but as time goes on, it eases off a bit and you start to think of the future. You say you 'are not done yet and have a lot to give the world', that is what I think about myself also, as this keeps me going. Don't give up!


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