Self

I've Died Every Night Since I Was A Child

Photo: Deborah Lee Rossiter / Shutterstock
sad teen girl

I was nine years old when I died for the first time. From the time I was born, I knew I was in the wrong place. And from the time I could talk, I told my family I wasn’t supposed to be there. I scared everyone but myself.

I wanted to go home, but everyone kept insisting I was already there. I managed to cope with life until my body started to change. I was seven and totally unprepared for early puberty.

My parents had let me live without imaginary borders of gender. I was a girl, but I was also a boy in the sense that I spent most of my days adventuring outdoors. I stayed out all day, cycled for miles, climbed trees, built treehouses, foraged for mushrooms and berries. W

e also scavenged mining holes for good stuff people threw away. I wrote stories while eating packed lunch either beside a lake if we had gone swimming or under a tree in the forest if our stomachs rumbled while getting lost in nature.

Instead of embracing my new status as a child-woman, the urge to die, to leave grew so intense, my parents eventually divorced.

My mother called in the mental health professionals to find solutions to my rebelliousness. I hated life, school, and myself. Or so they thought.

I was told I would have to be put on puberty blockers, but I refused; even when breasts grew so big, they hurt my back.

I was constantly daydreaming about my other home, far, far away in another galaxy. I wrote stories of home, but no one liked my stories, especially my family, who thought there was something mentally wrong with me. Life on another planet; there’s only life on Earth!

I had to talk to strangers because everyone believed they could delve deeper and find out more about me than I did. But I talked back. I said, “No one who hasn’t experienced early puberty can know what it’s like to be a child and have adult urges. I don’t want to die; I want to go home.”

The psychiatrists read my stories without asking for my permission to find clues about my mental health. They asked: why do you want to die? And home, haven’t you got a house in a village in one of the best countries in the world?!

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I said, “I want to live in the present, but school tells me to plan for the future. Nothing is real. We are all experts at imagining reality. We avoid talking about death because we fear death and love life, and we don’t want it to end. But it’s wrong. We create life, and we also create death. Not talking about death means we take the journey into the unknown unprepared. I’m prepared. I know what’s going to happen when I die.”

No one writes suicide notes for fun! How did you get such a mature vocabulary?”

My mother told them I read a lot, books no one else would ever want to read.

The psychiatrists tried to coax me back to their mainstream and acceptable version of life by guilt and by shame, but I was having none of it.

“The only one who can save my life is me,” I said. I write letters to myself; it’s my way of talking to myself. You’re misinterpreting everything. And let me be strange! I can’t be your type of normal, no matter what you say or do. Or threaten to do.”

The psychiatrists let me stay at home, despite their insistence that there was something seriously wrong with me and that I would be better off in a special home for troubled children.

“We need to diagnose you. We want to help you.”

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“I’m not selfish; you are. You think you listen, but you don’t hear. Wanting to die doesn’t have to mean I will end my life. I want to learn where I’m going when it’s time to take the final journey. Wanting to die also means I want to live. Life is constant, and I need to change with it.”

They nodded and took notes. But they kept insisting I was a danger to myself.

“Stop pushing people through the same path in life. School is not for everyone. University is not for everyone. A career is not for everyone. Marriage is not for everyone. Parenting is not for everyone. The person who lives the longest doesn’t win a prize. Stop trying to mould me to fit your adult perspective. Allow me my childish worldview!”

The mental health professionals wanted me to listen to them, but they refused to understand me.

I had always listened to my inner voice, just like my grandmother told me, but now I was supposed to listen to mental health doctors who knew nothing about me. I told my mother I would do a death ritual and settle into life in both my body and on Earth if she agreed not to take me to see the psychiatrists ever again.

“They want to medicate me. They want to change me instead of helping me become who I am. They think I should be grateful. They don’t realize that it takes time to move into a new body, to a life far away from home.

As a child with intense sexual urges, I masturbated to cope with life. The brief altered state of consciousness became my drug. I needed to die to live.

I invented my own rituals to heal my freakish heart. Apart from daily orgasms, I decided to die every night and rise every morning too.

One autumn evening, I rang my father, who had moved out, and I said, "Good death, I’m going to die now, it’s been a good day, I’ve been out in the forest all day. I went swimming with my friends too, and we laughed a lot which I like. It makes me feel good, my stomach makes waves, and I get a good pain. I made myself macaroni and cheese when I came home because there was no food left for me, but I didn’t mind; they know I only eat what I like. And now I’m going to read a chapter in a paranormal novel before I die. I love you, and that is all. Good death.”

I hung up and then told my sister, brother, and mother different versions of the same thing.

No one got upset, which I thought was cool. My brother told me I was mad, and my mother just snorted. I wasn’t a sweet and quiet girl, and it wasn’t my job to please people. The only one who replied with good death was my sister.

The death ritual killed my fear of death and also life, but I still started smoking.

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I stopped smoking when I became a mother, as that was also the time I finally settled into my body. I became a woman when I became a mother.

I still look at life differently. I gave my children the right to view life in unique ways, too. Their bedtime ritual was a less scary version of my childhood’s good death ritual. They got to go into a spaceship every night and travel to where ever they wanted and meet whoever they wanted and do whatever they wanted.

“Imagination will see you through life,” I said. We are all creators, even people who have been taught they are not. We can’t all be admired for our creations, though. We can’t all become famous for our art.

My plan for the journey into the unknown has changed over the years. I no longer view death as a garden of beauty where I stroll forever; neither do I view death as burning fire or black nothingness. I create death with my life, but not in a karmic way as I don’t believe in punishment.

So, in death, as in life, means to create what we want, and the only thing standing in our way is our belief system. I believe in imagination. If we continue to insist on school for children, we can at least teach them how to create life and plan for death. Make both natural. God doesn’t create our life. We do.

Learning to be alone, to listen to our inner voice, to make best friends with ourselves are essential steps to live an authentic life. An authentic life is a life where death is a natural part of life, not feared but also not denied. The brave die every night; the coward only once.

Tina Brescanu writes to understand life. She hasn't won any awards, but she keeps writing because it's nourishment to her. 

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