It seems like it was only yesterday that I was on the train, speeding my way to my friend’s wedding. In fact, it wasn't that long ago, maybe a month or so and now I am making the same journey, but this time to his funeral.
We all knew he was Ill. He had been battling cancer bravely for over three years, but it was starting to get the better of him. Apart from a loss of weight, you wouldn't have known his plight. He was chatting and laughing with the guests and talking about future plans, just as we all had years before.
I think he, along with the rest of us, knew that this was a slim chance, but I don't think we were prepared for just how soon afterwards he would be taken from us. It has been a couple of weeks since his death, but his wife wanted the service to be held on the 4th of May, because it is Star Wars day. He was a lover of sci-fi in many of its forms and would certainly have approved of the date.
As I stare at the trees and buildings flying past the window, I am filled with mixed emotions. I really want to be there to pay my respects and to show that he meant something to us – his friends, but I am also dreading the funeral, because it always evokes bad memories for me.
For a long while, any death in the family or that of a close friend, has sparked flashbacks of my father’s death when I was 7 years old, as well as others I have witnessed over the years. I have seen more people die than is probably healthy, but there was no choice at the time, because my mum was the sole carer for many of her brothers and sisters.
All their faces flood into my mind at times like these. But not happy, smiling faces, it is far crueller than that. I see them at the end, breathing their last breath, slipping into the darkness with that look of desperation and fear. It is that look in their eyes that I see the most, the things that keeps repeating in my mind.
Part of my health anxiety is a fear of dying, this has been linked by people more intelligent than me, to my father’s death. When I was young, I was always able to rationalise these thoughts. I would think to myself that I was young, fit, didn’t smoke or drink, so the likelihood of me dying was slim. But as I have got older, this argument has lost some of its power. Now, the death of my friend at 48, only six years older than me, has all but shattered it.
I remember him with myself and the other ‘musketeers’, as we called ourselves, talking about a year before he was diagnosed. He had plans for what he wanted to do when he retired. About moving home and settling down somewhere peaceful. He didn’t know then, just what was to happen and neither does anyone.
The one good thing that has come from this situation is that both my brother and I have realised just how fleeting life is. You have to take each moment and use it to the full, instead of constantly planning ahead. There are many things I have wanted to do, but put them off for various reasons. Now, I am going to go for them all, no matter if they succeed or fail, because at the end, I want to know I have done everything I wanted to do.
Some difficult subjects here, but I'm sure you'll agree Steven has come through them brilliantly. Has the death of friends or family impacted on your own mental health? How did you cope? Let us know in the comments below.
You can read more from Steven on his own blog at walkingwithanxiety.wordpress.com. Also, you can keep up-to-date with Steven on Twitter, where he's @walkingwithanxi or via his 'Walking With Anxiety' Facebook page.