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  • I nearly died twice.

    It was actually quite nice.

    The first time I was in France, I was seventeen, I took my little brother and sister to the beach while my parents had a lie-in. We were careful, the red flag was up and the waves were huge, I was paddling in the surf and I thought I would just ride a wave back to shore.

    Whoosh. The undertow took me out, I swam and swam but I just went further out, the waves went over my head, I swallowed more salt water than I thought was possible. I choked. I struggled. I tried to remember the French for "help!", and couldn't.

    After a while I got kind of dreamy and thought, ok, I give in. It was peaceful. A moment of complete calm. The waves went over and over my head and I stopped fighting them.

    Then an unknown Frenchman grabbed me by the right arm and my little brother (aged fourteen) grabbed me by the left and they hauled me to shore and the indifferent gaze of a crowd of onlookers, while I lay coughing and spluttering on the sand.


    The second time was when I had a bad asthma attack, aged thirty-two. I called the doctor and he brought a breathing machine round, he said, breathe this and I tried and said it makes me feel worse, and he said try it again. I did and I felt myself falling, I remember thinking I was going to hit my head on the table edge as I went down and then everything was black.

    Later they told me when I arrived at the hospital I was navy blue. The medical staff were all very proud that they had saved me. I was a young mother. I remember half-waking when they tried to resuscitate me and saying "Please let me die. Please, please..." until they shoved the ventilator back down my throat.

    I was ashamed when I woke up in intensive care (all those flashing lights and beeping things like a scene in a soap opera), that I had wanted to die, and leave my children. But it was so seductive, the letting go. The deep black calm of death. Like, when you are really really tired and you desperately want to sleep and you can't and you try and try and count sheep or meditate and nothing works and then you feel yourself on the edge and you think, oh, thank goodness, I can sink into that pool, the pool of unconsciousness, and just not think any more.
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