(Photo by Christopher Campbell)
1. Disgustingly: that I didn’t care if those around me were killed just as long as I got out alive. The knowledge of that being my thought process at the time has haunted me my entire life.
I was in a national safari park at night in Zimbabwe with some friends on a school trip (aged around 15/16). We were told not to walk around at night because of honey badgers and other dangerous animals, but we wanted to go and see the watering hole at night so decided to ignore that advice.
So we start walking towards the watering hole in almost pitch black save a few lamps here and there. Halfway to the watering hole we heard a bush rustle around 5 meters from the path we were walking on, followed by an unmistakable lion’s roar. None of us either bother to look and all ran madly towards the watering hole where we know there’s a fence. I’ve never run so fast in my life. All I remember is being terrified I’d trip over my flip flops and wishing that the lion would go for one of the people behind me and not for me. It’s that final thought that fucks with me.
The next morning we went and saw that 2-3 meters from the path there was a fence that in the darkness we couldn’t see. Obviously the lion was directly behind the fence.
2. I’m a sex worker. Met the wrong kind of client. He raped me and beat the fuck out of me while telling me about the different places he was considering dumping my body. I was more resigned than I expected. For one I just wanted the pain to stop and I also thought how I’d just be another dead black hooker and no one would notice and it was as good an end to a shitty life as any.
Then he let me go. I’m glad not to have died by someone else’s hand, it is terrifying and lonely and thinking about it makes me want to puke, but it didn’t like, renew my love of life or anything. Sometimes I wish he’d just finished the job and be done with it. I know, I’m very ungrateful.
3. I fell down a rock face some years ago. It probably only took a few seconds tops but it felt like ages. My mind was racing, thinking what to do while simultaneously panicing so hard that I couldn’t do even the most basic thing..
That day I learned that when in mortal peril, I won’t have any bright ideas to save my life. I also won’t have any cool last words but I will let out a rather unmanly whimper.
4. Panic. Helplessness. The sense of doom was so great, there was no way the paramedics would get to me in time, it was a major heart attack. I just remember feeling like someone was sitting on my chest, I couldn’t breathe, and there was a sharp pain, but also a numbness. I couldn’t feel my left side so I wasn’t sure if it was a heart attack or a stroke, either way it was serious. I told my brother to make sure he’d take care of my kids.
Paramedics arrived, start taking vitals, everything’s elevated, but fairly normal. Not a heart attack or a stroke. I don’t see how that’s possible. Then they ask if I’ve ever had an anxiety or panic attack. I think they’re fucking with me, not taking me seriously, I mean…I’m dying and they’re telling me it’s just in my head.
Aaand that’s what my panic attacks feel like.
5. I fainted.
Flying off the highway after we hit a patch of ice. After we spun a few times and were heading for the edge of the highway and I knew that we were going off and that I was about to die, out I went.
Rolled a few times and landed in a snow bank. I came to hanging upside down, banged up a bit but still alive, much to my surprise.
6. I actually fell 20 feet at one point through a shoddy football stadium onto concrete. I basically slipped on nachos and went through an opening. Nowadays I know that people can survive that, but in my head as I was falling, everything was in slow motion and I thought “Man… This is a really stupid way to die”
7. I was about 10 years old and down at the beach with my brothers. The waves coming in were pretty decent, 2 foot at shore, 3 or 4 foot further out. My brothers were good swimmers so they headed straight out to the back with their surfboards. I was stuck on the 2 footers with a scrappy foam rectangle board.
I decided to try a bigger wave and instant regret set in. The board flipped forward knocking me off and the water was no longer shallow enough for my feet to touch the bottom. I tried making my way to shore but the water was pulling me back. Every time I surfaced I was met with a wave to the face and a mouthful of seawater. Every time I went under all I could hear was the peaceful blooblybloop sound you hear when cameras go under water with microphones. I was in full panic mode and was sure I would drown until I felt something under me pushing me to the surface. I couldn’t think and was still in survival mode clawing upwards to keep my head above water. As this thing under me kept pushing, I realized I was moving closer to the shore and suddenly the giant waves were now 2 footers again. That’s when I planted my feet into the sand and bolted to the shore crying my eyes out.
Turns out the thing under me was my brothers friend who had been at the beach. He told me he was under me trying to put me on his shoulders and my kicking made it much harder for him. He was only 2 years older than me but God damn of he hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t be here today probably.
8. Had a really shitty boyfriend in college start hitting me around the neck and head with a cat scratching post, the kind that’s just a pole on a heavy base. I remember hoping that he would at least call the police so that my mom would know what happened to me, and being scared that he would bury somewhere and lie about it so they would never find me. Then I blacked out and woke up in the shower. He tried to convince me that I had slipped and fallen.
9. I was ten minutes into a three-hour flight and seated in the back row next to the toilet. There was a huge bang, the lights in the cabin flickered and dimmed, the plane wobbled hard in the air, I could smell smoke instantly, and a near-deafening bad engine sound started up. I looked over at the flight attendant who was still strapped to the fold-down seat right next to me. She has a look of pure terror on her face. That’s when I knew I was going to die.
I was profoundly pissed off. I thought ‘Fuck – this is how I go – now?!’ I thought about all of the crap I made it through in life and really regretted that I wouldn’t get to continue that progress. I was mad that I was going to die when travelling for work. I thought about trying to text the people I love, but didn’t want to mess with the navigation systems of the plane in case there was some way we could survive.
We had lost an engine because we struck a goose. The plane turned around and returned to the airport easily and safely, as we still had three of four engines.
10. In January of 2015, I got caught on a burning public transit train. The fuse on the track had burnt out and we were waiting for the train to get power again so we could get moving. Then the whole thing suddenly went up in flames.
Everyone was panicking, but I remember sitting there thinking “I guess this is how I go.” Totally calm, absolute peace. It was in that moment that 18-year-old me was 100% okay with dying.
Someone managed to pry open an emergency exit and then the adrenaline kicked in, so I got out without any injuries, but looking back, I’m still a bit shaken by my response to the whole thing.
11. Thanksgiving dinner about 3 years ago I didn’t chew my food thoroughly enough from the excitement. Swallowed too big of a piece of meat and it got stuck. You don’t know its really stuck at first. I tried drinking water and the water was also stuck in my throat. Big “OH SHIT” moment. I get up while no one noticed and the water sorta spilled out of my throat on the way to the bathroom. Why I didn’t tell anyone or went somewhere by myself was beyond me as I wasn’t thinking straight. I tried sticking my fingers down my throat, hitting my chest, etc. and people started noticing. At this point, I’m like shit I can’t breathe, wtf, I’m going to die like this? Panic mode from everyone and I started losing my vision. Miraculously my girls uncle knew the Heimlich maneuver somehow and saved me. All the blood vessels around my eyes bursted, I looked like an owl. Good times at thanksgivings.
12. I was taken to hospital for extremely low blood pressure. The only thing I could think of was “wow, this is peaceful”. Had no idea how close to death I was at the time – ER doc later told me that if I had waited 20 minutes to come to the ER I would not have survived.
13. Relief. Comfort. I was happy. I tried to kill myself. I knew I was going to die. I knew it was over. What I didn’t know is that someone would find me soon enough that the doctors were able to bring me back after my heart and breathing stopped. I’m glad they found me. I’m glad I’m alive. Over 4 years suicide attempt free.
14. This is really going to hurt.
Nearly got burnt over when fighting a wild land fire back in 2012.
What happened was a flame front a few miles wide and a few draws away had enough wind and speed behind it that it closed that distance faster than we had anticipated. Essentially we got smoked out, had spot fires blowing up all around us, and hundred foot flame lengths coming out of the timber. Luckily we were able to find defensible spot to hold out on and wait a few hours for our exit route to stop being on fire.
Probably my closest call with burning to death.
15. I wanted my gilfriend at the time to know that I loved her so I kept asking for a piece of paper and a pen. I Was lying in the street with broken bones everywhere in complete agony, and all I Wanted to do was write down that I loved my girlfriend so she would know she was the last thing I was thinking of before i died. I was also thinking about how little I had done with my life.
16. “Man I’m so stupid”
Trying to save a drowning woman. She was big and panicking so she was pushing me down trying to keep herself above water. After struggling for quite a while I started to go under the water. All I thought about was my three young kids at home aren’t going to have a dad and I feel so foolish trying to save this lady. Weirdest feeling. I swam to the surface and we made one last push for the shore. Someone caught us halfway back, we both made it and I laid on the shore and vomited.