Let me tell you about the time I almost died. It was a lovely day in August 2003. I was meeting with friends on a patio, enjoying the slowed-down pace of the summer season. As I lifted my hand to fix my hair, I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my palm. I’d been stung by a bee.
For most people, this wouldn’t be a huge deal. But for me it’s different. I’m deathly allergic to bees, and I try to avoid the little creatures like the plague.
Luckily, I was two blocks away from a hospital. I walked to the emergency room and, with tears in my eyes, quickly explained my situation to the nurse. We looked at my hand and could see red bumps forming along the veins of my arm as the venom started making its way through my system.
The Waiting Game
The nurse led me to a room, hooked me up to a bunch of monitors and asked me to wait.
“Wait for what?” I asked.
“We have to wait to see what happens.” She replied.
I was flabbergasted. Weren’t they going to give me some medicine? Where was the handsome ER-esque doctor who was supposed to comfort people in these types of situations?
The nurse smiled and left me alone with the beeping heart monitor to keep me company. No magazines. No books. No cell phone. Nothing.
I was terrified.
At the same time, I was being given an amazing opportunity.
Why? Because I was asked to hold tight, wait, and see if I would die.
Most people die unexpectedly. I on the other hand was being given a rare chance to contemplate my life.
So that’s what I did.
I had just turned twenty-four a few days earlier. I was a stressed-out grad student who was obsessed with achieving academically. I’d been taking antidepressants for four years. A series of bad decisions had turned my romantic life into an absolute mess. I’d just moved to a new city and still hadn’t developed any friendships that felt truly close. My family lived three hours away, and the nurse had told my friends to go home.
Bottom line? I wasn’t very happy with my life so far.
It’s not like my life had been horrendous up to that point. Far from it. But in that moment, I realized that if I died, I wouldn’t be leaving this earth in peace.
The Turning Point
After a while my throat and ears started to tingle. Then they went numb. I knew what this meant—the next step was anaphylactic shock—my throat would close up, and I wouldn’t be able to breathe.
Luckily the monitors must have alerted someone, because two nurses and a doctor came rushing into the room. They gave me intravenous Benadryl then told me to wait. Again.
The Benadryl worked, and a few hours later I was discharged. The nurse asked if I wanted to call anyone to get a ride home, but there wasn’t anyone to call. So, with my hand swollen to the size of a baseball glove, I took the bus.
I gained a new perspective that day on the bus. Surrounded by a sea of stressed-out students, annoyed parents, and zombie-like commuters, I realized that I didn’t want to be like any of them.
Since that lovely summer day almost nine years ago, I’ve changed my life in miraculous ways. I started making my health and wellbeing my number one priority. I got off antidepressants. I got into a healthy relationship. I left my soul-sucking cubicle. I have close friends whom I adore. I’ve found ways to manage my stress. Most importantly, I’ve become fiercely committed to creating a life I love.
How To Create A Life Worth Living
1. Make a Success List
Before you get down on yourself about how your life isn’t where you want it to be, make a list of how far you’ve come. Include everything, no matter how small. Maybe you had perfect attendance in high school, or maybe you’re proud of yourself for managing to get out of bed every morning. Write it down.
2. Make a Bucket List
We all have things we want to do before we die. Maybe you want to go to Africa, or end world hunger, or learn how to ride a bike. Picture yourself on your deathbed, uttering the words, “I wish I’d…” Then fill in the blanks.
3. Take Stock
Now it’s time to get honest with yourself about where your life is falling short. Why haven’t you done what’s on your bucket list? Why are you choosing to settle when you know you deserve better? Don’t judge yourself. These apparent shortcomings are going to fuel your fire and get you inspired.
4. Pretend Today is Your Last Day
Let’s imagine a very reliable psychic predicts that you are going to die tomorrow. What would you do differently today? Is there something you haven’t told someone because you’re “waiting for the right time?” Is there someone you need to forgive?
5. Stop Making Excuses
Here’s a fundamental truth: You deserve an exceptional life. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past. It doesn’t matter how low or unworthy you feel right now. The simple fact that you’re alive makes you worthy. Life is too short for excuses. Stop settling. Start today by taking one courageous step forward.
“One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching.”
When my life flashed before my eyes nine years ago, it was painful to watch. Now, almost a decade later, I could die tomorrow knowing that I’ve taken every step I could to make my life as amazing as possible. Today, right now, commit to striking as many items off your bucket list as you can.
Then, when your time comes, your life will be worth watching.
Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. is an author, speaker, researcher, and yoga teacher who helps people create a life they love. Check out her book, The Antidepressant Antidote, follow her on Facebook and Twitter, and join her whole-self health revolution here.
*Photo by by ToniVC.