This browser doesn't support Spotify Web Player. Switch browsers or download Spotify for your desktop.

Navigating Death

By Dr. Brian Brown

I’ve been practicing psychiatry since 1998. I’ve treated children as young as age 5… adolescents… young adults… middle-age adults… and senior adults. In that time, I’ve treated thousands of patients who were not content with life. If “happy” is defined as “feeling or showing contentment,” then I’ve met a lot of people who were not content (not happy) with life in their present situation. Depression and anxiety are rampant in the Western world, yet the only answer that traditional medicine seems to have is in the form of developing the next “latest and greatest” magic pill. I’ve actually been one of those “discontent . . . unhappy” people myself. All my life, I had longed to become a doctor. I had felt this calling since I was a young boy. It’s all I’d ever dreamed of and all I ever talked about. It’s what I had my sights set on. I wanted to help others and was hardwired from birth to be an empathic, caring individual. Also, in my mind, it was a way for me to find some happiness. I developed a hardworking nature right from the start: I started mowing yards when I was nine years old and started flipping burgers when I was fifteen years old. I’ve done everything from changing oil and pumping gas, to patching flat tires, to driving a gas truck, to unloading trucks at UPS. I’m thankful for those experiences because they have gifted me with the work ethic and people skills I have today. Because of my hardworking nature, the academic rigors of my training were second nature to me as evidenced by being a straight “A” student through my high school, undergraduate, and graduate studies. My story actually begins in the spring of 1997 when I was in my next-to-last year of professional training. One of our lectures had just dismissed for a fifteen minute break in the middle of a four-hour stretch. It was an unusually beautiful spring day, so I went outside to get some fresh air and enjoy the tulips that were in full bloom. I went to the third floor balcony that overlooked a park, the closest thing to nature near my lecture hall. I was right in the middle of my lifelong dream on that third floor balcony. . . but I wasn’t happy; somehow, happiness had eluded me. I would later realize that by this point, I had been struggling with depression for about two years and that health professionals had the highest rates of suicide among all other professions. As I stood there on the balcony, propped against the balcony railing and facing the street below, I saw a dump truck speeding down the road in front of me. As the truck approached, I had a flood of emotion as all of the blood rushed from my head. I became dizzy andthe whole world around me spun out of control in a maze of vertigo. My heart was racing, and I was overwhelmed by a nauseated feeling in the pit of my stomach . . . Yet, at the same time, I had a sense of immediate relief and heard a small voice whisper, “It’s over now.” It wasn’t a horrific voice. It was a peaceful voice. You see as that dump truck sped by, I experienced all the sensations of being thrown over the railing into the path of the oncoming truck below—I had actually envisioned throwing myself over the rail. All of this happened in a matter of seconds. I still remember that feeling to this day. I also remember, in that split second, not knowing whether it was actually happening or all a dream. Sadly, part of me hoped that it was real. When I came to my senses and realized that it was all a vision, I was scared. It rocked me to the core. I immediately had flashes of my beautiful wife and my two beautiful daughters who were three and six at the time. Guilt and shame immediately set it. How could I have such a vision? How could I even feel hope that it was actually happening? What was wrong with me? I left the balcony that day and never stepped foot out there again. I was so ashamed.

Listen to Navigating Death now.

Listen to Navigating Death in full in the Spotify app