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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

I Feel Like Dying


*For those who need it: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255;; 9-8-8). If you are experiencing an emergency, please call 9-1-1.


I recall when rapper Lil Wayne first stepped on to the hip hop scene. At 14-years-old, he joined rap group Hot Boys, though he wasn’t permitted to use profane language.


Fast-forward a number of years and he was one of the most popular rappers in the South. Despite label beef and other controversy for which I didn’t care, I enjoyed the evolution of Wayne’s lyrical range – even if I’m not certain he was the individual responsible for writing his content.


Unfortunately, I didn’t favor the drastic turn in musical quality resulting from Wayne’s reported recreational drug use. His subject matter and flow completely changed. I suppose Wayne didn’t heed the warning of Trugoy the Dove on “Ego Trippin’ (Part Two),” “Don’t you get too high!”


In any case, on the mixtape The Drought Is Over 2 (The Carter 3 Sessions), Wayne released a song entitled “I Feel Like Dying,” featuring a disputed sample from Karma-Ann Swanepoel’s song “Once.” In my opinion, this was the point before which Wayne’s music career took a nosedive.


Lyrics from “Once” state:


‘Cause only once the drugs are done

Do I feel almost human numb

And only once my head’s unclear

Do I feel like dying right here


Personally, Karma’s voice is otherworldly and “Once” is a melancholy reminder of life’s challenges. For those who appreciate folk-style music, you may enjoy her body of work.


Lyrics from “I Feel Like Dying” state:


Only once the drugs are done (Hahaha)

Do I feel like dying, I feel like dying (Heheh, C3, hello)

Only once the drugs are done (Yeah, hello)

Do I feel like dying, I feel like dying (Hehehe, get lifted)

Only once the drugs are done (Yeah, I get lifted)

Yeah, yeah, so get lifted, yeah

Do I feel like dying, I feel like dying (Yeah, haha)


Karma’s altered voice is mixed with Wayne’s to produce a less eloquent, though still thought-inspiring chorus. Whether it concerns “Once” or “I Feel Like Dying,” the topic of an individual wanting to die is something I think is worth examining.


When thinking about this matter from the perspective of a Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) practitioner, I reflect upon instances in which clients have expressed similar sentiment. Not all REBT practitioners – or other psychotherapists, for that matter – will appreciate my outlook expressed herein.


Aside from perfunctory ethical considerations imposed on me by the State of Texas (i.e., Texas Department of Health Services 530.003), I assess what a person means when expressing, “I feel like dying.” Allow me to conduct a brief thought experiment to illustrate a point.


Take a look at the following artificial intelligence-generated photo of a statue representing the personification of death:


What does it feel like to be a photo? Any clue? What does it feel like to be a statue? Any ideas? What does it feel like to be the personification of death? Any notion at all? Let’s try this; what does it feel like to be a photo of a statue representing the personification of death? Thoughts?


These are enigmatic questions, because answers are unfalsifiable. Of course, one can imagine what it feels like to be a photo, statue, personification of death, or a combination of these elements. However, one cannot know what it feels like to be these things.


Warranted criticism may result in the objection, “Deric, you’ve listed inanimate objects and not living beings.” Fair point. What does it feel like to be a dog? How about a wombat, what’s that feel like? Any clue about what it feels like to be bacteria?


One can no sooner describe with any level of accuracy what it feels like to be the aforementioned living things than one may correctly state what it feels like to be an inanimate object. One can imagine what it feels like to be these subjects, though one doesn’t know what it feels like.


Herein, I’ll even humor the illogical and unreasonable notion that one may know what it feels like to be a member of the opposite sex or gender. Even then, one can only imagine though not know what that experience feels like.


Moreover, I submit that stating, “I feel like dying” is a nonsensical claim. For those familiar with the content of my blog, you’ve likely read that I maintain, “The words we use matter.”


Thus, a feeling relates to an emotion or bodily sensation. For instance, I may naturally feel primary emotions such as joy, fear, anger, sorrow, disgust, or surprise. Likewise, I may feel hot, cold, pain, tingling in my arms, or an itch on my calf.


However, “feel,” “feeling,” or derivatives thereof which imply a thought, belief, or hunch aren’t feelings at all. For instance, what sense would it make to say “I feel like dying” when “I think about dying” is a more appropriate alternative to this oft-misused expression?


Therefore, there may be no such thing as feeling like dying. Nevertheless, I imagine a contraria stumbling across this post and stating, “That’s where you’re wrong, bucko! If you consume a lot of drugs and as a result you actually begin dying, you can feel the effects of dying. Thus, you feel like dying.”


Considering this distinction, can one feel like dying? Clearly not an emotion, the sensation of dying is understood in comparison to… what? “I feel like dying, because dying feels like…” what, exactly?


I suppose one could say that a steadily decreasing heartrate (i.e., agonal rhythm), struggle to maintain a regular cycle of breathing (i.e., death rattle), and the experience of drifting in and out of consciousness (e.g., neurocardiogenic syncope) is what it feels like to die.


On this point, I concede that if one remains familiar with these symptoms or has experienced near-death experiences in which these conditions were previously present, then stating, “I feel like dying” would make sense.


I’m not so wed to my ideas that I remain incapable of changing my mind. Given the aforementioned sensations, it makes sense to say that one feels like dying. Now, go back and read the provided lyrics to “Once” and “I Feel Like Dying.”


Were the artists conveying sensations, or were they perhaps alluding to thoughts, beliefs, or hunches? Being that I took a charitable approach to this matter, I presume you will do the same. I submit that thoughts, beliefs, or hunches were communicated.


With the tedious route it took to reach this point, one may wonder why I use this approach when working with clients who express that they feel like dying. What I’ve done herein is take an individual out of the space of self-disturbance and into the realm of rational thinking.


Instead of emotionally joining with clients through the use of faux empathy (e.g., oh no, that sounds incredibly difficult), I find it useful to demonstrate to people how to step back from using unproductively irrational beliefs and instead approach matters with rational examination.


After all, a self-disturbed emotional state likely got a person into the mindset whereby one wants to complete suicide. Therefore, showing a person – sometimes step-by-step – how to remove oneself from that disturbed condition can be helpful.


Once I have the client thinking through matters – and not that lousy ol’ stinkin’ thinkin’ that causes self-disturbance – then the person can learn how to employ rational thinking in one’s own life. Again, this isn’t a method that all REBT practitioners or other psychotherapists will condone.


At any rate, I remain grateful for Karma and Wayne for their inadvertent contribution to this blogpost. If people believe they want to die after suffering the monotony of this entry, I will be pleased to know that at least they’re using words appropriately when condemning me.


Jokes aside, I find that being able to think through matters has helped many people with whom I’ve worked in a professional capacity. Albeit a sometimes annoying process of learning to think rationally, the skills promoted by REBT can save lives. If you’d like to know more, I’m here to help.


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As the world’s foremost old school hip hop REBT psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW




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