****Major spoilers ahead for the HBO series Six Feet Under****

Before my stroke, my favorite show was Six Feet Under. From here on out, abbreviated SFU.

SFU aired on HBO from 2001 to 2005. If you haven’t watched it, stop reading and start watching. Then, come back and read.

SFU is generally regarded as the television show with the greatest series finale. Ever. And it’s true. The end stays with you. It guts you. It’s perfect.

SFU follows a family that owns a funeral home. It follows the Fisher family for five seasons.

To say I was obsessed with this show might be an understatement. I watched every episode at least a dozen times before my stroke. I listened to podcasts about the show, and often googled references the show would make. I read books the show talked about.

The show’s main character is Nathaniel Fisher. He’s a polarizing character. People usually either love or hate Nate. I love Nate. I can’t explain why. He’s flawed. He’s a dick. But, he was such a great character to watch.

In season two, Nate finds out he has an arteriovenous malformation (AVM). An AVM, from the Mayo Clinic, is “tangle of blood vessels that connects arteries and veins in the brain.” Like a brain aneurysm, an AVM can rupture. They are very similar conditions.

When Nate first has symptoms of his AVM, he’s driving across the country with his little sister. He asks her if she smells rotten eggs. Then, he orders a cheeseburger, blurting out nonsense into the drive thru ordering window. He gets out of the car and vomits.

By this point, Nate already knew he had the AVM, but he chose to ignore it. He goes home and sees his neurologist who recommends a clipping surgery.

At the end of season 2, Nate undergoes surgery to repair his AVM. There is a cliffhanger and the viewer doesn’t know if Nate lives or dies. His AVM ruptures during his surgery.

He lives. In a show about death, the main character lives to see season three. He talks about his ordeal like it was nothing. He has no ill effects from his brain surgery. He doesn’t have neuro-fatigue. He doesn’t get headaches. He doesn’t have short term memory loss. He’s perfectly fine.

Until the last season. He doesn’t know it, but he develops another AVM. That one ruptured, too. He made it through surgery and the viewers think he dodged a bullet again.

But he dies after his surgery. After everyone thought he was fine. After most of his family waited in the hospital for hours for him to wake up, he dies in his hospital bed. The show gives no explanation for his death.

After my aneurysm ruptured, I woke up in the ICU, intubated, with a drain coming out of my head, and enough IV lines to ensure I had access for all the drugs I was on.

The neurologist turned down my sedation, and I startled awake. She oriented me, as I flailed around. I was restrained to the bed.

It took her a few minutes to get to me to calm down. Once I did, she explained, “you had a ruptured brain aneurysm.”

All I could think, in that moment, was, “holy shit. I’m Nate Fisher.” My favorite fucking TV character. It was shocking to me, in a way.

As I’ve said, this is my favorite show. I’ve watched it a dozen times. But, since my rupture, I couldn’t bring myself to watch SFU. I always thought about it. But, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Last month, I decided I wanted to try. My best friend thought I was crazy. She knew I’d be triggered and upset. But, I felt like I was in a good enough place, that I wanted to try. I prepared myself the best way I could. I took days off between the most triggering episodes. And I cried when I needed to.

Some episodes surprised me. I thought the episode where Nate died would be the most triggering. But, the most triggering episode to me was titled “Perfect Circles”. This is season 3 episode one, when Nate wakes up from his brain surgery.

When I explain to my kids what happened to me, I always say, “my head exploded.” It’s just easier to say it plainly in terms they can understand.

In “Perfect Circles,” Nate tells his friend,

“No I never actually flatlined. I just woke up and later they told me the AVM ruptured during surgery.” His friend asks what that means. Nate says, “Well, it just, you know, exploded. My head actually exploded. I should have died or had some kind of lasting brain damage. I pulled through and seven months later, nothing even shows up on the MRI.”

Prior to this, Nate is in a semi-dead, semi-alive state and he goes through his life looking at the different alternative realities. He sees himself quite disabled with his brother helping him with his speech therapy. He’s wheelchair bound, drooling, and can’t open one of his eyes. This scene is my worst fear for myself. To be totally dependent on someone else for everything has to be worse than dying. At least in my opinion.

Seeing how Nate’s family reacted to his rupture while waiting for news of how he was made me think about my own family in this situation. I had to say goodbye to my husband and parents before they loaded me onto the life flight chopper. They wouldn’t let me see my son, who was just two. I don’t remember any of this, but I have flashbacks. I don’t know if they’re even real, but they feel real enough.

There’s an episode I used to always skip on rewatches titled “That’s my Dog.” But, I didn’t this time. This episode is violent and terrifying. Nate’s brother, David, is abducted, and tortured for hours. He’s doused in gasoline before his assailant runs off. David develops PTSD related to this. I watched David go through his own battle with PTSD and I had so much more empathy for him than before. I’m glad I didn’t skip this episode this time. It’s a raw and accurate portrayal of panic attacks, faking being ok, and being afraid to ask for help.

I watched the final episode and it didn’t have the same effect on me that it always did before. I felt kind of numb to it. And that’s confusing to me. It’s the most gut-wrenching episode of television and I felt..nothing? I continue to question why and I can’t come up with a good reason.

Now that I’ve made it through the series, I don’t think I can watch it again. And that makes me angry. It’s just another thing my stupid brain has taken from me. It was always my favorite show. At times, it was emotionally exhausting to get though. And if I can’t enjoy the ending anymore, what’s the point?

I did learn that my gut instinct when I woke up in the ICU—that “holy shit I’m Nate Fisher”— moment wasn’t accurate. We were never the same. I thought I would find myself more drawn to Nate since we have this shared trauma. But, that didn’t happen. Our paths were not the same at all. He didn’t have any lasting effects. He didn’t worry every day about it happening again. He didn’t question every headache or tingle as another one. He didn’t have a shunt or aphasia.

I’ll end with my favorite quote from Nate:

“I’m just saying you only get one life. There’s no God, no rules, no judgments, except for those you accept or create for yourself. And once it’s over, it’s over. Dreamless sleep forever and ever. So why not be happy while you’re here. Really? Why not?” — Nate Fisher

You should really watch the series. It’s amazing, beautiful, weird, dark, funny, witty, and so ahead of its time. Maybe someday I’ll go back and watch it again. But I think it’s going to be years down the road.