Published: Aug 30, 2010 6:34 PM EDT
Updated: Aug 30, 2010 3:32 PM EDT

HAVANA (AP) - Fidel Castro says he "was at death's door" after falling ill four years ago, but has recovered and been gaining strength since.

The former Cuban leader offered the details on his condition to a Mexican newspaper. In a five-hour interview with the editor of the daily La Jornada, Castro describes lying in bed during his illness hooked up to machines he didn't understand and wondering how long the "torment" would continue. He says he "couldn't aspire to live any longer, much less anything else."

The 84-year-old says his weight fell to 145 pounds but says he's recovered and his weight is back up to 190.

Castro stepped down four years ago, allowing his younger brother, Raul, to take charge of the country. However, the elder Castro remains the head of the Communist party and since July has been making frequent appearances. He's used them to warn that a conflict pitting the United States and Israel against Iran has taken the world to the brink of nuclear war.