Here’s a starting point. It may seem a bit melodramatic. Bear with me; I really don’t know what I’m doing here. But I’m trying to be sincere.
About eight months ago, after a strange and difficult few years – the details of which may be revealed here over time, I guess – I reached a uniquely comprehensive personal nadir. I felt psychologically disemboweled; like my entire identity had finally dissolved down to nothing. I’d seen through everything, and recognised it as illusory. I’d lost the ability to believe in anything at all. I had a sense that I’d been completely excommunicated from the world, from any tangible sense of myself, and consequently from any ability to act, form opinions, or relate meaningfully to other people.
To the extent that I was able identify with a self, it was one which horrified and disgusted me, and I wanted absolutely nothing to do with it.
I was a VCR funeral of dead memory waste.
I spend the next few months drifting like a ghost, drowning in a sea of memories retained from former selves, none of whom were me anymore. My life was over; my body and my cognitive processes just hadn’t caught up with it yet. I’ve felt lost before – indeed, historically I have felt that way to some degree more often than not, especially over the last five years – but this time it really seemed terminal.
Since I’d decided that I was not allowed to kill myself, I obsessed over what I could DO about this. I tore myself to pieces thinking about it. I considered undertaking some kind of grand autobiographical project, to help me reconstruct an integrated self-narrative, and consequently a viable sense of identity. But the prospect seemed hopelessly overwhelming. And I couldn’t convince myself that any honest account of my own history wouldn’t ultimately conclude with the protagonist being reduced to a broken, burnt-out shell.
In hindsight, I can now see that I did have a sense of self during that period, but it was an intolerable one. It consisted almost entirely of an indefinable, all-encompassing Problem trying desperately to resolve itself, coupled with an underlying awareness that this was impossible.
I ostensibly gave up on the idea that there was anything I could do about the situation. In late November, heavily coached and assisted by my family, I moved cities, from my native Canberra to Melbourne, took up digs in St. Kilda, and enrolled in a BA at the University of Melbourne.
I liked the idea of being a Student, and liked that it would enable me to give a convincing answer when queried as to what the hell I was doing with my life.
The challenge of relocating and functioning more independently, and the novelty of a new setting were good for me. But I hadn’t really moved on. My sense of being in an existential crisis devolved into a more mundane, but still hugely debilitating, depression. I was still almost totally paralysed psychologically. I was still turned almost totally inward, unable to connect with other people except on the most superficial levels. Almost all of my time and energy were still consumed by a constant, nagging, all-pervasive sense that time had stopped, and would continue to be on pause until I could figure out What The Hell To Do About Everything, along with a crushing awareness that there wasn’t, actually, Anything I Could Do.
Although I was conscious, able to sustain myself as a person in a technical sense, and had resolved at least on the surface to try and move forward and make the best of things, the subtext that My Life Was Over continued to underpin everything which I did and experienced.
It was no good at all.