The answer is that Team Liquid is safely partitioned away from the rest of my life; no one I personally know frequents this site, and wouldn't recognize my handle even if they did. Team Liquid, for all intents and purposes, is my personal "safe zone" of expression when something like this comes up. Perfect anonymity.
Beyond that, I just need to write about this. I'm a published science fiction writer. Writing is now and has always been the way I process things. And, more importantly, I need someone to know.
For the past two months, I haven't recognized my own face in the mirror. Total disconnect. When I look down, I recognize my body--that I, in fact, am inhabiting this body. But far as my face goes, no dice.
It all started with a girl. It always does for me. William Gibson wrote a short story called "Burning Chrome," wherein one of the characters treats women "as his personal tarot...signs of the weather...sigils on the personal map of his life, etc." This quote is not exact. I highly recommend you pick up the anthology and read it. Gibson's characters, ever since I read Neuromancer when I was 19, have always called out to me from the page and called me kin.
For me, women are my personal tarot, signs of the changing weather, winds of fortune and misfortune.
Over this particular girl rang the hollow bell of apocalypse. She inspired in me a deep sense of dread. I couldn't explain it, then, though now I can. It was August of last year. I got really depressed. I was planning suicide. I got over it.
Fast forward to two months ago. I met a different girl. The thing that needs explaining is this: I have this miserable pattern of getting deeply emotionally involved with people, foregoing my own wants and needs. I lose myself. The first girl heralded the second. On some subsonic level, it was like a warning, but I couldn't translate it.
The second girl is that type of chick who's always in crisis mode. No way you hang out and simply enjoy one another's company; she's got an issue, she's got a problem, she needs your support. The first girl, bless her heart, was like this but aware of it and never took advantage of my blind routine. Me and her are still friends. The second chick, not so much. So, me being me and stuck in this recursion, I happily obliged. I learned just about every dark contour of her being in three weeks.
One night, I stay out until 4 in the morning with her. I had work at 7. Over the course of the night, I realized me and this chick were never getting together; I got really depressed, but not because of this realization. It was more the weight of my own history came into focus. I could see the fucking pattern, finally, where it came from, could trace its roots back to adolescence.
At work, just before it happened, I thought, "I wish I could just forget my own history."
And I did.
I had a nervous breakdown while chopping lettuce. I cried, my head felt like it was about to explode. I forgot my name; at least, it took a lot of effort to recall my name, among other basic facts about my life. Where did I grow up? Who were my parents? A lot of effort, head-splitting effort.
I went home early. I walked home by muscle memory. I usually avoid dogs. I walked past two dogs and felt afraid but couldn't remember why. I grew up with three dogs and they would break out into bloody fights maybe twice a month, maybe more. I got bit once. I still flinch at the sound of barking, if it's close enough.
For someone who is obsessed with pattern recognition, this was an entirely new mode of relation. I had successfully cast myself adrift from historicity. For the next few days, I was living in what Thomas Pynchon called "the preterite moment." I couldn't connect one instant to the next. Everything new, bright, shining like lacquered paint. It was blissful, not remembering a fucking thing. But then, on the morning of day three, while I was riding the bus back home, I experienced the sensation of dropping back into my own body. I learned soon after that I had gone through a "dissociative event."
And so, I was back, and with it my own history. I went through a transformative period of Buddhist-like peace. I forgave, came to terms, let things go. I told the second girl we couldn't be friends anymore, that the relationship was hurting me. That was early October. We both treated it like a breakup, even though we were never together. That's what co-dependence does to people. I quite literally lost myself to this girl, scattered on her bipolar winds. When I remember her laugh it's tinged with high-pitched madness, like the falling of a bomb, the bomb the first girl tried to warn me about in that first esoteric transmission of energy: the signal of apocalypse.
What I forgot to mention is that ever since my nervous breakdown, I've had a near-constant pressure in the right side of my head. It's still there. Turns out I'm grinding my teeth in my sleep; I've woken myself up a few times after nearly chipping enamel.
But why? I've severed ties, resolved to form healthier relationships, got a better job, doing well in school, taking a cute (non-crazy) girl out--so why the gnashing of teeth?
Somehow--somehow--it relates to why I can't recognize my own face in the mirror. There's an undercurrent of panic in me, I can sense, becoming more apparent each day. Last night I was drinking and wanted to cry for no reason, even though no tears came.
Today when I looked in the mirror, I made all the faces of crying, but still no tears came. I need to cry, but I don't know about what. I need the wailing that goes with the gnashing. I've become so far introspective that I hardly occupy three-dimensional space anymore. Despite what you may think by reading this, I'm not prone to naval-gazing.
Maybe it's like this: the face in the mirror, the face that wants to cry, that's the piece of me still missing, locked up nice and tight in the chemical prison I feel as a constant pressure in my right temple. At night, lost in the throes of my subconscious, that piece of me grinds away like a prisoner chipping into the sewage line with a sharpened toothbrush.
I think it'll be soon, any day now. I take the alien face in the mirror making its own gestures as a comforting sign, like maybe it's a sign of progress. Maybe. I feel as though my psyche is operating on two different axes (as in plural of a mathematical "axis," not the chopping kind) that spiraled away from one another and are now making their way back to meet, touch, reconnect.
Overall, I'm a much happier and peaceful person having gone through this transformation. But that other person--the Partitioned Man whose face breaks my heart--how is he going to synthesize or jive with me once he is, finally, free? Am I even the same person, or am I just a temporary construct or occupant?
So yeah, long story short and metaphors aside: I don't recognize my face in the mirror.