From my in-progress book on mental illness …
I often get in a mental state that I call “absolute zero.”
It’s a kind of ground zero, where I have to work to pick up the debris that is my life, but am not in the mindset to do that, where I don’t have the strength to pick up the rubble.
Absolute zero is a state of mind that is difficult to describe, but that I better describe, if it’s going to make sense to other people.
I get low. This is usually because I have been triggered. I have a wide range of symptoms that I usually contend with in these states of being, but the two that are probably most prominent, are sadness and mania. Throw in suicidal thoughts when that occurs, and you have a problem.
I essentially collapse into a mental state of nihilism. My life no longer has value. The triggers for this are not always that bad. A miscommunication here. An over-obsession here. A negative comment there. Sometimes it’s more malicious, though. Sometimes I literally get hurt by people. I remember when my Dad, for what I swore afterwards would be the last time, made me cry as a twenty-four-year-old man, when he got upset at me because I entered my mother’s room to get my phone. I had literally just talked to her, and so there was no threat, but my father, being the paranoid person that he is, thought I was up to something bad. (He confronted me the following morning in a confrontation that was only dispelled because my mother intervened, though not without its negative consequences.) This event was followed by a crisis worker telling me, quite literally, “To just keep walking,” when I said that I was just going to walk and continue to walk, and that I didn’t care where I ended up. Of course I cared where I ended up, but you say things like that because when you’re manic, anything seems possible … and I, for one, did not want to be in that cursed house that was my parent’s house, especially with my tyrant father.
I existed in a state of nihilism during that instant, and in many others like it. Of people who triggered my illness with minor disregard for me (or even misperceived disregard), or even blatant disregard for my feelings and my mindset.
Last night was a picture perfect example of my state of mind that I call absolute zero. My life ceased to have meaning. I looked around at the people surrounding me, at various places downtown, such as the grocery store, just hoping that someone could provide my life meaning. Hoping someone could alleviate my suffering and loneliness, and help me out, help me up. I was at this state of being because I had perceived a friend that I admire to be too critical to an issue that I care about, and that is homelessness. The details don’t matter, but suffice to say, I felt hurt that a friend whose opinion I respected didn’t see what I was trying to do to help the homeless. That made me feel like I had hit rock bottom, making my life devoid of meaning and value, because I just wanted to help the homeless, and due to the responses from the person, felt as though I just could not help the homeless.
I wandered around town, slightly manic with a little delusion, and deep sadness. I later posted a Facebook photo of me with my hair messed up (a reference to me and my spiked hair when I was kid that gave my life meaning, which I’d incorporated into my current novel I’m writing, A Burning Metamorphosis), and my face mostly in the dark. I can see the sadness, muffled by the darkness, to make the sorrow I’m feeling a little more tolerable.
Being in this mindset, of absolute zero, is Hell. Because, you know that nothing is moving, and nothing is going to change. The world is going to stay exactly the same way. You talk to yourself, and people ignore you. You even go so far as to shout and you just get ignored, whilst also freaking people out. You keep it all in, and it’s just as lonely. You’re literally a solipsist, and no one is listening to you. People just don’t care.
In retrospect, I can see that it’s probably because some people just can’t spot it. They’re busy, they definitely don’t have time to comfort a hurt kid with a mental illness. But it amazes me that out of all the times that I’ve experienced these, all the countless times, no one has ever stopped and actually confronted my feelings. This means that I ultimately deal with these emotions by myself. It means I am alone with my thoughts, with my lack of value, and there’s no worse place to be.
This kind of nihilistic being hits its peak at night, and I usually fall asleep, though usually very late. Then I wake up and have to struggle through the day, but with the mindset that follows absolute zero. A troubling mindset. A lonely mindset. It’s a calm mindset, but it’s an alien mindset.
When this happens, I know that I need to recover all the energy I lost from my sad moods and manic walks. I need to try to find meaning again. I do this by engaging in the most meaningful activities I can engage in, such as writing, talking to friends (if they are available), reading, and walking. But the world looks different to me. Many times, I look back at the night before and feel proud that I generally overcame it, but I secretly feel anxiety about when such a mood of absolute zero will happen again … Because, I know that it will.
And yet at the same time, the world also seems to have just a little bit more potential than usual (perhaps related to Sartre’s idea of the magical transformation of the world, whereby our changing of emotions change the way we perceive the world). This isn’t as great of a place as it seems, because such energy and vigor could potentially lead to a hospital stay if I don’t control it, but I generally try to see it as a positive thing. I think that the new-found potential is there because I just overcame a hellish night, or am indeed still trying to recover.
The mindset that follows is me coping. It’s me forcing myself to live in this world, no matter how hard that is, to play by their rules. But it’s alien. It’s in sharp contrast to the mindset before (absolute zero is characterized by no meaning, a feeling of hopelessness and despair, and a desire to end my life in a world that doesn’t seem to care about me, while the mindset that follows intoxicates me and yet could potentially pave the way for full-blown psychosis, which would only lead to trouble). I feel intoxicated. I see the potential, the possibilities.
But no matter what mindset I’m in, whether in absolute zero or the mindset that follows, my life still is unfulfilled, because in either case, my desires haven’t been met. They are calm desires, easily fulfilled desires, but they aren’t fulfilled, and I don’t expect them to be. That’s why I say society doesn’t owe me anything … but they certainly don’t mind making me owe them (through conformity and mental/behavior obedience).
In conclusion, absolute zero is a constant problem I face. Somehow or other, due to a social interaction and the dynamics of my mental illness, I feel like life is meaningless. Then I have to scramble to hide all the meaning that I see so I stay complacent and well-behaved. Either way, there’s no wonder. Either way, I become nothing.