For several years, the incessant unravelling of me and my life continued. Once burst, the dam poured forth all that had been held back by the psyche's defences. Behind those walls lay all that I had previously tried to bury; whatever had been contrary to my image of myself was now exposed, and so much shame along with it.
The simple truth is that whatever we relegate to the shadows is bound to reappear. We like to believe that we can have up without down, easy without difficult, happy without sad, harmony without conflict. And when our story is working well, we have no reason to question our one-sided view of reality. I'd thought that I was successful, healthy, capable, strong, tough...I discovered failure, illness, incapacity, weakness, fragility. I felt defeated, pathetic, spineless, stupid and broken. I was humbled, truly humbled.
Of course, I cursed and resisted; as the dismantling continued, I ranted, raved and pouted. This great undoing was all that I'd dreaded, as well as my heart's deepest wish. I found - like many others before me - that even when I tried to cling to the remnants of my previous existence, I failed. My old life simply ceased to be. My job disappeared when the government funding dried up. My attempts at private practice were thwarted by continuing illness. Even my new relationship eventually foundered.
But if we're really honest with ourselves, we can admit that even when life is going well, it takes a huge effort to maintain our self image. The story of me requires constant upkeep; over and over again, we need to prove to ourselves and the world that we are the way we believe ourselves to be. There was a sweet relief in no longer having any control, least of all over myself. In fact, I found the very notion of control increasingly ridiculous - and I'd been a card-carrying control freak.
My opinions, too, began to soften. I became aware of how rigid I was, how fixed and intransigent my views. As the construct formerly known as me continued falling apart, I no longer had to cling to my positions (on everything from diet and education to spirituality, medicine and music) for a sense of self. Earnest and serious from girlhood, I began to get fleeting glimpses of someone much lighter, funnier, sillier. I realised that there was nothing to attack and nothing to defend.
It seems that there is a time for falling apart, just as there is a season for all things. What had been in perpetual motion had to stop. The structure that had been built had to be razed to the ground. And amidst the panic, rage and sadness, I came back to myself. I was terrified that I'd been lost, buried forever beneath the person I'd created in order to be in the world. Now, I was coming home.