I have a number of grievances that I would like to air and a number of things to confess that I don't feel at all apologetic about, however many of these are creepy and borderline illegal, so here's something else entirely.
So let's say I was raised Protestant, and went atheist when I was 13.
I started highschool in 2002, and the winter of '02/'03 was the longest I can remember, in terms of number of consecutive days with snow on the ground. That's the first time I was really afraid of death. But afraid's the wrong word, because 'afraid' is just shivers and panic and a quick return to not dwelling on it. This was staying up late and crying and being unable to think about anything else but death, except it wasn't really death I was thinking about.
And I want to say it was just the constant cold and whiteness of the winter that set it off but there's a broader gestalt of senses I remember -- the way the schoolbus smelled (like the old pleather seats, hair, and mildew), the music I was hearing (Mostly on the schoolbus -- Dixie Chix's cover of Landslide, their other song Wandering Soldier, uh, Kid Rock's... dabbling into country), some psychosexual things that are creepy and borderline illegal and will not be mentioned, they way that I constantly felt oily/itchy/on fire.
Something I remember was watching a video on ebola in biology class, one day in February or January, which was the last thing I needed to be watching, and that night my family went to Olive Garden with my grandparents, and I intensely wanted to not be there, while the waitress kept talking about having her pet ram castrated.
Or my mom coming home from work and telling me about how one of her student's best friends had died of a brain tumor, a few hours after he was diagnosed with it, and while he was telling my mom's student about it over AIM.
But that's not what started it. It's nothing interesting -- just the quiet moments you have to yourself to think about nothing, and nothing what was on my mind. Literal and absolute nothing.
What I was afraid of wasn't death, but a system where consciousness was purely biological and ended at the point of death. What do you have without consciousness? It's not just death as an endpoint but death as a total backpedaling into the null. Maybe you leave a legacy -- maybe you go on existing to the rest of the world, but from your standpoint?
Without consciousness you have no standpoint. You, to you, do not exist. The outside world, to you, does not exist. History, to you, does not exist. What terrified me then -- and more recently, even, just months of this dread I can't get rid of -- isn't death but the possibility that all of reality is effectively a very transient thing existing only between the opposite interfaces demarcating /my own/ human lifespan and nowhere else.
At this point I'm supposed to bring up how I realized that that couldn't be true -- that there had to be something out there, and had a religious reawakening and returned to the church after years of straying, except that's not something that happened. Because I am not religious.
The truth is that stuff was happening between 2003 and 2009, and it's all pretty... irrelevant to me now? It's not so much that you have some epiphany and get over it -- you just stop caring because it's draining to be that completely paranoid 24/7 for years on end.
But I wouldn't say I quit being afraid of death and I wouldn't say I'd ever want to quit being afraid anyway, because that's what makes you human.
Although I guess I haven't really said anything about religion? I will say that I'm not an atheist -- that's not at all accurate. I believe in something but I don't know what it is, and my reasons for believing in it sound schizo as fuck, even to me.