It could be worse

I woke up this morning feeling the most neutral I had felt in days. I didn’t have to wake up early for work, so I slept in. I took my time getting dressed and ready for my therapy appointment in the afternoon. I wasn’t in a rush. I wasn’t feeling anxious. I wasn’t crying. I just was.

Until I found myself lying on the ground surrounded by strangers.

I don’t really know what happened. I got off the bus, just like I always do, and somehow ended up on the ground ten feet away. I didn’t realize that I fell until I saw the scrapes on the palms of my hands. Then I noticed the people. I didn’t see their faces, just their legs. And so many voices. Are you okay? Do you need help? What happened? They kept reaching out to help me, but I didn’t want their help. I wanted them to go away.

One of the bystanders was about to call an ambulance, but I shook my head no. That was enough motivation to get me out of my head well enough to get up off the ground (with the help of two or three people). I hobbled over to the bench and just sat there, trying to figure out what to do. My therapy appointment was in an hour. I couldn’t miss it. There was no way I could make it home to clean up and back in time for session.

So I sat on the bench and I tried not to cry. I tried not to feel. I told myself I was okay. I have to be strong. There is no time to be hurt.

After ten minutes or so, a man came by and asked to sit. I didn’t feel ready to get up. This man didn’t know anything, and I couldn’t tell him. So without saying a word, I got up and let him sit. I managed to walk across the street to the coffee shop, hoping to find a seat there, only to realize that school was out early, and the shop was overrun by teenagers. I propped myself up against the wall, unable to ask if someone would give up their chair. Within the span of minutes, I failed to assert my needs not only once, but twice.

I thought about how I was going to explain this to my therapist. I didn’t really know what happened. I just spaced out. Or tripped. Or got dizzy. I don’t know. I hadn’t eaten. I was afraid she would ask about that. I know I didn’t fall out of hunger. I’ve gone much longer without eating and I’ve been fine. I didn’t want that to come up as a possibility. I just wanted it to be a fall. Everyone falls. And I am fine.

I was so disconnected, I didn’t notice the blood on my shirt sleeve. My elbow was bleeding the whole time. This should be hurting. I should feel this hurting.

When I got to therapy, I stopped in the bathroom. I saw my knee, already swollen and bruising. I didn’t want to panic. I told myself it could be worse. I told myself that if I could walk on it, it must be fine.

Then all I could think about was what could go wrong. I thought about last year, when I fell in the street. How I dragged myself to the corner, got back up, and walked the rest of the way to the bus stop and went to work. I thought I was fine. Until I found out I had broken my foot. I spent the day walking on a broken foot like it was nothing. And that scares me.

I didn’t want to tell my therapist at all. I didn’t have enough time to process all of it. But I started to break down before I even stepped in to her office. I had to pull myself together. I told her I was okay. I’m always okay. I didn’t want her to see that I wasn’t. I didn’t even want to see that I wasn’t.

I cleaned myself up when I got home. I looked at my knee. More bruising. More swelling. But I couldn’t connect with the pain. Why can’t I always connect with pain? It’s easy when my emotions are activated. Then I feel everything. But when I am numb, I am numb to everything. I need some kind of in between.

How could I explain that to a doctor? They ask about levels of pain and I find myself struggling between what I actually feel in the moment and what I know it should be. Tell a doctor you’re not in pain, and you’re automatically dismissed. It’s one reason I try to avoid emergency situations. They cause me more anxiety than the injuries themselves.

Now I am sitting here rationalizing my avoidance. It could be worse. This is nothing. I don’t really have the time to be in pain. This will go away.

I know these rationalizations well. They are the same lines I’ve told myself since childhood, all stemming from the belief that I am unworthy of care, the belief my parents taught me. The man at the bench. The kids at the coffee shop. Everyone else on earth. They all matter more than me.

I know better than this. So why am I still living my life by their rules?

9 thoughts on “It could be worse

  1. Dear KJ: I just want to pass you the big box of tissues I always have next to me. It is OK to cry. It really is OK to cry. I think Little Crystalie IS crying. Silently, so that there is no more trouble. Little TS cries like this too. But Big TS now puts her arms around the Little Ones. “Little Ones: You learnt not to feel pain so that you would survive. You were so smart and so strong and so scared that you could stop Physical Pain. How much Physical Pain you must have been put in to be able to learn that lesson all by yourself. How much you wanted to live. I love you.”

    Your Body is YOUR Body, Crystalie.

    It feels.

    You survived.

    Those Ones who wanted to give you Pain are Gone. You are Here. You Beat Them. You Won.

    Oh, I have another box of tissues, don’t worry!

    “This Shaking keeps me steady; I should know.”
    https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/43333
    TS

    Liked by 3 people

  2. The inability to feel pain was a functional response you developed to a deeply dysfunctional family life. Of course, you know that already. But I can see how disturbing it must be to recognize that this response persists into the present, even when it’s not needed or helpful anymore. It’s confusing and frustrating. Plus it can even be dangerous, when it leads you to skip getting treatment or for a doctor to dismiss something serious. I suspect that as you continue your healing, this may start to change. In the meantime, I wonder if it is something that you and your T could strategize about? Maybe make a plan for how to deal with injuries so that you protect your precious self. You deserve loving care and compassionate medical treatment when it’s needed.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you. My therapist is constantly telling me I deserve care. It’s been a tough thing to accept, but I’m making progress (slowly).

      My therapist would be happy if I went to the doctor when things like this happen, but I am admittedly a little stubborn (and a little fearful of medical treatment because it is connected to trauma). I’m not at a point yet where I can accept that onto myself.

      It is frustrating, because I do recognize it. I try to stay connected enough to feel the pain but it’s not easy. I still need cues to get in touch with my body.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Here’s an idea I offer up because something like this was helpful to me in dealing with my gynecological surgery earlier this year. Please just shrug it off if it seems to presumptuous to suggest something–I don’t want to offend you and I have so much respect for the way you are going about your healing…

        Anyway, could you maybe make an appointment to talk to a primary care doctor, like in her office for example, and interview her? You don’t have to give her the backstory. You could just say something like past experiences in your life have made it very difficult for you to recognize whether an injury is serious or not and have made you very reluctant to go to the doctor. How would she work with a patient like that in order to make her comfortable and help her improve her health? And just see what she says, what her manner is like. If you talk to a couple, you might find one who seems to get it, or maybe get it. You could do a second interview and tell her a little more, maybe about the broken foot as an example.

        I suggest this mostly so if there comes a time when you encounter something that really needs attention, you would already have a good person lined up to help you. It’s a gift to yourself to have caring and competent professionals available to support you. xxoo

        Liked by 2 people

      2. No offense taken, and I appreciate suggestions.

        I have a primary care doctor. My therapist found her for me after we went through quite a list of doctors that were not ideal (and some even unwilling) to treat me. She is far, so it does make it hard to go there in any type of emergency. But aside from location, I have that minimal level of comfort (which is a lot for me) with her. I just don’t know how much she would understand as far as these specific issues. I think it’s a fear I have that if I tell her, she will pull away somehow or something.

        Like

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