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?


I am constantly on high-alert. I am (painfully) aware of things that other people don’t notice, or don’t think twice about: sounds, people, cars, everything. I know that is related to my PTSD.

In some ways, it benefits me. I had someone following me in the dark a couple of weeks ago and I noticed right away and took action.

In other ways, I can do without the hypervigilance. It’s tiring. I am constantly questioning every little noise and every movement. It makes it impossible to focus.

You would think that, with being so aware of my environment at all times, I would be aware of what is going on within me. If I know the outside, I should know the inside, too. It seems like common sense. It seems like it should be that way. But it’s not for me.

Yesterday, I was putting labels up at work. I started noticing splotches of reddish-orange. I thought it was just marker or something, so I tried to rub it off, but that just seemed to spread it more. Then I noticed my hand, which had the same color splotches on it. Then I noticed my finger, entirely covered in it. It took me a minute to realize that it wasn’t marker on the labels. It was me.

I was bleeding. Profusely. I didn’t even notice I had cut my finger. How, I don’t know. I didn’t feel a thing. No pain. Nothing.

I could understand if this was a one time thing. I could rationalize it by saying that I was just too tired. But this wasn’t the first time something like this has happened. Years ago, I leaned over a burner while it was on and burned my abdomen. I didn’t feel anything. The only thing I noticed was the smell of my burning shirt. I’ve injured myself countless times and not felt any pain.

Why can I notice everything going on outside me, but I can’t notice anything going on inside me? I notice the blood on the paper, but not the cut on my finger. I notice the smell of burning fabric, but not the burns on my skin. It doesn’t make sense.

It scares me. How can I know when something is wrong if I can’t feel anything?

It frustrates me. People ask me how something feels and I just don’t know. Isn’t it hot in here? Well, I guess it is hot since you asked. But I have no idea. What does this pillow feel like? I don’t know, but since I can see that it’s silky, I’ll take a guess and say that it’s soft. I use context clues so I can seem normal. The truth is I really have no fucking clue how anything feels to my body half the time.

It worries me. You could cut the head off of my body and I feel like I’d still function the same. I don’t feel connected at all. There is no mind-body connection here.

I feel like a robot. Robots can’t feel, and neither can I.

How my mind and body have learned to cope with trauma

When you think about it, the human mind and the human body are amazing things. I’ve been thinking about this more lately, as the topic of connecting (and disconnecting) from my body have come up in therapy quite a bit lately.

I think of all the ways that my body has dealt with trauma. In response to damage in my foot, my body built bone on top of bone to strengthen what was already so weakened and damaged. When I had surgery two years ago to remove some of the excess bone, the doctors discovered a mass hidden underneath. The bones had literally formed a protective cocoon around it in a way that my doctor had never seen before.

I also have extra bone in other parts of my body, in response to fractures that were never properly treated. When they get really noticeable, I would give them names. Before it was surgically removed, I lovingly called the cluster of bone spurs on my foot “Humphrey”. As the same thing began to grow on my opposite foot, I called it “Humphrey II”. I have a palpable spur on my hip that I call Hipsley. It seems rather silly, and probably not quite normal, but it helps me not think about the damage that led to these growths in the first place.

To tackle the physical, sexual, and emotional trauma I endured as a child, my mind fractured to help me cope, leading to the development of DID. Many people don’t really understand DID, but it is truly one of the mind’s greatest coping mechanisms. It helped me get through childhood and the early part of my adulthood. It kept me alive and able to function without coming completely undone. If I never dissociated, I don’t think I would have been able to handle the trauma that had been occurring every day of my life.

Some of my mind’s and body’s coping skills are not so safe in the long run. My therapist and I have talked quite a bit over the last couple of months about my disconnection to feelings and sensations in my body. Sometimes, I can feel. Other times, I am completely numb and oblivious to any sensation.

There are times when I don’t feel hunger even when I haven’t eaten for days. There are days when I don’t feel any pain, even though I know that I have problems that should be causing me to feel pain. I also have periods when I cannot feel the temperature. It’s something that has been occurring for awhile now. It actually served me well when I was working in a warehouse in somewhat extreme weather conditions (100+ degree weather, below zero temperatures). I was able to work in the loft, where temperatures reached well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and not feel the heat at all. My coworkers used to joke that I didn’t even break a sweat – they were right. I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference if it was 110 degrees or 50 degrees.

I had (and still have) the same issue with the cold. There were days where I’d go to work in a tee shirt in the middle of winter in freezing temperatures. I didn’t feel cold at all. Other people were concerned, however, because I would turn blue and red from the cold. I couldn’t feel a thing – cold or hot. I just didn’t feel. I still have this problem. Last week, I was waiting outside of my work for the manager to come. A coworker said I could wait in his car to stay out of the cold. I told him it wasn’t cold and that I was okay. Except that the temperature actually was cold. It was 12 degrees outside, and I was wearing a hoodie. But I felt fine, because I couldn’t feel anything.

I had an incident several years ago while cooking. I leaned over the front burner, forgetting that it was on (I was reaching for something in the cabinet above). As I was fiddling about in the cabinet, I heard someone shout, “move, you’re burning!” I didn’t really understand what was going on because I hadn’t put anything in the pot yet. Then I looked down and realized my shirt was burning. I quickly patted out the fire. My shirt was completely ruined, half of it had disintegrated from the burning. I had a coil-shaped burn across my abdomen. And I didn’t even know it was happening. I was so disconnected, I didn’t even realize I was burning.

It may seem like not being able to feel is a great thing. I assure you, in the long run, it’s not good at all. I try to make an effort and check the weather and dress appropriately, even though I may not feel the temperature at all. I’m always afraid of overheating in the summer, because I’m not connected with my body enough to know when it’s reaching a danger point. When I broke my foot a few months back, my mind blocked out the pain and I was able to walk on it, even though I shouldn’t have been. I ended up causing even more damage. I’d rather not accidentally set myself on fire again.

For the last six months, I have been experiencing pain off and on in my tailbone. I appreciated the days that I was able to block out the pain completely and move around like nothing was wrong. Some days, I can’t block the pain and I feel it intensely. I use those days when I can’t feel pain to rationalize that nothing is wrong with me on the days when all I feel is pain. I feel like if I were to go a doctor and tell them that I feel great some days, and horrible other days, that they would minimize the pain just as I do. Doctors won’t understand that cutting myself off from feeling is how I have learned to cope with trauma.

My therapist suggested that my disconnection from feeling is related to my history of trauma. I am so used to it, that I never really thought about the reasons why I am that way. It makes sense. I just wish there was an easy fix. As much as I’d like to not feel anything, I also need to eat like a normal person, to fully experience my environment, and to feel when something is wrong with my body. Right now, I can’t do that fully. It is something I need to work on, along with the 8 million other issues I have thanks to life.


I realized yesterday that I have been so disconnected from the outside world. I don’t read the newspaper. I don’t watch TV anymore, so I never watch the news. I rarely go on my computer, so I miss most news stories that tend to pop up when you’re surfing the web. Don’t ask me about politics; I have no clue what’s going on aside from Donald Trump running for president. Don’t ask me about popular crime stories; I haven’t heard them. The one thing I may know about is the weather, and my knowledge is limited to whatever the app on my phone provides me.  Which, by the way, isn’t much, since yesterday a friend mentioned a hurricane coming and I had no clue about it.

I realized that, while some disconnection is okay, I feel like I’ve cut myself off from the world too severely. I used to take pride in knowing everything about what was going on in the world, whether it be politics, economic affairs, ethical issues, et cetera. I watched the news every day. I spent hours online reading articles about whatever sparked my interest. Now I’ve become the total opposite.

I did a little self-reflecting to figure out why I’ve become so cut off. I know why I avoid watching television. It was something I did with my father for the last few years, since he was too sick to do much of anything else. We would watch all kinds of shows, even “trashy” reality TV. I admit, I am using the term watch loosely. I was mostly listening to the TV as I typed a paper up for school on my laptop and obsessively checked my Facebook newsfeed waiting for something exciting to come up. Regardless, watching TV reminds me of my father, and I just don’t want to be reminded of him right now.

I’m not sure why I’ve become so disconnected with reading the news. I wonder if part of it is just being so mentally exhausted from my own life, that I have little energy left to expend on anyone else’s. Maybe my mind doesn’t want to focus on anything else right now. Maybe I’m afraid I’m going to come across something that will remind me of home or my family. I don’t know.

But connecting with the outside world could also provide an escape. I won’t have to focus on me all of the time. I could think about other things. I’d be able to interact with people and talk about things without having to pretend I know what they’re talking about. I can feel connected to something again, something that isn’t going to put me in danger.

I did something last night that I hadn’t done since I first moved here. Part of it was prompted by my earlier blog post, and part of it was because my house was so numbingly cold. But I made myself a bowl of spicy green and wax beans (one of my comfort foods) and went outside on my back porch. It was too cloudy to see any stars, but I could still breathe in the air, and I could still hear the crickets chirping. So I took it all in. I sat on my stairs and ate my beans and for a brief moment, nothing bothered me. Then the police came for a domestic dispute across the street, a mother starting yelling at her kids to stay on the sidewalk, and my sense of tranquility disappeared.  Even so, I realized that peace doesn’t come without a little disruption sometimes.

Perhaps I will try to do this again. It helps me connect with myself. It helps me to connect with the outside, even if the outside consists of the area around my back porch. It helps me not feel so alone in the world.