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Those Days With PTSD We Don't Talk About

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Sometimes, everything scares me. Even the drop of a pencil.

Other times, nothing scares me — even the things that should scare me. This is about those times.

• What is PTSD?

One time I turned on the sink, it was spouting hot water everywhere. I was so dissociated and numbed out that I didn’t notice it till it was all over my shirt. It was really hot. I just couldn’t feel it.

I don’t know exactly how to describe how it makes my body feel. It’s like my skin feels like wet clothes. I can touch my skin, press on it, even hurt it, and I can’t feel it at all. Like my skin is as dissociated from me as my trauma is, so much that I literally can’t feel it. It feels like nothing.

This numb is about coping I think, it’s the result of too many triggers in one day. If I have a bad day, the next day will be completely blank. The only thing I’ve seen the DSM-5 says about numbness and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)/trauma is emotional blunting. It’s not about emotions being less than they were pre-trauma, it’s about them not being there at all. And physical feeling being lost as well.

When I’m in this state, I still have symptoms of PTSD like flashbacks and triggers. I’ll see something horrid in my mind. And feel absolutely nothing. So much that I’ll deny I even have the disorder at all. After all, all the accounts of PTSD we typically hear are that of how terrifying it is. But no one can live in that terrifying state all the time, that danger sensor gets flooded and completely shuts off. Right now, to me, nothing is scary. I can relive my trauma without flinching. Laugh at it even.

In my traumatic event, I survived by not caring about what happened to me, and not knowing that anything was wrong, thinking it was normal. It becomes habitual to live like that, and an adaptation to living like the event is still occurring. So I still live like that.

It can make you feel superhuman. When nothing scares you at all. Or it can make you want to self-harm or drink/use to feel anything. However it affects you, it certainly makes you feel alienated. After all, who can’t feel their own body? Who feels nothing in response to hearing a horrible news story? It makes you feel guilty. That you can’t feel. Like you are less than human. Like you are dead inside.

And it’s not just the news you don’t care about, it’s the things other people do. Pre-trauma, I would have cried over getting an F on a test, or studied my ass off to prevent that from happening. Yesterday, I found out I failed, and I didn’t care at all. The drama that exists in other people’s lives, surrounding their family, friends or significant others, is so different from mine that it is extremely difficult to relate or emphasize. I try to be nice. But I live in a different world.

In PTSD being numb is more than just lessened emotions, for me at least. It’s not caring, disconnect from the world, physical numbness, no emotions and no sense of danger. We need to stop talking about PTSD as a disorder of terror, because while it is that, it is so much more.

Photo by Thibault Debaene on Unsplash

Originally published: May 17, 2019
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