I sense danger everywhere. And when the fear overwhelms me I go into a dissociative state. I get fuzzy and find it difficult to follow what others are saying or doing. The outside world becomes more like a hazy dream. I feel tired and sleepy regardless of how much sleep I got or how much caffeine I have ingested. Sometimes it feels like a video that skips around. I come to for a second and wonder how an object got from point A to point B or am surprised that another person is present. Other times it just seems like the world is moving in slow-motion.
Sometimes I’m very aware of the perceived threat. Other times it happens unconsciously and my mind tries desperately to pinpoint the cause. It is not my physical safety that I feel worried about. In fact, when I am in situations where I could actually get hurt (lifting weights, running, driving) I generally feel safe. It’s my mental or emotional safety that feels threatened.
Often times (usually) the narrative in my mind stays coherent during dissociative states. Or, put another way, I am aware in my logical mind that the “danger” is not really a danger at all but my emotional mind/body has its own process that my logical mind cannot stop. I watch myself dissociate from a threat that is greatly exaggerated or non-existent. The logical part of my brain tells the emotional me that everything is actually okay but it cannot stop the process. The sleepiness comes. The need to flee comes. I know that the danger is false. That it isn’t true. But my body will not listen. The split between what I think and what I feel is agonizing. It is too much to tolerate. So I fall further into the hole.
The scariest thing for me when I reflect upon this is…I don’t quite know how to articulate it. We tend to make associations in our brains. If we had fun at a restaurant a few times, we’ll drive by that restaurant and get a nice warm feeling. If we got the stomach flu on a day when we ate scrambled eggs the latter can become a source of disgust even though logically we know that they had nothing to do with the flu virus. So why is this scary?
Trauma begets trauma due to associations. Since part of dissociation is a feeling of unbearable sleepiness and exhaustion, when I feel sleepy or exhausted for natural reasons (hard workout/lack of sleep, etc) I begin to dissociate. I know that sleepy tired days are challenging for everyone but to me they are terrifying. I associate it with my trauma. Trauma begets trauma.
Where it gets terrifying (so terrifying that I feel it right now as I write this) is when I begin to associate people I love with trauma. My logical mind knows that they are not to blame but if I have gone into dissociative states enough times with someone I begin to worry that I’m in danger when I’m around them. Even if they have nothing to do with it at all. And that must be a big part of my impulse to stay way from those I love the most. My logical mind knows that they are safe (perhaps even the safest) but my emotional self wants to hide from them. That is why I cancel plans. That is why I spend so much time alone.
That is the intrapersonal AND interpersonal hell I live in. That is my agony. That is my numbness (when the agony gets too much). It is this fear that I am doomed to be alone. The feeling that I need to hide when I need others most. The feeling that I cannot function if I am even only slightly tired.
I am currently waiting on a book about emotional sensitivity and emotional intensity. I notice myself hoping that it will be the holy grail. But I know it won’t be. It might be very helpful. I hope it is. But there is no holy grail.
Will I always feel this broken? There are the tears. That means the numbness is fading. But I still feel so very fragile. Aware that anyone can trigger a feeling of danger for almost no reason at all. I wonder dear reader if you can imagine how horrible that is? To wish to be held and understood but to know that the very same people who could offer this are also scary to the other parts of me. It is no wonder I feel such a deep ambivalence about having a life partner.
That is the prison I reside in. Yes, it is of my own making. Yes, nobody else can free me. But I feel trapped anyway. Trapped by this emotional mind and by this body that seems wired to protect me when I least need to be protected. That is why I feel insane and broken. And I want to scream out and cry “But it’s not fair! It’s not fair!” but what good would it do?