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?

I’m not ready. Not ready to leave the apartment. Not ready to have an interpersonal interaction. Not ready to work. I still feel nothing. It’s a throbbing emptiness all through my chest. Nothing feels real to me. Everything remains a hazy and distant dream. I’m not sure what it even means to say “I exist”.

If there is one thing I want (is it what I want or what I can handle?), it is to spend yet another day in my underwear reading comics and staring out the window. I want the bed. My safe cozy bed. I stare at it longingly. I can’t stop myself from going back to it…

I don’t feel comfortable. I can’t get comfortable. There is only relative comfort; that which is least uncomfortable. Nakedness. Bed. Screens. Comics. I cannot handle the feeling of clothing on my body. Bed allows me to collapse. Screens take me away from being in my body (something that feels unbearable right now). Comics put me in a fantasy world which is as far away as I can get from this reality.

I don’t like being home. I feel trapped. But when I attempted to drive somewhere today I could not handle the anxiety and I liked that even less. I cannot access my love for anything or anyone. It disappeared again. I should be used to it but you never get used to it. It seems that I can no longer consistently enjoy the company of human beings but I can’t consistently enjoy my own company either. I live my life in windows. Small windows where I feel okay and then bigger windows where I feel tired or depressed or numb or lonely. My brain is so foggy. Hazy. It feels like a bad dream. All of it does.

I wish I could be in control of people’s time. Not in a power-hungry evil way. I only mean that…I wish I could control the matching up of windows. Make my small happy windows align with the windows of time in which my loved ones are available. Make my large unhappy widows align with the windows of time in which my loved ones are busy and/or working.

I don’t know what it means to “do your best”. If it means willing something into being different then I’m doing my best. If it means making sure you do the “healthiest” thing then I’m probably falling short. I cannot walk right now. I cannot lift weights right now. I can barely hold my head up. Yesterday it was from lack of sleep. Today it is from…I don’t know. Too much sleep? Depression? The reality of my brokenness?

And then there is the rage that comes from feeling helpless and broken. And the numbness that comes from dealing with that rage (or not dealing with that rage). Last night I ate a bag of potato chips large enough for six people. It was not a healthy choice but it was the healthiest choice that I could access in a moment where I wanted to burn every bridge I have in the world, punch holes in walls and seek out the creepy drug-addict who was lurking in our apartment complex in order to beat the living crap out of him.

I feel so sleepy. I feel so foggy. I feel so numb. Numb turns to rage and rage turns to numbness. I feel so alone while knowing that it’s because of me. I feel trapped while knowing I’m trapping myself.

Ride it out. That would be the wise advice. And yet….ride it out. Until I have to ride it out again. And again. And again. And again. And suddenly I have a week where four to five of the seven days were spent riding things out and whatever good is in me is given to my work. Five of seven weeks. Six of eight months. Most of 49 years.

Today the window will be my only relief. If the heat allows I can look out of my window. My goal for today is to watch life go by. If I cannot live or connect to the life in me then maybe I can watch it. Make the window a different type of screen. Watch people and wonder what on earth they are doing down there. Wondering what is worth driving towards or what motivates them to speak to one another. Like an alien confusedly trying to make sense of the strange creatures on that other planet.

Many are open about the pain and loneliness they feel as a result of the pandemic. People are living without touch, affection, sex, and even human presence. When I close my eyes and imagine this, my heart fills up with sadness and love and I feel less alone. Doing so also allows me to count the blessings I have (good friends who do give me presence, company and verbal affection). But there is one thing that nobody has validated for me; that makes me feel so deeply and desperately alone…

Nobody is talking about how the pandemic has changed their relationship to their nose. More specifically to the picking of their nose. Now dear reader, before you jump all over me with judgmental cries like “that’s disgusting!” or “that’s silly!” I beg you to hear me out; for if you are someone who can say, “I never pick my nose!” then you are either in deep denial or in a small group of people who have a stick in their butthole in lieu of a finger in their nose. If this is you then I suggest you quickly move away from this blog. I’ll go ahead and give you a minute….Gone?…Good.

I miss the time when I gave very little thought to that sensual, cleansing ritual of nose picking. For me there were two motivating forces for this rarely written about, but quite universal, activity: the felt sense that something was clogging my nasal passages and boredom (I list those two things in no particular order though when the two motives overlapped it was the glorious–and proverbial–two birds with one stone situation). But now…now things have changed. One must think twice–or even thrice–about touching one’s own face. One can no longer pick one’s nose in any spontaneous way. Sure, one might say to oneself: “Hey, I just washed my hands.” But did you wash them well enough? Are you sure you want to take that risk?”

Last night after work I sat on my couch with a deep and soulful hankering for a good nose-picking. I could feel that the extreme heat of the day had dried out my boogers. I stopped myself from immediately giving in for the reasons listed above. But my self-efficacy was strong, dear reader. And so….I washed my hands in the kitchen sink, took a shower (it was a hot day so the shower served a dual purpose), and applied hand sanitizer.

I started with the right nostril and received immediate gratification. A dried out piece of booger was gently and mindfully pulled and with it a came a tail of gooey messy snot. I wiped on the piece of toiler paper I had set on my desk and looked at the healthy (white) snot with a sense of satisfaction. As if this satisfaction were not enough I shut my left nostril with my left index finger and took a sniff through my right nostril. Glorious breath!!! Though not quite as satisfying, mining the the left nostril was, nevertheless, a positive experience.

And so it is that I successfully added a soulful experience to a period of life where so much is missing. My Friday night is free. I plan to, once again, apply my three step cleaning ritual, relax with a silly superhero movie, and engage in this wonderfully sensual (erotic even?!) activity. Just imagining that there might be one person out there who can relate to all of this…well it fills my heart with joy. And though few will likely confess…I feel confident that you are out there.

A good day to each and every one of you.

I sit on the floor of my bedroom looking out of the window. The sunlight has a golden hue and the breeze is cool on my skin. I like the color of the light and the cool breeze. It feels like a gentle balm to my aching soul.

If there were a Creator to whom we could attribute our gifts and weaknesses (and I am not saying there is), I would say they gave me a lovely animal-like sensuality. I purr or moan or close my eyes or smile when I like the way something tastes or feels. I don’t know that I’m good at translating these experiences into words. It would be nice to be a poet but I like the way my family dog raises his snout when I scratch his neck. It’s pure. It’s simple. It’s lovely. I like the way he communicates his appreciation even more than I like the way Shakespeare expresses his love in a sonnet.

Maybe the moment we use words to liken one thing to another (even if beautifully) we lose as much as we gain. It’s not that I never have words to describe experiences, but I find it so much more relaxing to simply….sip the beer and notice that it makes the sides on the back of my tongue tingle. I suppose those are words. But if you’re in a group of beer tasters the pressure is on to say that the beer has “piney hops” and I just want to say that I liked the sensation on my tongue and that it made my mouth water. I suppose I could never write about food even though I love food so much.

And I could never write erotica or sensual poetry even though I love touch and human bodies so much. I can sit here and remember the microscopic blond hairs on her thighs but can’t for the life of me describe it in an appealing way to anyone else. I can only say that it both excites and relaxes me and…well that probably doesn’t make much sense, does it? I can say how much my eyes enjoy thick, frizzy, feral hair but that wouldn’t make anyone else swoon. I like the geometry of the curve created between foot and ankle when the former dangles. It’s nice and it makes me melt.

I suppose all I’m trying to convey is that this hypothetical creator gave me the ability to see and appreciate these things in a very basic and pure way. But the weakness (well I can’t blame a “Creator” for this but I’m going to do it for the sake of consistency) is that I have a sort of leak inside of me. All of this sensuality and love for life that I have right there in me…it goes to waste amidst all of the pain. The pain is so intense that I forget how much my life force is connected to all of these sensual things. And even writing this now I can feel how my life force is blocked and how my pain is up. It’s like I’m describing someone else and yet…I know it’s me.

I’m so deficit focused that instead of being content with the way I can enjoy things so much I focus on how I have much less to enjoy. Fingernails scratching my head…it’s heaven. It makes me close my eyes like my dog does when I pet him. But I can only think that there are no fingernails to scratch my head. I cry and kick and scream that I adore feeling the softness of another person’s skin but have no skin to really touch. I get so lost in the pain of everything that is missing and in the hopelessness of it ever changing that…it makes it impossible for anything to ever change. I get stuck looking at how someone who loves to touch (and be touched) has had so little in their life. And yet there is this weird irony to it all: sometimes I think that I developed this “gift” precisely because of the deficits. Watching. Looking. Listening. Sensitively noticing everything (when I’m not lost in pain).

The delivery is here. I’m going to go eat a burrito now. And maybe I’ll take some small consolation in the fact that I will enjoy that burrito as simply as my dog enjoys his treats. Maybe I can just be…an animal.

I look at the machine that was supposed to help me feel less tired and fight the impulse to smash it. The noises from outside won’t leave me alone—not even on a Saturday. Big truck beneath my window, incessant loud industrial sounds. It has been thirty minutes. I should leave. Go somewhere. Anywhere. Just drive. Go look at TVs at Best Buy. Do anything. No. If ANYTHING goes wrong, if someone is even slightly discourteous I can’t trust what I will do. Take out the trash. At least do that. I feel paralyzed by fear. I can’t. I don’t feel safe. Fascism is approaching. Must learn to defend myself. Another tomb. Wherever I go I create tombs. Tears. Life is too much. What are minor irritations to others feel like burns to me. Stabbings. I’m bleeding everywhere and my loneliness doesn’t feel like a choice if I am to keep myself from staining others people. More noise. Vacuums? Leaf blowers? And now sirens. I stop writing for a second and place my hands over my ears. More tears. More sirens. Different ones. The kind you can’t trust. Accident? Act of violence? I feel like I’m shaking from the inside. My limbs are steady but my insides keep vibrating. Buzzing.

Set the fire on fire. Burn off the burning feeling with a different burning feeling. Run.

Sprint up the hill. Lungs burning. Heart threatening to exit my chest. All the way. That’s one. Hands on hips. Belly protruding. That’s a hundred yards up the hill. Do it again.

Walk back down the hill and spring back up again. Is that as fast as you can go, old man? Five more times. That makes six. Heat. Dizziness. My skin is turning red from the sun. Options: sit on the curb or pass out. I sit. For a minute. Then walk back down for another. That makes seven. Sit again…eight. Sit again…nine…ten…eleven…twelve. I think I need to vomit.

I walk into the driveway of my father’s house and find the dirt area along the side. Dry heaves. False alarm. Let’s do one more. Thirteen.

I sit on the ground wondering how I will stand back up. My knee is throbbing. Soon it will be stiff. It will lock out on me. It will betray me as I have betrayed it. Sit in the shade. Maybe this will do it. Maybe the sweat will douse the fire.

Then the thoughts come again: I’m a serial number. Nobody was there when the fire was just a spark. The sweat begins to dry and the fire starts up again. At least now I’m too tired to hurt anyone. At least now my body is tired and aching and useless. Now only my words can hurt the world. Cancel all plans. Do not speak. Tape your mouth shut if you must. Protect yourself from the world. Protect the world from you.

I feel nothing save blind rage; complete and total hatred. I must sequester myself from humanity. I must keep myself from adding wretchedness to an already wretched world. I feel ill. In my stomach and in my head. I feel weak save for those moments when I clench my fists and feel something burn in my chest. I am a serial number. But a serial number with fists. I will hide my fists away behind these closed doors. I will sit on them or tie my wrists together if I have to. But give me a good reason–a real one (not the kind my trauma invents but one that is actually righteous)–and I cannot promise I will not make someone bleed.

I am ill today. Or so I told my clients when I canceled their appointments. I lie in bed and, trying to ignore the pain in my neck, stare out my bedroom window onto the street. The steady whoosh of car turbulence puts me in a trance.

I remember now. Monday morning I knew a break was coming. I knew the seams were coming apart. And then love and concern for another made me forget. I went to sleep with my guard down, forgetting that a storm was coming.

Tuesday morning. Jittery. Anxious. Overwhelmed. Five clients coming my way. Electrician with toxic male energy stealing my only break. Even so, I do not recall the awareness that I was already close to breaking. I soldier on the way I do on most work days. Shut out the world, myself included. Focus. That person. That task. And then the work day ends.

I eat without tasting the food. I flip through different shows on the television—all of them increasing the loneliness through their depictions of lives to which I cannot relate. They seem happy. They have spouses and talk about normal things and say funny things that aren’t actually that funny but that most must consider funny.

Walls closing in. Shaking. Denying it. Tears. Not steady tears. Unhinged. Reach out. Minutes feel like hours. Where are they?! Nobody loves me. Or do I not love anyone? How long will this last? It has been hours. Lie down. No, pace around. It has been weeks. Rage. I have been abandoned in this lonely hell. I tell myself I no longer need anyone. That nobody exists. They all left. Every last one of them. Or did I just leave?

I look out the bedroom window. I remember now. Last night…that was the break. I forgot it was coming. And now. Lost income. So much shame that the loneliness is worse. But not unhinged. Sad. Wondering how much damage I left behind. Like a drunkard waking up hungover wondering how bad he was the night before. The Hulk. Mr Hyde. Guilt. about my insanity. Wondering if it’s okay to spend so much time in bed. Wondering if it’s what I need or if it will leave regret. More regret, that is.

Sometimes when I’m in an emotionally self-destructive place I tell myself that I am to blame for my pain or my loneliness. “You are lonely because you are [insert cruel word or phrase]!” But other times the pain is simply there. I feed myself, exercise, clean up and do the things that I sometimes neglect when I’m depressed. But I’m still depressed. Is this depression? Maybe not. It’s a deep well of sadness. It’s a strong physical pain in my chest. It’s the feeling of some invisible hand trying to pull me down to the ground. I’m neither fighting it nor giving into it. It’s simply there.

I sit in the corner and look out over my living room. It looks nice. It’s the nicest home I have created. But what I notice most is that it’s empty. And I begin to cry (again). To sob. Just like I did on my walk. Just like I did when I woke up. I’m lucky to have a nice house but for some reason I haven’t allowed it to feel like home.

As pathetic as this sounds (I’m aware that what I’m about to say is close to being a Smiths’ lyric and for some reason right now I think of all the people who teased me for liking the Smiths in high school) I ache to physically embrace and be embraced. A tight embrace. I want to cry in someone’s arms and lean my head on their shoulder. I want that physical communication that is so much more basic and primal than words. But it’s not a possibility. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not until….well, nobody knows.

Thursday I’m getting a haircut. Someone will wash my hair. The momentary sigh of relief I get at imagining this is interrupted by picturing the person who will wash it. It is not someone I dislike but neither is it someone I like. Not a friend or lover but not a stranger. It’s part of a business exchange. It doesn’t mean it won’t feel good. It’ll be a minute of a nice thing. But it’s not heart-filling.

And this is it. This is why I ache. Sure, my inability to tolerate it is related to my trauma. Yes, the pain is enhanced greatly by it. But I’m also just a human being with or without the trauma. And now I have to gather my inner resources, put ice packs under my eyes (so that my clients won’t see that I’ve been crying for two days) and get ready to help people who are actually more high functioning than I am (with one notable exception).