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Novocaine Zombie – A Poem About the Frequencies of Terror of PTSD

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by Heidi Hanson

artist, writer, trauma survivor

Novocaine Zombie – A Poem About the Frequencies of Terror of PTSD

95-100 sheer terror

blown apart
stretched far beyond
the perimeters of self
a plaster explosion of me solidifies
while screaming
( silently )
frantic …………….stillness ……….
hot whiteness
a super-sonic flash in time
the world is gone
nothing exists except
oh please! survival!

90-95 emergency

now the frequency comes down a notch
into barely audible territory
still no breathing
(no breathing for years)
still hung up by strings
but running,
at least appearing to run, for life,
for the possibility of being saved.
a high wail.
a barely audible siren.
the body moves, arms reach, hands grasp, legs walk,
never any rest. I am flying, or drowning, or both.
no, dry empty wild fighting eyes.

40-85 (with frequent episodes in 85-100 range) : PTSD

I am not shaking.
a deer caught for a time in moon-large headlights
I have awoken from muscles of ice and stumbled into the
and the car is gone
but sometime in my evolutionary past I lost the deer art
of transmutation of terror by uncontrollable shaking
passing it through my tawny sweaty innocent hide into the black greatness of the
my brain is too reasonable and large for such things
it has no primitive reset button, it has long forgotten the tranquil default of its animal past so
instead the shaking is installed like a software program
a bombardment
a swarming of desperate insects
caught in neural webs of chaos
I struggle to navigate an
electric shock-filled forest of triggers I
walk on burrs, get stung by bees, am poked endlessly by sharp twigs or evil children.
a metallic smell lurks, the danger of death, ever-present.
memory no longer works
as the small vein where the mind’s needle is skipping only plays out the tune
“freeze fear freeze fear”
the frequency is high pitched still
coming  down very slowly

this is real torment – a time of real torment

perhaps outwardly
I seem normal
but so many moments
my brain is filled with the high buzz of the fight for life

0-40 (with periodic episodes in 40-90 range) : Recovering from PTSD

fragile still
most days I have a clumsy hold on the simple basic things
like a goofy proud child
I make a meal at a time I am hungry and eat
even happy at times,  I try to see again the crocus flowers the way I used to
like they are alive
like I am alive
even so, not really managing any big things yet, no order yet, no future yet
confused a lot
sometimes I find I am again unexpectedly thrown into the deep end of emergency
fighting and panicked and scared
another trauma has sucked me up into its wild tornado ride
and I am again novocaine zombie
stomach sick, body exhausted from adrenaline flood of pale fright
but faster each time I drag myself through!
with massive effort I self-calm over and over and over again until
tentative notion – a butterfly wing color falling through the graveyard – a better future?
I am nervous,
but hoping

by Heidi Hanson

This poem is based on The Frequency of Hyperarousal Scale that I have been using to measure my experience of hyperarousal. The numbers are the levels on the scale for each experience. Poetry and Science complement each other well.

(you can actually read the poem on this graphic if you click on it and then zoom in 🙂 )

(note that I had “Novocaine” spelled right, then the spell check changed it to “Novocain” – annoying!)

Novocain Zombie - A Poem About the Frequencies of Terror of PTSD


Heidi Hanson is an artist and writer in Asheville, North Carolina currently working on an illustrated book chronicling her journey healing from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

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