body completely numb no reason out of nowhere

Derek Maine

The first time my whole body went numb was the summer before I started high school. The neighbor who found me, the EMT, the specialist: everyone wanted to know what it felt like but numb is exactly not a feeling and I was young, used all the wrong words, and was of no help. At the hospital they put nodes all over my scalp and had me run on a treadmill while someone watched waved patterns on a computer. No underlying condition was detected. I was pulling the goo they used to attach the nodes out of my hair for months. I still, from time to time, unconsciously dig my nails into my scalp hoping to find a bit of goo. I am 38 years old.

I stayed at Nanny’s house the rest of the summer. I ate cold eggs with the yolk scooped out by her lovely, terribly arthritic hands. We watched The Price is Right. The Braves were in the middle of another pennant run, on TBS, and John Smoltz was unhittable. I only moved my body when absolutely necessary, from the comfy chair in the living room to the kitchen or to the bed Papaw slept in before his heart killed him. When I walked from room to room I would glide my fingers across the walls, taking in the texture of the wallpaper. It worked sometimes. Sometimes it did not. I stopped telling anyone.

The second time my entire body went numb I lived in a punk house. I woke up in the middle of the night and started to walk downstairs to get a glass of water. At the landing my entire body went numb. I immediately sat down on the landing and groaned, loudly. I wanted someone to hear me. I wanted someone to help me. Amanda came to me and held me. She told me I drank too much that night and needed to sleep and everything would be ok. It wouldn’t.

The next day I convinced someone to drive me an hour and a half to my parent’s house. I still wasn’t driving alone. It would be another four years before I could do that. But this story isn’t about that. It’s about this:

I sat with my mom in the waiting room. In my town the doctor was Jenny’s dad. Jenny is such a bright, wonderful person. I miss her. I haven’t seen her in 15 years. She was the first person I knew that went to a rave. The last time I saw her she was in culinary school and managing an RV park. I said I bet that’s such an interesting job. She said it was the most boring job you could imagine. Oh, I bet some really crazy shit happens, I said. She said one time someone got shot but she didn’t see anything so it just meant she had to stay an hour later than normal while the police interviewed other people and the owner never paid her overtime for that day. Her dad was gentle, kind. He prescribed me Clonopin to take as needed and Paxil to take every day and said that my body going numb was all in my head. I was 17 years old. I have taken these pills almost every day since. I took them when I was a drunk, before I got sober. I took them on the day I met my wife. (She was a line cook. I was a dishwasher. This story is also not about that, but it would be better if it was). I took them on the day my son was born. I took them on the day my daughter was born. I took them this morning. The one time I did not take them was:

The third time my whole body went numb I was high at a friend’s house. We were about to go to a basketball game. He said “dude, are you ok? It looked like you went somewhere else for a minute.” He drove me to the hospital. I was in the front seat, shaking violently as I clumsily dialed my wife’s phone number and asked her to meet me and to please bring the kids because I wanted to say goodbye. I was either dying or going to be committed for a long time. The woman at the front desk and the nurse and the doctor all said I had consumed too much marijuana. They laughed at me. Everyone did. I still don’t know why.

The next day I sat across from my new psychiatrist and watched her crinkle her face while she read all about my mental health history in a folder that was not super thin. The body becomes dependent on the medication, of course, but it can also stop being effective after so many years. That’s what she told me. She prescribed new drugs and said they were the same but different. Will I still be able to drive alone? Will the suicidal ideations start again? Will I end up back at the behavioral health center? Is a licensed clinical therapist going to ask me to close my eyes and meditate in his office while I can clearly hear him touching himself because all of that and more happened the last time I stopped taking these medications and I am scared. She said she couldn’t promise anything but that we would work together.

The fourth time my entire body went numb I was about to give a presentation. I was standing in one place and then came the buzzing all over, the familiar numbness, looking down and seeing my hand resting on my thigh, feeling no hand nor thigh but only empty, faint space and I was lying on the floor at my work six days after I started taking the new drugs. Christine, from HR, took me outside and I lay in the grass out front while we waited for my wife to come get me and did I need an ambulance. No, I can wait. This has happened before.

I went back to taking the Paxil and Clonopin every day. I don’t know where I will be the fifth time my whole body goes completely numb. At night, when I can’t sleep, I go to WebMD or comb obscure mental health forums to try to get an explanation or at least find someone else that has experienced this but it’s always a lot about vertigo or physical sensations which is not what this is. Next time someone googles “body completely numb no reason out of nowhere” I hope they find this. I have classified it as FICTION, 1187 WORDS and added two minor inventions to the story in order to do so but I only did that because I am afraid if this is non-fiction then you will scrutinize me and also, more importantly, that my entire body will go numb again because I’ve jinxed it. But if you found this because you googled “body goes numb randomly like losing consciousness but instead of consciousness it’s just the physical” you are not alone.

Derek Maine is a writer living in North Carolina. He is on twitter too much @derekmainelives.