Survivor’s State of Mind

By Dawn Daum

Surviving in a detached state, the feels only penetrate so deep. Brain and body on high alert, a constant reminder of how fragile I am.

I need reconstructive surgery on my bones,

the broken foundation from which I’ve grown.

Polarity exists more in my nervous system than in my mind. Thin skinned, hollowed flesh; I lack a reference for middle ground.

I’m good or I’m not. I can exist without fear or I am coated in it. I can be touched, or I can’t. I embody joy or I feel nothing at all. My body was hijacked and never fully returned. Attachment is what the hijackers stole from me. I can check out, but I can’t check in.

Those who were supposed to protect me were never protected themselves. Dysfunction is etched into my DNA.

Enough is never enough, but always too much. I survive on less than, or more than I can handle. My aura distracts with vibrant colors. Nothing breaks through. It’s what keeps me safe. Music is a constant in my mind. The volume is kept loud to drown out the sounds of my sickness.


The very skills that kept me alive now work against me. Numbing out pushes the very people I need in my life away. Intoxication deceives me; bait for regret. Faking it until I make it leads me towards a slow, familiar stone wall. My attention span is not so much distracted as it is dissociated. At what point do our weapons turn on us?

“You’re difficult to read.” I’ve heard that so many times I grew to see it as a compliment. Face value is on purpose. Any deeper creates emotional paralysis.

I need a new tool, a visceral cry loud enough to shatter.

If I can live only half alive, what does it matter?

There is this thing inside me. This itch that I’m afraid to scratch. If I give it attention then I must admit how long I’ve been ignoring it, and the choices I made as a result of that.


Trauma is a life sentence spent creating, destroying, and defining balance. Ask the survivors. They’ll speak from an overflowing well of grief, joy, and fury. All clues.

Listen to her.

Do not stifle her voice with a pill.

Help her learn to bend and breath on her journeys uphill.

That is the only way.


About Dawn Daum

Dawn is a Health Home Care Manager and the Trauma-Informed Coordinator at Transitional Services Association (TSA), a non-for-profit organization in Saratoga Springs, NY. Dawn is leading TSA’s initiative to implement trauma-informed care practices into all services provided by the agency.

Dawn presents talks and workshops on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), Trauma-Informed Care, and Parenting with ACEs for medical professionals, mental health workers, educators, and human service providers; as well as, parents, survivors, and communities. She is co-manager of the Becoming Trauma-Informed & Beyond: Resilience in the Workplace community on Dawn is part of a national and international grassroots movement, working to shift our culture’s understanding of how to address and heal trauma using education and promotion of cross-sector collaboration of care.

Dawn is co-editor of Parenting with PTSD: the impact of childhood abuse on parenting. Her work has been featured on numerous online publications including Huffington Post, The Mighty and The Establishment. Dawn’s insight and commentary has been included in several publications such as Narratively, Scary Mommy, and ACEs Connection.




Artwork titled Thoughts on Fire created by Joyelle Brandt.

To see more of Joyelle’s work and purchase a one of a kind painting of you own, visit Joyelle’s website.



5 thoughts on “Survivor’s State of Mind

    1. It took me a long time to realize what that really meant, which was that I was fearful of communicating with my body. I had a hell of a shield that “protected” me for a very long time. Still struggle with that shield from time to time. Thanks for commenting.☺


      1. I still tend to view it as a perverse compliment, because “inscrutable” passes while “clearly dissociated” doesn’t. It was a form of being in control even when life felt chaotic – but it also takes its toll in other ways after no one else is around.


      2. I don’t have kids yet, but I read your book because we’ve talked about trying in the bearish future, so I’ve been a bit obsessive on trying to pre-plan how to raise kids with PTSD. It was well written.


      3. Thank you ver much for telling me that. There is no full-proof way to prepare for motherhood, with or without ptsd. It’s a lovely shitshow no matter what. You’re a head of the game though because you are aware of what you may experience. The stories in our book give an opportunity to be as prepared as one can be. We tried to create exactly what we both went looking for.

        Liked by 1 person

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