Can you live without a stomach?

ICD-10-CM Diagnosis Code F43.12: Post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic

I fantasize about cutting mine out of my body.

I know now that my near-constant stomach pain and nausea is a C-PTSD symptom. It’s not always like this, I know, but it has been like this for weeks now.

I remember periods where I didn’t have this pain.

Anti-emetics don’t work. Or, they don’t work well enough to overpower the stress that constricts my guts and turns both an unfed and fed body into a knotted mess of gas and pain that sometimes doubles me over and renders me useless.

I picture putting a knife into my belly right under my left rib cage. I am left-handed.

I know how to eat a diet that works for me. Or, at least I did. Our bodies can change over time. It’s hard to experiment when the baseline is so bad. It’s hard to know what to control for.

Proper experiments take weeks or months.

I pull it to the left and start curving it down to the outside of my abdominal muscles.

My first narrative memories are of being invisible in plain sight. When we were with Pop, we missed meals sometimes. When he was passed out, the boredom was insufferable. I remember punching the keypad from 00 to 100 on that big furniture-sized TV to see if there were any different channels that could light up that dark living room though it was so bright and hot outside.

I remember teaching myself how to wipe after using the toilet. I could see him from the bathroom. The door was open and he was passed out on the couch. I called out to him repeatedly and he didn’t wake up. We sometimes worried that he was dead. I cried out more desperately. “Will someone please come wipe my bottom?” He didn’t wake.

I knew I was on my own. No one consciously taught me. I problem-solved and did it the way I’d seen it done. I spent every year of my life after that learning and relearning that I was on my own. I got really good at cleaning up my own shit.

I curve it when I reach my pelvic bone, switch hands, and start to pull hard to the right.

Can you live without a stomach?

People suggest alternative remedies without really understanding how much energy it takes to pursue them, and without understanding how much I’ve already tried and then found that I didn’t feel any effect after a week or two if I did at all.

I blame myself for that. I blame myself for not trying harder. I blame myself for the medicine not working. I blame myself for not re-doing the experiments. I blame myself for that little bit of bread I ate last night that I might be sensitive to even though I know I am not celiac. I blame myself for not being able to get up. I blame myself for not being able to respond. I blame myself for wanting to die.

I pull it up when it reaches my right pelvic bone and move toward completing the circle.

This is poetry for poison
For the ghosts that don’t ghost
For all the bad choices
And the boats that don’t float

Everything falls out and I sever all of the connections to the rest of my organs, leaving a pile of entrails on the floor that I can walk away from. I leave the knife with them and go to wash my hands.

Maggie says that I’m the most impressive person she’s ever met in terms of emotional maturity. More and more, she says, as we’ve continued to grow, she is impressed with my ability to sit with and talk about enormous pain. She is impressed with how freely I offer it. She says she won’t leave. We got married, divorced, and became best friends because we held ourselves to our highest standards and we endured.

In this place, I always worry that I am hurting her. I keep saying “I’m sorry” and “I’m poison” and “my very existence hurts people.”

Abandonment flashbacks are the worst. The physical symptoms are pernicious and difficult to understand. “Helplessness” doesn’t even begin to name it.

Tears roll down my face and onto my hands and onto my keyboard.

This has to end. It just has to end. It’s true that our brains get hijacked into thinking it never will. But, for some of us, it doesn’t. I saw people collapse, people for whom it never ended.

Can you live without a stomach?

People have said that I’ve got guts, and I would give them every bit of what I’ve got just to make the pain go away.

This is how the chronically ill die: sometimes from our bodies, but often from our bodies poisoning our minds.

Other Lives is a peer-led trauma survivors’ network and advocacy organization.

Follow our Medium publication here:

You can find the main site at and the peer-support forum at

If you are interested in contributing, there are many ways you can help.