Phantom Limb Syndrome


Phantom limb syndrome says what we lose burns. 

Phantom limb syndrome says presence is easy to take for granted, and absence overwhelms. 

It overwhelms so much that the brain severs its ties to reality out of self-preservation. Amputees will forget they’re amputees. I forget I’m a niece without her aunt. The horror of remembering makes it feel like it’s happening again – the limb is being cut off again; the phone is ringing again. I knew she was dead before I answered. I knew it then but most days, I don’t know it. Most days, I forget.  

Because she was like a limb, something I thoughtlessly relied on. She was like air, something I needed without urgency. Air will always be there, right? Who just runs out of air?  

But panic drowns you even faster, so it’s a survival instinct. The forgetting. The aching. Your mind needs the limb to exist, even if its existence hurts. Even if remembering that it doesn’t exist feels like dying.

Phantom limb syndrome says it doesn’t last forever. The burning will stop. 

Phantom limb syndrome says you will learn not to take things for granted. You just had to learn the hard way.

Laman-Amel Istrabadi is a Senior Anthropology and Forensic Science major, an SULC tutor, UpSkill volunteer, and FYS101 Peer Leader. She is a lover of Edgar Allan Poe, animals, and all things horror.