A Sojourn in Hell

Here are some extracts from my journal for the week after I fell and hurt my knee on Monday, April 5.  See Knockdown.  During the week my knee got worse, and I had a very bad time psychologically.  I think these pieces give a sense of the interaction of trauma with the stress of the pandemic.

from my journal for Sunday, April 11:

Trying to think about how I feel right now, which is totally miserable.  I thought I was going to do better today because I woke up without the headache and not feeling so sick.  But I was too tired to drink more than one cup of ginger tea, to put out my supplements — I had only my meds this morning — too tired to write emails I’d like to.  I did make a full breakfast and manage to eat it, and do the dishwasher.  I’ve iced my knee a couple of times.

My psyche feels tied up in knots.  Like there’s no refuge.  I feel anxious about all the things I have to do, even though I don’t think about them I feel the tension.  There’s no relief, no refuge.  I’m sure this is the result of being too much alone. 

I ate a fruit cup and I’ll have some soup later for lunch.  Mocha has left me for the chair, so I think I’ll lie down on the couch.  I haven’t been able to read — Gentian Hill — and I haven’t been able to type journal, both normal ways I keep occupied.

Gentian Hill is a Novel by Elizabeth Goudge, one that I read over and over.

I’m terrified that I won’t be able to talk for Erica for two weeks after next Tuesday as she will be away.

Called for help and had to leave messages.

This is triggering because as an infant, left alone, my cries for help were often not answered. If I call someone and they don’t call back, I start feeling scared.

I was thinking that this place that I am, every part of me uncomfortable, every system tied up in knots, is Hell.  I looked at myself in Hell and thought, well OK I can do that.  No sense of compassion, more like how I felt at 3AM when I was thinking “I won’t do the family Zoom any more,” and my true self knew I didn’t mean it, supported me in letting off steam.  Now it’s more standing beside myself in “choiceness awareness.”  It’s OK, you can handle it, and it won’t be able to hurt you.

Monday, April 12

I feel as miserable in my body as I’ve ever felt.  Slept badly last night.  I invited myself over to Dulany’s last night hoping that company would help.  She wanted to watch a movie which I found very painful.  Didn’t feel connected to Dulany.  She said the other dog folks asked about me, but no one called me.

So I’m feeling completely confused.  Am I being too hard on myself or too easy?  It felt like I just gave up the last couple of days, but no one has come to rescue me.  I don’t even know who to ask for help, or what help would look like.

Part of me is saying OK, nobody’s going to help you, so you just have to shape up.  Another part says I need help — please someone help me.  Trying to find a prayer last night — I tried “Lord God have mercy on me,” and “May all beings be held in loving kindness,” and just counting breaths.  I can hang on to them pretty well, but they don’t shift anything.

It looks like I’m going to be in Hell for a while, so I’ll forget trying to feel better, but I’ve got to take better care of my body.  I did notice yesterday that my knee felt better after walking around Scattergood.

I’m thinking that it’s the Tough Drip that got knocked down so badly that she just can’t keep going, and immediately my heart goes out to her.  There, there, tough drip.  It’s time you took a rest.

Everything I think, or look at, or read about, I feel grief.  Knowing that I will lose Mocha some day.  Feeling anger for the Black people who are treated so unfairly, anger and grief for the earth and plants and animals that are exploited and abused.  It’s all a weight and a soreness on my heart.  I have no place for it to go.  No friend who would grieve with me.  No sense of a compassionate spirit holding all of this pain.  Yet people I trust — Richard Rohr, Elizabeth Goudge — say that God holds all our suffering in compassion.

I wish I didn’t feel so alone with it.  The only times I’ve felt not alone were when I was the witness looking at myself in Hell, and when my heart went out to the Tough Little Drip.

Tuesday, April 13

Yesterday was tough.  Emotionally and physically.  I walked Mocha 3 times.  That may be why my knee hurt so much last night.  I only went once around Rivercrest.  Getting there over the rough ground was the hardest part.  It was hard to read, hard to type, hard to do puzzles.  Felt like I was actively trying to distract myself rather than do something.

I called Affectionate Pet again & left message but never heard back.  I emailed Christine asking for a day of help, but she’s going to Florida and having guests and won’t be available until fall.

I wrote a lot in here, trying to deal with my feelings.

O Jesus some kind of machine.  Sounds like a leaf-blower.  At least it’s moving away.  Maybe into Scattergood.  O god back again.  No use trying to think.  Gnarling away at the edge of hearing.

One symptom of PTSD is hyperacusis, sensitivity to sound. This particular grinding sound is one of the most difficult.

Well, this is life.  Just one thing after another.  One niggling little difficulty after another.  I’m doing the best I can, trying not to push myself too hard, but not to give up either.  It’s not good enough and that’s got to be OK.

Late yesterday I felt very scared.  I couldn’t figure out what I was scared of.  My knee not getting better?  Erica being away?  I tried just to be with it, but wasn’t able to imagine a terrified baby.

If I’m able to imagine another being feeling the emotion, that draws out my compassion. I can at least go sit with it. But if it’s just me, I feel stuck, powerless.

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