Forgiveness

From my journal for Monday, June 28

Yesterday was a miserable day.  The low-grade fear or whatever it is in my heart is so uncomfortable.  I’ve been trying to get her to tell me what the problem is, but so far I haven’t heard anything.  I keep guessing.  Are you afraid of me rejecting you if you tell me what’s wrong?  Are you afraid of me?  I feel a pause & relief.  It’s OK to be afraid of me.  I’ve pushed you away a lot.  I’m so sorry. so so sorry.  There, there.  I’m hesitant because I’m scared of doing the wrong thing.  What comes is an image of Dana looking at me so coldly when I came back to the house to get some of my things after the divorce.        

I think there’s still some confusion and misunderstanding between us, but I’m willing to work it out.  You don’t have to do anything you’re not old enough to do.  I’ve managed to do almost all the things that needed a grown-up to do.

I feel the burning in my heart again.  It’s some kind of baffled fury at what’s happening on the planet, and my inability to take action.  There’s some intense tangle here.  We may need some further piece of information.

Yes, I really want to know what’s going on for you.  If it’s something bad or scary I’ve done or said, I’d like to be able to reassure you that it was a mistake, that I won’t do it again.  There there Little One.  I’m so sorry you’ve been hurt so badly.

Were you afraid I was sending you away when I sent “these energies” to the white light?  I feel the burning in my heart.  I know I didn’t always get the exact words right, but I never meant to send you away.

I’ve spent my whole first cup of tea working on this and I still feel the burning in my heart.  I really need some help.

Second cup of tea.  Blessed Lord Jesus have mercy on me.  Please!  Now I have to wait patiently for help to manifest.

I continued writing about yesterday.  Then, after I finished writing about yesterday, I went on in imagination and this is what happened.

Trying to reassure the one I’ve been working with that I don’t want to send her away.  I see a small child, maybe 5 yr old, crying and running frantically toward me.  I get that it’s a situation where she did something wrong and tried to apologize and mother wouldn’t accept it.  There was no forgiveness.  My heart goes out, I take her in my arms and say I’m not like that.  God’s not like that.  Of course I forgive you for giving me a bad time.

I don’t have an actual memory of Mother refusing to forgive me.  I didn’t realize that’s what happened until I saw the movie “Mommie Dearest,” and when the adopted daughter says “I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” the mother says “Just don’t do it again.”  There was no “That’s OK,” or “I still love you.”  I learned that the only thing I could have done “right” was not to have done whatever it was in the first place.  Then there was the threat to “send me back to Sears & Roebucks,” which told me that not only would I not be forgiven, but I would be sent away to some impersonal adult place where I wasn’t wanted.

I choose to trust that I am in a healing process, and that all my mistakes are forgiven.

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Angry One

Feeling desperately scared the morning of June 22, I found it really hard even to go through my well-practiced routine of cooking breakfast.  As soon as I finished breakfast and walked Mocha, I went down to the Clinic to see if anyone could see me, and to just sit there where there were people around.  They were able to arrange a meeting with my primary care person, Karen Skalla, at 10:00.  When I got there, Kirsten King, a staff member concerned with community health was there also.  They made sure that was OK with me.  I figure I need all the help I can get.  

They suggested I have a definite plan for when I first get up.  I explained that I have my first cup of tea and write in my journal, and have a definite routine up to walking the dog.  The problem is when I wake up at 4 or 5AM, too tired to get up, too scared to go back to sleep.  One of them suggested I have a tape to listen to.  I know that Nancy Napier and Belleruth Naparstek make tapes (and CD’s) for relaxation in stressful situations.  So that sounded like a good idea.  Being reminded of Belleruth Naparstek also reminded me about her book, Invisible Heroes, about trauma survivors.  I got it out and started reading — the book was published in 2004, shortly after I started Somatic Experiencing, and I found it helpful — and found it even more helpful now that I’m struggling with confusing symptoms.

From my journal for Wednesday, June 23

Went to bed last night listening to Sharon Salzberg on Lovingkindness.  This was the suggestion of the medical folks for what I should do first thing in the morning when I feel scared.  So I played the CD last night & fell asleep easily.  Then when I woke up in the middle of the night and felt the first hit of fear I put it on again and went right back to sleep.  Finally at 6, I woke up and was hit with a real jolt of heat.  I told it to go away and it got stronger.  OK, I’ve got to find out who this is.  I put on Sharon again and continued to try to find out more about where this heat is coming from, what it’s about.  I suspect it’s anger — I just got a hit, it’s very young.  That shifted everything.  The one who broke David’s windows.  Davis.  The Madwoman of Chaillot.  Earth Day.  Rewriting Genesis.  The one who has a lot to say and never got a chance.  Something like that.  The child who was validated by Dr. Asher.

The Sharon Salzberg CD is the 3 CD set on Lovingkindness put out by Sounds True.

The jolt of heat is a jolt of fear, it almost feels like I’m burning, it carried an intense sense of DO SOMETHING.

David was my boyfriend who abandoned me, and I went to his apartment and when he wouldn’t answer me I got my car jack and started breaking his windows.  Dr Asher was a psychiatrist I was seeing who, when I told him about my childhood, said “You must have been very frightened.”  The Madwoman of Chaillot was put on at the University at Davis, California.  It was a great performance with environmental overtones added by the students.  The first Earth Day was celebrated that spring of 1970.

Finally I realized that this one was ANGRY.  Angry at me for not standing up for myself.  I didn’t write down this realization, so I don’t remember where in the day it happened. Before I thought that it was very young I got the word “antagonistic” and thought it might be angry at me.  Well it was, but on my behalf, SHE was angry that I didn’t stand up for myself.  It was the first and only time I got angry enough to commit violence.

From my journal for Thursday, June 24

Yesterday, after connecting with Angry One, I felt a little high all day. Possibly energized by the anger that was finally reclaimed.  So it was a good day.

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Work with Stuck Energy

From my journal for Wednesday, June 16

“May this energy go to where it can be used for the highest and best good of all.”  I woke at about 4:20 and felt the burning energy in my heart and elbows.  I realized it’s not so much fear as stuck energy.  Trying to talk to parts was not helping, so I worked on trying to find the best words to send the energy out to do good in the world.  I saw images of very strange dark unstructured places, maybe slums and hippy houses.  I didn’t try to figure anything out, just kept saying my prayer.  The heat faded and came back many times.  Finally I began to feel empty and cool and quiet which was wonderful.  It certainly feels like this is the right thing to be doing.  In some ways “stuck energy” is the definition of trauma.  Maybe I am helping the collective trauma by doing this work.  I certainly hope so.

The heat in my heart and elbows was familiar from something I felt a lot during the Summer from Hell, after I had freaked out on Paxil.

“Unstructured” is a word used by Matt Licata.  Something I expected would make me uncomfortable, but in this work I was so focussed on sending the energy out that I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the images.

From my journal for Thursday, June 17

OK whoever you are.  I’m sorry I’ve been avoiding you by playing puzzles.  No wonder you’ve been coming on stronger.  I just got a new post from Matt.  I went there, and he’s talking about grief. he speaks of “the forgotten, broken-hearted orphans” and I feel tears come.  Perhaps you are one of those.  I wonder if you have something to do with the heat I was feeling yesterday, perhaps you are the one who lived through the summer from hell in 1996.  The words “fear is a choice” come.  I remember how the woman said that at Jalaja’s Circlework Training, and how my fear went through the roof.  It took days to talk myself down.  I feel your fear, and that you are afraid you are never going to come out of it.  I tell you that we, or I, come out of it over and over.  You, as a frightened part, may be stuck in fear.  But fear is not a choice, unless you choose to tell yourself scary stories.  You are not doing that.  Something truly fearful happened to you, I don’t know what it was because there are a number of possibilities.  Your experience was truly overwhelming, your capacity to process it was swamped, and so you experience it as present reality.  But instinct, not cognitive choice sent you into a place of frozen terror.  I am so sorry that happened to you, that the psychiatrist who prescribed the Paxil didn’t believe you when you said you were afraid.  It wasn’t until Char said “You wanted to be un-depressed so badly that you kept on taking it, even though you were scared out of your wits.”  There, there.  I hold her and rock her, tears in my eyes.  “It was not your fault.”  And because of it, you were unable to take in all the goodness that was there at the Circlework Training.  That deserves grief, it is not wrong for you to grieve that that happened to you.  You have a right to grieve all your unlived [unloved] life.

My journal writing these difficult days has been full of wrong words, left out words, mistakes that make sense…  “playing puzzles” must have been a memory of when I used to play solitaire compulsively.  The word unlived was rejected by my spell checker and replaced with “unloved.”  In some ways both are true.

Disclaimer: I usually try very hard to make sure what I’ve written is understandable. Today my brain is not working well enough to have any idea of whether this post is understandable. You could see it as an example of living with PTSD.

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Work with Younger Parts of Me

To explain to people I trust when they ask how I am, I’ve been saying: “I’m dealing with flashbacks to early trauma, and I often feel terrified.”  The reality is that I am overwhelmed with very young parts who are terrified, and working with them can be tricky.  Slightly edited notes from my journal for today, Wednesday, June 9.

Woke at 5, burning heart, heat all over body.  It was a real struggle, but I finally managed to connect with young one and to convince her that she should not have been left with younger ones to care for, that she was much too young.  She had a really hard time getting it.  I just realized that she might have thought that she just wasn’t good enough.  NO. You were too young.  It’s not that you could have done it, but you didn’t try hard enough.  It’s not that someone else your age could have done it but you weren’t good enough.  It’s wrong that you were left alone with younger children.  Young one asks “Then why did they do it?”  Because they were irresponsible parents.  It was too scary to see that when you were a child, so you had to make it be that you were the one who was not good enough.  I feel her relax with a big sigh.  I tell her I am the older one now, and I will take care of her and not ask her to do things she can’t do.

My heart gets cold.  I think it must be about the phone and all the other devices I don’t know how to take care of because I’m caught in a younger part.  I feel “I can’t go on” get big again.  I tell her she doesn’t have to, that I can find help.

Just had to reassure another little one, or a bunch of little ones, that I want to be present for each one, but if I’m overwhelmed I can’t be present, so I need them to dial back.  They do, and I feel a gush of gratitude.  Good work, you guys!  We’re managing together.

Looking for help yesterday, I went to see the Doctor, and she said it was OK to raise my dose of Buspar to help with anxiety.

I took 2 buspar at bedtime.  It felt like it took a while to go to sleep, and then I woke at 5, did all that inner work, and felt very sleepy when I finally got up.  It ’s like I’m too relaxed to function, but still terrified.

Dear little ones who are scared, you can go to the Bodhisattva of Compassion — I look at my statue of her holding a baby — if you need help.  I don’t want to send you there because you might feel rejected, but if you want help, she’s available.  I will still be available when it works out for me to be with each one of you.

It seems to me there are some major categories.  There’s the tiny baby who’s been left alone and is in a state of frozen terror.  There’s the one trying to protect me from Mom, but who shuts out everyone else too.  There’s the one who feels responsible to take care of younger ones.  Reassuring her is tricky.  If I tell her she doesn’t have to take care of younger ones any more, she might feel rejected, so I have to reassure her that I still want to be connected to her.  I also have to make sure that she understands that she is too young to care for younger ones, not incompetent.

This is such hard work!

O yes, there’s also the one who can’t go on.  I have to reassure her that Erica and I can take care of the younger ones, that I have help, that she can relax and rest, and that I still need her as part of myself.  Maybe she’s the hardest one.  To reassure without rejecting.  Well, I managed to reassure the one who is too young, that she is truly too young, and not incompetent or a failure.

God.  No wonder I’m exhausted.

Having trouble with things seeming very strange when I walk around, and feeling so overwhelmed.  I asked the little ones to use their venetian blinds.  I realized why I’ve been feeling so odd, even tho I’m doing better.  It’s because younger parts are awake in me, and they are seeing this world for the first time.

“Venetian Blinds” was a suggestion made to me as a highly sensitive person, to help me cut down on sensory input.

Sometimes I think it must be hard for these young ones to wake up in an old body and realize they never got to live the life in between.

When I think about this, I feel enormous grief.

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Bombed-Out Village, Reprise

On May 24, I wrote my “primary wound history,” following the assignment from Matt’s course. At the end of this writing I say:

At least writing this has helped make the fear fade.  I also am somewhat surprised to see what enormous hardship I’ve been through, and how well I have done just to survive.  I haven’t even begun to address the second part of the question.

From my journal for Tuesday, May 25

3rd cup. Kombucha.  Not wanting tea or coffee or caffeine.  Walking Mocha I thought of the bombed-out village, and the dreams of atomic bombs, seeing the pictures of Hiroshima in Life magazine, the possibility that in my last life I died in London during the Blitz, the truth that there are presently bombed-out villages in Syria, in Gaza, in Afghanistan…  I remembered that strange feeling at Debbie’s when I seemed to be in two places at once.  So I continue to be in the bombed-out village, aware of the 3yo who’s there too.  It feels like there’s no point in trying to talk to her right now.  But as long as I stay in the bombed-out village, I don’t feel scared.

Hiroshima was bombed on August 6, 1945.  I was three years old on August 25.  I saw drawings in Life magazine — I presume because there were no photographs — the drawings were line drawings in black ink with some swathes of red.  They showed people running and falling, buildings crumbling, fires. I knew that some disaster had happened to the world.  The earliest dream I remember, I have no idea how old I was, was that I was in the living room of our house, and the atomic bomb fell just outside the window.  I could see it, it looked like a huge bullet, it was an evil yellowish metallic color.  I turned around and tried to run away, but my knees were like rubber and I could barely move.

From my journal for Wednesday, May 26

The “bombed-out village” came to mind, and I kept it present while I walked with Mocha.  It helped calm the fear, and a bunch of other associations came to mind.

I think one reason it helped with the fear is that when I walk around with triggered trauma, I feel like I’m in a war zone, but there’s no one there with me. If I were in a real war-zone, there would be others there to validate my experience.

From my journal for Sunday, May 30

3rd cup. dandelion.  That was a surprise.  Reminding myself of what happened to me actually made me feel better.  There’s so much emphasis on not going over the bad things that happened, and I know that can keep people stuck, but in my case I need the reminder of exactly what did happen, how I had no choice about learning dysfunctional strategies, and that these dysfunctional patterns, and flashbacks to real events, are not character flaws.  Which is of course how I first defined them, because I had no idea of what had really happened.

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Finding Help for Terror

What would be a 3rd cup writing except I’m too scared for caffeine.  Looking for help, I went to Matt’s blog, and just intuitively clicked on April 2019, then on “A Container of Holding.”  Matt reminds me that I’m not alone, that there are other empaths out there with wounded younger parts, who are feeling terror for the destruction of the earth.  I am suddenly aware of a huge crowd, and people are coming to sit down next to me.  It is comforting to know I’m not alone, I’m in the company of my peers.  

Before sitting down to write, I prayed to the Bodhisattva of Compassion, saying that I simply couldn’t handle this much fear, that I need some help with even the fear that is legitimately mine.  Then I got out the statue of the Bodhisattva holding a baby and set her up in front of the big crystal.  I intended to light a candle in front of her, but got distracted until I looked up just now, after doing this writing.

Thank You.  I still feel a little fear, but I also feel comforted.  I am not alone.  There are people sitting near me, and people all around the planet doing the lovingkindness meditation for all beings.

These are paragraphs from Matt’s blog that helped the most:

Is it my pain alone that I am feeling, my personal emotional overwhelm, my trauma, my grief, my uncertainty, my anguish? It’s so much to hold. Or is it that of the ancestors, the stories and feelings and memories and images of those who have come before, or even have yet to come? It is not always easy to tell and the weight of tending to it all can be unbearable at times. 

While recognizing our common humanity and history—and the vast relational field that we share with others who have come to know healing, wholeness, and mercy—doesn’t necessarily make the pain go away, it provides a context or container of holding in which we can find the strength, the hope, and the vision to find a way through, to discover a light that has never truly gone out.

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Primary Wound History

I wrote this yesterday as part of a program given by Matt Licata, who is a trauma-sensitive therapist and writer.  I found about him from a piece of his blog, which was posted on Jalaja Bonheim’s Circlework Page.  I’m in a time of feeling a lot of triggered fear, and find Matt’s work comforting.  So I signed up for a course called The Path of the Wounded Healer.  It includes talks by Matt, Q & A sessions from the Zoom version, meditations and writing exercises.  The following is what I wrote in answer to the Question: Write a few paragraphs about the primary wounds you’ve suffered/ struggled with in your life and what you have learned from these experiences. In what ways have you come to see your wounding as supportive of your path and in what ways has it been an obstacle? 

Primary wounds: being left alone too much as an infant — trauma, frozen because fight-flight not online yet.  Also no object constancy so mother is really nonexistent when I can’t see her.  Very much in line with the frozen fear I’ve been feeling lately where there is no friendly presence in the universe.  Then Mother’s “mis-representation” of me to myself.  Instead of mirroring me accurately, so I would have some idea of who I really was, she projected her cold, selfish, narcissistic persona on to me so I learned I was incapable of loving, I didn’t care about anything, and I “thought I was so great.”

Until I was 42, I thought I was defective.  That’s still my default, I fall back into it very easily.  When I was 42, I found out about Children of Alcoholic parents.  My parents weren’t violent, but because of their drinking they weren’t really available and present for me.  The new information let me know that I wasn’t defective.  I had learned dysfunctional behavior from dysfunctional parents, and I could unlearn it.  I had been in & out of therapy since I was in my twenties, but now I came at it from another direction.  I looked to identify and dismantle the COA patterns.  I went to workshops for COA’s, drove 2 1/2 hours to Boston with a friend to go to the first COA workshop offered, and then to go to a special group for women.  This carried me a long way, but looking back I can see that the idea that I am defective stayed untouched in a very deep place.  The very early trauma didn’t help since my brain and nervous system matured under the influence of trauma, which left me with a strong bias toward negativity and being easily triggered.

(Not mentioned: in my 20’s I cut myself for a few years and was hospitalized for violent behavior when abandoned by a boyfriend.)

As a result of early trauma and alcoholic parents I suffered from severe depression until I was 55.  I knew I’d had bad depressions, but didn’t know how bad it was until I was diagnosed with severe depression and told I should get on medication right away.  My first attempt at medication was a terrifying experience, but when I finally got on one that worked, and experienced normal brain chemistry for the first time, I was astounded.  It was a completely new experience.  As a consequence, my husband of 18 years left me for another woman.  He had only stayed with me because he thought I would kill myself if he left.

The main reason our marriage failed was because I was unable to be sexual.  Because of the self-mutilation, I explored the possibility of having been sexually abused as a child, but never got any conclusive evidence.

A good friend, who had been majorly traumatized in her early life, told me more than once that she thought I was dealing with the same thing, but I didn’t believe her.  I thought trauma was caused by violence, and my parents had never been violent.  Finally, my friend started doing Somatic Experiencing and having positive results.  I read Peter Levine’s book, Waking the Tiger, and when I went into a spiral of terror on reading the chapter on hyper-vigilance, I put the book aside (as they recommended) and made an appointment to see an S.E. practitioner.  Somewhere, Peter Levine says an infant can be traumatized by being left alone in a cold room.  Learning the mechanism behind trauma, that when the reptilian brainstem concludes the organism is in danger of death, it triggers survival mode.  If the person is unable to fight or flee, the instinctive default is freeze.  Freeze means that the enormous energy that has not been used in fighting or fleeing is still locked up in the body.  A baby can’t fight or flee, so survival mode goes to freeze.  If the energy frozen in the body is not discharged somehow, the experience does not get metabolized, but remains in the body to be triggered over and over again. The person is forced to experience the undigested pieces of the experience.  When those flashbacks happen, the person does not experience them as memory, but as present happenings.  This is why the combat veteran’s body dives behind the couch before his brain has time to identify a car backfiring out in the street.  I used this to tell myself when I was terrified — NOT “There’s nothing to be afraid of” or “You are perfectly safe” which are invalidating and only make me feel worse — but “What you are afraid of really happened.  But it happened in the past, it’s not happening now.”  Sometimes I would add “Mother is dead, she can’t hurt you any more.”  This didn’t make the fear go away, but at least it gave me an intellectual container.

At least writing this has helped make the fear fade.  I also am somewhat surprised to see what enormous hardship I’ve been through, and how well I have done just to survive.  I haven’t even begun to address the second part of the question.

Posted in Depression, Present Day, Trauma, Writing | Comments Off on Primary Wound History

Empathetic Distress

From Kosmos Journal, 5/18/21

Unfortunately, the difficulties of late capitalism, as more of us are pressured to compete with each other in distorted markets, while we increasingly perceive the turbulence both around and ahead of us, means that anxiety is increasing in many parts of the world and for many age-groups. Within our modern cultures, we have also been schooled to feel fearful of not knowing. A growing sense of vulnerability, due to increasingly precarious personal circumstances and perception of a more turbulent world, means we can grasp for ‘correct’ answers rather than allow for more ‘not knowing’ and more maplessness.

The great risk of such habitual responses is that they will lead more people to latch onto the simple stories offered to them by incumbent power, on the one hand, and opportunist contrarians on the other. 

by Katie Carr, of Deep Adaptation

From Oneing, a pamphlet, this one on Trauma, produced by the Center for Action and Contemplation:

We might ask, what could be the consequences of merging with the sufferer through overidentification? I am not talking about a fleeting moment of sensing or understanding but about an experience of deeply fusing with the suffering of others physically, emotionally, and/or cognitively and not releasing the experience. 

When we identify too strongly with someone who is suffering, our emotions can push us over the edge into distress that might mirror the anguish of those whom we are trying to serve. 

by Roshi Joan Halifax, in a section called “Empathetic Distress”

It comes from her latest book: Standing at the Edge: Finding Freedom Where Fear and Courage Meet (New York: Flatiron, 2018) 

Trying to deal with what I now suspect is Empathetic Distress, I came up with three prayers, from May 16        “Whatever of this is not mine, may it be drawn into the ball of white light and sent to the healing realms.”  “I choose to trust that there are beings in the universe who are bigger, stronger, and wiser than me, and who are available to help us all go in a positive direction.”  “I offer myself to this process.”

I go back again and again to this passage.  It’s part of a long journal entry from 1996, when I was suffering from the terror produced by the paxil episode, before I got on anti-depressant medication that worked, and before I realized that I had been traumatized in infancy.

But the truth is, going over the whole thing in detail again again, writing down exactly what the fear feels like and then seeing how it matches my childhood, results in me feeling much less fearful, much more stable, seeing beyond the shoulders of my parents’ shadows to the possibility of a real Universe, big enough, wild enough, creative enough, compassionate enough, to meet my Soul’s need.

Recently I read the whole statement as part of sharing my “Spiritual Journey”  with the Quaker Community in Hanover.  What I saw was that if my soul needed a universe that was big, wild, creative and compassionate, then my soul was big, wild, creative, and compassionate, and since my soul is a hologram of the Universe, then the Universe must also be at least as Big, Wild, Creative, and Compassionate as my soul.

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“Unreal” Suffering

I’ve been struggling with almost continuous terror for the last three days. Knowing it was trauma-based, being pretty sure it was because of social distancing, I tried to spend more time with people, but even eating dinner together didn’t help. My journal writing this morning was pretty desperate, but when I walked Mocha, I found some things that made a difference.  The fear has not gone, but it’s lessened enough that I can manage. I still find practical things almost impossible, except for absolutely necessary things like cooking and getting food and walking the dog.  This is what I wrote later:

3rd cup. dandelion root tea.  I’ve discovered some prayers that help.  “Whatever of this is not mine, may it be drawn into the ball of white light and sent to the healing realms.”  “I choose to trust that there are beings in the universe who are bigger, stronger, and wiser than me, and who help us all go in a positive direction.”  “I offer myself to this process.”

I said these while I walked Mocha.  Also reminded myself that I do love Mocha, even when I don’t have loving feelings or feel connected.

I thought about the mystery that some suffering is “real”: Joe lost his wife, Rob fell and hurt his back.  Another friend had some mysterious illness with psychotic symptoms but is doing better — she came by our dining table last night with a walker, looking pale and weak.  There are people struggling with poverty and racism and marginalization, losing their jobs, being treated unfairly by the police, etc. etc. 

Then there’s suffering that’s “unreal” like mine.  Yes I know it was caused by an event in the past, but there’s no direct evidence.  My suffering is almost entirely invisible feelings, that other people don’t see, that they mostly don’t understand because the feelings don’t connect with something obvious and present.  Maybe even because, as I think it’s Lenore Terr who says, the fear and rage of a trauma survivor don’t feel like normal fear and anger.  I think the terror I experience is frozen terror, the default of freeze.  I suppose the freeze without fear is apathy, but the freeze with fear reminds me of dreams when I tried to run away from a bomb and my knees were like rubber.

One of the difficulties in believing that it’s not my fault, besides my father telling me “You’re miserable because you want to be,” is that I didn’t know about the trauma until I was nearly 60. Not understanding about the cause for my difficulties left me believing that I was defective.

What is the purpose of “unreal” suffering?  Because it’s not directly caused by someone else, there’s no one to blame.  I always took responsibility for healing my misery, although I also blamed myself, judged myself harshly.  That’s why the prayers are such a help.  They represent handing it over to something I trust, a healing process if not a loving being.  I guess one thing that that makes “unreal” suffering so difficult and painful is most people judge the suffering person, and refuse to feel sympathy.

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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.

Posted in Depression, Journal, Present Day, Trauma | Comments Off on A Sojourn in Hell