Monday, September 8, 2008

My Own Personal Hell

When I was a kid I thought the tunnels at Craters of the Moon were so cool. As a teenager I thought the rocks were so booooorrrrriiiingggg. Now, as an adult, I can't get over how beautiful this area is. These rock towers that the kids and Mr. Hotness are standing next to are the side walls of a volcano that broke off and then rode on a lava flow until they came to rest here, still standing, about a mile away from where they started. So cool.

Amid all the rough beauty and sagebrush, though, something sinister was waiting for me. Passing a sign that read, "Devil's Orchard," and arriving at "Inferno cone," I should have known, should have stayed, safe and sound, in my car. I should have listened to that voice in my head that warned me to turn back before it was too late. Instead I walked myself right into my own personal hell. Those who know me personally are shocked right now that I can even type that word. I'm so adverse to cussing of any kind that I prefer to say hades, heck, or spell it with hockey sticks. But that is because I believe powerful words like this should only be used when absolutely appropriate. I think this is appropriate.

What is hell? Well, let me just describe it for you:

There I was, surrounded by people, happy people, people walking around free to do as they wished while I sat chained to the ground. People walked past me, some even ran, hand in hand with friends and loved ones. My loved ones were only a short walk away but I couldn't reach them. I clutched my newborn baby to my chest and willed myself to break free, that I might move for the his sake, but I couldn't. The loneliness I felt, while surrounded by others, made my heart ache. The smiles of others seemed to mock me as I sat in abject fear. Only slightly less powerful than the fear was my shame. The shame ate me alive from the inside out and denied me the right to ask anyone for help. I could barely even cry, sunglasses hiding my tears, feeling that if I expressed too much emotion my body might move and any slight movement might cause my worst fears to come true. Fear controlled me, shame silenced me, loneliness hurt me, and I was in hell.

For some people hell can be addiction, guilt for a crime, abuse from a loved one or self abuse, or other various things. For me on that day hell was a phobia.

pho·bi·a
–noun
a persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it.


I have a phobia of steep slopes. Thinking back, I've always had this fear. As a small child I used to wonder how people were able to walk up hills that I could only crawl up. There are still places here in Seattle that I can't drive in because the hills are so steep (though I have to say that I've come along way int he 6 years we've lived here). Well, this day we were climbing Inferno Cone. About 10 yards up I realized that it was going to be too steep for me to handle and told Mr. Hotness I should turn back. He knows about my fear but has rarely seen it in action and when I hold his hand I can usually see my way through it. So he encouraged me and said, "It isn't that steep, I know you can do it." I'm a big believer of mind over matter so I tried to believe his encouraging words and kept going. A little further up I just knew I had hit my limit. I could not go any further. But I didn't want to ruin it for everyone.

"This is as far as I can go. You guys go on ahead and I will wait for you at the car."

They kept going. I went to turn around, and that is when it hit me. I was in BIG trouble. Not only was this a steep slope, but I was wearing flip flops (an unsteady shoe), the ground was made up entirely of loose, shifting, cinder rocks/dust, and the wind was blowing fiercely. I was able to turn enough to face down hill, slowly lower myself to the ground, and then the paralyses set in. I had one hand on the ground and one on the baby (who, luckily, was safely wrapped and sleeping in the baby wrap), my two feet spread apart for balance, and that is the position I held for what seemed to me an eternity, though probably only 15 minutes. Agony. Sheer agony. Feeling like you are going to die a tortuous death at any moment while logically knowing you are just fine is not a pleasant feeling. At one point a man walking with his family turned to look at me. If I hadn't been wearing sunglasses I'm sure the pleading look in my eyes would have answered his silent question. He turned back several times. I almost called to him for help, but, by the time I had decided to, he had already moved on. When he got to the base he turned to look at me again, hesitated, and then got into his car. I wonder if he was being prompted to help me. Later two bikers drove up and I felt a flash of hope. Bikers may look rough and scary but they are the most understanding humans when it comes to other's handicaps. I knew I could ask them for help without having to worry about making them understand. Sadly, they weren't real bikers. Just two punk kids with big bikes, and only one of them came up the hill and he didn't even glance at me.

Eventually the kids and Mr. Hotness came back. Pablo and Cookie ran right past me. Monster Man came and sat next to me and hugged me for a minute. Oh, how I wanted to take his hand and walk down that hill with him. Finally Mr. Hotness, with Sweet Terror on his shoulders, came from behind me, held his hand out to me and lifted me off the ground. And, just like the light shining into this dark tunnel, peace found it's way to my heart as I trusted in my husband's strength and gravity to see me safely down.

How could something so silly, so simple, so easy for everyone else cause me such torment? This is what hell is: personalized torture that only the one suffering can understand. Compared to it, fire and brimstone look cozy. Mighty cozy, indeed.

18 comments:

Rachel C. said...

Wow! What a story! I have a phobia also. I'm deathly afraid of open backed stairs. It's not so bad when it's less than ten, but any more than that, and I'm frozen to the ground. I'm afraid that my feet will somehow slip through the opening and shoes that can easily slip off make it even more scary!

Once, on a family trip, we went to see the Cape Hatteras light house. It's full of spiral, open backed stairs. I couldn't do it! I made it not even 1/4 of the way up, then went back down and stayed at the bottom. Embarrasing!

Leslie said...

I totally think that guy was being prompted...good lesson for me - when somebody looks like they are in trouble...just ask if they are and then help!

What a riveting tale!

I think we all have our own phobias and fears...you must not let yourself feel badly because something is easy for somebody else and is hard for you! You are way too awesome for that!!! I'm glad you made it down safe with Mr. H.

mom huebert said...

Personal hell is awful, isn't it? What a reminder that perhaps others are going through something that we don't even know about, and to extend grace and help if we can. And how wonderful that your husband is so understanding.

Awesome Mom said...

You would not like San Fransisco either. There were some really horrid hills on the way to the hospital where Evan had his surgeries. It took a lot of courage for me to force myself to drive up them and I was praying the whole time that I would not end up rolling back down them backwards.

sariqd said...

You know, my phobia is steep hills too. But it's where I can't stand by them. You know, those "scenic view" ones? I lose my sense of balance and I have to get myself on the ground... then to complicate things, I have this incredible impulse to just throw myself off to just get it over with. Ask my husband about it. It's very real. Scary - but, I don't tell my kids about it, I just squeeze my husband's hands and make it through so they don't adopt my fears. That's something I would never wish upon them.

Packer Family said...

Wow! I have a phobia of being trapped in small spaces.I don't think it clostraphobic because I can be in a small space as long as I feel I can just open the door but if someone were to hold it shut my whole body screams and I break down trying to get out! It's scary! Also, where did you go? I would love to go there.

Laura said...

I think I felt the same adrenaline stoppage when I was on the high diving board at the Meridian Pool for the first -- and last -- time.

We never stopped to walk around at Craters of the Moon when we were going to and from Rigby (that I remember -- my memory is a bit hazy) when we were little, but I do remember feeling as though we were driving along the highway on the moon. It's especially cool at night illuminated by the real moon!

scrap chair potato said...

Wow! You tell a great story, my heart was pounding!
Yeah, that guy totally should have said something. I agree with Leslie - lesson learned!

An Ordinary Mom said...

What a scary experience. I can't even imagine what it must have felt like to be paralyzed with fear with your little one strapped to you. I am glad you survived and that Mr. Hotness can bring such peace and stability to your life!

Becky said...

That is why I take medication...let me just tell you it got alot worse right after I had Addie, so give it some time and hopefully it will lift a little. I have been in the same boat many times.

Scribbit said...

Wow, a chain is really the perfect metaphor--I've known people afraid of heights but slopes is a new one for me.

Thank goodness for Mr. Hotness!

Jeanette said...

You know how to tell a story! I felt like I was right there with you, totally paralyzed with fear.

Jen said...

Yikes! That is quite the story.

CC said...

Wow! So scary!!

Kim said...

How terrifying that must have been for you. I have been gripped by fear (the unrational phobia kind) before but never to the point of not being able to move. I can't imagine how truly scared you must have been. So sorry you had to endure that.

Michal said...

you tell that so well. i'm glad you're okay. it is hard when the thing that paralyzes us is not a big deal to everyone around us. and i'm sure that man was being prompted to help you and felt foolish. why do we do that to ourselves when the spirit whispers?

Magirk said...

I always thought that going through infertility treatments was hell.

But you make a very compelling argument here. You describe hell much better than I could. But I have FELT hell before. I promise.

You have such a wonderful way with words.

Lisa said...

I don't have that crippling fear you described, but I am fearful when walking down slopes. And the shoes matter! Even if it is a short slope, I just know it is not even ground and I have to look for another way or something to hold.

I also am not a fan of driving on hills. Especially in a stick shift car. Big fear!