Monday, May 24, 2021 was Day 1 of my ten day journey, and those first ten days went off like clockwork, according to what the interwebs told me to expect. Some of those ten days were the worst days of my life. For several of those days I was at my lowest point, and it wasn't all over on Day 10; there is a lengthy aftermath, out of which I am now emerging.
The disease itself was no big deal, physiologically.
It was, however, a significant experience, psychologically.
You may read my previously published journal of my first twelve days at My Journey with COVID-19, which was pretty much the full course of the illness. The subsequent 30 days, however, have continued to be interesting.
In my journal, I tried to keep it humorous, because I like humor, and I think humor is good fuel for recovery from any ailment or trial. But I also recogize that I waxed dramatic at several points. To be sure, the drama was real, but it was mostly in my mind. Lemme tell you: this virus is like no other that I have ever encountered.
Now, whether my experience was simply my personal response due to myriad other factors unique to myself and my circumstances, or whether it is common to others, I don't know. I would be interested in hearing from anyone else to compare notes. But anyway, here I'll describe the significant facets...
A Disrupted Sleep Cycle
Starting around Day 2 or 3, my sleep began to have no restorative effect. Although I slept a lot, I dreamed very little. I woke each morning still needing sleep. I don't know this, but I have the feeling that this virus alters your brain chemistry in a way that disables REM sleep. I wonder if this isn't a significant source of the extreme exhaustion that I and others have experienced.
I would wake up, get out of bed, and very slowly just go through some motions like: walk to the kitchen, stare at the stove and wonder if I should eat an egg. Everything was slow and dull. I was slow, dull, and dumb. Then I would go back to bed, hoping to sleep more, and gain some strength. But the strength was elusive.
I had only very brief and shallow dreams. None of these "McDreams" were in color. In fact, they weren't really even in black and white; they were something more like dim, hazy gray-scale. They were far from vivid in a visual sense, nor were they at all complex or involved in the sense of plot or story; and they were very, very short. I don't remember any of them—with one notable exception.
One interesting factoid: Although I know that I did have some dreams, I wasn't in any of them. Looking back over my life experience, in all of the most vivid and memorable dreams (I still remember some from decades ago) I was there, fully involved, either as an observer or a player. But in these Covid-altered dreams, I was nowhere to be found. And I didn't really recognize anyone else in there either. It's like the dreams were about people and things I didn't know, and they were unremarkable, unmemorable.
In general, it was as though my imagination had gone dormant. Even when awake, there were no ideas. I had no ideas, no original thoughts. "Depression," one might say, "is a fairly common symptom of any disease such as a bad flu." Yes, but this was not depression. I've dealt with depression a bit over the years, and this was something else. I would call it "suppression." Looking back now, it was as though certain parts of my brain and my mind just stopped working. Certain standard or customary thought processes simply went away, rendering me summarily incapable.
Yet, I was still functional. Had the house caught fire, I could have reasonably dealt with it. Ask me to come up with a plan for how to improve my interpersonal relationships, however, and you would get nothing. Something like that was way beyond my skills.
Maybe the reason I found this all so significant is that I am basically a creative person, and that aspect of my personality was so hard hit. I could not be creative, at all. This thought never crossed my mind at the time. All I knew was that "I am not myself." I never thought this at the time, but now, looking back, it was as though someone else was trying to get in there and take over. Yet, even had I considered such a thought, I had no idea who that might be, for I had no conscious indication that any such struggle was underway.
A Diminished Sense of Self, or something...
The psychological effects of this virus seemed to be focused on, or related to, my sense of self identity. Though I never had the idea that I was losing touch with who I am, I noticed that somehow my own internal sense of self was under attack. As I lay there on my bed drifting in and out of sleep, I felt that I was no more than a cardboard template of myself. It's very strange and hard to describe, but I felt very thin in every possible sense, as though I had become two-dimensional; like I was just a template.
Usually, when lying in bed, my mind has a background awareness of the space my body is taking up; the fact that my head is on a pillow, that the sheet and mattress are under me, that I'm in my room, oriented a certain way. And I think everyone has had the experience of waking up not knowing where they are, or thinking they are somewhere else, then having to regain their bearings. But this Covid experience I'm describing is something different. I wasn't waking up, mistaken about where I was. I was waking up, realizing that I had no awareness that I was anywhere, no awareness that my body displaced space or had weight.
It was almost like—and I say this very cautiously—I was having an out-of-body experience, persistently, whenever I slept. But since we have no analytical description of exactly what an "out of body" experience is, I refrain from claiming one. Plus, I never went anywhere else. Nonetheless, I will say that it was as though the core of my being was somehow now separate from my body, or just slightly displaced. I was never in the upper corner of the room, looking down on myself, or anything like those kinds of stories we hear. There was, however, this strange sense of "thinness" or two-dimensionality. It was not particularly enjoyable, and I only recognize it now in retrospect.
I didn't discern this at the time, but looking back it seems that, instead of working in concert, my mind and my body were doing separate things. This was as I slept. I never had this sense while awake, except immediately after waking up. There was, however, an overarching sense of dread during my waking hours. Not as though something really bad was going to happen, but that nothing good was ever going to happen. The dullness, the lack of color, the utter futility of it all, even though I was sure I would handily recover from this flu... This is something I've never before experienced.
A Heightened Awareness of Spiritual Warfare
I didn't receive any visions. I had no hallucinations. My fever never went above 99.7F.
Somewhere around day five or six, I became vaguely aware that something or someone was oppressing me. These were not just imaginations springing out of my mind. There was something active going on. A battle was being waged, and I was neither privy to it's details, nor capable of fighting back in any way. In fact, I don't think I really had a grasp on what was going on until later. Meanwhile, my physiological symptoms were not very significant. Yes, I had decreased lung function, but I was never short of breath. I have felt far worse (other than the seriously astounding level of exhaustion), and had much greater cause for concern with pneumonia in the past.
Then, somewhere around day 7, I awoke in the middle of the night from what appeared to have been a dream. I didn't know whether it was a dream. All I know is that I awoke with a profound awareness that the deciding blow in the battle had been dealt and I immediately said, out loud, "I'm free."
This "dream" consisted of a single event—a single action—imposed by one shadowy figure upon another; one personal force upon another personal force. The action amounted to a push, or a shove, along with an implied command, "No!", or, "Back off!", or, "Stay away!" I didn't hear it; there was no voice, but I knew it, somehow. I knew it.
I fell back asleep and woke up the next morning knowing that something of great significance had occured. My interpretation now is that I was given a filtered glimpse into the spiritual realm, where angels fight on my behalf against demons who are bent on bringing about my destruction.
Now, I don't want to give the impression that I fancy myself a prophet now, or anything like that... as though I am saying anything new, or dispensing special knowledge. No, I am only repeating what Christians should already know, as my interpretation of these events is derived directly from scripture.
The Angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them.
—Psalms 34:7 HCSB
For He will give His angels orders concerning you, to protect you in all your ways.
—Psalms 91:11 HCSB
“I am going to send an angel before you to protect you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared.
—Exodus 23:20 HCSB
Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve those who are going to inherit salvation?
—Hebrews 1:14 HCSB
Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it.
—Hebrews 13:2 HCSB
I like the last one because it clearly tells us that angels can manifest themselves as people. I wonder how many angels I've met...
But clearly, angels do battle in the spiritual realm on our behalf. I've always believed this to be true, but now I have seen it, however dimly. I have felt it, however indirectly. I now know it through specific personal experience. This is the kind of epiphanal experience you simply don't ever forget, and it has made a real impact on me.
My Considerations, Looking Forward
So spiritual warfare is a thing. Books have been written on the topic, and every Christian, I believe, should acknowledge it's reality. But of course, some people get so fixated on the existence of spiritual warfare that they ascribe every difficulty in life to "spiritual warfare." Like if they stub their toe or hit their thumb with a hammer, their response is, "Doh! Spiritual Warfare!" Well, maybe they shouldn't be wearing flip flops while riding a bike. Or maybe they should keep their thumbs out of the swing of the hammer. Duh, right?
Rather, spiritual warfare is constantly going on all around us, though unseen. There is a battle being waged over the souls of men and women, in which we are scarcely involved personally. And this is why prayer is so important!—because prayer is where we can be involved. Prayer (and no where else that I know of) is where we can be effective on the spiritual battlefield.
As a result of these considerations, my own prayer life has taken a major leap forward. I've always "thanked God" for His gifts and provision, meaning that I have a general attitude of gratitude. But now I am motivated—even driven—to make sure that I actually thank God at least once each day, in prayer. May one single day never go by in which I fail to stop what I'm doing and pray! I think this is more like how Jesus lived here on earth.