Demons from the past, literally

I had chronic stomach pain while growing up, and when I complained about it I was told one of three things.  1) You’re faking it, and trying to get attention or 2) You have hidden sin that you need to confess or 3) You’re spiritually weak and have been possessed by demons, again.

This instilled in me the belief that I can will my way out of any physical ailment, if I search my heart and soul for impurities or if I just put my nose back on the grindstone, shut the hell up and be a good girl.

At least seven times in my life (that I can remember) my sinful, troublemaking nature made a “deliverance” necessary.  A “deliverance” is of course a good, old-fashioned, exorcism.  The elders of the church, along with a few others if necessary, anoint your head with olive oil and pray in tongues and lay hands on you while waiting for the Holy Spirits direction on which demons or spirits in particular need to be cast out.

I noticed that with the onset of puberty, hormones and curves that the deliverances became more necessary.  I think it’s because people in transition upset the expectation of the way things should be.  I think puberty made me evil in some way (I was once beaten for having erect nipples, so I was obviously asking for it.)

The funny thing about it is that the demons were believed to have left the body if something came out of you.  Tears were easy, so there was a lot of crying.  It’s easy to cry when you are 12 and there are people touching you and yelling at you in a spirit language and your head is greasy from all of the anointing.  But demons also can come out through a yell, a burp, a cough, sneeze or fart.  I chose to do a lot of coughing because I can’t fart on command.

At every deliverance, they cast out the “Spirit of Jezebel”.  And I remember from my very first one at about eight that she would come in handy.  I remember as I was burping, coughing and crying that I hope she stayed in me.  Because she sounded strong and I knew that I needed strength.

I, of course, am completely now addicted to the Jezebel lingerie line.  And I think my hair is so shiny from all of that olive oil.

To the nice man with a cane to whom I gave a dirty look at Kinko’s

I’m sorry; I know it came off as a dirty look. But I was really scared of you on a primal level. You triggered a memory in me. In my peripheral vision I saw a man carrying a stick down low, walking a little too close into my personal space. I was startled. You see, once when I was 16, I was falsely accused of something by an elder in my church. I told the truth and said it wasn’t true. The elder’s wife ordered that my hair be cut off as punishment. My hair was past my elbows and I loved it. It was grabbed and cut off by my father, truly one of the longest and scariest nights of my life. A 16 year old life that had already had many long and scary nights. When your family hurts you, who is left to comfort you?

The elders decided I was also “dead” to the church until I confessed. I was ordered to stand against a wall every week day from 8-5 while my mom was at work in the church office, They put me in view of her desk. She would pointedly not stare at me while she cried and worked. I could feel her telling to give in, I tried to beam psychic messages to her saying I was innocent. 80 hours I stood, not all in a row, but it’s a lot. Just who were they trying to punish? Kids from the church cleaned up after school, they vacuumed around me like I was a lamp. Nobody spoke to me for two weeks, naked without the long hair I’d had my entire life. Every once in a while the pastor of my church would sneak up behind me while holding a PVC Pipe down really low so it was out of my peripheral vision and he would strike me multiple times on the butt and thighs. At least I existed while he was hitting me; I was visible until the sting died down.

I didn’t confess, Jesus doesn’t like it when we lie. Those two weeks started the worst year of my life. It got a little easier, it’s exhausting to keep up that level of creativity in punishment. In the end, I won.

So I’m sorry. I wonder what pain makes you walk with a cane. I wanted to tell you why I flinched it had nothing to do with you, but then it would be weird to have a girl give you a dirty look and then tell you a trauma. It was hard enough to shed a few tears while pointedly not staring at you. I think I also freaked out the cashier.

Best of luck,

One of this planet’s many walking wounded.

Compassion: Part 1

Growing up as I did, surrounded by religious fundamentalism and extreme, chronic physical abuse, I felt as though every physical or emotional ailment I had was because of a mental or moral failing. What I mean is that when I was sick I was told it was because of hidden sin, and if I looked deep enough in me I would find what needed to be confessed. This worked and really stimulated the hyper-vigilance aspect of the PTSD that I now suffer from.

This symptom of my physical abuse has manifested in my adult life, I see all of the results of how I grew up. And I feel that I should be able to get over it, that if I can only be morally or mentally stronger then I can find my way through the effects of my abuse. But the more I try to muscle through, the more I am unable to get past it.

What is terrifying to me, is that the thing that seems to be working is compassion. Compassion is scary, I feel that if I am kind to myself and allow myself to seek and accept the healing that I need that I am giving into it. I have been trying to muscle through the pain for so long, and now I find that my struggle is in letting go and seeing it for what it is. It is a perfectly normal reaction to a situation that was abnormal, abusive and unhealthy. I can’t force myself to get over it. What I can do is accept that in this time in my life I have the time to heal. And that I need to take it.

Last week, I had an example of this. I was fine, I was doing ok. And then I heard yelling and the banging of someone’s hand on a desk. It terrified me, and I suffered auditory flashbacks (also a symptom of PTSD) and all of a sudden I was a little girl again and there was a very large oak rod about to swing into me. I spent the next 72 hours with insomnia, flashbacks, panic attacks, nausea and I almost fainted again.

Yes, I was a victim of abuse for a very long time. Yes, I am a survivor. But my path now is to walk through those stories and those pains so that I can heal on a deeper level and work through the PTSD that can debilitate me at any time. And for me so far the key to that is a huge helping of compassion.

I am doing a lot of this work on my blog, because I know that I am far from alone in my past, my pain and my path toward healing. I feel like abuse is a cycle and that there is an expectation of shame and silence that hushes sufferers. I feel that abuse is a much bigger and more common problem that we talk about and silence about it just encourages the cycle. And so I am starting to speak out about my past and my recovery. I don’t want pity, I want healing. And I want to hear from you how you have healed.

Especially other PTSD sufferers.