Trauma, abuse, repression or what conservative Christianity calls demons

After writing my last post about the evil I see inside of my eyes, I had an interesting revelation this week: I spent my entire Christian life afraid I was possessed by demons.

This is not a fear I would even admit to myself, which is why it’s taken nearly two years of being an ex-Christian for me to finally be able to put it into words. Admitting it would have made it real; it could have made it so if I wasn’t by chance actually possessed, I would be by saying those words.

I’ve written about demons before. Demons were everywhere, around every corner of our house, lurking in the bedrooms, I could always feel their eyes peering out from the walls.

There former owners of the house left rather scary hints behind of what went on there when they lived there. The main being, in the closet of the master bedroom, there were two small parallel holes in the wall. Holes that, if you kneeled, were the exact distance apart to be eyeholes. And these eyeholes? Went all the way through to the bedroom next to it. (This was a mobile home, so walls of course were thin, flimsy wood paneling. Easy to do something like this).

I didn’t understand the full ramifications of what those holes in the walls meant, but I understood the terror that they created for me. They had their own personality in my mind, evil and menacing, and I couldn’t go into my parents closet because of it, and I was relieved when my brothers finally accumulated enough junk to hide them. But that personality I saw in them? I also saw in myself. Those dark empty holes felt like a reflection of my own eyes.

My mother, of course, believing that everything has spiritual ramifications, used this as more evidence that there was something wrong with the house. The former owners had left behind their demons. We had “prayer warriors” come and pray through the house, “anointing it with oil” (vegetable oil), while they prayed to “bind” the demons and rebuke them.

This never took though, because it wasn’t just these holes in the wall. It was also us, the more I think about my childhood the more I’m certain that “demons” was my mother’s way of avoiding what was really going on. If you have a child too terrified to go into her room, if she has night terrors, and sees figures walking through her room at night, if all your children are fucked up, screaming at you, screaming at each other, if your husband is off spending money on alcohol and sex and then coming home to scream and beat on you and your kids, how much easier to believe that it’s demons that can be prayed away. Demons are something you can fix with God and faith alone. How much harder to admit that dealing with this takes far more work than a simple prayer

Our house was scary and wrong. I lived in a perpetual state of chills and terror, not just cowering from my father and brother but also the million eyes of the demons. It became something we lived with like we lived with each other, like we lived with the million ways our house was falling apart because there was no money to fix it. The plumbing is messed up and there are demons in my bedroom. The washing machine broke and there are demons in my parents’ bedroom. It became a common occurrence for my mother to talk about how she woke up in the night and there was a demon. And soon my brothers started seeing them, too.

I never did. Oh sure, I saw (what I now believe are hallucinations) silhouettes of figures, darting across rooms, but there were also bats and stoves chasing me, the strange mental breakdown a child goes through when they’re that stressed and traumatized.

But I always saw them in my mind’s eye; grinning and red, crouching low enough to peek through those holes, watching and waiting everywhere I went.

The problem with being an abuse victim repressing the hell out of everything is that you don’t know where anything comes from. Your head is full of rape knowledge and violent fantasies and it feels like it just arrived there. The amount of hours in my life I have devoted to rape fantasies is staggering. There’s a certain comfort I gain out of imagining someone shoving me against a wall, my head cracking open against it, and then again, again, again, until I’m lifeless – I constantly imagine going back in time and doing this to my childhood self. I have obsessively absurd dark thoughts even when I’m not trying to, they are the background noise of my life, constant fantasies perpetually looping in my head in as I go through the day-to-day. And I’ve had them all my life. Things like imagining a crown of bullets through a person’s head, all shiny metallic and slick with blood. Imagining that my skin is paper and I tear it off to fall in a puddle of blood. Being hacked with an ax and splintering apart like a tree. Being tied up and dragged against concrete, a trail of blood and skin left behind. These are just the off the top of my head – my current obsessive dark thoughts. I could fill books if I named them all.

But I didn’t know why I had these thoughts. Or what to do about the fact that they made me feel, well, kinda good. A strange kind of cathartic relief. And it makes sense when you think about the real life horror you’re trying to process. If you’ve ever read or seen anything horrifying enough to make your skin crawl, being a survivor is a lifetime of that skin-crawling horror magnified, and eventually you need some outlet to relieve the pressure. But when you’re repressing, you don’t have that logic. You don’t believe you’ve gone through anything traumatic, so instead you see these things as proof of your evil. You can close your eyes, and imagine horrific, graphic fantasies, and feel this strange mix of better-and-worse, and no matter how much you tellyourself that was the last time you’ll think that way, you know you’ll do it again. So you think, I’m evil, I’m a monster. Or, in my case, you hide your secret fear. I’m possessed by demons.

And with demons everywhere in my house, that fear seemed 95% more likely. How could demons in such close proximity resist someone as horrible as me? I tried desperately not to think about them, trying to build up “spiritual walls” around my thoughts to keep them out, but we all know what happens with I will not think about this thoughts, and eventually the fear and anxiousness would burst out in uncontrollable thoughts. Thoughts like Demons, please come into my life, which I would instantly beg God against, no, no, please God, I didn’t mean that I swear, don’t want that, Jesus help me, I rebuke you, demons but once the thought was there, it was hard to break the pattern.

When I was a kid, I heard voices, in a sense. All the mental tracks in my head, the You are worthless hate and destructive type thought patterns, the terrible things that I thought about other people, were not my voices. They were a man and a woman, they were well, my parents really. They weren’t self-hating, exactly, because I didn’t know that they were mine. My life was so fractured that I believed myself to be a happy, content person like everyone said I was, and these voices existed separate from me. I was unable to control them or get rid of them, and they sounded nothing like me to begin with. They spoke their terrible things in harsh, creepy voices, in unison. If that sounds like a traumatized kid with repressed memories then you probably weren’t raised in a family that idolized Frank Peretti as writing spiritual truth where repressed memories were lies of the devil, and demon possession sounds exactly like cheesy movie dramas of legions of voices speaking together. If you were raised in that family, like I was, then my voices were the very definition of demon possession.

I spent my life certain that if I looked in a mirror I would see demons leaping out from me. This is the evil behind my eyes, the evil lurking inside of me. The months before I stopped being a Christian but was heading that way was filled with the worst panic attacks, where I would lie in bed believing that God had completely abandoned me, and all that was left were the demons to consume me. And when everything has the power to be demonic – books, movies, music – every brush is capable of putting more demons in your life, everything I did became a battle to not get myself possessed and tormented by demons further.

I think that’s now why I’m so obsessed with this idea of being a Satanist, even if my beliefs probably don’t line up with any definition of that term. Why I need the joke that I am Satan’s spokesperson, his right hand person, why I pray to him constantly. Why I prayed for demon possession. I need the catharsis of realizing that I’m okay, that none of these fears have ever been true. I need the power that comes out of facing the demons and realizing that they were never there. To use a silly analogy, I need the ability to be Pinkie Pie laughing in the face of the scariness.

I may still be terrified of the evil inside of me, but the fear of demons lurking around every corner has almost completely vanished. I no longer feel their presence, they no longer have their claws in my shoulders. My violent thoughts and self-destructive voices may still be constant, but they are now mine, and when I do hear voices, I can now acknowledge that they are stress and trauma induced, my brain being fucked up and crazy. I can now see the evil of my childhood was the evil of sexual and physical abuse.

Unfortunately, Christianity had an answer for that too, so there is not a day that goes by that I don’t wonder if I, as a rejecter of Jesus, am simply no longer a threat to them. I’m so possessed that they don’t have to bother reminding me of it. I’m so possessed and corrupt and have become so evil, that there is no longer any spiritual or moral compass for me to recognize it anymore.

This is the first time I’ve been able to admit this to myself. I suppose that says something about how far I’ve come away from this thinking that I can finally see it and say it now. I have always believed there were demons inside of me, controlling me. Always believed I was evil enough that my life was opened up to the devil, he had taken me, and all I was was the sum of the demons inside of me.

5 comments on “Trauma, abuse, repression or what conservative Christianity calls demons

  1. heatherjanes says:

    Okay, I think this is a hard topic to write about and easily misunderstood simply because it is scary. I also think most people who’ve had any sort of trauma have bits of this going on. Otherwise, why would all the ghosts and demons and horror events in movies all kinda look the same? If you tell someone you’re seeing things or hearing things they automatically assume it’s “way out there,” but it often isn’t and our movies prove it I think. I haven’t been brave enough to write a post about my own experience with this yet, but until I started getting therapy, I too saw scary, demonic looking monsters in the dark or sometimes when I closed my eyes in the shower. I never liked to study in a quiet library because anytime the room was too quiet I heard these little whispers that made me uncomfortable.

    I just lived with it, turning off the light after I’d already gotten in bed, listening to music while studying. It was ordinary. I didn’t understand the connection at all until I noticed they were gone and then it made perfect sense. It came from trauma I hadn’t dealt with and facing it and starting to heal were the only things that helped. I imagine a kind faith can help people deal with trauma, help process it, but the religion my family had only made it more scary, more about what was wrong with you as an individual. That’s why I told no one, ever, until finally not too long ago I told someone who grew up like me, a guy that was struggling, that I had this happen and now mine were gone. Then he seemed relieved. He said he’d always saw these things too.

  2. Julie says:

    (MAJOR Trigger Warning) I had an experience last year that was intensely spiritual and that was also really traumatic. I was and am mentally ill and was abused verbally and emotionally by my family. I don’t know what happened, exactly, but I ended up running through this forest behind my college dorm, looking for proof that God and the devil exist. I remember saying, “Come face me, Devil!” and believing that I was strong enough to face the Devil and scoff him off. I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but I ended up having spiritual nightmares and hearing maliacious laughter a few times. I remember seeing, feeling, demons and presences everywhere. Sometimes they were good, sometimes they were bad, sometimes I couldn’t tell, maybe they were both. But I ended up starting to have this very intense relationship with God. It is hard because I often conflate God with the Devil, and honestly I don’t really know what was what and who was who. I still have a really hard time with it and am constantly hoping and looking for a kind religion, a kind God and practice, like you say. I can only hope that it keeps presenting itself in my life. I . . . I am sometimes really scared that I abandoned the truth when I stopped investing myself in the traditional, hard-core Christianity that I stumbled into right after this (for lack of a better term) event. All I can say is that, although I’ve found people who propagate abuse, I’ve also found truly loving Christian and non-Christian people. They’re there, I think. I don’t really know any of this. But I think they are ok. Thanks for giving my scared silence some sort of legitimacy. I pray, I hope, that we can all be not scared, that we can all be free from this. You guys are amazing and so strong. We should keep talking about this if we can.

  3. […] read this, this, and this recently, so figured today I’d tell a ghost story, one with a bit of fire and […]

  4. […] read this, this, and this recently, so figured today I’d tell a ghost story, one with a bit of fire and […]

  5. olivialamb says:

    Wow. Thank you for writing about the rape fantasy stuff. I experience that as well and never wanted to tell anyone because I wasn’t sure what it meant or what. It made me think, “Did that mean I want the abuse after all…?” So thank you.

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