Somewhere out there

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Somewhere out there

Is the thing for which our heart longs

Or so we think.

The answer to the question

The salve for the sore

Missing until found.

Simply not true Gentle Friend

For the One Who placed the need

Meets the angst of your days.

Turn to the Lord

Sooner rather than later

Lest another day be wasted searching to no avail.

Tough lesson for me tonight so back to Your Word I go for studying some more. Meet me there? JJ

The trials of discontent

Perhaps the greatest challenge a follower of Jesus Christ must face in his or her walk with the Lord is how to handle the evil that is in our world. When it touches our own lives in the form of discontent, when things are not as we think they should be and we are unable to accept it, then we may be tempted to break fellowship with the Lord our God. He has ordained the length of our days, the vessel in which we live, and every detail of our lives whether good or bad. Recently it occurred to me that not accepting His will for my life is a sin that keeps me from any form of peace. And now I know from wence it came.

A particularly horrific convulsive episode about a week ago left me whimpering on our bed. The searing pain in my neck and broken frame notwithstanding, I wondered for the several thousandth time, “how can I endure this level of suffering Lord?” My Jesus had shown me many incredible things through the trials of battling serious illness; my Jesus was always right there with me when I called upon His throne of grace. But like the old song goes, “Is this all there is?” Is this all there is to my life when entire beautiful days upon days are spent suffering in bed?

The truth that we see is not all that there is to know or behold in this life. Only by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ do we come to understand what the fullness of life means. We will have both joy and sorrow. We confess our failings, surrender our will to the Lord, and receive the Holy Spirit, beginning our eternity right here in the midst of all the good and bad; He helps us endure all things for His glory. But I didn’t know all of this when I was 3 years old. All I knew is that a neighbor boy named Danny was babysitting us and molested me while I was taking a nap in my big girl bed. I knew where the pills were that my mother took. So at some point thereafter I crawled up onto the kitchen counter, opened the cabinet door, reached way up onto the top shelf, grabbed that bottle of pills and ate a bunch of them. The only other memory I have of the incident was feeling scared while lying on a gurney in a hospital. I must have been crying too because the images are unclear. I had to go to the bathroom. I asked if I could get up and go to the bathroom and a man said NO. I felt the warmth of the urine on my legs and underneath me as someone said something about pumping out my stomach. And then I was OUT.

In a single flash of a moment after that convulsive episode, I knew what the Lord was trying to tell me. Or at least I think I do! He was showing me that by taking those pills, even as a small child who knew she had been hurt badly by someone everyone trusted, I was trying to take away the pain and the life that God had allowed for me. My little mind could not bear what had happened to me. The reality that the ugliness of that scene was ordained by the same God who created me and crafted all of my days from beginning to this end was too much to understand. I would not have been old enough to say the words to my Mom or Dad describing what that boy had done to me nor felt safe doing so. My parents weren’t exactly touchy-feely type folks. Can a 3-year old feel shame? Dirty? Worthless? Overwhelmed? Traumatized? Terrorized? Surely! While I have known, grieved, and forgiven the players in this scene for a long time now, I didn’t know that my survival from that day forward in my own strength would be marred by discontent. Nothing in my life would be good enough, or so I thought, to make me truly happy or at peace EVER. The seeds of several of my character flaws were planted that afternoon. I know that it wasn’t my fault any of this happened. I was just a little kid. To survive abuse is actually a noble task and accomplishment. What IS my responsibility, however, is to figure out what to do with what happened to me, layer-by-layer as each level of understanding is revealed in my walk with the Lord over my lifetime. In due time we must all ask ourselves: Will I grow up damaged or will I heal and thrive? Fifty-seven years later, the wound from this particular scene finally healed completely.

I grew up in what you would call a “blue collar” family. My Grandfathers worked in their respective trades: my Dad’s father as an auto mechanic and my Mom’s father as a maintenance man/operator in the boiler room of an ice cream factory. My Dad got a job at the General Motors Tech Center as a non-degreed draftsman. Each of them were very skilled at their respective vocations. My Dad in particular, would end up redesigning slot car motors to make them among the fastest in the world and co-authored over 30 clutch-assembly patents with Borg Warner later in his life. Although each of them would earn a living wage to support his family such that their wives could stay home and raise the children, there was always an attitude that it was not enough. I have come to call this mindset a “scarcity” mentality. The adults in my family never seemed satisfied with the income or the lifestyle or the relationships to which they acquired. First it was my Mother’s Mom taking the last of her grocery money to purchase tickets in the Irish sweepstakes. If only she would win then she would be happy! I think she did win a time or two. I don’t think it ever changed much of anything though.

The harder part of this dynamic for me came from my parents, especially my Mom. “If only we could win the lottery” she would say, “then . . . .” fill in the blank with some material gain of some sort that she thought would solve our problems and bring happiness. Without realizing it, I adopted this mantra as well. It sure helped when my parents got divorced or when my Dad missed a visitation or when my Mom wouldn’t come home at night from her carousing adventures with Parents Without Partners. If we had a windfall of cash then it would solve all of our problems, right? This was back in the days before there was common knowledge that most people’s lives are not better when they win the lottery! Family relationships tank when relatives come calling for money and out-of-control personal spending often leaves the prize winner in debt not set for life! Sadly this mindset and experiences of abuse and trauma contributed to addictive behavior in my teenage and young adult years. What became my addiction of choice that I thought was my winning ticket out of my inner turmoil? Work-a-holism. I nearly drove myself into permanent injury working so hard at school, the early days of my career in healthcare, graduate school, and one relationship after another. By the grace of God, He showed me a better way when I learned about addictions when doing contract work at a large mental health hospital. My years continuing to seek answers ultimately led to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. A new level of healing and a less frenzied pace of life began in my thirties.

That wasn’t the end of my discontent, however. Somehow I still looked more outside of myself than to the Cross for meaning, healing, self-worth, hope. A handwriting analysis in my youth said I was a very determined person. Well, yes, and that was not necessarily a good thingy! I sought counseling and studied God’s Word which did help me in many good ways. Yet like breaking in a wild colt, it still took repeated heavy tragedies from 2003 to 2007 to soften me for the biggest gift and the biggest trial that were yet to come. I am meeting you here after both of them: 1) marrying my Intended Beloved Steve and 2) enduring a serious illness that brought thousands of seizures virtually every day over 9 the past years. I have been grateful for the former.

Steve is an amazing man of God who loves me dearly as I do him. The serious illness not-so-much. I had never accepted the Convulsive Disorder or Dysautonomia or Dystonia or Functional Movement Disorder or Non-epileptic seizures or whatever you want to call it. What I came to realize this past week is that not accepting this illness is not a form of defeat. Rather, it’s not accepting that this is the Lord’s will for my life for my best good. It is the journey for me that will bring Him glory. And how am I handling it? I am denying His will for my life when I reject the pain and suffering that goes with the numerous blessings. Instead, I must trust that like all of the trials that have happened in my past, this illness serves a greater purpose. I may or may not ever really know what that purpose is. The episodes and medical complications may never stop. If I am to succeed at letting go of my discontentment with a traumatic event in my life at age 3 years old, I must also let go of the other thing that I hate in my life. Believing otherwise is believing a lie: a lie from the author of human suffering, sin, and death himself, Satan. No magical thinking (like a lottery mentality) is going to cover or remedy this lie. I MUST DENOUNCE my discontent, leaving it for my Lord to redeem.

How about if I repeat that another way:

No happiness or peace will come if I hold onto discontent over the Lord’s will in my life.

I knew in an instant, why that memory of me as a toddler came to me while grieving after another seizure. Both sorrows were and are part of my Lord’s Divine plan for my life. He will redeem my suffering one day and it will end. He will make all things new and good, and right; I will be whole. In the meantime, I am a steward of the experiences, people, places, and things He ordains for my life. My responsibility is to accept them with no expectations, no exceptions, no deal-making (“if only this . . . then that”), no holding back. So that night I let both sorrows go and wept deeply for a good long while.

Sometime later I shared my inner story of this incident with my beloved Stevers. He is warm and tender at these times as if to be my Jesus with skin-on. I am so blessed to be loved by this man after God’s own heart. His response? He marveled at how long abuse can affect the life of an abused person. Years. Decades. That a person can carry hurt his or her entire life because of the evil actions of someone who hurt them when they were little. I agreed. Yet for me, the hurt is never the same each time I get to revisit it. Each time I get to grieve some more. I get to heal some more. It takes what it takes. I get to see how the Lord uses even the ugly stuff to give me tools for coping and a gift of compassion for others. If I had not developed work-a-holism and that health challenge of hypoglycemia then I would have become an alcoholic. How do I know? My siblings and Mother were alcoholics, my Dad was mentally ill. One brother who overcame alcoholism struggled to find meaningful work then tragically had a stroke and was never able to function independently again up until he died earlier this year. He suffered with unspeakable pain and spasms every waking hour of his life. He had traded his bottles for cigarettes. What I am trying to say is that each of us had horrific wounds to overcome. Today I am the only one still here of my immediate family to write the stories. Oh Lord, may these words yield some goodness beyond the tales of sorrow for the goodness that is there too.

Because there is much redeeming value in our stories beyond the sorrows. Nothing is wasted Gentle Reader, in God’s economy of time and space. Letting go of the sin of discontent, perhaps after grieving its root-cause, is a work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He will bring you to it and see you through it. Healing is complicated and can take a very long time to process. Be encouraged. I tell you as in the song of Peggy Lee, the BAD is not all there is to a fire or the circus of the circumstances in our lives or a long lost love! There’s even more to life than the happiness of a fleeting moment such as in a windfall or slow dance with your beloved. Just go to the Cross. There you will find a peace that transcends all understanding. The best gift of all is waiting there for you this day, this night. He promises. On this we can rely.

Will you? JJ

Less shock, more bounce

Initially I suppose it’s like when a balloon breaks. There’s a pop then a blubber when the rest of the air rushes out. The rubber skin is thin and gives way all-at-once except for the last little bit of air. The spent orb lies limp on some horizontal surface never to have value again. How unlike the balloon we are when we are popped into shock then deflated by trauma. With the Lord’s help, we can bounce back!

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Emerging from a violent convulsive episode, the kind where I am awake and cannot breathe or move, has the effect of popping my mind into a state where I cannot communicate. My Doctor described it as a dulling of my ability to think but that’s not what I experience. When I am struggling to breathe and ANY initiation of movement, even from my tiny vocal cord muscles or diaphragm trying to produce speech, throws me back into seizing. I have to ride it out for a time. Sometimes I have to cough to re-start my breathing reflex. Through it all, I have to evaluate if I can blurt out any intelligible words and if it’s worth the probable blow-back, rebound of seizing that follows. And when I do speak, I choose the fewest number of words that will communicate the most. Pithiness is key. The rest of me becomes as limp as that deflated balloon if the entire episode has gone beyond a minute or two. Usually I can’t even move my arms to try to take a rescue remedy until the seizing has somehow paused! Kind of backwards dontcha think? Weakness and headache and ringing in my ears and all kinds of nasty effects usually last a long time such that I may need to be fed or carried to the bathroom or bed, or just lie motionless until motor control returns. Then there’s the neck pain. Feels like whiplash. Then there’s the horror of realizing what someone else has just witnessed me this episode. I just want to disappear from the world afterwards, become invisible.

My last post was after an episode so horrible that I could not write about it in complete sentences. My husband graciously had taken off from work to drive me to a Doctor’s appointment. I was already in a lot of pain whilst sitting in the waiting room. The seizing started early in the visit and escalated so violently that I had slid down in my chair, curled to my left side trying to brace my head-and-neck as gutteral screams of holy terror emerged from deep within me. I struggled to breathe. Dr. J attempted to evaluate my back and right-sided pain so he could do a chiropractic adjustment. Seriously? He had Steve lift me up from under my arms as my legs gave way beneath me. Attempting to stand exacerbated the seizing. I had to let go which left me hanging from his arms. All I could do was cry in between gasps for air. Dr. J pushed on several upper lumbar segments of my back then had Steve put me back into the hard office chair. The convulsions didn’t stop. Dr. J had Steve pick me up again to attempt more “hanging adjustments” then plop me onto the exam table. Dr. J had discovered in prior visits that cervical impingements had the power to worsen my condition; cervical adjustments could bring me out of an episode when I was in a lot of pain as well. So within a minute of some adapted type of manual manipulation to my neck, my body screeched to a halt. The episode was now over.

I lain on that exam table staring at the ceiling, in shock. All of this was not a new phenomenon but each one is exceedingly disturbing. Dr. J has seen and brought me out of dozens of horrific episodes before. But i don’t think that Dr. J has seen a complete neurological collapse of my lower extremities nor repeated screams as if my brain was ON FIRE!!! Coupled with the gasps to breathe, searing pain, and violent amplitude of convulsing, this was probably the worst episode I’d ever had in Dr. J’s office. I whimpered as I eventually returned to my padded but hard office chair, shell-shocked by what was still going on in my life. We are nearly 9 years since the first convulsive episode on November 20, 2011. Why hasn’t anyone fixed this yet for crying out loud?! Dr, J’s timer had long gone off during the office visit and he appeared to be wrapping up his clinical summary on the computer. Somehow I found the strength to blurt out, “can we do some kind of labs or testing?” Evidently I’d hit the BINGO button with Dr. J. He ordered labs, an MRI, ultrasound, and office tests on the spot. It was time to re-evaluate a bunch of things. Results have now started coming in as I finish up the last of the scans, pending insurance approval of course.

It took me a day to partially recover from that incident last week. The next day I pushed myself to go grocery shopping early in the morning BEFORE going to bed (as my sleep/wake cycles continue to be reversed) and it took another day to recover from that outing. All of this came on the heels of a full moon, failed 2-week trial of an anti-fungal that escalated the convulsive episodes to FIVE HOURS PER DAY until I stopped it, the Doc visit and stress of follow-up medical testing, and short trial of an anti-parasitic medication before the full moon. More testing and IV fluids continue this week. I am exhausted. But hey, a new herbal anti-fungal came in the mail two days ago so whadddya say I try that? Geez. Why do I even try anymore? I just do.

18So I say, “My splendor is gone
    and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
    the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
    and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

Lamentations 3:18-24

This scripture from the October 10th meditation in A Spectacle of Glory by Joni Eareckson Tada equips me to bounce back from the darkness of my suffering. Unlike a balloon that is left lifeless, useless, and seemingly hopeless, the Lord renews me enough each day so that I may carry on the tasks, the journey that He has ordained. Like getting all of those lab tests done, on top of other labs and medical appointments already scheduled for me. On top of some basic self care and chores that must be done. But hey, I would have never met Gary in the waiting room at our local hospital if the tests hadn’t been written that fateful day in Dr. J’s office nor had I gotten to the first lab too late to do the lab draws there. Nope. The man in visible pain rolled his walker to the chair right next to me for a Divine appointment of prayer and ministry that bounced me out of my own stuff without hesitation. He said he doesn’t have anyone praying for him. He has several tests and a kidney procedure coming up soon. I hope you will pray for Gary too, Gentle Reader. And me too. Gotcha covered already. Thanks a bunch, JJ

Coming out of shock

Quite disturbing is the realization that the consequence of serious illness

Adds damage from its own dynamics, worsening symptoms to a hellish level.

Hours of convulsive episodes reveal failed treatments intended to cure

Instead I have whiplash and the trial of convincing my Doc to test me some more.

Fortunately for me, he was willing to throw the book at me, inside and out

Not so good for my hubby who held me as I hung from his arms for my chiropractic care.

Gotta hand it to my Doc for making it all work when I could not stand

Both of them enduring the gutteral eruptions of screams when my brain is afire, nonetheless.

We all got through it, me with zero sleep from the night before

Grateful for the comfort from a local burger joint to restore our famished bodies, minds.

Oh to have respite from this waking nightmare whose root-cause is still mysterious

It’s the kind of Groundhog Day that repeats until you finally get it or maybe not.

Someday maybe . . . Lord willing. JJ

It’s not the same thing, Part 2

In Part 1 of this story, I disclosed a horrific scene that has plagued my mind and body for decades. The only way for the incident to have been true and for me to have survived without going completely MAD, is by the grace of repression. It’s a coping mechanism of our mind that we have to deal with severe trauma lest we fall into addiction, self-destructive, catatonia, mental illness, homicidal/suicidal behavior, or worse. Even though we may not “remember” what happened, the mind and body never really forget and for me, the stored memories of a fateful day has been revealed in bits and pieces over a very long period of time. A strong image, smell, sound, or new traumatic event can trigger a chain of events that brings it back and more recently for me that trigger has been convulsive episodes. The episodes revealed the truth.

A waking seizure attack comprises convulsive episodes for me that are not epileptic nor psychogenic. The seizure comes virtually anytime and, less than 1% of the time, a memory has gotten unlocked underneath it before the episode ends. It’s as if my brain freezes and goes back in time accompanied by a feeling of terror so intense that my brain feels like it is on fire; I cannot stop the screaming. There is horrific pain, gasping for air, and thoughts that slow waaaay down. An observer would describe it as a seizure followed by a nearly catatonic state when I cannot move or speak or breathe. Limbs often shake, one violently flapping then the other, then both legs involuntarily move very rapidly together-and-apart like that of a child in an autistic fit of sorts. I am awake; my eyes are closed but eyelids twitch or squeeze as if squinting (in one eye or both). I am always aware of my surroundings although I may or may not be able to speak when it stops. This electrical activity of my brain-on-fire has had the power to unlock images and scenes from my past that fit what I already recall in my history. It’s as if the terrifying emotion that I was unable to express at the time of the incident is finally released to the light of day. It is not fake. The memory always fits a scene that I do recall from my past, much like what happens when you finally locate a missing piece of a puzzle. A puzzle with edges fried by fire, that is. Finally you can see the full image albeit tainted by the horror of what you are now seeing more clearly.

I concluded Part 1 with two methods that my mentally ill father used to try to get me to forget what happened at his home when I was a pre-teen. Years later I would come to understand that he was 1) using methods that he probably had tried on himself to manage the thought disorder of his own paranoid schizophrenia, 2) experimenting with mind control methods popular in the fields of psycho-cybernetics and psychology of the 1970’s, 3) drinking a lot of wine, 4) not hiding what he was doing most of the time (i.e. there were witnesses who have corroborated pieces of every scene that I have recalled), and 5) trying to get me to forget what happened, perhaps knowing the damage that trauma in his own childhood had done to him. I believe that his mental illness was a consequence of ritualistic (i.e. continuous) verbal and physical abuse by his mother/passive father until he found a way out of the home as a young adult by marrying my Mom. But RoseAnne was fleeing her own abusive father/passive mother. Their marriage was doomed shortly after it started as abusive patterns repeated themselves between them, spilling over into the lives of little Julie, Michael, and Robert. Eventually my Dad ran away, came back, then ran away again for twenty-seven years. What a mess.

Sadly when those really bad things happened to me at his home, he wouldn’t know the difference between how to help me and how helping me ended up hurting me even more. To get me to forget a horrific murder scene, the maiming of his pet German shepherd in a satanic ritual, and the sexual abuse by two women ALL DURING THE SAME DAY of a visitation to his home, my Dad tried used a method of instilling intense FEAR. He wanted me to forget what happened by attempting to cover it with other intense emotions, images, and threats. Forget trying to talk about it!!! (I am aware that there are witnesses who were in the house at the time who have either been sworn to secrecy or were under the influence of so many drugs and alcohol that they have some level of amnesia as well. Maybe something will trigger their memories one day? Maybe one of them will try to find me through this blog?) My Dad was wrong. Subjecting me to more fear compounded the torture, the trauma even more. Eventually I remembered the most important parts of the story. I wrote about it to release it’s power over me and highlight the power of our Lord to overcome my dark hell on earth.

I describe one method my dad used to instill fear in Part 1: nearly drowning me in our backyard pool. The damage to my neck has continued for my entire life. Another method he tried was injecting me multiple times with a psychedelic drug that left pock marks on the inner surface of both of my elbows. Perhaps he thought that the altered mental state created by the drug would cover my memories? He was right: I didn’t recall most of it for two decades. The blisters that appeared right afterwards then later the scars raised repeated suspicion from our family doctor, sure that I was shooting up drugs but hey, I was just a kid at the time. I still have the scars to this day albeit distorted by the effects of aging. Another family member disclosed that some people in my dad’s circle of people used hard drugs in addition to satanic rituals such as seances; sadly he won’t tell me anything else, alluding to needing to protect his wife who I believe was also present. The seances were very likely held at a table right in front of the couch to which I retreated during that fateful day at his house. This exposure to the supernatural world opened me up at a tender age to demonic influences of the occult (that would be compounded by teenage curiosities with a Ouija board). The abuse, the occult, the psychedelic drugs, and perhaps even changing body chemistry of puberty created a lock-down in my mind and body that most people would never survive. I know. It took me a year in a healing prayer ministry to start to understand the power of the demonic and how to stand firmly with the power of Jesus Christ. And as I write this, I am the only surviving member of my immediate family, all tainted by various forms of evil known as abuse.

Three More Methods

For most of my life I have had difficulty falling asleep. It used to take me up to 90 minutes to settle down enough to finally drift off to sleep or rather endure the difficult sequencing required to let go. The problem? Intensely fearful thoughts to the level of waking night terrors at times. If I’d ever had a nightmare more than once, my mind would often recall them again and again at random while I was trying to calm my thinking down enough to be able to sleep. Sometimes a scary scene would continue getting worse and worse then other times it would just keep repeating itself like a scene viewed from a broken piece of film flapping in an old theater projector. As I grew older I learned a technique of trying to re-write the dream or images to a happier ending. Sometimes it helped and sometimes it didn’t. Eventually I passed out anyways from mental exhaustion. Most of the abuse that I experienced in my childhood happened either at night or when falling asleep. No surprises here that I would need to work on this problem for most of my adult life: dealing with night terrors and waking nightmares, terrifying dreams overnight, then flashbacks of abuse.

Another problem was the black-and-white flashes of lighted psychedelic designs that spun in my mind’s eye or were thrust near-and-far at quick intervals before stopping. These occurrences happened every single night as I was trying to fall asleep, somewhere between the first and second stages of REM sleep. I thought it was normal. It was as if someone was focusing the beam of a flashlight on a toy pinwheel or a spinning saucer 2 to 3 feet in front of my face. The bedroom would be dark and my eyes closed after lying down to sleep but the lines and designs in my “mind’s eye” were as clear as a pen and ink drawing on bright white watercolor paper. There was no way to stop these images from coming to mind. They happened every single night of my life for decades. Even though I had taken psychology classes in college and worked many years as an Occupational Therapist in the mental health field, it didn’t register to me that this nighttime behavior wasn’t normal until I finally started getting counseling in my 40’s specifically for this type of abuse. Ritual abuse occurs when a person of influence uses a repeated, harmful behavior to control another person for the gain of the abuser, over an extended period of time. It can be spiritual, demonic, or other forms as well. Flashing black-and-white images in front of my face when I was falling asleep is the third method of ritual abuse that my Dad used to try to get me forget, to try to control me and my thought processes. (It’s actually related to a twisted form of psychocybernetics invented by Maxwell Maltz in the 1960s and described here.)

I cannot explain exactly when or why the nighttime “flash-treatments” began. I don’t know if my Dad said anything when he did this or when he eventually stopped them. How many times did it take for it to become almost permanent in my mind? There was enough repetition to cause harm. After I came to faith in Jesus Christ and about a decade of therapy, the images slowed then stopped. I don’t see them anymore when I am trying to fall asleep. Praise the Lord! In examining all of this, I realized that my dad’s use of strange rituals that were frightful to me as a child were not isolated events. In Part 1 I described how my dad tried to help my brother Mike via messages of his voice on a tape recorder that he played on a special speaker under his pillow as my brother was falling asleep. Those messages were intended to help my brother’s self esteem. Decades later Mike would tell me how much they damaged him, that his Dad must have thought so poorly of him that my dad had to repeatedly tell Mike via a cassette tape that he was a “good boy.” Why didn’t my Dad just say it to Mike’s face? Tell Mike that he loved him? Since I do not recall much affirmation from my Dad as the oldest sibling (who actually looked like a member of my dad’s family; Mike did not and this was an important point that my Mom told me many years later), I doubt Mike got any affection at all. But how could he? My father had none to give . . . Such realizations ultimately helped me to forgive my Dad and paradoxically paved the way to remembering more of my past, good and bad.

Perhaps this all sounds too crazy to believe. Maybe for you but not for me. My Dad’s experimentation didn’t end there though and it would be sprinkled in some manner throughout the years that my Dad was still around. One night when my parents were still together, my Dad had taken the crucifix down from the wall in my brothers’ room to make some kind of repair. When he didn’t come back with the cross right away, I snuck down the stairs to see what he was doing. I believe Mike followed sometime thereafter but I am not sure. The lights were on in the stairway but the basement was very dark, which seemed strange to me. The stairwell was placed in the middle of the basement area of our ranch home and my Dad had created two rooms on either side of it: a laundry room on one side and a workshop on the other. There was no door on either room so you could travel from one to the other underneath the stairs between the two rooms. The walls were a white stucco over concrete, the floor was poured concrete, and the entryway into each room was made of brown paneled walls with a light-colored wood trim around the edges. I spent a lot of time in both areas, fascinated by all of the tools in the workroom.

I slowly peeked around the edge of the paneling into the doorway of the darkened room and was frightened by the face of my Dad lit up by candlelight. What the . . .? He had a look of surprise on his face that I had come down there; evidently I was very quiet sneaking down the steps, dressed in my pajamas and socks. I came around to the width of the opening just long enough to see the cross propped up on a wooden table in front of the mirror of our old bathroom vanity (affixed like a cabinet to the side of the wooden staircase). The Jesus figure and front of the wooden cross shined in the glow of the candle held by my Dad. He was looking at the reflection of the cross in the mirror and doing something that I knew was weird and scary and that I shouldn’t be seeing at all. I don’t know if my Dad made his usual “Yaaaaarl” sound to get us out of there and back upstairs or if it was my sheer terror that caused me to turn and escape as fast as I could. Who knows where Mike was in all of this?! The rest is a blank slate in my memory. It was at least a day later before the cross was back on the wall in my brothers’ room. Seeing that nail hole in the wall without the Catholic cross hanging there sure was creepy until then. I don’t recall my Dad or anyone else ever saying anything about it ever again.

The fourth method that my Dad used to get me forget became the seed of agoraphobia that would plague me my entire life. Sure, it’s normal to be afraid of spiders. What is not normal is experiencing a fear so terrifying that you KNOW you will DIE and have physical symptoms that appear to be fatal when faced with anything larger than a tiny bug on a bedroom floor. Then there are the nightmares for days afterward seeing one even in a movie or a TV show. The fear never, ever goes away or gets better with exposure, talking, desensitization techniques, or whatever anyone tries to do to help me get it to change. I know, I have tried. It’s just not that simple especially when the origin for me was the deliberate use of an already fear-mongering creature to scare me so badly that I would forget the trauma somehow associated with it. I am not even sure how the association was made, just that I knew I would DIE if I remembered what happened that fateful day at my Dad’s house; the phobia reinforced the amnesia. Layer it all with demonic oppression where satan himself uses the fear, the memory, the remembering, the telling, the physical symptoms against you with lies and a worsening of all associated types of pain. They call it spiritual attacks. Perhaps the Lord allowed him to inflict me with convulsive episodes all these years? Perhaps it’s now a tool to uncover the truth of what happened so many years ago? To let me know just how bad the scenes were that it would take thousands of profound electrical misfirings of my brain to uncover it? Talk about a lock-down . . .

Maybe you recall the scene in first Home Alone movie where an 8-year-old boy named Kevin McCallister was accidentally left home alone then tried to outsmart a pair of thieves? One of the booby-traps he sets for them includes letting loose his pet tarantula. I cringed in horror as I knew what was about to happen at some point when the spider met its intended victim. One of the bandits screamed in fear as the spider crawled on his face when he was lying face-up on the stairwell inside the home. Granted probably most of us would scream holy terror as well! But we would not go catatonic in an effort to avert death. A true phobia is not a rational fear, not a moment of screaming that resolves thereafter. My Dad put the large spider on my face to get me to forget the trauma of three horrific scenes of terror in a single day. Equally as traumatizing as the huge spider was the image of black beady eyes of that spider staring at me. I really cannot say anymore right now. It’s still quite disturbing to put all of this together here. This realization only came to me recently and I have just begun the work of unpacking it. The effects of using fear to control me has resulted in lifelong behavioral anomalies, irrational fear, supreme difficulty studying pests and insects as a Master Gardener, avoidance behaviors, nightmares, and more. That is what a phobia does to a person. It starts a survival mechanism of the mind then continues despite its harm. And in the end, it did not get me to forget forever what happened, what I witnessed. Eventually I did remember. In the end, it just inflicted even more harm.

A fifth method was hypnosis although I don’t think that it was applied directly to me. All 3 of us kids were in my Dad’s workroom with him one afternoon when I don’t think my Mom was home. She was often at church doing work as President of the Altar Society at St. Cletus Church. I remember my Dad sitting one of my brothers on a metal stool, the one with the red vinyl top on it, and dangling a chain with a pendant on it in front of his face. My Dad instructed him to keep his eye on the pendant as it moved from side to side. My other brother and I were watching intently as my Dad went through some kind of sequence in a slow, low, calm voice. “You’re getting sleepy” or something like that. I don’t recall if either one of them fell asleep or changed posture in any way; I know that I was able to look around the room shortly thereafter, feeling like it didn’t affect me at all. My other brother was next. I didn’t volunteer. I was curious but also just old enough to know that there was something not right about what my Dad was doing with us. I wish I could remember what the goal was, if there were any special instructions my Dad tried to “suggest” under the influence of hypnosis but I do not. I may have asked what it was used for? Funny how a child is curious about what he or she is seeing a parent do even when it is exceedingly harmful and never should have happened. At a gut level, this experience made me resist the offer of hypnosis from every therapist I have had in my life who wanted to “help me” remember the forgotten years of my childhood. No, no, never!

We should never experiment with mind control techniques on another person when we are not trained to do so and I believe rarely even if the person of influence is trained. The Lord will bring back the memories in His own way and in His own time when the person is ready for them. More importantly I can see no reason for even a trained person to use mind control techniques like hypnosis on a child! It doesn’t matter if it worked for someone else. It’s not the same thing to use a method or object or saying or rationale for mind control over someone else especially without the consent of the other person. A child cannot give such consent as he or she cannot understand the potential risks. I also disagree with a parent providing consent for a child to be hypnotized. If what anyone is doing runs the risk of violating another human being’s right of consent at any age then it may construe undo influence and potentially abuse. We must filter our actions as an adult with what is morally good, what is right, what is fair, and what our Lord Jesus Christ instructed in His Word for how we should live; consulting mediums and mind-altering drugs and ritualistic sayings/prayers are taboo! Tapping into the unconscious mind runs the risk of inviting the supernatural world of which satan rules. Satan only seeks to deceive and destroy. Don’t try to get ahead of God! Please do not yield to “whatever works” Gentle Reader!

Stated another way, we must not “experiment” on another human being, especially a child, hoping for a certain outcome when we can easily run the risk of hurting him, her, or even yourself and your relationship if we don’t get it right. How do we know we will get it right? Neural retraining and the like are popular now in the treatment of Non-epileptic seizures and many chronic illnesses these days. If you must use mind-altering methods, please choose degreed and certified professionals with proven track records and decades of success. Further, I contend that a parent must never treat his or her own child even if degreed or certified in a given technique. My Dad was one of the most extreme examples of the damage that can be done when this happens. My Dad inflicted immeasurable harm that damaged me and my brothers. Although mentally ill, he was still responsible for his actions as we all are. Knowing that he was mentally ill, struggling to overcome it, and abused as a child helped me much later to forgive him and begin to heal. If my Dad did not repent and come to faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ, then God’s Word promises that my Dad will punished one day by a righteous God. He said that he came to faith in Jesus and I hope that is true; the Lord’s mercy and grace will cover him. I don’t like to think that my Dad will face eternal damnation; it’s just not for me to worry about as I focus now on what I have learned along the way and even some good memories that came forth with the bad ones. We did get to make our amends of sorts in 2011 and for that I am very glad, at peace. Further, I have come to understand that everything that happened to me was ultimately a consequence of a larger concept called “sin” and of living in a fallen world. This world is laden with evil led by satan himself. My ritual abuser willfully opened himself and even enlisted the power of satan and his minions not knowing that ultimately satan comes to destroy: he will not help you control your mental illness nor the unruly behavior of 3 innocent children! Sadly, my Dad battled mental illness his entire life.

For me it was not the same thing to know what happened to me as it is to become free of the impact it had on my life. The former is exceedingly painful. The latter is freeing. It’s not the same thing decades later to have a seizure disorder of unknown type and 1) have Doctors claim then that it must be psychological, for some kind of personal gain (yeah right, how sick is that?!) vs. 2) the electrical activity of seizures jarring locked-down memories of horrific trauma. Thank the Lord that I did forget such horrific trauma so I could survive, focus as much as I could on living. Years later it was explained to me that I didn’t have a seizure when the abuse occurred so there’s no psychological reason for me to have seizures now. I had flashbacks of really bad things for twenty years before the onset of convulsive episodes eight years ago. Each memory came back to me when the Lord ordained the timing, when I was ready to handle more of the truth. It took time to work though each nasty piece, lay each one at the foot of the Cross, and figure out how to go forth after reclaiming the full picture of a mixed-up, dysfunctional family, a once mixed-up dysfunctional Julie.

I just wish that now that I can see how the Lord used the seizures for some good in reclaiming my past that they would stop already! I still deal with numerous abnormal lab tests and scans that all could be contributing to the convulsive episodes and tics, confirming an organic cause. Years of treatments have alleviated, changed the pattern of, reduced, and some days even stopped episodes. The latest contributing factor is Autonomic Dysfunction. This diagnosis confirms why vagus nerve stimulation techniques have helped me so much, particularly those of the parasympathetic nervous system. It’s no surprise that it is the opposite, sympathetic nervous system that gets revved up when abuse happens and, for example, would have contributed to decades of difficulty falling asleep at night. My mind and body are more calm now in general than ever before. So I guess I can say that these nine years of battling serious illness has become a serendipitous opportunity to free my life from the various things that trauma and the serious illness itself did to me. I have a long rap sheet of medical problems but my spirit is lighter now than ever before. Good things have happened! This is true even though I still have tics or episodes virtually every day. It’s just taking a long time to find the CURE for whatever is their CAUSE. Lord willing, one day I will be healed!

In the book of Genesis, Joseph professes to his brothers that sold him into slavery the following:

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Genesis 50:20

Joseph’s brothers were jealous of a dream he had shared with them that one day they would serve him even though he was the youngest member of the family at the time. They faked his death! In the end Joseph survived, endured tremendous trials and years later, rose to fame in Egypt as second in command of the nation that saved the lives of many peoples because of his inspired leadership. When his estranged family came calling for help, Joseph ended up saving their lives as well in addition to reconciling with them. All was restored including his relationship with his beloved father who feared he would die if he lost another son. He didn’t. He gained a son he thought was once lost.

My Dad did very bad things at least partially knowingly what he was doing, akin to those of Joseph’s brothers. Then as the Lord showed me the abuse that my dad had suffered, our familial patterns of alcoholism and mental illness, and brought me to a saving relationship with His son, Jesus Christ, I was able to move from hurt and anger to forgiveness. That forgiveness had many layers as more truth came into the light and as I got to see him after TWENTY SEVEN years of estrangement from our family. I still didn’t know back in 2011 what I know now. The serious illness that developed into daily convulsive episodes came at the end of the year 2011 and after my dad had passed away. I cannot go back to my father and ask him about what has been opened up to me most recently. I simply have to trust the Lord’s timing in how all of this came together, put any pain at His Cross and leave it there.

Recently an expert instructed me how the Lord divinely sequences every detail in our lives. My understanding of this sequencing has not been the same in the past as it is now. I may weep in the moment but it doesn’t last very long. I try as best I can to live around this scourge, my thorn in the flesh perhaps. It is my firm belief that our God endorses and redeems everything we endure in this life as we prepare, we mature for our eternity with Him. Nothing that happens in our lives is wasted: not the good, not the bad, not the ugly. Nothing is hidden from our Heavenly Father either. He sees and He grieves for our suffering. He rejoices in our victories! I know that He will not only make all things right and new one day but also bring justice and reward for the faithful. The truth will come into the light. Believe it Gentle Reader! I do. JJ

Pics of my Dad as a boy and with my Mom