While I don’t claim to be an expert in medical wound care, I have seen enough nasty, smelly, screamingly painful open sores when I worked in healthcare to know that we can learn much from their process of healing. I submit to you that the stages of healing that occur when one’s body works to heal after an injury or surgery run parallel to other types of wounding that happens in life. Further, the risks for complications such as infection or swelling (aka edema) can be symbolic of the “secondary damage” that not only impedes the healing process in both but introduces entirely new problems that must be addressed as well. I have seen in my life that injury, damage, or wounding from various types of abusive behaviors have the same characteristics, the same impacts, the same risks for complications and the same potential for healing in due time as wound care management. These wounds can heal and the scar or scars fade if handled correctly. And while it all can take a little more time than we might like, the process can reveal wondrous truths and blessings as ordained by our Heavenly Father, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The stages of wound healing are a complex and fragile process. Failure to progress in the stages of wound healing can lead to chronic wounds. Factors that lead up to chronic wounds are venous disease, infection, diabetes and metabolic deficiencies of the elderly. Careful wound care can speed up the stages of wound healing by keeping wounds moist, clean and protected from reinjury and infection.
Generally, remodeling begins about 21 days after an injury and can continue for a year or more. Even with cross-linking, healed wound areas continue to be weaker than uninjured skin, generally only having 80% of the tensile strength of unwounded skin.
This recovery assumes that the appropriate treatments and dressings are applied right away, any open wound is kept moist, naturally occurring inflammation is controlled, and
a new network of blood vessels must be constructed so that the granulation tissue can be healthy and receive sufficient oxygen and nutrients.
Appropriate compression is applied with proper bandaging, elevation, and reduction of factors that can contribute to swelling. The presence of edema itself is a risk factor for new injuries and complicates the healing process tremendously when dealing with an open wound. According to the EO2 wound care technology company, whatever the reason for the edema, it WILL impair healing through several mechanisms. All of these factors need to be managed well for processes such as granulation and epithelialization to occur. These steps continue at various levels even when the surface wound has closed and things are looking better. The entire amazing physiological process is a testimony to us of the magnificence created by God in our human frame. We can overcome our injuries, our vulnerability to re-injury and complications, whilst moving towards recovery and leaving minimal scarring behind. And even the worst scars do fade in due time.
Heal the heart
Recently I was reflecting on the impact of abusive behavior at various times in my life. The impact was devastating and took on virtually ALL of the characteristics of the injury and damage of a medical wound. Both types of wounds require a careful healing process. In the distant past I defined the abusive behavior that I experienced as that which violated my rights as a human being and professionals labeled as sexual, physical, ritualistic, or verbal abuse. I don’t wish to get caught up in the semantics or seriousness of each type here; all are profoundly impactful.
An individual KNOWS when another person has crossed a line that should never have been crossed and profound damage has occurred even if it takes days, weeks, months, or years to fully realize it. The recipient feels traumatized and goes through a tender, complex grieving and recovery process to heal. For example, the difference between an expression of emotion and abusive behavior can be like a person who uses 1) mean verbiage versus 2) repeated verbal hammering in a tone that purposefully tears down the victim who is yelling “STOP! STOP!” A simple apology may not be enough for the beaten puppy of a person to get past the incident, particularly when the behavior has been repeated. The relationship between the two parties has changed. The recipient is injured, damaged, and wounded kind of like a 3rd degree burn to the soul. Special care and bandaging are needed for as long as it takes for the wound to heal.
Some of my own experiences of abusive behavior happened before I became a Christian: a born-again believer in Jesus Christ. Some of them happened afterwards. Gratefully as unto the Lord, most have healed completely while a few have left their scars. There is nothing unusual about that. My purpose here not to belabor my own experiences but to share with my brothers and sisters in Christ what is and what is not abusive behavior then a model for how a person overcomes it. The Biblical Counseling Coalition provides some definitions as follows.
Abuse entails physical violence (Acts 16:19), threats of physical violence (Eph. 6:9), persecution (Matt. 5:44), sexual mistreatment (Judg. 19:25), reviling (Luke 6:28; 1 Pet. 2:23), speaking evil (James 4:11), or being under the misused power of another person or group of people (Gen. 16:6; 1 Sam. 2:16; Ezra 5:12).
Check the link that I provided above for a more detailed discussion on this topic. Focus on the Family describes emotional and verbal abuse specifically and at more length on their website HERE. They add that
Wounds that typically accompany emotional, physical and sexual abuse must not be ignored. Both men and women inflict verbal abuse, but women tend to be more often on the receiving end of this destructive behaviour. What may seem innocent and infrequent at first can escalate.
All forms of abuse follow a pattern that, left unchecked, will only increase over time. Injuries from verbal and emotional abuse can run deep and leave lasting scars. Many emotionally and verbally abused people reason that, because there are no bruises or broken bones, their abuse must not be serious. But it is. Fortunately, support and resources are readily available to guide individuals into safe, loving relationships. In their well-received book Boundaries, Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend state that, “Our pain motivates us to act.” If pain motivates you to act against emotional and verbal abuse, then listen and act.
We can easily see the many parallels between the topics of wound care and recovery from abusive behavior. The pain of each motivates us to act, to fix the situation. What appears on the surface may not reveal all of the layers of injury, damage, wounding that must heal to withstand the testing of the tissues or trials that inevitably follow in life. Choosing to do the work of repairing any remaining wounds of my own experiences required 1) heeding the Lord’s unveiling of my eyes that what actually occurred was damaging and 2) following the leading of the Holy Spirit to move towards restoration. Part of heeding this ongoing process includes writing this blog today. In the past my care also included significant Christian counseling, support groups, Christian books, and the like. Forgiveness, seasoning in my walk with the Lord, restoration of relationships, compassion for others, and spiritual discernment are among the gifts, the fruit for doing the work of recovery.
So what are some specific parallels between healing a physical wound and recovering from abusive behavior?
Stop the source of injury. In wound care they call this hemostasis where the body begins to clot your blood to stop the bleeding. In personal relationships this may include setting some ground rules, some boundaries, or simply separating from the other person for a time. The thrombus or clot must hold lest it become dislodged and result in a more bleeding, a more serious injury. Similarly, the two parties in conflict must, in my humble opinion, work to stop attacking one another. Yes, the recipient has responsibility here too.
Inflammation in wound healing controls bleeding through swelling and helps prevent infection by bringing fluids/nutrients to the site. Inflammatory words are exceedingly difficult to control when emotions are running high in an abusive situation. There can be fallout and setbacks while the two parties seek to figure out the best way forward, if each are committed to actually go forward together. Bringing in a mutually agreed upon 3rd party is much-needed medicine at this time to help tone things down. The effect of inflammation may hurt for an unknown period of time and look as ugly as an open sore desperately trying to turn a corner towards healing. Proper “bandaging” and self care for emotional wounds must begin in a responsible manner.
Wounds are kept moist and hydrated as new cells called collagen and its matrix begin to form. In contrast, the two parties that are able to work together to address the woundedness can do simple things to care for the other parts of the relationship, their shared responsibilities. The darkness still needs to be addressed and treated correctly and what this looks like may change as the two go forward. The antagonist in the story must stop the abusive behavior and create safety in which the protagonist can flourish. New “medicines,” new habits, and new means of communication are needed. Figuring this out takes time. It may actually may be the party that was hurt the most who lovingly leads the two of them through the process of forgiveness and restoration to a better relationship.
An even longer phase of wound healing is that of maturation. Find your own parallels in this summary from Wound Source:
During the maturation phase, collagen is aligned along tension lines and water is reabsorbed so the collagen fibers can lie closer together and cross-link. Cross-linking of collagen reduces scar thickness and also makes the skin area of the wound stronger.
Recognize that, in the words of Bay Care Health,the healing process will vary among individuals and will depend largely on the cause and severity of the wound. I submit to you that all types of wounds are the same in this regard. And as we noted above, the new collagen fibers are vulnerable to re-injury but their re-formation makes the area of the wound even stronger. This process in wound care may take up to a year. We know that while the body never really forgets an injury and neither does the mind, its power over us can change significantly. The things that happen in our past become our story, our testimony of the Lord’s amazing grace in our lives.
When I was working as an Occupational Therapist, we told our patients in rehabilitation all the time when they got discouraged that recovery is usually a jagged line with lots of ups and downs. They had to work through their fears of getting re-injured, having delays due to complications or a re-occurrence of a disease process, and grieve the losses associated with an extended hospitalization and rehabilitation process. Like my older friend Wanda used to remind me in a 12-step support group, “you gotta feel it to heal it.” Range of motion exercises after a shoulder surgery are excruciatingly painful and so are flashbacks of abusive behavior. It’s like the surgery or incident is happening all over again. But it’s not. Eventually the body and the heart starts to heal with ongoing and proper care. Lord willing, most folks do get better. We come to realize that setbacks, hurts or new injuries are just one part of living in a fallen world with fellow sinners just like us. We learn so much in the process. Thank goodness the Lord Jesus Christ helps us to overcome it all!
Interpersonal relationships seem to me to go through the same wound-healing process as restoration comes, as trust is earned: it “takes what it takes” to get there. The prevention of pressure wounds in particular includes daily skin checks. This entails looking for areas of redness over bony areas of the body and making immediate changes to reduce the pressure, nourish the tissues. Could we say that better care of our personal relationships with a better daily maintenance plan can help raise the threshold over which unwanted behavior spills over? I do believe so. Are we following our home exercise programs, our Spirit-led care plans? I could go on but you probably get my point by now.
Gentle Reader, there’s so much to say on these topics and I am not an expert on either one. I am a fellow sojourner to those who have experienced both and I have seen the power of the Lord in healing all kinds of devastation. Let our salty tears be the saline, the healing salve that washes us clean indeed. May the cross-linking of our entanglements in this life give way to the redeeming grace of our risen Lord Who restores us through and through. For His glory! Amen. JJ
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.
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.
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
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:6-7
When someone doubts your story, especially one that is partially revealed to you years after it has occurred, you might be tempted to defend that it is true, that it is real. Know that their denial is about them not you. The truth is the truth and if it was not so, you would not grieve so badly when it comes forth. It would not have affected you so. You don’t continue to have flashbacks or grieve for years a nightmare from a bad night of sleep. At least in your right mind you don’t. (An exception might be the delusional thinking of mental illness. Most of us do not make crazy claims indiscriminately, however.) It’s not the same thing as a random even fearful thought verses the triggering a memory of an actual, horrific event that happened to a long time ago.
Then when your truth and the grieving that follows in dealing with it has found both the light of day and the Lord’s healing grace, the transformation of your character or mind or spirit should be enough to prove that what happened was real. You can’t fake a flashback. You can’t fake character flaws or insecurities that right themselves when you heal from the trauma. The truth revealed, processed, and lain before the throne of grace transforms us. It doesn’t matter that the story is too fantastic to believe. It doesn’t matter whether or not there is corroborating evidence (yet we can rejoice if there is proof or witnesses willing to back your story). It doesn’t matter how old you were at the time of the incident or if you told anyone then or now. Sometimes the mind has to push away the horror to survive aka repression. It’s a survival mechanism, a coping strategy of the mind. Then there are the body memories, stored in the tissues that come forth when you have an injury. Or a seizure. If your mind did not repress the trauma for you, the pain of the event often plunges a person into addictive behaviors (i.e. alcoholism, drug abuse, pornography, sexual promiscuity, compulsive behavior, workaholism), suicide, homicide, or mental illness just to survive. I know. Everyone in my immediate family has battled one of these. Our life stories were just that bad.
I am the only one left in my immediate family. There is no one remaining to corroborate the facts of my story as extended family who might know something are not willing to talk to me about what they know. I have asked more than once. My brother Mike did help fill in some details for me but he is now deceased. He had his own horrors to endure. Extended family members have their own baggage that they have dealt with in various ways. Thankfully they just didn’t have it as bad as me and my two brothers did . . . no wonder we were largely outcast (or looked down upon) from them and neighbors too.
Funny thing about memory as it is not perfect nor is it like watching a movie where you know the plot and see the beginning and the end. When the Lord reveals bits and pieces over decades of time, it is up to you to reconcile the information. Therein lies a particular danger as the mind wants to fill in the blanks for the scenes to make sense but we must resist trying to do so. Similarly, when therapists ask probing questions we must guard against confabulation, false memory syndrome, and other pitfalls in trying to make sense of a seemingly too-hard-to-believe flash-backed piece of our story. Why did a particular image present itself in my “mind’s eye” with the sound of a helicopter flying overhead in bed one night? Why did I cry for so long thereafter? For the believer in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit will show you what you need to know, hold you as you come to grips with what really happened, lead you to a place of acceptance and healing, and transform it all for His glory.
The flashbacks for me have always come forth with emotion so intense that I believed that I would die if I felt it fully let alone say it out loud. The fear on the front side of the wall of truth was stifling, immobilizing. I believe for me, this is why the pieces of my personal history have come forth in such small bits, spread out over THIRTY YEARS. It’s also why I don’t remember much of my childhood. The first memory of sexual abuse came back in my late twenties as I was preparing to get married. Sometimes a flashback was a moment of intense emotion that I would discover matched a specific location or incident; other times the emotion showed me the origin of a ritualistic behavior of mine, particularly with nighttime routines, that I would come to know as abnormal. The realization equipped me to let it go. It has taken decades of working with skilled Christian counselors, retreats, Bible study, prayer, research, journaling, processing memory triggers that happened spontaneously by the events of life, and more that the Lord has allowed me to remember more of my childhood. With the bad stuff also came memories of the good times that I had forgotten. So it’s not all bad. Reclaiming one’s past is good!
The worst incident has taken the longest to piece together. Here’s what I know.
My parents were divorced when I was twelve years old. Visitations to see my Dad involved him taking one of us three kids at a time as Mom said he could not handle more than one of us at a time. He often didn’t show up on one of these Saturdays to pick one of us up for the day; this happened more with my brother Mike than with me or Rob. So sad. The visitations were strange. I recall my Dad taking me on my day to a movie theater, buying me lots of popcorn and candy, then trying to sit me down by myself in the dark theater while he went off to sit with a woman in another row. Somehow I had the nerve to say “but I want to sit with you.” The next thing that I remember is the 3 of us sitting together and me feeling sick from eating all that crap . . . or maybe it was from the realization that he was there to see her and not me? I could tell a half-dozen stories like this one.
Rarely did we visit our Dad at his house in Roseville, Michigan. We lived in Warren and I figured it was too far away to visit very often. Years later, Mike told me that my Dad had a wall made out of wine bottles in his house; I don’t recall seeing it. I do recall seeing a German shepherd dog in his backyard one day when my Mom drove us over there, I think to get our car repaired. His home was on a corner lot with a chain-linked fence that came around the side of the house and side of the garage that faced the other street, perpendicular to the house. People entered the home from the side door. I was probably 12 years old so who knows what I would have focused on at that time. I just wanted to see my Dad! He had left town a couple of times (for California and to Florida) and now he was back. Too bad that his return had nothing to do with us kids though.
In my thirties, my Dad’s youngest brother and his wife gave me a photograph of my father as a boy. By this time I had learned of the horrific abuse that my Dad had endured as a child: my grandmother destroying his model airplanes, the daily verbal abuse, beatings, the physical torture of being locked in closets or having to sit up at the kitchen table ALL NIGHT LONG because he didn’t eat his dinner then suffering a head injury when he fell asleep and out of his chair. I was just starting to recover some of what had happened to me has a child from my mother’s father’s sexual abuse, a neighborhood boy’s sexual abuse, my mother’s physical and emotional abuse, and what I would come to understand as ritual abuse from my father. That photo was probably the best gift I could have ever received from my dysfunctional family! I was able to step outside of myself and grieve for my Dad. He was robbed of his own childhood, so badly that he would go on to develop a serious mental illness that would plague him his entire life. I believe that head injury contributed to him developing Parkinson’s disease later in life. I cried and cried for what my Dad had endured as a boy and how he surely must have struggled to try to function as an adult let alone as a husband and father. I started to understand why he ultimately had to separate from our family through divorce then finally disappear for TWENTY-SEVEN YEARS! And why he sent my grandmother hate letters for about a decade. He was so very messed up. In due time I forgave him for everything I have written about here and elsewhere.
How amazing that the Lord will give me this insight before I would come to fully understand what happened to me that fateful day at my Dad’s house in Roseville. The memory fragments gathered over time still don’t fit together well. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle with edges singed by fire, warped by water damage, and with dozens missing but then again you don’t know how many pieces there are in total. You can only hope to understand the little chunks that you can see when you do not have the picture on the cover of the puzzle box. The ones I see now are very, very clear.
My Dad told me not to go in the basement but somehow I wandered down there anyways. There was a dead German shepherd dog in a large tray on a table, dead. The basement was dingy and dark with electrical cords hanging from the ceiling. The table with the dog was over by a utility sink and washer and dryer; some kitcheny-type items were strewn about along with a lot of blood. The nipples (as in a pregnant dog) were cut off of the dog. The wounds were red with dried blood. I don’t remember anything else other than the sense that my Dad had scolded me for being down there. I know it took a long time for me to be able to get back up the stairs under my own power for lack of strength.
The next thing I remember is lying on a couch upholstered in some kind of plaid pattern. There were no pillows or cushions upon which to lie my head. I was sickly. I desperately needed to rest.
I discovered about that time that there were other people in the house, in a bedroom a the back of the house. It was a small ranch home so it couldn’t have been very far away but it seemed very far to me at the time. My next memory is inside that back bedroom. There were naked people writhing around on a double bed. In those days no one had a queen or king-sized bed as they were either too expensive or the bedrooms were just too small. Two women grabbed me, one on either side of me, to restrain me. Years of tiny memories of this scene, recalled with horror and emotion so raw that I thought I would not survive the telling or finally feeling them, knew that they violated me sexually. I physically remember the touch. My shoulders have funny pinch marks where the posterior deltoid muscles should be and I wonder if it was from their firm grip on me at a time when my body was growing from childhood into a teenager? Seems to me that someone on the bed took notice of what was going on. Seems to me that I may have recognized at least one of the people on the bed but I cannot be sure. That person denies any activities akin to an orgy but does admit that my Dad had seances with groups of people around his coffee table in the front room some nights at his house. (The coffee table in front of the couch where I was lying earlier.) Years later I and expert would hypothesize that my Dad was experimenting with the occult and psycho-cybernetics to try and control his mental illness. What a sick, twisted mess.
My Dad came into the room and ripped me from the grips of the two women. There was some kind of paraphernalia on the dresser that was strange to me that I would later hypothesize was for taking drugs. He broke the neck of the first woman he grabbed and put her out on the front porch, out the front door just beyond the couch. The house cleared out although I do not remember the people actually leaving. I was back on the couch as nightfall set in. I don’t remember falling asleep, eating anything, going to the bathroom, or my Dad talking to me. She was still out there on the porch. It’s all a horrifically terrifying blur . . .
It was daylight when my Dad put me in the backseat of my Mom’s car. The vehicle was an older tan sedan with red seats that used to belong to my grandfather; how fitting for it to have red seats! My Dad scolded me firmly to crouch down in the backseat and not come out. I remember the wide floor area and bench seat of the backseat. He must have plopped the woman’s body into the front passenger seat before we took off down the road as I knew that she was there with us. Somehow I gathered that we drove north since you have to drive north to quickly get from the crowded suburbs of Detroit to the country. But I didn’t drive at the time so I don’t really know which way we went. The towns of Flint and Pontiac stick in my mind and I’m not sure why.
He pulled over at one of those pull-off areas along the side of the highway. It wasn’t a freeway like I-94 or I-75 and there wasn’t much traffic driving by. When I heard the front passenger side door open and the sound of my Dad pulling her out of the car, I figured I could pop up and look out without being seen. I saw him struggle then drop her floppy body over the guard rail to what looked like a drop-off down below the level of the road. There aren’t any mountains per se in Michigan so I have no idea how this worked out or where it happened that there would be such a cliff. (About 20 years later I looked at maps of areas north of Detroit to see if I recognized any names of streets or topography that might help me identify the area. I even called the State police and talked to a sergeant who would have been working in the approximate area about 20 years prior to my call. When the internet became available, I searched the archives of several newspapers for stories of bodies recovered in that area and even the name of an Uncle’s old girlfriend who I thought might know something. Nothing panned out.)
My Dad was working on my Mom’s car that week or weekend which is why he was driving her car. The next thing I remember is being home with the car and my Mom asking me how my visit went. I wasn’t able to say anything. My Mom and I weren’t exactly on friendly terms in those years so she asked nothing further. The horror was locked up inside of me and remained there for many, many years.
Even with all of the holes in the recounting of these crimes, abuse, satanism, evil, wretchedness, there is more confirmation for me that it is all very real. My Dad did things to try to get me to forget what had happened. We still had a pool in our backyard for a couple of years after my parents divorced. One afternoon when no one else was around, he took me onto the pool deck to inspect the liner. I vividly recall the blue shade and pattern of the liner above the water line and below the metal cap (that we would jump off of into the water). The deck was cedar and stained a medium brown color. My Dad had built the largest deck around, complete with a flip-up staircase that we could lock in an upright position to keep kids out in between pool parties.
I recall my Dad pushing my head up and down into the water repeatedly, over the edge of the deck with my body splayed out, face-down on the surface of the deck, as if to try and drown me! I don’t know what he was saying or if he said anything at all. I feared for my life, gasped for air. It was way worse than my brother Mike trying to hold me underwater when we would play “hold your breath the longest” games in the pool. He was a mean kid back in those days. The truth of what my Dad did came out through the course of most of my adult life treating headaches and neck issues. I have a flattening in the curvature of my cervical spine. I often wonder if it was from the physical trauma committed that day? Anyways, seems to me that he was trying to cover one trauma with another. I believe that his action was a twisted interpretation of the psychological experimentation of the 60’s and 70’s. He tried another version of messaging with my brother Mike via brainwashing him with a recorded message he had him listen to before going to sleep. I still remember the “pillow speaker” and cord that went from the speaker to the tape recorder in the basement. The effect on Mike was opposite of what was intended, damaging his self esteem for much of his adult life.
The strongest evidence that supports my Dad’s effort to try to get me to forget something bad that had happened is reflected in the scars on the inner surface of both of my elbows. My Mom had taken me to the Doctor for something and through the course of the exam, the Doctor asked about the circle of blisters on each of my inner elbows. He asked if I had been shooting up drugs with a needle? Injecting myself with something? He asked over and over again. The blisters were fluid-filled bumps about 1/8-inch in diameter and tall. I remember touching them and the fluid moving beneath my fingers. I had no idea how they got there. At first they were on one arm then they were on both arms, same patterning but maybe it was the right arm had more bubbles than the left arm? I was tempted to burst them but something inside me decided that was not a good idea. Eventually the blisters deflated, the skin dried up, and the crusted tissue healed. The scar of pock-marks inside each forearm remained visible on my skin for decades.
In my late forties, I started working with a counselor who specialized in ritual abuse. When we talked through the story that I have recounted here and the blisters, he suggested that my Dad had injected me with a psychodelic drug in an effort to get me to forget the trauma that had happened. In my Dad’s sick thinking, if I forgot then I would not be affected by what happened (and perhaps no crime was committed). In an exceedingly deranged way, my Dad was trying to help but he did so by inflicting more abuse. This is a form of ritual abuse: using a ritualistic behavior for the purpose of controlling another person. There are other examples of rituals to which he exposed me and my brothers to through the course of his mental illness that I may discuss at another time. What is important here is that there remains to this day, although faded from the atrophy of my skin that normally occurs with aging, a physical reminder that something was done to me decades ago that should never have happened. About 2 weeks ago I felt the Lord lead me to apply a frequency-generating treatment device to my inner arms to see what would happen. Spontaneous tears followed that I could not stop if I tried. Holy cow. This is what they call tissue memory, body memory. And now at last, that tissue is free from whatever happened, the effects of shooting up some drug into each of my arms.
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:6-7
It’s not the same thing to make up a story for personal gain versus sharing a part of your history for no personal gain. It’s not the same thing to try to piece together wacky thoughts in your head versus processing emotionally laden images that come to mind when you know they are parts of events that really happened and do not conflict with what you already know, history, physical evidence, and what people have been willing to share with you. It’s not the same thing to pray for a seizure to end versus the electrical/chemical rush associated with a seizure masking-and-triggering memory of an incident long buried in the tissues of your brain, ready to finally come out. It’s not the same thing for a (dangerous) counselor to use hypnosis to “recover lost memories” versus the The Holy Spirit strengthening the faith of the born-again believer to receive truth in more forms than you ever imagined at just the right time in your life, thus changing you for the good, forever. It’s not the same thing to tell a sad, scary story for pity versus championing the work of the Lord in the life of His daughter whose faith has helped her overcome evil in the hopes of shining a light on the mighty power of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Our Lord overcomes the worst, the darkest, the most sinister evil you could ever imagine or have ever endured. This is not only true for me, for my story. This is an important truth for such a time as this. Our sovereign Lord reigns now and will reign forevermore. He is here for me and for you, will sustain you no matter what may come or has gone before us. Believe it Gentle Reader! I do! JJ
Standing over 6 feet tall, the man could have been mistaken for the childhood Green Giant hero of the Television Age. He let his hair grow long, beard get kind of scruffy, and middle section pudge just enough to make his bear hug just right. The children squealed when he growled and chased them back up the basement stairs when he had enough of their antics and needed to get back to work in that mysterious and yet wonderful business within those concrete walls. More on that story another time.
The man was as conflicted as any could be in this life. I’ll call him the Gentle Giant or GG for short. My knowledge of him is pieced together from some vague memories, his hand-written journal, a few newspaper clippings, internet searches, and the stories from family members. Call it a great tragedy or perhaps work of satire as he never reached his full potential in this world. Lord knows, he tried.
GG grew up in the blue collar suburbs of Detroit, Michigan as the son of an auto mechanic and never-quite-satisfied mother. His dad let his mother rule the household including harsh discipline for the boys of the family. Beatings, torture, destruction of their few prized possessions, restriction of food, verbal abuse, and lying about it all to suspicious outsiders comprised his private hell. She destroyed his model airplanes, locked him in the closet, and made him sit at the meal table all day and all night as abusive punishment for just being alive. The next generation (grandchildren) would be treated differently as would the girly middle child; the oldest brother would turn gay and befriend his mother and father in a strange twist of survival-perhaps-denial until he died of AIDS in his forties. The baby of the family barely made it out alive when the older siblings were no longer around to protect him. GG, the second oldest of the four children, had finally found his way to break free.
GG made a plan to marry the first woman who would accept his hand in marriage. It took a few years after high school to find a suitable mate who was willing to marry him, perhaps in an attempt to escape her own abusive and alcoholic father. They quickly had 3 children and a relationship burdened by his physical abuse of the mother. The oldest took an overdose of her mother’s thyroid medication requiring having her stomach pumped at only 3 years old; the middle child developed a life-long inferiority complex from being told by his dad that he resembled his mother’s family more than his. And this was only the beginning of things that went wrong in that household. By the time the five of them had moved from the trailer park to their new home, GG was having periodic psychiatric breakdowns. Experts have determined later that these were likely the psychotic breaks of paranoid schizophrenia.
GG struggled with the adult responsibilities of work, raising a family, relating to his wife, and managing the internal chaos of his mental illness. He came into the realities of adulthood with too much brokenness to overcome; he was a brilliant inventor and draftsman yet could not control his own mind to ever find true happiness or success. GG defied the counselling offered and declined the psychiatric medication newly developed that could help control his thought disorder. He took an extended leave of absence from work and, instead of getting well, used the time to build a business in the unfinished basement of their home. It became wildly successful in the hobby world of the 1960’s. How his employer never found out is another mystery.
Unfortunately the same ingenuity that brought him initial success 1) as a non-degreed draftsman for a major automaker and 2) in the home business, did not work when he applied it to his mental illness. He experimented in psycho-cybernetics, hand writing analysis, the occult, various activities of the hippie crowd, drinking alcohol, and more. Eventually he left town on his motorcycle with some blonde chick for California with all the profits from the business . . . The children saw his father come and go in a myriad of painful and confusing scenes over the next few years until finally their parents divorced. Their dad lived in another suburb across town thereafter but the holiday visits and false hopes for things to be right never fully materialized. Eventually GG left town for good and had no direct contact with his family for the next 27 years.
GG sent threatening letters to his mother for several decades, perhaps wrestling with her years of abusing him and what to do with it. Sadly he hurt his own children as well in other ways. Over the years, the oldest daughter had witnessed satanic rituals, was abused by some women in the course of some psychedelic mayhem at his house across town during a visitation weekend, and was then tortured herself by GG in an attempt to help her “forget” what had happened to her. The middle child witnessed his father’s domestic abuse of his mother and personal self-degradation as his father used mind control techniques on him in a misguided attempt to try and help his son. The taped messages he recorded ended up having an opposite effect! And the spirited youngest boy got as far as he could in life then, as a young adult, tried to find his dad who had left the family when he was barely past kindergarten. His dad’s letter of rejection was found by loved ones in his wallet after the young man died of alcoholism. The surviving family grieved deeply.
GG’s experimentation with mind control techniques inadvertently opened himself up to the demonic realm. The darkness in his eyes reflected this in particularly frightening scenes recounted by his children. Knowing this, understanding his abusive upbringing and resulting mental illness then their own coming to faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ, has helped the two surviving siblings forgive their father. They have found peace with their past and with their dad. The man was simply lost. He had no idea the dark world he had incited nor the abuse he ended up carrying from one generation to the next. It took the daughter in particular, many decades to understand this and break free from the trauma and demonic influences. How that happened is yet another story. The miracle of overcoming such hell gives testimony to the incredible power of the gospel through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Thirty years after the oldest sibling last saw her father and two months before he died, she got to meet with him at his retirement/trailer park in Florida. They had slowly developed a new relationship by phone before he eventually agreed to a visit in person. The Gentle Giant was frail yet charmingly engaging. He told her tender stories of her days as a little girl and of how proud he was of her. He told her that he loved her and by the time of their visit had shared how he had to leave their family to protect them from further harm. More psychological breakdowns had occurred over the years. His isolation from family and most of society became part of how he managed his illness in addition to long sabbaticals from work. He jointly held over 27 patents with a major manufacturer of automotive parts and would say that was why they “put up with him” and his leaves of absence. The woman would see how creative her father was in crafting his life with the fragments he had been given . . . how incredibly her Heavenly Father would sustain her own life until those sweet moments of reconcilliation with her dad could bring closure, bring healing, bring some sweetness too.
Our earthly fathers have incredible importance in how we turn out in our lives. They are the first authority figures in our lives who initially influence how we relate to our heavenly Father who is exceedingly greater and perfect; ways that our earthly father can never be. A loving relationship with both are critical for grounding us in this life on earth. Even in the absence of a good dad the yearning of our hearts can lead us to the One Who will never leave us, never forsake us. I do pray that in this story you will see how the “seeking” of one young girl as she became one older woman led her to overcome the failings of her father by filling those empty and hurting places with the unfailing love of Jesus Christ. Graciously she did get to feel at last, the love of her real father before he died. Not everyone will have this kind of opportunity; others will experience it their entire lives. Regardless, we all can be whole no matter what darkness has fallen on our journey through this life.
I understand these experiences very well nurtured with truth from the Words of our Lord in His scripture and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Further, the Gentle Giant in each of us can be transformed from sorrow to joy if we but believe in His holy name, Jesus Christ. Healing and fullness of life will follow us all of our days into eternity. I love that. Oh Heavenly Father, I thank you for this story and for Your story of redemption too. May you speak to the heart of the Gentle Reader who finds these words this day, filling him or her with your goodness. Bring them into the best of relationships found only with You. Bring hope beyond what we all can see. For your glory I pray in Jesus’ name I pray, amen. JJ