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!

Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

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

It’s not the same thing

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

What forgiveness looks like: the Lord restored “the years the locusts had eaten”
just before my father passed away in 2011.

Knees to the Grass

Humble yourself before the Lord and He will meet you there every time.

Having just whacked my shoulder with the handle of a rake, the pain seared deeply from my flesh to my soul. It is now bruised.

So cried, I did: weeping that lasted a long time. So much sorrow in my broken heart of late.

How can I go on with so many hours spent lying in bed? Seizing the last grips of life until my breathing starts again? Plans reduced then cancelled to much, much less?

The window to the neighbors’ bedroom was not far away out there in the darkness of night and my own beloved worked 2 rooms away beyond the double-paned windows

Oh how long must this sad song go on: the one that mixes grief from the death of loved ones with the pain of suffering so?

My Lord, you bestow so much goodness yet this night my heart aches for the dearth in my broken frame.

Just let it all out Gentle Julie. Your heart needs a good cleansing at the foot of my cross. For I hung there for all your sorrows with my blood dripping for your tears.

There will come a day when I will restore all that has gone before you.

There’s a period at the end of that sentence beloved one and this one too.

My love shall forever surround you, my spirit dwell within you, my angels minister for your care.

Keep seeking my face and you will find me there with you every time. I love you more than you can ever know. Just try to keep seeking and I will lead you home.

And so I shall. Oh how I long to go home! Yet weakly I shall go on . . . JJ

What else could they do?

The glass chamber is designed to match your body temperature while you complete the subtests of the Pulmonary Function Test. Mike did his job. Steve helped where he could. And for me?

The trauma was REAL.

The cardio-pulmonary work-up continued this past week with a carotid ultrasound, beginning of a 7-day EKG event monitor, and the torture chamber otherwise known as a Pulmonary Function Test (PFT). Perhaps the PFT is not designed to create stress but completing it between 5 sets of convulsive episodes was a real bite in the shorts!

I knew the risks for me for the PFT from having completed one about 5 years ago. We were unable to progress to the section administered after a bronchodilator medication because of convulsive episodes triggered in the first few subtests. So this time I asked my beloved to drive me to the hospital for the test and brought with me several rescue remedies that sometimes stop the attacks. With assistance to administer them I might get through it all. When Thursday came I was not motivated to head out the door for the hospital and after only 4 1/2 hours of sleep. Looked like it was going to be the same story, different day.

The first part of the test went alright as Respiratory Therapist Mike kept a close eye on me. I had given him the spiel of what can happen if I had a seizure attack, including the request not to call the paramedics if I had an episode! He said he understood and actually stayed calm throughout the entire ordeal. Seizure-like tics began after the 2nd subtest and most of the ones that followed. Steve graciously brought me the ice pack I had in my lunch bag which served to slow each episode once placed over my sternum. We continued and eventually got it all done like a good beating on a warm summer day.

The test that required you to breathe against resistance was particularly frightening. When deep breathing or panting re-triggers the episodes, I thought that surely breathing against the mouthpiece where my airway would be blocked would be good. On the contrary. It actually calmed me down considerably! Holy cow. Have we found another tool to help control these dang things? Mike said that breathing against resistance stimulated the vagus nerve. Well there you go again. I first started looking into vagus nerve seizures and treatment strategies at the beginning of 2018. This ultimately led me to see a Craniomandibular Specialist and the rest is now history. But here we are again. The trigeminal nerve of the TMJ and the vagus are interrelated cranial nerves. To date only these 2 of the many vagus nerve stimulation techniques I have tried have proven to be helpful. Turns out there is a difference between the sympathetic and parasympathetic fibers of this 10th of the 12 cranial nerves; the trigeminal is the 5th. We shall revisit this topic here again another day for sure.

The PFT was scheduled for about an hour. We left after 2 hours! Each time there was a trigger of seizure-like tics, we had to stop for me to struggle to pick up the ice pack on the laminate floor of the glass chamber, apply it to my chest, then wait for things to calm down again. The violent shaking wrenched my neck. I longed to lower myself to the floor and curl up in a ball, holding my head and neck. The pain, the pain. At home I struggle (or Steve carries me) to lie down someplace safe where I can grasp my head and neck to prevent whiplash. Not so during the PFT. My right leg banged against the metal frame and glass walls of the chamber a few times; my body tensed with fright as I feared falling off of the narrow stool and onto the hard, linoleum floor. No warm blanket was anywhere to be found. Mike and Steve just watched in silence each time. What else could they do?

Times like these finds me terrified of falling and getting injured. Gratefully I have never fallen even after thousands of these wretched episodes. But initiating movements of any kind to either speak, break a fall, or otherwise create safety exacerbates the directionality and velocity of the seizing; this in turn creates a high risk to fall or get injured! Too bad that I am awake to remember all of this hell unlike an epileptic seizure where the person is unconscious. (Well it’s probably good so that I don’t have the injuries that can come with falling after passing out.) I guess it’s my own form of grace manifest as survival mode. Tense my muscles to prevent of a fall but trigger a rebound: increased rapid-fire, uncontrolled shaking of an appendage or two that may bang against whatever is nearby. Metal frames and glass walls. Still can’t speak most of the time. Breathing? Yeah maybe. Oy vey. I hate this!

It took awhile after the PFT was over to regain enough muscle control to walk out of the chamber of doom to a chair across the room. Perhaps it will be diagnostic for the cardiologist later this month as to why forced-breathing maneuvers trigger such bad episodes? Maybe the test results will show something this time? Everything flooded my mind as I tried to be pleasant to the two men staring at me the whole time who were powerless to do much to help. They were both most kind. I could see it in their eyes above the masks they both wore. (I was the only one allowed to remove mine! Go COVID-19!) Mike and Steve remained standing as I slumped into a hard plastic chair in the opposite corner of the room. One of them asked if I needed anything but I just couldn’t speak very well yet to respond. Managing the wires from the EKG event monitor, holding the ice pack to my chest, and groping for a snack bar in my lunch bag for something to revive me was about all I could handle. Steve opened the packaging of a Clif Nut Butter Bar and helped me get a drink of water. He knows the routine well. Love that man!

Cracking jokes has been my way to bring humanity to this hell when someone new comes along for the experience. “Welcome to my nightmare.” “I guess I’ve completed my involuntary exercise program today.” Or something similar are my usual bylines. I let a few fly. Before long we were leaving. I was walking verrrrry slowly however.

Somehow I got through a telehealth medical appointment a few hours later followed by a full day of several long blocks of sleep. Thankfully I had made some food ahead of time and thankfully Steve was willing to bring me a meal later on as I began to recover. My Skype appointment on Friday needed to be cancelled and I declined an additional make-up appointment from a second Provider. I was too weak and shaky. About all I accomplished on Friday was a load of laundry and achieving many levels on a word game app. The pup got lots of scratches too.

Two days later I realized how traumatic all of this was. A dearth of tears busted out after yet another bad episode and eventually I got the story typed out here. Perhaps someday these wretched convulsive episodes will stop. Maybe my beloved Steve and I will actually get a peaceful night of sleep on a regular basis, together. Maybe my life will be about the volunteer stuff I get to do here and there instead of medical appointments every week. Seems like we are getting closer than ever before to the mechanism of action of what triggers and what stops these waking, convulsive episodes; I have a few rescue remedies that keep me out of the emergency room these days. Yay God! Lord willing, I pray and plead, my Jesus will mercifully bring me to complete healing. Maybe someday soon? JJ

King Tut Grass and Cannas @ParkviewHealth
Mandevilla vine, Begonias, Geraniums (right) and Potato Vine (left) @ParkviewHealth