Preying in the Name of God

Exorcism, Deliverance, and Neurological Disorders

TRIGGER WARNING – Suicide – EXPLICIT CONTENT

Me & Kristin

© V & K – N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

Since her first night home from the hospital, K had kept everyone up nearly every night.  V and her mother, who was visiting from out-of-town, were in the living room reminiscing  while V lovingly cradled K, her eleven day old daughter.  V’s husband, G, had been out most of the morning.  He walked in looking pale, saying he was exhausted and wanted to take a nap.  G kissed his newborn and wife, smiled, and headed into the hallway towards the bedroom.

Some time had passed when V said:  “Mom, what’s that clicking sound?”  They looked at each other with bewildered curiosity.  Shortly afterwards, what sounded like a muffled explosion reverberated from the hallway.

Startled by the loud sound, V and her mother leaped to their feet and headed down the hallway to investigate.  V expected to find her husband investigating too, but he had not emerged from the bedroom.  Thinking her partner was sleeping soundly and not awakened by the resounding blast,  she entered their bedroom and encountered a scene worse than any horror flick she’d ever watched.

The off-white walls and bed linen were splattered with blood and brain matter.  Pieces of  skull and teeth were scattered throughout the room.  G’s body laid lifeless on the other side of the bed.   In utter shock, V cried out, “NO, OH MY GOD, NO”, saying it over and over as she ran to the phone to call an ambulance.

V’s mother tried to feel for a pulse.  But with half his head missing, she was certain her son-in-law was dead.  Blood was gushing out of his body.  The force from the blast was so powerful that half his brain was found lying on the ground just outside the bedroom window.  The tragic news spread  like a virus as curious neighbors stopped by.

The clicking sound V and her mom had initially heard was the cocking of a double-barrel shotgun G had used on rare occasions for hunting.  The cause of death:  suicide.  V’s profound grief and confusion was compounded by guilt for not recognizing the red flags.   At that time, she didn’t know what I’m going to share in the following paragraphs.

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My name is Victoria.  I am V.  It’s taken me over two decades to share my personal experience publicly.  But as an advocate for traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and seizure disorders, I believe sharing my story may help others and bring awareness about the enormous harm caused by a lack of public awareness regarding symptoms from traumatic brain injuries and neurological disorders.  Sadly, because of superstitious beliefs, especially from Christianity, many of these symptoms have been attributed to demon oppression or possession.

“Early and effective treatment is essential, as are efforts to avoid situations that can produce the brain damage that causes seizures in the first place.”  Source

Newsweek International
Oct. 24, 2005 issue – “For the first 22 years of her life, Anneliese Michel was an unremarkable young woman—a teacher in training and part of a devout Roman Catholic family in Germany. She also happened to be an epileptic, and prone to the seizures that often accompany that condition. Somehow, though, her parents convinced themselves that Satan had gotten hold of her soul. They called two local priests, who spent 10 months trying to exorcise the young woman’s demons.

To avoid interfering with the exorcism, the parents even halted her treatment for epilepsy. Michel finally died, in 1975, at the age of 23, withered and weakened to just 31 kilos from being denied food and water during the exorcism. If the story sounds familiar, that’s because it is the premise of Hollywood feature “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”.  In the real-life case, all four participants in the exorcism were found guilty of negligent homicide.
Read more:  The Devil in Pictures

“Exorcism is the most dangerous hoax in treating mental illness.”  ~Dr. Scott Lilienfield

Saintfrancisborgia_exorcismJust last month, the Catholic Church’s top exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth, claiming to have cast out one hundred and sixty thousand ‘demons’,  called for all priests to be allowed to conduct the ritual.

From Father Joe’s blog, here’s an excerpt from his post titled “How True Was The Exorcist Story“:

J. de Tonquedec (1886-1962), a psychologist and the official exorcist of the diocese of Paris for over 20 years, doubted that he ever found a real case. He wrote:

“Exorcism is an impressive ceremony, capable of acting effectively on the unconscious of a sick person. The adjurations addressed to the demon, the sprinkling of holy water, the stole passed around the patient’s neck, the repeated signs of the cross and so forth, are very capable of creating a diabolical mythomania in word and deed in a psyche already weak. Call the devil and you will see him; or rather not him, but a portrait made of the sick person’s idea of him. It is for this reason that certain priests, due to their inconsiderate and imprudent practice of exorcising, create, confirm and encourage the very disorders that they want to suppress.”

Extensive investigations on the actual case which spawned a best selling book and one of the highest grossing films of all time, “The Exorcist”,  revealed gross exaggerations and misinformation regarding the actual events. Both the book and movie is said to be responsible for the resurgence of exorcism within the Catholic Church, and the global explosion of deliverance ministries within Protestant evangelical denominations. (Google “deliverance ministries”)  Many times, serious injury and death has been the result.  Here are scriptures cited which have contributed to the untold harm toward those with neurological disorders.

There are neurological conditions (temporal lobe lability) and disorders caused by abnormal bursts of electrical activity that often escape proper diagnosis because the symptoms can be non-convulsive,  and the side-effects can manifest as hyper-spirituality and/or a hyper-religiosity.  I’m going to focus on one specific neurological disorder because it has become known as the “silent epidemic”.

This disorder has been misunderstood and discriminated against.  Superstitions, taboos, abuse,  and enormous suffering have been the result throughout history.   Today, research on this neurological disorder is still significantly underfunded, even though it is as common as breast cancer and takes as many lives.

The silent epidemic is epilepsy.   In this post, I will focus on one type of epilepsy, temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), also known as partial  seizures.  They’re called partial seizures because the abnormal electrical activity is isolated to one area of the brain, the temporal lobes. There are approximately two-hundred thousand new cases of epilepsy each year in the United States.  Temporal lobe epilepsy is the most common form of epilepsy.

“Unfortunately, with epilepsy, the rate of suicide is approximately two to five times that of the general population, and this is further elevated to a 25-fold increase among patients with TLE.”  Source

There is also a rise expected in the incidence of epilepsy among the veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq who have sustained traumatic head injuries. Yet public and private funding for research lag far behind other neurological afflictions, at $35 a patient (compared, for instance, with $129 for Alzheimer’s and $280 for multiple sclerosis). It is time to remedy that gap, and to raise epilepsy to the front ranks of public and medical concern.” Source

Here is a list of other known causes of epilepsy, besides brain injuries.

>>Nonconvulsive Seizures in Traumatic Brain Injury: What You Don’t See Can Hurt You<<

To give you some background, my partner, Greg, was in a car accident and sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI ).  However, doctors told him he would most likely make a full recovery.  Instead, he progressively got worse, and experienced bouts of depression.  I started noticing behavioral changes.  These changes were directly related to his brain injury and temporal lobe seizures, but neither one of us knew this at the time. Then he experienced a sudden religious conversion. At the time of his religious experience, he was not attending church and in fact, had never been religious.

>>Here’s clinical documentation of temporal lobe epilepsy and sudden religious conversions.  As a side note,  every 15 seconds someone sustains a traumatic brain injury in the United States.  Symptoms from brain injuries may take years before they manifest.  mTBI (concussion) can cause delusions and other behavioral changes.  After Greg’s sudden religious conversion, he became hyper-religious, having a preoccupation with God and the Bible.  He also started experiencing religious-type hallucinations.

“Because of these affective, behavioral, and cognitive symptoms, patients with CPS (complex partial seizures) are frequently misdiagnosed. Seizures can include gustatory and olfactory hallucinations; micropsia or macropsia; and intense delusions involving bodily harm, déjà vu, or “out-of-body” experiences. CPS have also been associated with certain personality features including moral rigidity, hyperreligiousity, hypergraphia, and viscosity (or “stickiness,” e.g., difficulty ending conversations).” Source

“Hyperreligiosity is a major feature of mania, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, temporal-lobe epilepsy and related disorders, in which the ventromedial dopaminergic systems are highly activated and exaggerated attentional or goal-directed behavior toward extrapersonal space occurs.”  Source

An excerpt from the article “Neither Gods nor Demons But Misfiring Brains”

People with seizures look like everyone else when they are not having a seizure, and seizures are not contagious. Yet, as far back in history as we know, people with seizure disorders have been viewed with fear. In many civilizations, they have been shunned; in others, they have been thought to have a special ability and be in communication with higher powers—good gods in the case of the Romans, the devil in the case of early Christianity.

The early Greeks called epilepsy “the sacred disease,” but it later became known as “the scourge of Christ,” probably as a result of the passage in the Gospels in which Jesus casts out an unclean spirit from a young boy. The boy’s father says (in the Gospel according to Luke), “Teacher, I implore you, look on my son…Behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out; it confuses him so that he foams at the mouth; and it departs from him with great difficulty, bruising him.”

To this day, many ordinary people still believe patients with epileptic seizures are “possessed,” and a person with seizures is forbidden to take Holy Orders (become a priest) in the Roman Catholic Church.  Read more.

To gain a better understanding about this neurological disorder, and the side-effects, e.g.,  having profound religious experiences, watch these short but quite interesting interviews:

The Temporal Lobes and God (part I) and part II.

After Greg’s religious conversion, he joined an evangelical church and became increasingly convinced that he was experiencing demonic bondage. Fellow church members fueled his delusions. According to the Pew Research Center, more than two-thirds of Americans believe demons are active in the world.

The day Greg took his life was the same day his pastor insisted he was experiencing ‘spiritual warfare’ and being attacked by demons, quoting the Bible to back up his assertions.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

Greg’s pastor advised him to go through a ‘deliverance’, and “break down the strongholds“.  My late husband was a well-educated man. But his compromised mental state, exacerbated by a lack of sleep, stress from a recent move and a new baby, made him especially vulnerable to the power of suggestion. His pastor never offered him counsel to seek professional help. Now fully convinced he was tormented by demons, it sent him over the edge and he impulsively ended his life.

The brain is a very fragile and complex organ, at the mercy of the environment, including culture.  I firmly believe Greg would be alive today, and a wonderful daddy, had we known then what I know now.

Mother-Infant image (V & K) – © N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ
Exorcism image courtesy of Wiki Commons
Father-Infant image courtesy of Morguefile.com
Header Image on home page courtesy of Morguefile.com  – Artist hotblack

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54 thoughts on “Preying in the Name of God

  1. Wow, Victoria.

    I know the 1970s brought a lot of stupid drama into the church. I believe the powerful, mind-altering drugs of the 1960s and Linda Blair’s “The Exorcist” scared religious folks. When I was a baby my parents were “Jesus People”, years later they got caught up with the Cornforths. They knew them personally. Ever heard of their deliverance training manual “The Children’s Bread”? I remember seeing one still around my folks house years ago. I think that it’s freakin’ scary that my parents were training for that, but there’s no time to open that big coffee can of worms.

    As far as your husband’s concerned, I could not imagine being a young married couple with a new baby looking forward to the future to suddenly finding yourself as a widow raising a young child alone. Your husband must have felt shameful and horrible after the way his/your(?) old church treated him. It’s beyond offensive for someone genuinely suffering to be told he is ruled by the devil. He had just begun to run the race and is immediately told that he is losing. Was this church in question an AG church? I ask because it sounds as though it was a couple of decades ago, past the era I just mentioned. I also noticed that you used the term “oppressed”, and the Assemblies of God prefer to say that over “possessed”. For as they say “a Christian cannot be possessed”. I could be wrong, but it also seemed that they may have seen him as a new convert. Anyone of any Pentecostal denomination tends to see new converts as needing an over haul of every area of their lives, so, a deliverance session is essential.

    • Hi Charity, thank you for taking the time to read my lengthy post and for your thoughtful comments. I have never heard of “The Children’s Bread”, but will definitely look into it. I hope you will write about it someday. Greg’s sudden conversion was like living in a whirlwind, for lack of a better word. Words could never do justice to describe that period of time in my life.

      He became a different man than the man I married, but neither one of us attributed his personality change to his head injury and seizure disorder because his doctors knew very little about TBI and TLE. Many if not most doctors today still have little education in this area. The misdiagnosis rate is alarming. Also, due to the unusual symptoms, i.e., hyper-religiosity, I can see why neurological disorders, such as TLE, have slipped under the radar. You can see a lot of hyper-religious characters in the Bible. Speaking of Bible characters, I think you’ll find this neurological study interesting:
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1032067/

      • Victoria, I really appreciate your research, it confirms so much to what I concluded in my studies of the Bible, and in what I saw, felt and heard in just using good ole common sense. You would not believe how many countless times I would discuss Christian matters with other Christians asking where is the common sense even in how churches operate.

        The brain is quite fabulous. Religious leaders are well aware of how effective ritualism in word and deed can work in their favor over their congregants. I absolutely agree with your reference of how exorcisms use this. Priests do this, I think, to make themselves to believe that they/Christ/the Church really are the powerful and holy ones. They go out of their way to stir up an environment that plays tricks on the mind just so they can start rebuking the demons.

        When I was eight years old my mother led me into the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Oddly enough she put on a Gaither record, “We Are Persuaded”, and I think that’s ironic since they’re Nazarene, and tongues do not fit their denominational doctrine. She told me to say repeatedly “praise you, Jesus”. Of course, the words began to run into each other and I began to speak in tongues.

        I grew up in a very religious home. It was also incredibly neglectful, abusive, and depressing. All throughout my childhood I would see “evil spirits”, and even heard sorrowful sounding howls that would sound amplified from inside the house in the middle of the night. I attribute this to the constant anger and sadness in my family. When a child is in a hostile environment it’s easy to see how certain things become a reality to him or her. I also blame religion because I noticed that as soon as I stopped being a Christian last year the goosebumps and nightmares ceased dramatically. I know that someone might say that it is because I am not a threat to the devil now that he has my soul, and he has left me alone. It reminds me of how in church I always heard that I shouldn’t let the devil get me alone. In other words, if I’m away from the Christianese long enough I might start to think for myself and stay the hell away altogether.

        Thank you, Victoria, for this open dialect. It’s very comforting, and I appreciate your kindness.

  2. Thank you for sharing your history.

    I am astounded by the facts and figures you shared. I only know of a few people in my life with epilepsy but to think of it being as common as breast cancer, I surely know more. The lack of funding for the less ‘sexy’ diseases is astounding and disgusting.

    I have to admit I teared up as I read your post. The mental illness in my family leans towards the compulsive and the Schizophrenic. I have many vivid memories of my mother dealing with her ‘demons’ throughout my life. Thankfully, an elder in our congregation during one of her more intense episodes had experience with mental illness and actually helped her get medical help. If he hadn’t, well it isn’t hard for me to imagine a scenario in which she would have killed herself. My family still speaks of demons though.

    Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last time her mental state became entwined with her spirituality. It has happened many times over the years and always to her detriment. It is calm now, I can only hope that history does not once again repeat itself.

    Such experiences have certainly made me more outspoken about my disbelief. So many people say that mainstream religion doesn’t do any harm. They are wrong in so many ways and I have the friends and family to prove it.

    I hope that sharing your story will lead to more research opportunities. Your post may very well save lives.

    • Muggle, my heart sank as I read your post. I’m so sorry to read about your own trials but relieved that someone in the congregation helped your mother get medical attention. Several months back, I posted a sniped of my story, along with some of the sources I cited here. I posted it as a page on my menu, but I soon removed it. Part of the reasons I have trepidations about sharing so intimately and publicly is because I don’t want my daughter to read such details, even though a lot of details were left out.

      Yet just saying that my partner committed suicide, and leaving out the details, diminishes the horrors people face everyday due to a lack of public awareness about the enormous harm caused by superstitious beliefs in mainstream religion. It plays a role in the stigma associated with neurological disorders and mental illness. It plays a role in the lack of necessary funding for research. There are many people who are not as fortunate as your mother, and became/become prey in the name of god. If you can find the time, watch the BBC documentary, “The Brain On God”.

      http://welcome.pokrov.com/en/video/viwvieo/1088/fimy-imultfimy/bbc-horion-god-on-the-brai-2003

      One particular denomination (highlighted in the documentary) was co-founded by someone who showed all the signs of temporal lobe epilepsy, after sustaining a traumatic brain injury. People thought this individual was a prophet of god. The Christian denomination has been endorsed by two American presidents and Hillary Clinton, has one of the largest infrastructures (hospitals, schools, mega media, etc.), is the fastest growing protestant church, worldwide, and has a following of over 25 million people. That’s just one person.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and for sharing so personally.

      • I can appreciate your fears, but I’m honored that you felt able to share the darker events in your life. It takes true strength.

        I will definitely watch that documentary.

  3. oh my goodness, what a profound and moving post. hugs to you, hon. would you consider being interviewed for my blog as a survivor of suicide? I’ve read your story before, and wanted to ask, but now the universe is reminding me to get a move on!

    • Carrie, it would be an honor. Thank you for being such an inspiration and for giving others a voice. You, of all people, know how hard it was for me to publish this post. You’ve helped so many by intimately sharing your own personal tragedy and through your uplifting, educational, and inspiring posts. Together, we can work towards destigmatizing mental illness and neurological disorders. You make the world a better place.

      Ƹ̴Ӂ̴Ʒ

  4. At times like these, I hate “Like” buttons. I don’t want to “Like” it. It’s not to be liked. In fact, it hurts. As it should. As it did. It hurts, in my case, because of all the stupid years I spent saying stupid things to trusting people in the guise of “ministry.” It hurts so much I can’t breathe; I want to stand on a rooftop and scream at the top of my lungs that I’m sorry. I’m so sorry…

    • I wept after reading your comment. I’m profoundly moved by your sensitivity and empathy, but also burdened that it caused you to go to a dark place. That’s one of the reasons why publishing these types of posts is difficult for me. It’s one thing to post the data for educational purposes, but when it’s associated with personal human suffering, there can be fallout.

      I’ve learned so much on this journey. Although this world lost a beautiful human being by unfortunate circumstances, a part of him lives in and through our daughter.

      Thank you for reading my post, for responding, and for caring.

      *hug*

      • Keep publishing. It needs to hurt. There need to be consequences to our actions. People such as myself need to be made aware of the damage our carelessness can do, and we need to see it on a personal level such as yours, it needs to be real to us. In a way that we can’t just roll over and forget. It hurts, yes, but it’s a necessary hurt.

  5. This was so sad. Thanks for sharing though. My wife and I were just talking recently about how this sort of talk has started up again in some of the circles we’re in.

    I’m part of the percentage of people who does believe in demons, but their role in the world is unclear to me–I don’t believe they spend their time making people feel depressed, and they become a scapegoat for any issue is a person’s life. Just yesterday, I saw a Facebook status where someone had electronic toys that started automatically during thunderstorms sometimes. No less than half of the 18 responses were suggestions that the issue might be caused by demons.

    So, anyway, I hope that’s not inappropriate to share here. This was an immensely powerful piece of writing.

    • Brent, I am touched by your thoughtful comment. Thank you.

      I’ve spent the better part of life after Greg’s death studying phenomena such as you mentioned with electronic toys starting automatically during thunderstorms. I used to believe in demons, too, but not any more. I also used to battle with serious depression, but not any more. I no longer believer in demons because I’ve come to have a better understanding of the brain and how it can be profoundly affected by the environment, such as geomagnetic storms.

      I posted several studies about this in my post “The Sun Giveth — The Sun Taketh Away“. There is an increased risk in depression and suicide during these storms. Also, poltergeist phenomena increases significantly during earth directed coronal mass ejections which disturb the geomagnetic field. The stronger the storm, the more prevalent the phenomena.

      “Several researchers have reported that poltergeist episodes frequently began on the day (± 1 day) of a sudden and intense increase in global geomagnetic activity. To test this visual observation, a near-complete account of these episodes for which the inception dates were recorded and verified was examined.

      Statistical samples clearly indicated that global geomagnetic activity (aa index) on the day or day after the onset of these episodes was significantly higher than the geomagnetic activity on the days before or afterwards. The same temporal pattern was noted for historical cases and for those that have occurred more recently. The pattern was similar for episodes that occurred in North America and Europe.

      The results were statistically significant and suggest that these unusual episodes may be some form of natural phenomena that are associated with geophysical factors.” (Gearhart, Livingston, and Persinger, M.A.; “Geophysical Variables and Behavior: XXXIII. Onsets of Historical and Contemporary Poltergeist Episodes Occurred with Sudden Increases in Geomagnetic Activity,” Perceptual and Motor Skills, 62:463, 1986.)

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3503252

      Thanks again for your comment, and for taking the time to read my lengthy post. It’s very much appreciated. =)

  6. I read something on your other blog tonight that made me come back to this post. When I first read it, I thought it was too horrendous for it to be actually true.
    I have been on the receiving end of religious nonsense, but never with such tragic consequences. Demons, possessions and evil spirits are so ridiculous, yet all so dangerously real.
    Great writing, Victoria!

    • Cat, my apologies for the delay in response. I had a busy weekend. You nailed it when you said wrote “possessions and evil spirits are so ridiculous, yet also dangerously real.”

      Needless to say, I do not find ‘horror’ movies entertaining.

      I really appreciate you taking the time to read the lengthy post, and for your thoughtful comment.

      Thanks so much,
      Victoria

  7. Oh, sweetie. I am weeping, for your pain and his. I think you know how I feel about organized religion, namely Catholic because that is what I know, so I am not going to address that here. And the many, many troubled souls that were forsaken by “modern” medicine. Again, we will have many more conversations on those.
    Right now, I just want to say that I hope you know what a strong, tough (vulnerable) woman you are – even though I know there are days that you don’t agree. You are doing the right thing in channeling you grief with your advocacy, studies and your beautiful words.
    I am here for you, my friend. Much love xxxooo

    • My dear friend, thank you for such a thoughtful comment. I cringed when I read your comment in your Thanksgiving post when you said you were headed over here to read this post. I thought to myself that it was such poor timing, especially since your post was so funny. I didn’t want you to get bummed. Again, thank you for your caring and compassionate words, Colleen. They mean a lot.

      Research and advocacy work have been very cathartic and healing and I hope that blogging this information will be beneficial to readers who’ve had similar experiences personally, or with a loved one and can use this information to prevent a potential tragedy.

      Btw, I was raised Catholic. Both sides of my family are Catholic. We have so much in common, I am amazed.

      Much love to you, too. ღ

  8. As someone says above, it’s odd to ‘like’ a post like this. What a horrendous experience, I’m so sorry you’ve been through this. It’s shocking that exorcism is still being practiced and terrible to think that a silly piece of entertainment like the Exorcist could be responsible of a surge in such harmful, base superstitious behaviour.

  9. I didn’t “like” this post for obvious reasons, Victoria. I’m so sorry sorry to hear of this terrible event, and aghast at the string of mindlessness that led up to it. Without question, I better understand your passion now.

  10. This was excellent. Absolutely excellent. Your meticulous collection of evidence and the way you lay this argument out make this one of the most important, and meaningful articles I’ve read in recent memory. The connection between the temporal lobes and religious obsession, in my honest opinion, are stakes that should kill the vampire of religion from anyone reading this. This article is way fundamentalist Christians fear and hate science. They hate it because it searches for truth and sometimes finds it. Religion says it has truth but all it truthfully does is lie, destroy, and deny dignity to its followers. Thank you for the work you put into this and for sharing your story. And thank you for surviving. Your survival and what you’ve learned because of it, has helped me and others. Thank you.

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to read through this very lengthy post, and for your detailed feedback and encouraging/thoughtful words. I agree that fundamentalist Christians have a hate relationship with science. Also, Christianity’s history has shown that they stigmatized mental disorders (as seen in the Bible), and to this very day, it’s one of the main reasons why there is little research in this area — especially epilepsy. What a travesty. Superstition kills.

      Again, thank you. It really meant a lot.

  11. I’m not going to “like” this post for obvious reasons. I’m so, so sorry you had to endure this. Having spent the better part of 30 years in an SB Church I can honestly say that I got a mix of things. Belief in angels and demons, belief in demon possession and oppression. While they eschew many Pentecostal leanings, such as being slain in the spirit and speaking in tongues, they certainly hold to some very charismatic ideas, though they wouldn’t call it that.

    The church certainly knows how to exploit vulnerability and the leadership knows how to kick a person when they’re down. It’s all collateral damage to them. So sad.

  12. This is a powerful story, and I’m so glad you’re speaking it. What a tragic ending for your husband and your family. I’m so sorry.

    I worked as a psych nurse for over a decade and saw many TBIs, and many other mental illnesses, go through religious conversions and end in this same tragic way. One of my favorite schizophrenic patients, a young catholic man of about 19, gouged his eye out with a spoon right in front of me when he saw a pretty nurse. He said he had to pluck out his eye because it betrayed him (Matthew 18:9 And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.). I sometimes don’t have to words to describe how religion can be so damaging, but I must find them. Because this has to stop…we cannot allow people to believe they’re evil or damned or demon possessed!

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting. I appreciate you sharing your story about your son on my other blog. That’s just so sad about that young man with schizophrenia. I would imagine that would be something you would never be able to erase from your memory. Like you, I am sometimes at a loss for words — frustrated that I can’t fully articulate in the way I want to with regard to the enormous harm religion has caused and continues to cause.

      Yet it’s still considered taboo to talk about it in most cultures. Nearly everyday I get an email from someone who’s read my blogs and shared a similar tragic experience. It’s why I’ll never stop advocating about the importance of educating people about TBI, mental illness and neurological disorders. You’re right — we cannot allow people to believe they are evil, damned or demon possessed. Teaching that they are is inhumane beyond comprehension.

  13. An amazing telling of a very difficult and traumatic period in your life. It is profound, but at the same time enlightening about the misconceptions of epilepsy and the downright prevarications pushed by the church. Tourettes has also been touted as “devil possessed” by the clergy as well.

    We have seen the suicide tendencies in our work with epilepsy. That so many young people consider this as a way out of their torment is very disheartening. Recently, we were happy to be invited to the 21st birthday party of one of our epilepsy heroes. She is a delightful young lady who is a cherished and gentle soul in every way. Midway through the party she suffered a very bad seizure. After coming out of it she was embarrassed about it. Though she was inconsolable, all I could say to her was how honored I was to have been part of her celebration. Inside, I was cursing the so-called God that many people will say “has a special plan for her.” What rubbish!

    Thank you for sharing this heart-rending part of your life. Your advocacy work is a testimonial to inherent human goodness.

    P.S. The title is spot on.

    P.S.S. What a beautiful baby!

    • Al, thank you so much for taking the time to read this post, and for your comment about my daughter. She is now a young adult. Your comment about attending a birthday party of an epilepsy hero, and being honored to have been part of her celebration, moved me deeply.

      “Your advocacy work is a testimonial to inherent human goodness.”

      Don’t tell God that. He would vehemently disagree, because you know, “God needs money.” *wink*

      Have a delightful weekend my friend.

  14. Well, unlike other commenters here, I did ‘like’ your post Victoria, although an ‘appreciate’ button would have been altogether more apt, of course, and it would be good if WordPress included one as an option.

    Seismic repercussions.

    The final image really chimed with me, as I’ve seen birth and death firsthand in the delivery room. I felt aged faster than the passing years would suggest, and remarked to others how I felt as if 5 or 10 had been taken off my own life. I feel less like that nowadays, but perhaps I’ve just adapted to the new norm?

    I suppose that’s what it becomes, isn’t it? I’m not sure time is a healer, more a facilitator of adaption – one slowly settles in, functioning again.

    Grieving is such bloody hard work isn’t it? I mean, even going to the fridge to fetch some milk – it’s an effort, a nuisance. I’d never appreciated how physical grieving was before, thinking it was somehow purely an emotional condition; felt deeply, of course, but not as almost a physical exhaustion.

    Anyway, the sentiments left by others here I of course echo, and you’ve done a remarkable job of crafting such a balanced and informative article under conditions of remembrance that can hardly have bearable.

    On a closing note, did you ever read Andrew Solomon’s The Noonday Demon?

    With love and gratitude, Hariod.

    • “I suppose that’s what it becomes, isn’t it? I’m not sure time is a healer, more a facilitator of adaption – one slowly settles in, functioning again.”

      I think this is pretty spot on. Hariod, thank you, on so many levels. To say how sorry I am about your loss seems trite. I agree, wholeheartedly, that grieving is hard work, and does impact us physically as much as emotionally. I survived this nightmare because I had incredible support from my family. But I think that even though they were there for me, they were not comfortable with my grieving.

      What I mean was that I really needed to authentically grieve, such as weeping, even wailing, talk about it, and be “weak”, but I had to do it, for the most part, privately. Alone. In secret. I can understand why they were uncomfortable, though. It’s hard to see loved ones deeply sad. So the griever ends up being the comforter, rather than comforted. I think it took longer to go through the stages of grief because I internalized, and sometimes even denied my right to grieve.

      Being a Christian at the time, surrounded by Christians, didn’t help the matter, either, for believers tend to be the worst at acceptance, about embracing finality, so they create coping mechanisms, illusions, and cleave to scripture that says everything that happens is a part of god’s perfect plan, yada, yada, yada. That’s code for, shut the fuck up and don’t feel your pain fully, for god is great, and he knows exactly what he’s doing. Chop chop, move on, and “rejoice that you are a participant in the sufferings of Christ.” 1 Peter 4:13

      No, I’ve never read Andrew Solomon’s The Noonday Demon, but I will look into it. Btw, your comment here had been sent to my spam, so I’m glad you sent me an email letting me know you had commented, otherwise it would have, most likely, remained in spam for who knows how long. I don’t check my spam file very often, simply because most comments that are flagged as spam, are spam.

      Hariod, thanks so much for taking the time to read, and share so personally. Meant a lot.

      With love and gratitude, in return. ❤

      Victoria

      • It was Akismet. I’ve never had that before, but had heard of others’ experiencing the same. It seems like you fetched this out of spam rather than Akismet or WP doing so. heaven knows how many of my comments have met a similar fate – I usually just hit ‘send’ and scarper, rather than looking to see whether the comment is actually posted.

        Anyway, yes, I’ve seen plenty pass away in my lifetime, my own parents included, but it was only when my grandson Alfie died that I felt grief in all its force. I think a big part of that was because I was grieving for his parents too. And on Christians at such times, then their attempted words of comfort can sometimes be far from that. When we buried Alfie, a Christian came up to his mother a few days after and said, “he’s in a better place now”. Alfie’s mother, not being religious, was utterly devastated, because to her, where her son was, was decomposing in a box in the graveyard. That isn’t a better place. So fucking insensitive! [Apologies for my language, I feel emotional when I recall that.]

        Gotta dash – back shortly – something’s cropped up. H ❤

        • Apologies – back again.

          Yes, Andrew Solomon’s book is impressive, and I mentioned it purely because of a remark you made to Brent about depression. Solomon was nominated and became a Pulitzer finalist for it.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Noonday_Demon

          Back to the grieving just for a moment, then one thing I noticed was the deep subconscious weight of it, betrayed by heavy sighs. On a conscious level, I would appear to be okay, perhaps whilst relaxing in a bath, or wandering in the garden, or waiting for the kettle to boil – there were no conscious thoughts of Alfie, or his parents, or memories of the delivery suite, or my own position in it all. And yet, every now and again a deep, guttural sigh would emit, and it was perfectly obvious it was an expression of grief – like the body expelling noxious fumes, or something.

          The other thing was how the conscious grief came in great waves, overwhelming waves, only to subside and then for things to be okay: tolerable, at least. I found the best thing to do was to go along with whatever there was, to absorb into it, to feel it fully, and never to distract myself from it. I think distraction only leads to prolonging the process, and wonder if you might agree from your own experience? There’s a fine line to walk though, between indulgence and the ‘absorbing into it’ business, and I think I was only able to navigate it due to my meditative training over three decades.

          Actually, and this will sound crazy as hell, there was a contentedness still throughout it all. I mean that in the sense that I didn’t reject things that cropped up; I didn’t want them to be any different, even though I was in the midst of something awful. That helped me a lot. I can use the word ‘contentedness’, because I think it’s another term for acceptance (too clichéd). It’s not anything to do with happiness, other than that happiness can occur within it. All this said, then we each respond differently, dependent upon conditioning, and I certainly don’t believe forms of awareness training like meditation can be cure-all’s or palliatives for many.

          H ❤

          • ““Depression is the flaw in love. To be creatures who love, we must be creatures who can despair at what we lose, and depression is the mechanism of that despair.”

            ― Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

            “I can see the beauty of glass objects fully at the moment when they slip from my hand”

            ― Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

          • You wrote:

            “The other thing was how the conscious grief came in great waves, overwhelming waves, only to subside and then for things to be okay: tolerable, at least. I found the best thing to do was to go along with whatever there was, to absorb into it, to feel it fully, and never to distract myself from it. I think distraction only leads to prolonging the process, and wonder if you might agree from your own experience?”

            Yes, H, I do agree, based on my own experience. I think Andrew Solomon would agree, too, based on what little I’ve read from him today.

            You wrote:

            “Actually, and this will sound crazy as hell, there was a contentedness still throughout it all. I mean that in the sense that I didn’t reject things that cropped up; I didn’t want them to be any different, even though I was in the midst of something awful. That helped me a lot. I can use the word ‘contentedness’, because I think it’s another term for acceptance (too clichéd). It’s not anything to do with happiness, other than that happiness can occur within it.”

            I don’t think it was crazy at all. It was an effective coping skill for you.

            You wrote:

            “There’s a fine line to walk though, between indulgence and the ‘absorbing into it’ business, and I think I was only able to navigate it due to my meditative training over three decades.”

            I agree that there’s a fine line. What helped me get through it was my curiosity and thirst for understanding. Research and blogging became, and still is in many respects, cathartic. It wasn’t until several years after I deconverted, that I was able to be — to feel fully — to be fully human.

            Ƹ̴Ӂ̴Ʒ

              • Yes it is Hariod. I have an account with photobucket, and yesterday it was down. Here’s what I had originally intended to post in my reply yesterday.

                Notice the heart on the left wing? 🙂

                That butterfly has much meaning to me. That meaning has become more meaningful, now that I know that butterflies are a symbol for Alfie.

                • Just lovely! 🙂 When Alfie died, a Peacock (I think) butterfly kept finding its way into my living room. I’d let it out, and it would reappear the next day. It happened three or four times, though whether it was the same butterfly, I of course don’t know. I’ve been in this place for 10 years, but only on those three or four occasions has a butterfly ever entered the house. On the final occasion when I released it, I watched it fly off to the North, into the sightless beyond. 🙂

  15. “Yet just saying that my partner committed suicide, and leaving out the details, diminishes the horrors people face everyday due to a lack of public awareness about the enormous harm caused by superstitious beliefs in mainstream religion.” – I think this is so important, and the fact that you have taken this horror and the pain that ensued and are writing about it in order to help others is a very beautiful and kind thing to do. It’s impossible to read this post and the comments without welling up I find, and that’s just as it should be. x ❤

    – esme.u.t.C

  16. I am so sorry for what you went through. I am sorry for what your husband suffered. I simply can not imagine the pain and suffering you went through. You are a far stronger person than I am. I send you my best wishes and strongest positive thoughts. Many warm hugs

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