This is the last of my more detailed posts about the experiences that started my deconversion from Christianity. This experience happened just as I was beginning to question everything around me. It was one of the last nails I driven through God’s coffin.
I was raised believing the supernatural was all around me. I believed God and angels were present in my life, but nothing seemed more real to me than demons. Fear is a powerful emotion.
In elementary school I remember laying in bed at night and I would sometimes feel my bed shake. I would get scared and cry out to my dad and have him pray over every corner of the bedroom. He would tell me that I had more power than demons because I had Christ in my life and all I needed to do was tell them to leave in the name of Jesus. This would give me a little more comfort at night, but the fear was still there.
Throughout high school I was fascinated by ghost stories. I spent hours online at night reading about true ghost stories and looking up pictures and videos of what might be spirits caught on film. I wasn’t sure if ghosts were the spirits of those who have passed on or if they were demons deceiving us into believing they are ghost. I only knew that there was something else unseen outside of the physical realm. I enjoyed the mystery and even enjoyed the paranoia I’d feel at night, but I feared I may have been inviting demons into my life.
I was in junior high the first time I experienced a person who was supposedly demon possessed. I was at my friend’s birthday party when her mom all of a sudden changed into another person. She started acting like a 5 year old little girl. My friend’s and I didn’t know what was going on. We just assumed she was just being funny and embarrassing her daughter. My mom was at the party and called my dad, who is a pastor, to come to the house and help ease the situation. My dad came to the house and took her into the garage and prayed over her with my mom. Later, when I was older, I was told that my friend’s mother manifested a couple of other personalities in her garage as my dad prayed over her that night and even attacked my mom with a sharp object, cutting her arm. Over the years the story of that night was explained to me by my parents as an experience with a type of Multiple Personality Disorder and demon possession, interchangeably.
Being a pastor, my dad would always come across situations like this. When I was in high school the youth group he was in charge of would bring in a lot of goths and punks from the high schools in the area. I remember seeing kids I went to high school with start acting out in wild manners while being prayed for. One girl would rip off her cross necklace while my dad prayed for her. One boy would growl and start acting out in the middle of my dad leading a meeting. I would later find out that some of these kids were just messing around with the church kids and my dad. I’d tell my dad about it so he’d know not to take it serious, but there were other experiences that would go unexplained (usually behind the scenes) that ended up reinforcing his belief that some of these kids were actually being bothered by demons.
Before I go on any further I want to mention that my parents are both very loving and caring. I have a lot of respect and love for both of them, not only because they are my parents but because they are genuinely good people. They aren’t very educated in mental illness or psychology, though. So their worldview is very much influenced by their personal experiences and the people around them. Keep this in mind as I go on, because the rest of this story is a lot about them.
Do to childhood trauma and some bad experiences early in her adulthood, my mother has struggled with anxiety. She has been in and out of therapy for as long as I remember. For over 10 years she wasn’t able to drive, ride an escalator or even write out a check publicly, because she would go right into a panic attack, start shaking and freeze up. My mom was never really receptive to the therapy she got, so she would give up after awhile. In fact, the last therapist she went to found out she was a pastor’s wife, they started talking about church and he told her all she needed to do was give her problems to God. The money and time spent on that therapist went down the drain.
I was living with my parents during the time my faith in God was beginning to deteriorate. I tried to hold on to my faith, but it was quickly crumbling between my fingers. One night I got up to use the restroom and heard my mom in her room crying, moaning and making growling sounds while my dad prayed out loud. I knocked on their door to see if everything was alright. My dad opened the door and stepped out into the hallway as my mom continued to growl in the bedroom and explained to me what was going on. He said that for the last couple years at night my mom would sometimes start manifesting a spirit and that only a couple people knew about it. He asked me to come into their room and pray with him over her. This was the first time I saw my mom possessed by a demon.
My mom was under her blankets growling between begging us for help. I pulled the blankets over to see her face and she started gnashing her teeth and hissing at us. It was really unreal to see my mom in this way. She was like another person. We laid our hands on her and prayed in the name of Jesus. She would start freaking out and contorting her body as we prayed. We tried to get her to pray with us when she would become more aware, but she would start growling again. The next day my mom couldn’t remember what happened. I believed my mom might possessed.
The next several months while living with my parents I was exposed to my mom’s manifestations. It always happened at night and she’d wake up not remembering what happened. It was bizarre. One night, while my dad was out of town, I was getting ready for bed when my mom started pounding on my bedroom door begging for help. When I opened the door she all of a sudden changed and started growling at me. I began praying for her and the same thing would happen; she would continue growling while gnashing her teeth at me. I’d pray for angels to come into the house, but nothing would change. I’d start to wonder why it is my mom would never change when we prayed and calling for angels and Jesus to protect the house never showed any difference. I began wondering about mental illness at this point and started looking more into the psychology behind exorcism and demon possession.
What I learned from looking into more reasonable explanations behind demon possession and exorcism was that it wasn’t completely unknown to psychology. A lot of different personality disorders, like Dissociative Disorder and even Multiple Personality Disorder, sounded a lot like my mom. Her anxieties may have triggered it since it was never dealt with properly by her therapists, or she gave up to easily while seeing a therapist. I can’t diagnose my mom cause I’m not a psychiatrist, but all the signs lead up to some kind of mental disorder, not demon possession. Looking into exorcism I learned it’s very similar to hypnosis. I already knew the power of the placebo effect and the power of suggestion, because of my experience in faith healing, so it was easy for me to accept that exorcism was a practice in hypnosis. Again my faith in God was challenged and it eventually led me into atheism.
I brought all of this up to my dad hoping he would try to give her real help instead of prayer. But he brought up the last therapist who said all she needed to do was give her troubles to God, as if that was the last resort. Then he mentioned how he sometimes got attacked by demons at night, which I have already learned to be sleep paralysis after my own experiences. I mentioned everything I learned to my mom but the experiences she was having was so real and scary she couldn’t see it as being a mental disorder. She also mentioned that last therapist she saw. To them, if a professional can admit that it may be supernatural, then it must be true.
My mom eventually was exorcized by some well known Charismatic exorcist and hasn’t had an episode in 2 years. I no longer believe this whole experience was supernatural, so I just take this as a sign of how powerful suggestion and the placebo effect is. How the mind creates your personal reality is very strange.
Seeing how anxiety has tortured my mom when it was left untreated I fear that her “possessions” will return.