When our daughter’s living nightmare progressed into that first night with hysterical screams about pulling her eyes out, we were baffled at why this would emerge from a young lady with gorgeous blue eyes and a vibrant personality. Her entire young life has been filled with compliments about her stunning sky blue eyes from the waitresses at Apple Bee’s to the receptionists at the dentist office. This spunky girl who dances to her own music and invites others to enjoy life had suddenly become one of those teens. You know, the ones who get judged for not wearing just the right clothes.
As each hour passed she would reach out from her hospital bed and beg me to hold her hand, eyes barely opening. The tension in her room could suck the oxygen right out of your chest. We would gasp together then she would whisper, “breathe with me”. Deep and long, we would focus our energy on breathing steady…with intensity. With purpose. To stay alive.
While we knew her vitals were normal, her perspective was quite a different story. It wasn’t until several days later that she would retell what was happening in the chaotic world of her psychosis.
This THC induced psychosis from ‘medicinal marijuana’ prescribed by a doctor to alleviate anxiety and sleeplessness turned out to conjure up a week of insomnia and waking nightmares.
When we asked her why she tried to pull her eyes out, she held her breath. Tears filled her eyes as her memory went back to that night in the emergency room…”something in the Bible”. It was all she could say when she stumbled into uncontrollable sobbing.
Matthew 18:9 “And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.”
We held her close and caressed her back as she caught her tears in her cupped hands.
Two more days went by before she could search her mind for what she experienced from the bed in her cold hospital room. “The door kept opening and shutting”, she explained. But the door wasn’t closed. There was a curtain there. They wouldn’t let the door close because she was classified as a 5150. “I heard men’s voices, mom. I was afraid…”
“Afraid of what?” I asked.
“Rape. I was afraid men were going to come in and rape me. Here I was, a vulnerable girl in a bed just steps away from them.”
She further described the door she kept hearing…”the kind where you push the long bar and it makes that sound..you know what sound, mom.”
I asked, “Like an exit door in a large industrial building?”
“Yes” she said, “like the one at the church we used to go to”.
We discussed memories from church when the preacher and youth pastors would tell the girls that the “devil would have men steal your purity from you”. Only years later to find out a youth pastor and the church school’s basketball coach were both in the newspaper for molesting young teen girls from that same church.
Over a decade of nightmares imposed upon girls about keeping themselves pure and modest so they don’t get taken advantage of. Warnings about beauty and how it draws a man’s lustful desires into your lives.
The tellings from the wood pulpits, pounded with fists, about how some women bring it on themselves by how they dressed or acted. You know, those women…the ones who are just “a dime a dozen”.
At one time Monica lay still on that bed, holding my hand and began singing, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me…” By the end of the song she was sobbing again. I hugged her and kissed her forehead, “you’re okay” I whispered.
I took only a few breaks from the room so I could walk out to the car and cry. To use the restroom. To change my clothes and wash my face.
She goes on to describe how she felt when I came back into her room. The moment when I whispered, “I’m back”.
She was frightened and confused about those voices..the men she heard.
“Mom, were the men left behind and us women got to go to heaven?”
Another day later I asked her about these confusing statements and questions she had been asking me over the last few days.
She stood to her feet and extended her hand. I asked what she was doing and she sweetly explained, “Come with me mom. I know the way.”
I curiously inquired as I sat in the chair at the psych ward, “Where are we going?”
She nodded her head and piped up, “Heaven, mom! I’ll show you how to get there.”
I didn’t want to upset her by informing her that she was still in a psychosis so I played along, “Oh, you’re right, but we need to wait in line, Let’s sit for now and let others go first. A lot of people have been waiting longer than we have.”
She look confused, but sat with me and I changed the subject.
I just wanted to keep her *with me*. “Lets talk about what you had for dinner. You did eat dinner, right?”
Had I dared entered her psychosis with her, I wasn’t sure *where* we would end up. I didn’t want her to stay lost in that waking dream state.
Every day she would attempt to recall *where* she was, even though she had been laying in a hospital bed. She had *been* somewhere else. Somewhere…other.
It still took another few weeks of being at home to bring her back to earth. With her feet firmly planted on the ground she was finally able to venture into her experience without getting caught up in it again.
We talked about Jesus and God. We sorted out why we left that church and what we believe about Jesus now. I explained about what happened in AD70 and what 4 out of 6 of the early churches believed about Jesus saving all mankind…not just the ones who utter the “sinner’s prayer”.
Monica describes a memory from that psychosis involving her flesh being ripped from her arms and flapping back on with burning that wouldn’t stop.
Flesh that burns yet never consumes is a popular topic in the hell-fire-brimstone churches.
She was able to consciously remember how we studied about John Darby creating the whole “Left Behind” theory and how imaginative story tellers embellished upon that in the popular movie based on the book series. I reminded her that even C.H. Spurgeon said John Darby’s “rapture theory” was hogwash.
Besides all that, Jesus invites us to live by faith, not by fear.
Our mother-daughter talk included a firm understanding of how *some* men (not all men) do indeed have desires, but that they are drawn away by their OWN lust…not by us.
We’ve spent several weeks sorting through these things again and realizing how deeply embedded those church fears really were.
We met with her therapist and explained what our family had been through at the church and in the hospital.
This wise African woman so sweetly nodded and explained in her incredible accent , “but that’s not who the real Jesus is and that’s not how church is supposed to be.” I wish you could see this mature woman of God, this Sage of the Faith.
We agreed with her. She’s been so understanding and gentle with Monica. We further explained this all again to the psychiatrist.
“PTSD”, she said…not just with your experience at the hospital, but with the church too. We’ll work through that together.”
The first doctor at the ER had said this was his suspicion to begin with. “Drug induced psychosis”, he said, “sometimes a drug can open up unresolved issues.”
Who ever would have imagined that over a decade of church would come out like this?
Church was supposed to be a safe place from the world, but for Monica it was a place where fears of being raped and having her eyes plucked out had been embedded in the deepest parts of her mind and soul.
She still finds comfort in some of the music and she knows the Jesus who loves her, but this ‘other jesus’ still needs to be dealt with.
And so our journey, together as a family, continues.
The journey of rediscovering the love of God without the brainwashing. The walk of faith without the religion. The rebuilding of our future, of our lives, in the freedom Christ has given us. Freedom from the nightmares, a resurrection of new life.
Monica is continuing with her wellness journey with three compassionate doctors, with her family to support her, and she just got a new job which begins in March.
She acknowledges that nightmare for what it was and for what it is…a metaphor to tell her something old has been washed away and behold..all things have become new.
For me, as a mom…it crushes me that in whatever way it happened…”god” had been an abusive tyrant. Our family has discussed spiritual abuse at length many times since we left that church. I had felt that our kids were able to bounce back from it well and I figured I had the toughest time coming away from it. I had mistaken their journey as healed.
One never knows what it will take, how long it will take, or what will open those trenches back up again in order for a person to truly heal from it.
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