How Spiritual Abuse Became a Living Nightmare Through a Psychotic Break, Part 4

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

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 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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When it hurts too much to tell the church

Somewhere along the way we get to this place of comfort and assurance in our Christian lives where people finally accept us without judgment, then a storm comes and we suddenly find ourselves too afraid to come to the church for support. What we all misunderstand from time to time is that we aren’t alone. Our churches are full of people wrestling with this same problem. Add to that the problems we’re already facing and we end up feeling lost, isolated, alone, condemned, defeated, and helpless.

If the churches had a real down to earth confession time we’d see that we aren’t the only ones who are facing very complex issues within our families, neighborhoods, and work places. Everyone is suffering from some kind of issue and it could be within themselves, with a spouse, a child, a sibling of their own, or their own parents.

What we shouldn’t be doing is living in fear of being authentic people. How can friends learn to trust each other with their heartaches?

The short answer is by being people of grace. Yet, this is not as easy as it sounds.

As soon as you let people know you understand complex issues by name, some people automatically assume you agree with those issues. Being an understanding person doesn’t mean you agree with what you’re understanding. To refuse to hear people out and insist you don’t need to understand them is not how you establish your own personal boundary. You only end up closing people off when they need you most.

memories by sisterlisa, on Pix-O-Sphere

Christians face adultery, homosexuality, legalism, abuse, addiction, debt, gluttony, anorexia, abortion, and all sorts of other things. Just because Christians belong to a church doesn’t mean they are without their own dysfunction. We’re all fallible.

Some say Jesus came to show us how to be perfect, but I argue that Jesus came to show us how to be human. He didn’t ask us to relate to him, he came in human form to relate to us. Jesus showed us how to be angry, stand up for injustice, how to be in the presence of gluttons, tax collectors, and harlots. He showed us how to love, how to extend grace, and how to cry. He didn’t puff himself up as an idol to say, “Look at me, I’m so perfect. You need to be just like me, perfect in every way.” Not at all. He came to show us that we are just as we were created to be, human. Any amount of divinity that shines in our lives is a wonderful glimpse at who he is, but we are still humans.

I believe Jesus came to say, “it’s ok to be human” and any fallibility we see in ourselves is balanced out because of his grace. We suffer in this life, but he embraces us in that suffering. We face temptation in this world, but he never leaves us nor forsakes us.

I don’t expect a congregation to replace Jesus in our lives. I don’t expect them to perfectly extend grace, just let people know God does. I have hope that congregations can grow up more and learn to understand others. Even though we have Jesus, we still need one another.

We need Jesus-with-skin-on, a human Jesus. Maybe we can practice hiding our condemnation so people don’t have to feel like they need to hide their humanity.

Linked up to “Life UnMasked” at Joy in this Journey


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Encourage and Empower Yourself in the Lord

Have you ever been in a situation when the person you crossed paths with seemed to suck the life and joy right out of you? My daughter and I quietly refer to them as emotional vampires. It’s very possible they have been spiritually, emotionally, and mentally neglected for a long time, but nonetheless be on guard.

I firmly believe that people carry energy. It’s scientifically proven by the positive energy our bodies create through the life source we have in the flowing blood under our skin. When we rub our hands together quickly, creating friction, we create warmth between our hands. This is positive energy. It’s also been proven psychologically when Dr. Henry H. Goddard conducted an experiment with how children behaved based on giving them words of praise versus condemnation. Giving authentic praise feeds people with energy which can inspire them to rise to a higher level of happiness and joy. In turn they may end up giving positive energy to others too. It’s like a domino effect.

There’s really only so much we can do to build people up and when they continue in that ‘vampire’ mode they are dependent on stimuli to make them stay happy or they simply just love misery. This isn’t a healthy relationship for us. We have the freedom to walk away from relationships that are draining. We can send a postcard or email from time to time to let them know we’re thinking of them, but they need to find that inward place of joy that will carry them through even if no one is around to lift them up.

1 Samuel 30:6 “And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.” ESV

Every person ends up having a day that doesn’t seem to get any better. We need to learn to encourage ourselves in the Lord.

Cup o' Tea by bevland, on Pix-O-Sphere

Our identity is in Christ. We are hid in God, like a cleft in the rock. He is a strong tower and we run into it and are safe. No matter what, our souls are in his safe and tender care. As nice as it is to hear what a good housekeeper or parent we are, on those days when no one gives us any appreciation or affirmation, we can always rest in God’s truth about us. We are loved and valued in his sight.

There’s alsways those ‘times of the month’ that make us feel especially down. These are the days we need to spoil ourselves rotten. Don’t be afraid to take care of YOU. Get up and make your coffee in your favorite coffee cup. Be prepared to do the following for yourself;

  • Take a long hot shower with your favorite body wash.
  • Get dressed up, including shoes.
  • Fix your hair and put makeup on.
  • Put on some sparkly jewelry.
  • Get your coffee and read a book, your bible, or even Facebook. Whatever makes you happy.
  • Have a few Identity Verse Cards readily available. Create memory verse cards about your identity in Christ. Pick the verses that affirm God’s love for you. Write them down on 3×5 cards and keep them in a pretty envelope or box near your bible. Read them to yourself, out loud!
  • Write yourself a love letter and include quotes or bible verses to reinforce your faith in yourself. It’s okay to believe in yourself, God does. Light your favorite candle and read the letter outloud to yourself. Lay claim on the abundant life you will live that day. Read the letter boldly. You are a Victor.

“I am deeply loved and have great value in the Kingdom. Today I’m going to live like the princess I am and proclaim love to the world around me. In turn I will feel good about myself, because I have a giving spirit.”

The candle is for a focal point and lighting the flame is a symbol of God’s all encompassing love and purification.

These are simple and affordable ways to lift ourselves up so we can be an encouragement to those around us.

I hope this has been an encouragement to you. Live life empowered!



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