Christian PTSD observed
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by anonymous
April 17, 1974. Folly Beach, South Carolina

"The police were searching for a murderer in the quiet, little beach town. They found him inside my home.

I had just turned five years old when police and detectives bombarded our home and left with my father in handcuffs. I stood motionless and silent as he walked past me for the last time as a free man. I was paralyzed. I wasn't fearful or panicked. I didn't cry or even care. I was just - there.

I will never forget that day - the day the policemen came nor the brand new doll that I clutched in my arms. I had gotten her as a birthday gift just a few days before. Like me, she had blonde hair and blue eyes. She was perfect. It seemed that she was the only one aware of my presence. She was for me a friend, something tangible to hold onto while everything else around me melted away. I gripped her tightly as the men took my father from our home. His head was down. I couldn't see his face. I didn't wonder what he had done. In my mind, I only knew that they were taking him away.

And so it was. Without force or chaos, without emotion or fanfare, he walked out of my world that day and in just a few brief moments, my life and the life of my family had changed forever. He hadn't looked at me. He hadn't said good-bye. And I just stood there, completely still. He was gone.

I didn't wonder when he was coming home. I wasn't even mad at the police for taking him away. I wasn't angry at him for leaving me. A mind-numbing feeling had come over me. A partial amnesia about the events surrounding this time still persists, perhaps a sort of protection.

While I was not old enough to begin to understand the ramifications of my father's actions and the events leading up to his arrest, I immediately and instinctively knew enough to be ashamed. My mother, my two older brothers and I fled our home that same day crouched down in the floorboard of a friend's car. Threats of harm to our family and shame caused us to flee quickly and quietly. The neighbors, the onlookers and the reporters had gathered to catch a glimpse of the murderer and his family.

We were a Christian family. We had held prayer meetings in our home right across the street from where the murdered children had been found in the sand. We believed in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. How could this happen?

The accusations and gruesome truth were shocking to many. My father and his crimes were front-page news. I never contemplated his guilt or innocence. It was reality and it was done. It never occurred to me to ask him or my mother about the reasons he was taken away, but I had heard the murmurs and quiet whispers. I knew not to discuss such horrors. I kept it quiet, locked far away in the very deepest corner of my mind forgetting at times that the events had actually occurred. Despite my father's horrific crimes, my mother taught us to have faith in God that we would be brought through the devastation. It would be a very long journey.

As the years passed, I grew up visiting my father in a maximum-security prison. He had been spared the death penalty due to a legal technicality at the time of his trial. The shame and humiliation of being inside the prison walls was suffocating. There are no visitors in that place. When you're in, you're in and the walls squeeze you tight.

Years of guarded visitations persisted, but I never grew accustomed to visiting my father in a place surrounded by razor sharp barbed wire and weapon toting uniformed men watching from towers. Despite the routine, deep inside I still knew to be ashamed. Ashamed for myself, my family, and all of the other kids that went there to visit their dads too. I sometimes wondered what their fathers had done. A child killer. What could be worse than that -

For the first few years, I didn't consciously protect my secret, but I knew enough to never speak of it to others. I lied by omission. To the world, I was a cute little blond haired girl with big blue eyes and good grades. I liked it that way.

My shame continued to grow. Curious teachers even questioned me about my father and the murders for which he had been imprisoned. I grew tired of the questions and the association. Eventually, I began to lie, not by omission, but by pure denial of any relation to him.

I learned to bury the thoughts and memories of my father and his crimes in order to survive emotionally. Many holidays passed and I didn't so much as even think of him. He was tucked so very far away and the little girl that I had been was tucked away as well.

Over time, shame turned to anger. The pain brought on not only by my father's crimes, but also by the loss of him, began to manifest itself in many different ways. As impossible as it may seem, I don't only know my father as a murderer, but as a kind and gentle man with whom I had once felt very close. Perfectionism, obsessive behavior, overeating, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and rage were issues that I began to struggle with at a very young age.

On the exterior, I appeared to be a confident, well-adjusted good student. I was recognized for my scholastic achievements and took pride in them. However, the self-inflicted perfectionism and self-condemnation were lurking just below the surface. My grades, appearance and recognition became my only measure of self-worth. I began to obsess over food. I often sat and thought of all of the good things I could eat even when I had just eaten and was absolutely not hungry - in my stomach. No matter how much I ate, I could not fill the void in my life. Proving that I was "good enough" and trying to overcome the stigma that I felt became a driving force in my life. While this drive did propel me forward in some areas, the intensity with which I was driving myself would later prove to be a very destructive force.

I began hearing voices, whispers and laughter shortly after my father's arrest. It was terrifying, yet I told no one. I didn't think I was imagining them, I knew that I was not. Even at that very young age, I knew that the forces of darkness were at work, though I had not yet assigned them a name. At times, I could sense a darkness, a sort of heaviness in the room, a presence that was almost tangible, yet not quite visible to me. Other times, I would see a flash of something skitter by in a room or in a hallway. I tried to dismiss these feelings and sightings, yet I felt in my spirit that there was something very sinister lurking. I battled the fear, plugged my ears tightly and sang Christian songs in an effort to block out the taunting voices and laughter. Still I remained silent.

I began fearing that I was mentally ill while still in junior high school. The voices, the laughter, the evil presence continued to torment me, but I was still functioning. It was revealed during my father's trial that his mother suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. His attorneys attempted to use this information as a defense citing that her actions and abuse of my father as a child had contributed to his murderous and sexually deviant behavior. I was afraid that perhaps I had inherited this frightening illness. But deep inside I knew that there was more to it than that, something spiritual that I was too young to understand.

Growing up, my mother often read the Bible to me and told me about spiritual warfare. I learned that she too had similar, yet more intense, spiritual attacks. Could it be a coincidence? She had not planted these thoughts in my head. I began experiencing these events before she ever began discussing these issues with me. I became aware of and understood more about spiritual warfare. The Word tells us, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Ephesians 6:12. It was a relief to finally have an understanding of what was going on. I was not going crazy. There was a battle being waged. A battle for me, and the attack was on my mind. Despite this recognition, the battle waged on in many different arenas.

The voices eventually subsided, but the rage inside of me continued to grow and I began to lash out physically at those around me. I was an oxymoron. I, the Honor Society, Spanish Club Treasurer and Student Council representative, found myself in the dean's office for fighting on more than one occasion. The rage proved to be a benefit in these situations as I was merciless with my opponents. One day in high school, I arrived home from school to find my mother holding two letters that she had received from the Duval County Public School Board. The first congratulated me for making the honor roll again. The second informed her that I had been suspended for fighting - again. Two seemingly incongruent letters were actually a very clear definition of the person I was inside. Hard working and determined, yet filled with an inconsolable rage that once unleashed, was difficult to control. It would not be the last time my mother would receive letters like these. Rage and self-loathing continued.

I continued my lie of a life, my denial of who I was, until well into my twenties. I covered the lies with layer upon layer of hate and anger, with food, men and pain. Constantly searching for something or someone to fill the gaping hole. Searching for some way to prove to myself that I was worth loving. I knew that God loved me, but I didn't "feel" it. I covered my fear. I was a raging bull, determined to run over anything or anyone in my path that threatened to hurt me.

It wasn't until I received a tattered cardboard box from my mother in 1995 that the layers began to peel back and the hate, anger, food, men and pain could no longer cover the lies. The box itself would not serve to remove these self-destructive feelings and behaviors, but it would serve as a catalyst to face the source of them.

The box contained newspaper clippings, mom's personal notes and letters from my dad and court transcripts detailing the unspeakable crimes my father committed. I struggled with the information within. Throughout my years growing up, I knew that my father had attacked and murdered several young women and girls. I had caught blurbs of information and fragments of stories, but I never had a grasp on what actually happened. I had not attached myself to the personal stories of the victims and their families. It was simply too much. At times, I would lie in bed at night and imagine their grief and pray for them. I felt such overwhelming sadness for them. And with those feelings came the guilt that I would soon be drifting off into a sleep, however nightmare filled, while the victims' families lay empty in their own beds, without their children, without their smell, without their laughter, left only with their tears.

When I opened the box for the first time, the reality of my father's crimes gripped my throat. Looking at the newspaper clippings, I saw the faces of three young girls my father brutally murdered. They would never again be anonymous or faceless to me. Their faces and the related headlines became etched in my memory. It was all there in black and white. They, more than ever, became a part of who I am. Tears stung my eyes as I sank into a lawn chair on my mother's front porch. Guilt ridden and shameful, I sat alone with the box and a burden I felt I could not bear.

This worn and tattered box would follow me for several years to be opened only for brief glimpses into my past. It would be closed up quickly and shoved back to some closet corner or under a bed until such a time that I could muster the courage and energy to face its contents once again. I believed that inside the box were answers to my questions. How? Why? I hoped that I would find some resolution. But I found no answers inside that box, only more questions.

Many years, a marriage, a child and a divorce had passed when I finally felt that I had gotten my life on track. Little did I know that the issues that I had struggled with as a child continued to fester. I was still a Christian, but not a committed one. I believed in God, but didn't spend nearly enough time with Him. I didn't go to church. I had given up on them and the people inside of them. They offered no solace to me. I convinced myself that church was not only unnecessary, but literally a source of more pain. And I definitely didn't know enough of the Word to combat the issues at hand.

Still angry and full of bitterness, I kept charging forward towards an unknown place - an unknown goal. I kept running, afraid to stop, afraid of hearing the voices that would tell me of my uselessness, my ugliness, my failures. I was afraid that I might not be able to get moving again, afraid of drowning in the muck and mire of life. So I kept running."

Telling her to "shape up" would have added insult to injury.  She couldn't shape up on her own strength, even if it was for God. Sanctification was out of reach no matter how hard she tried. She could pray for God to help her, to keep her from blowing up or feeling ashamed.  But the prayers wouldn't be answered.

The problem was there were personas or even full alternate personalities way down within her, doing their own thing.  They aren't Christian. They are separated from the main personality.  The more traumas that get stacked on this girl, the more they are stuffed down into the land of alternates.  They can end up so big and so many, they out vote the main personality if a big reminder of the traumas comes up.  They can independently collect demons for support, comfort and friendship.  The demons won't remain gone if they are cast out.

If she succeeds in stifling them, they go down from the amygdala to the next level - the nervous system itself.  They can still express themselves through nerve pains. The pains go by numerous names.

She couldn't reason with these personas and personalities; they had a job to do in keeping the main personality from getting crushed.  Only God could get her out of this mess.  God working through His children.  Here's how God can be called in, to do the job.

last edited: April 19, 2017