The “deja vu”, as I termed it, began creeping over me again. Each time it happened, I tried to fight it off, as if it were a war waged within my mind.
I knew that I only had a short time to get away from people before they would notice something wasn’t right. I’d usually escape to the bathroom and lock the door, where the throes of this thing could overtake, and I could return to normal as if nothing ever happened.
It was usually the same process, waves of deja vu, followed by the feeling that a blender had been switched on in my brain, severe confusion, sometimes vomiting, and then periods of lethargy.
At the age of 30, I was formally diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy, the reason for the deja vu, called “auras”, commonly associated with seizures.
My parents decided that when I was about two, I had been cursed by a witch, and that I was demon possessed. I was told this story repeatedly throughout my life, and accordingly, I believed it.
I had many sensory issues, which included auditory and tactile, and disliked being touched by most but my mother. I reportedly screamed from the age of three months to three years old, and was branded the naughtiest of children. I was raised with harsh corporal punishment, and sent for exorcisms on at least four occasions to try and expel the demons I was told lived within me.
They told me the exorcisms were unsuccessful. Being told that I had demons inside of me, and the actual experience of undergoing exorcism, was completely damaging both mentally and emotionally.
At around the age of 12, I started noticing irregularities within the Christian doctrine, and began doubting if I was actually inhabited by these so-called demons, after all. My parents and I would have huge arguments, which would end with them kicking me out on to the streets.
By the age of 13, I was living independently from my parents, and had cast off the idea that I was possessed at all.
Since then, I have lived mostly independently of my parents. I have suffered hardships and abuse as a result of having a lack of self-esteem.
I have had to to rebuild a sense of self from the ground up, as I was given nothing but a sense that I was a burdensome child, full of demons that refused to bow down to the name of Jesus. We had always been taught that the name of Jesus was so powerful that demons would tremble at the sound. Seemingly not in my case.
Luckily I met some wonderful mentors who gave me love and guidance, and have helped me realise that it was my parent’s lack of insight that was the problem, not anything wrong with me.
For many years I still tried to please my parents, by getting married, by trying to succeed in different ways, but I eventually realised that I could never please them. Eventually I stopped harming myself by having contact, and cut ties.
It has been the best thing I have ever done for myself. I have stopped waiting for the birthday cards that never arrive, the apology that will never come. I have forgiven without it.
My children ask me why my parents did this to me, and I can’t explain it. I don’t even think it matters. It happened, what matters is what we learn from it. Perhaps in this context it will open up conversations about similar things that happened for other people that they have felt too ashamed to talk about. I’m busting that closet right open as I feel that shame is not mine to bear.
I feel that in many instances exorcisms are outright abusive in nature, when performed on people who cannot, because of age, or other incapacity, give proper consent.
The message that the practice sends children is that they are flawed, inadequate, and that there is evil inside them, and it threatens their sense of safety. Each child has the right to feel loved, whole and safe.
I feel lucky that I didn’t die in the bathroom on my own from one of my seizures as a child for fear that my parents would blame the devil for my strange behaviour. I am lucky I have a family of my own now. I am lucky that I have managed to find great mentors. I am lucky that I have escaped from the mindset of my parents. In so many ways, things could have been worse.