Abuse & Dysfunction To Freedom

I grew up with a very controlling father. He was always emotionally distant and unavailable, a workaholic. He couldn’t get close to anyone, not even his wife and children. If a child is afraid in the middle of the night, they usually go running to their parents for comfort. Well, that didn’t happen in our house. The few times I tried that, my father would tell me, “Get back in your room, or I’ll put a lock on the outside of your door to make sure you stay there.” I learned at a young age that fear and pain were things I had to deal with alone. Everything in our house had to be done his way, or else it was wrong. If something wasn’t perfect, it was unacceptable.

In spite of my father, I always thought I was a pretty normal child up until I started school. Now I know that my problems probably started long before I ever got to school. But as soon as I started school I quickly discovered that something was very wrong. In first grade, when all of the other kids began to learn how to read, I began to struggle. It seemed so easy for them, but I just wasn’t getting it. In second grade the gap between their reading ability and mine became even more obvious, at least to me, and I began to notice another problem. When I tried to write I couldn’t tell which way the letters should go; I always seemed to get them backwards. I struggled with almost every single letter of the alphabet. I could write them facing both ways side by side, and I couldn’t tell which one was right. And then there was spelling… but I was so ashamed that I didn’t tell anyone. In third grade when the other kids were learning the multiplication tables, I struggled with that too. I just couldn’t remember them. I would go over them again and again, but it just wouldn’t stay in my mind. I could have it down cold one day, and then a few hours later, it would be gone, all of it, just gone. However, this teacher noticed that something was wrong, and she advised my parents to take me to a doctor.

After some tests that were pretty scary for a young child, they told me that I had dyslexia, and that I would never learn the way other kids learned. I was also diagnosed with ADHD, but back in 1968 they didn’t call it ADHD, they called it “Minimal Brain Dysfunction.” Imagine a nine year old child sitting in the back of the room while the doctor explained that to her parents. They weren’t talking to me; they were talking about me as though I wasn’t even in the room. To my nine year old mind, “brain dysfunction,” be it minimal or otherwise, meant that I was retarded, and there was nothing that anyone could say to convince me otherwise. After all, I had all the proof I needed every single day when I went to school. I was actually a smart little girl but I didn’t know it at the time, and it would be many, many years before I ever thought of myself as anything other than a complete idiot.

My father suddenly had a daughter with a serious problem, and that was difficult for him to deal with because of his desire for a perfect and orderly world. He was already very critical of me, but now I was truly flawed, and I felt his disapproval very acutely every day. I had become “the defective child.” He would tell me at length about everything that was wrong with me, over and over all the time, but he never told me I did a good job, not ever. I felt like nothing I did was ever good enough. Never once did I hear the words I so desperately longed to hear from him, “I’m proud of you,” and so I spent my entire life trying to be perfect so he would love me, but I always failed. I grew up believing I just wasn’t good enough to be loved.

We moved the summer I was diagnosed with dyslexia, so when I entered the fourth grade I was in a new school. I didn’t know anyone. I had no friends. Fear entered my life that year, fear like I had never known before. My greatest fear was that other people would find out how stupid I was. I was convinced that if I talked to people it would immediately be obvious to everyone, and then they would all know. So I began to withdraw, I stopped talking and interacting with people almost completely. In fact I rarely spoke outside of my own house for the rest of my childhood and most of my twenties, and I’ve battled a painful shyness ever since.

School became the most miserable experience of my life. I was so shy and withdrawn that I was rejected by other kids. They were vicious and cruel, and I took it all in stoic silence. I cried a lot when I was a child, but I always cried alone. I thought it was just another weakness inside of me, and I didn’t want anyone else to see it. I felt different, I felt stupid, and I was always afraid of what other people thought of me. I started withdrawing from people so they wouldn’t find out about my dyslexia, but soon I was withdrawing to protect myself from their cruelty and rejection. In Junior High I had had enough, and when a girl mouthed off to me in gym class one day, I punched her in the face. I got detention at school and was grounded for a month at home, but it was worth it, because I never got picked on again. I struggled onward through school, and it was a miserable ordeal all the way. When I finally graduated from high school I still couldn’t read. I went on to college because it was expected, but in the middle of my first semester I realized that I wouldn’t be able “fake it” in college without being able to read, like I had done in high school, so I quit, without telling my father why. You can imagine his reaction, but I thought it was better for him to think of me as lazy rather than stupid, and so I never told him the truth. I felt completely worthless and unlovable.

My mother always loved me, but a child’s sense of value and self-esteem comes from their relationship with their father. The things I learned from my father were, that there was something fundamentally wrong with me, that I couldn’t do anything right, and that I just wasn’t good enough. When you come from a dysfunctional home, you can feel like you don’t deserve to be treated right, so you end up taking whatever affection you can get, and that is what happened to me. I got involved with drugs and alcohol, and I only seemed to attract abusive men.

One night when I was at a particularly low point in my life, I cried out to God. I was living in a van with an abusive alcoholic biker. It was November, and we were in the Colorado Mountains with no place to get out of the cold. I prayed, “Oh God, my life’s a mess and I don’t know what to do, please help me.” The very next day he answered that prayer. He sent some Christians to witness to me and I got saved. I began to learn that God loved me and that he wanted a better life for me. I was twenty three years old and I finally learned to read, but because of all those unresolved issues from my childhood, I could never get those things I was reading about in the Bible to manifest in my life. The idea of a loving father was a difficult concept for me, so I had a hard time thinking of God as a loving father. Unconditional love was something I had never experienced before, so I guess I just didn’t believe that such a thing was really possible. I finally left the biker, only to end up marrying a man a few years later who turned out to be an abuser also. When my marriage ended in divorce I was so hurt and wounded that I didn’t want anything to do with men ever again. I hated men, and it was several years before I even considered the possibility that perhaps not all men were selfish scumbags. During that time I learned more about God, and my life finally started getting better, but only to a point. It was like hitting a wall that I just couldn’t get past. I had learned a lot of Bible and a lot of Godly principles, but my relationships with people were always stiff and strained. I couldn’t relax with people, I still couldn’t trust them.

I was struggling with some physical problems when my pastor suggested I come to the deliverance meetings, so I came not having a clue what to expect. The first night I came I cried through the entire mass deliverance. Paul always says that it’s designed to stir up the areas where you have unresolved issues that need to be dealt with. Well, almost everything he said stirred up something inside of me. I was the last person he prayed for that night, but little else happened that first night. Paul explained all about multiple personalities to me. He explained how when someone experiences trauma as a child, like rejection or abuse, that a part of the personality can split off to contain that pain, so the child can survive and continue to function. We call those parts of the personality, “alters.” He said it was a God given coping mechanism for children. He explained how demons enter through the trauma and abuse, and that they build strongholds around those areas of pain. He explained to me how we had to deal with those traumatized parts on the inside of me, how the demons’ legal rights to be there were hidden in those alters, and that once we took away those legal rights and brought healing to those alters, then the demons would be a lot easier to get rid of.

I listened to everything Paul had to say that night. I believed in demons, and I knew that they were responsible for the recurring problems in my life, but I really struggled with the whole concept of Multiple Personality Disorder. The last “disorder” that was diagnosed in my life was dyslexia, and that had ruined my life. I just didn’t want to believe that I had this kind of a problem. But I came back the next week, and I watched. I watched as Paul talked to different personalities in one person, then another, and another, all night long. I learned very quickly that this was something real, and then I had to admit that I was a classic case. This was the key to my deliverance, and I wanted it, but something still held me back... I was afraid!  I didn’t know Paul back then. How could I trust him with the intimate details of all my painful past? How could I risk opening up and being hurt again? Every person I had ever let down my guard with, and trusted, had hurt me, and I had promised myself I would never take that risk again. But I kept coming back, I kept watching, and I kept listening. It was months before I finally got to the place where my desire to be free was bigger than my fear of being hurt. Then one day I asked Paul and Alma to pray with me, and I started to let all those hurting parts inside of me come up to the surface. We would deal with a few alters, and then we’d get rid of a few demons. Things would be better for a while, and then some more stuff would start to stir up, and we’d do it all again. Deliverance is a process. It’s like pealing an onion. You just keep going one layer at a time, until you finally get to the last one. So that’s what we did.

Now the pain from my past has been healed. I can watch a movie without some little thing triggering a surge of pain or anger that then comes crashing to the surface without warning. Now I can talk to people and open up with them, and I’m not afraid of being hurt. God has taken my mess, and turned it into my ministry. He has called me to help other people get free of the demons that are tormenting their lives. I want to encourage you, if you are hurting, if you have pain when you think about the things that happened in your past, and if you want to be free, you are in the right place. Don’t let it take you as long as it took me. Decide right now that you’re going to get free, and that you don’t care what it takes to do it. Don’t suppress the pain any longer. Let someone help you deal with the past, and get those demons out of there. This is the place to let that stuff come up. The day you let that stuff start coming up to the surface, is the day you’ll be on your way to freedom. I hope that for you, that day is today.