Letter From a “Demon Possessed” Woman

It’s interesting how certain patterns emerge in our lives sometimes. Part of it, I expect, has more to do with awareness than actual coincidence, like when I start seeing blue Pruises (Prii?) everywhere after buying one.

Yesterday I got a book in the mail called Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment by Janet Heimlich. And a couple of days before that I got an email through my website, which I’ll share in a minute.

A while back I wrote a few pieces about my son, Mattias, who is dealing with Asperger Syndrome. The first was about when we told him about his special condition, and the second was about the less enjoyable side of Aspergers: the meltdowns. Third was one about his tendency to obsess his way into an emotional knot.

More than just telling the story of a rather remarkable kid, I try with these pieces to work through how to deal with such challenges, and hopefully, how to find God in the middle of it all. I think that both those affected by special needs and those who care for them need the assurance that they’re not the only ones, and I know I always find encouragement from letters I get from folks who appreciate what I’ve shared.

Sarah’s letter, however, was the hardest yet to read. I’ll call her Sarah out of respect for her confidentiality, though I did get her permission to share her note. She wrote me after the series of articles above published. Her story is heartbreaking.

She wrote:

Hi Christian

I read your articles on Sojourners with interest. I really liked how you linked your son’s experiences to how people do not like to take anything for free. It was very thought provoking.

I am contacting you because I am a Christian who has Aspergers Syndrome (AS), like your son. I can relate to his tantrums and the other things you mention about him, like his mood swings. I also have ADHD and Bipolar Disorder. If you need an insider’s view to help you understand your son, I can give that to you. I have a lot of articles I’ve written about my experiences and lessons I’ve learnt with AS. I also do public speaking about it.

I have one problem though. My parents don’t understand me and my mother says Aspergers is not biological but simply a curse from Satan. She says that if I try using coping mechanisms to deal with my symptoms, I am giving the curse a right to stay in me. She thinks I can get rid of AS overnight by rebuking it and going for deliverance. She thinks I’m not doing that enough and hence it’s my fault I still have AS. I do not agree. I’ve been through a lot of deliverance and I do not feel opressed by demonic power anymore. I am now free. I have learnt to accept myself and my AS. But my mother doesn’t like me accepting AS in my life.

If I get angry at her because she won’t listen to what I say about AS, she thinks I am manifesting a demon and she refuses to listen to me at all. She insists on praying in tongues and totally ignoring me. That hurts me.

God bless

I wrote back with this response:

Dear Sarah:

Thanks so much for your email. My heart breaks a little in reading your story, but I do hope that in sharing it you find some hope for healing.

All I can say is that you are not cursed. You are not a mistake. You are a beloved gift from God to the world, whether people in your family or others can see it or not. As the father of a child with Asperger Syndrome, I can understand why it can be hard to act lovingly toward a child with these challenges at all times, but that does not mean you are bad, unworthy of love or any less a child of God than anyone else.

Prayers especially for your family to see the Divine in you, as I am certain it is there.

Thanks again, and blessings in your journey.

Talk about religious abuse.We have to do better than this in serving those among us with special needs. Yes, it’s hard to have a kid like mine in church sometimes, and we’re not naturally set up to accommodate folks who don’t understand and follow “the rules.” But Jesus was found among the afflicted, so if we’re to be like him, there is no other option.

Prayers for Sarah, for her mother, and for the church that has convinced her that treating her daughter this way is God’s will. Love is bigger than all the hurt, but it doesn’t insist itself; it has to be welcomed in.

About Christian Piatt

Christian Piatt is the creator and editor of BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE and BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS. He co-created and co-edits the “WTF: Where’s the Faith?” young adult series with Chalice Press, and he has a memoir on faith, family and parenting being published in early 2012 called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date.

  • Erin

    Dear Sarah and Christian,
    I, too, am a female with AS. My parents, thankfully, never saw me as different until the shut downs and stimming became so bad that depression and isolation affected my entire life in my teens. Even then, only pills to control the depression which never worked.

    As an adult and away from some good support systems in another city, well-intentioned church women told me I needed to be delivered from demons. At the time, I believed them. Everything I experienced — in myself and the world around me — pointed towards possession, or at the very least, oppression. God can’t tolerate that in our relationship with Him, I was told. It would be better for me afterwards, I was told. I was so desperate for human contact that I believed them.

    They took me through what I call now an “evangelical exorcism” – Neil Anderson’s Bondage Breaker and Victory Over the Darkness. Lots of praying against evil, lots of laying on of hands, lots of descriptive stuff about my darkest evils. I’m sure Dr.Anderson has some valid stuff to offer… I just couldn’t figure out why the process felt so wrong and terrifying, and why it didn’t “work” afterwards. But they wouldn’t let me quit. Yet they were the only ones who reached out, and in my world that meant they were the only safe ones. It was tragic.

    However, recently I’ve been told there’s no such thing as deliverance ministries anyway, whatever our denomination. And mental health labels are really just ways for believers to be stuck on themselves — that’s why we go to therapists. Mental health issues are really just unconfessed sin.

    I wonder if pastors would reconsider that stand if they saw the lengths people go to for the sin to “go away”. 2 months of ECT 3x/week… it’s still very hard to talk about, unless someone really knows the ins and outs of ECT. Again… didn’t work, except to remove parts of my memory.

    I believe demons exist. I’ve seen them. They’ve touched me. But I have yet to meet someone who believes me, while also believing that there are ways to be free from oppression without spiritual abuse. Ironically, it is more difficult to find people who see AS as something valid, and potentially world-changing. “It’s sin, really,” says the pastor. “You’re broken. Don’t blame demons, don’t accept worldly labels. Become who you are in Christ.”

    What if I have?

    Thanks for your bravery… both of you, and Matthias.
    Erin

  • Kat Walker

    I have a severely autistic brother who just recently entered his 20′s (he doesn’t have Asperger’s; he’s closer to the lower-functioning end of the spectrum), so my family and I are well-acquainted with the stress of caring for a special needs adult.  With his growing size and strength, his frequent tantrums have become harder to control and legitimately scary  - he’s gotten in trouble with the police twice in the span of a few weeks and is not responding well to therapy.  I wish there were more support and resources for us, but there are few in the secular world and even less from the church.

    I fume at the amount of ignorance the general public has towards autistic people, never mind the intolerance many Christians have expressed when they find themselves having to deal with neuro-atypical folks.  

    My late paternal grandfather (a dyed-in-the-wool calvinist presbyterian preacher) called my mother on the phone after hearing about my brother’s diagnosis and blamed her “sinfulness” for his condition.  He disowned my brother and considered my parent’s marriage to be cursed by God.  Upon learning about that only recently (quite a few years after his passing), my image of him as a decent human being was completely shattered – which is tragic, because he had an idyllic relationship with me, my sister, and the rest of our cousins when I was growing up.  My mom and dad had a lot of TRUE Christian love to forgive him and allow his reputation among his other grandkids to go unsullied for the rest of his life, despite the fact that he’d readily deny any one of us for the sake of his reputation.

    Even a Seventh-day Adventist Christian friend of mine, while at least being educated enough to understand that psychological issues are not caused by demon possession or God’s petty wrath, was quick to label her daughter with moderate behavior problems as “autistic” without any sort of legitimate medical diagnosis.  She fell victim to the fear-mongering pseudo science and blamed it on “vaccine poisoning” (naturally), and like many people was completely in denial of the reality that there is no cure-all for autism.  She tried whatever misguided but well-meaning recommendations she could find on the internet, be it vitamins, snake oil remedies, or making their family’s already strict vegetarian diet even more limited.  Anything but actually having to deal with her daughter as a person.I never pegged the kid as autistic at all.  Obnoxious and bratty at times, but not developmentally delayed.  There was no repetitive or restricted behavior, nor any significant problems with communication or social cues.  When she was in a good mood, she was generally very friendly and outgoing.  She could read emotions just fine (I’ve witnessed her try to cheer people up), and had a range of normal interests for an 11-year-old.  She didn’t really have extreme tantrums or meltdowns, either – she just talked back t0 her parents, had a selfish streak, was short tempered, sulked and complained when she didn’t get her way, and fought with her siblings.  

    At the risk of sounding judgmental (but I truly do empathize), I get the feeling that my Adventist friend was embarrassed and ashamed at the prospect of having a “problem child” making her look like a bad parent.  I can see why, especially in a conservative church environment where there is a big emphasis on homeschooling and how it produces obedient, well-behaved Christian offspring as long as you did your job right.  If your kids sass back, then the parents, especially mothers (who are expected to do most of the child-rearing), are blamed for not being a godly example.  I’m sure she faced pressure from her own parents, who are elders in the church and had a reputation to maintain – they seem to have a burden to prove to the world that the Adventist lifestyle is infallible (and ergo, the SDA church is the true church).  Maybe it was easier to assume that her daughter had a disorder than to question the church’s stance on child rearing and admit she needed to change her parenting tactics.
    With all the subtle and overt discrimination towards autistic people I see every day, it’s disheartening to hear that people fear it to the point where they’re willing to resort to archaic belief in demon possession to explain it.  I’m so sorry for Sarah and the many people out there who share the same struggle.  I will pray for her well-being and for her family to overcome their ignorance in favor of God’s perfect love.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christine-Ashton/682395281 Christine Ashton

      I have spent 3 decades in the Adventist church. Many of them believe in their lifestyle and diets so much, that they are a cure-all for everything. And truthfully, it isn’t. Yes, trying to have healthy habits and diets is good, yet it’s never a guarantee. We also aren’t necessarily more spiritual because we may eat a certain way. I have found it frustrating to hear people who want to get ready for Christ’s second coming and try to get ready for it by making their diets more strict or exercising more. We have to get our hearts and minds ready for that the most.

  • iHelP

    Im Demon possessd please help. I like the darkness and in my head I can easily curse God out but not praise him. I dont have the strength to go up to my uncle who is the Pastor for help. Its getting worse bcuz now Im rebillous to go to Church and Idc about making new friends or having friends or my family, I dont have love for any1. I really try but Now Im Losing IT im going Crazy inside of ME

    • the man

      do you still need help?

  • Tony

    I have Aspergers, and I was formally diagnosed with it only last week at
    the age of 51. It explained a lot about the way I am, and the way I have been all my life – but I have to say that at my age, I am perfectly happy with who I am and with the way God has made me. Sure, I get frustrated at times, and I despair about my interpersonal inabilities, but I rejoice in what I see as my ‘super powers’. A mind that thinks in ways nobody else’s does. Super-sensitive ‘bionic’ hearing. Perfect musical pitch, and the ability to play on the piano any song I like, straight out of my head with no music and without ever having played it before. Incredible attention to detail. The ability to immerse myself completely in a problem and – somehow – to arrive at an answer sometimes without realising how I’ve done it. Instinctive navigation skills (who needs a GPS??) And the list goes on.

    I have a wonderful wife who helps me to cope in social situations (dealing out plenty of kicks under the table!) and loves me just the way I am.

    No Church has ever understood me, but God loves me; of that I have no doubt. He made me the way I am, and to me that’s yet another cause for rejoicing in my ‘condition’. To me, Aspergers rocks; I wouldn’t be ‘me’ without it!

  • mabel

    my name is valie i am from USA, florida so i am given a testimony of a witch dr who helped me when i was been possesed by an evil spirit and now am free due to his wonderful work he has done in my life and now am free from any obstacles due to his mystic power that helped me so if in any case you are having similar problems or having any problems i want you to email him now for help okay dragbadilaguspelltemple@gmail.com or visit his website at http://dr-agbadi-home-of-solution.webs.com/ ,,,,,


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