I’m on the couch, bouncing. I know this only because I’m observing from somewhere outside myself, behind, above. My muscles tense and slack, my limbs beyond my control. When they ask for your name it’s my voicebox that buzzes to life. It’s trying to say “Jesus” but can’t. Someone conjectures you may be the “spirit of false Jesus.” But I know the demon inside is trying to mock these well-creased affluent Christians but doesn’t have the strength.
There are degenerative illnesses that wrest control of our bladders, bowels, legs, and memories. There are identity and personality disorders that dramatically affect perception. By the age of 17 when I stumbled into this home Bible study, I had experienced a variety of symptoms of mental illness. I’d done my share of LSD and other drugs. And while I didn’t have a name for my panic attacks (seizures, perhaps?), I knew what I was experiencing this night was not that. I had heard the voice of demons before.
And I can’t say anyone had built me up to display this way. There were no flash televangelistic gestures, suggestions, or shakes. Literally one minute we were having cookies and coffee (I remember explaining to one visitor how I planned to breed certain species of lizards and toads to repopulate the endangered wild, her responding, “Are they in danger?”) and the next we’re praying quietly on the couch. Next thing I knew my body was convulsing while my mind moved to a safer distance.
My girlfriend and I had been on a spiritual quest since the day we met. Though it started heavy with speed and booze it led quickly to UFOs and shamanism and a humorously botched quest in which our teacher instructed us to be on the lookout for eagle feathers.We returned from a cross-state trip with several pair of vulture wings pinned to cardboard. They were carefully wrapped in Saran Wrap and fully infested with maggots. I had hacked them off on the side of the highway with an over-sized locking blade that would thereafter always carry that greasy smell of roadkill.
We were young. Every big bird looked like an eagle.
We were also seeking. As sweet as we were on each other our love for each other hadn’t plugged the hole in the bottom of the bucket. We started casting our net wider.
Of course I had heard spirits (or thought I had) before. Friends practiced the dark arts. The most volatile worshiped Set. I had been shown all manner of mutilations on LSD. I was offered artistic ability in exchange for my soul in a dream. And one night sitting alone on the bed an auditory window flew open and what sounded like hundreds (thousands?) of demonic voices threatened and cursed me with an unsettling enthusiasm. They said they despised me, were going to drag me down, gnaw on my bones. Over. And Over. Until it suddenly stopped.
All this is to say I didn’t spend a lot of time wrestling over whether my couch convulsions were mental illness at play or a parasitical trans-dimensional stowaway with sway over my ultimate destination. I believed in Evil.
Only the most resilient atheist would be unconcerned upon learning that other intelligences were affecting one’s thought processes. I flew to Jesus. And I stayed by His side for a good two years. My panic attacks became less frequent, though night terrors appeared. My anxiety seemed to be reduced, though it didn’t disappear. And the family grew closer, even if my extreme form of fundamentalist religion caused the occasional schism between my sister and myself.
There was a lot in the experience that I still cherish. I found, for instance, access to a limitless source of love and beauty. Regrettably, politics drove me out in the end. I’ve tried several times to return to something resembling that reality. Visited any number of churches. I don’t seem to have the faith for the journey. And yet the spirits aren’t far off.
It was about four years ago and I was feeling so good that I decided I didn’t need my anxiety and depression medication anymore. Cold turkey. Full stop. Middle of the morning those voices were back again. I may have aged by a good 20 years, but they hadn’t. And the message was the same: my damnation and everlasting torment.
If I ever doubt my self-worth again, I suppose I could always take a demon’s word for it. They seem to be after something. There’s something valuable hereabouts somewheres. Sure hope I find it before they do.