Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Journaling Through the Dark

I briefly kept a journal during my first marriage.  I wanted to document what I felt, what was happening, in the event that I was no longer around.  So dark, I know.  Here is a brief (horrifying) excerpt.  This isn't exaggerated in the least.  This is what I experienced every night when I would turn the lights off.  This is what night terrors are like.  If you've never experienced them, consider yourself blessed. 

I woke suddenly, gasping for air that didn't seem to exist in my small bedroom. A wave of panic and fear rippled through my body. I quickly tightened every muscle I was aware of, hoping that my movement didn't alert him to the fact that I was awake. It was too late. I knew that every tingle of fear I felt disturbed the air and that he felt it. My eyes wide open, I scanned the room as far as my peripheral vision would allow. I didn't want to move my head. I knew he was there, though, and I had to look. I tensed the muscles in my neck to lift my head. Nothing happened. I was paralyzed. The terror I felt almost became too much for my frail body to handle. I felt light-headed, like my lungs were being crushed. I lay completely still. I began moving my lips to recite the only words I knew could dispel this fear.

"The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? For God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of love, of power and of a sound mind".

I mechanically repeated these words over and over and over... whispering so softly that it was barely audible. I knew he could hear me, though. I knew those words would be my protection. Hebrews said that God would never leave me or forsake me. Right? He was here with me. Why did I feel so alone, then? Why did it feel as if this attack is meant for me to face alone? Why was this happening to me?

I pleaded to the silent God inside of my head, searching for answers to help me understand and give me courage. I lay, waiting. The fear was no less than it was the few minutes before.

I felt him close to me now. Beside my bed. If I moved at all, I would brush against him. My heart did not race or skip beats. My heart beat was even, but hard. It was so hard that it felt like it was attempting to pump blood through my body with a 200 pound rock sitting on top of it, fighting for my life. The tears came to my eyes now. They dared not fall down my skin onto the rough pillowcase, but instead welled into pools in my eye sockets. One blink and a waterfall of tears would begin, the movement setting him off.

I laid completely still for what seemed an eternity. My muscles were beginning to ache from being tense for so long. My mind was plagued with fatigue, but I dare not doze off. Whatever awaited me in my dreams could be no better than what I faced here in my bedroom.

The fear was strangling me. My chest still felt the pressure of his presence and breathing came as a struggle. The tears began to dry after a while. I'm guessing an hour or so had passed. I closed my eyes and forced my imagination to form images of things that brought me peace. It took all the effort in my weak and tired body to form this imaginary happy place. This didn't come naturally to me. What was natural were thoughts of no longer existing. Thoughts of how someone would finally notice me if I ceased to exist. My normal thoughts always started with "What if...".

Now, because I had to, I took myself back to Pittsburgh to see my family. I imagined that I was with mom in her car driving down the winding road past the cemetery toward the mall. I thought of myself buying clothes that actually fit me and fit my personality. I thought about having my own money to spend in whatever way I pleased. I imagined eating dinner with my mom and dad. My mom was the best homemaker I had ever known. Complete strangers even felt welcomed in our house.

I remembered one time when I was little, probably around 6 or 7 years old. A young, college girl was going door to door selling Encyclopedia Britannica to earn extra money. The next thing I know, she was having dinner with my family. Another time, my mom was having issues getting past a certain level of Super Mario Brothers on the original Nintendo system. The paperboy knocked on the door to collect and my mom managed to get him to help her. He was a regular Nintendo consultant from that point on.

My mother always had a gift for making people comfortable. I always hoped to one day inherent that same characteristic. It didn't seem to come as naturally to me, though. I always had to beg people to come to my home. I always assumed I just wasn't blessed the way my mother was with the gift of hospitality.

Then the mirage ended as quickly as it began. I looked at the clock... Exactly 1 minute had passed. I realized I was in my own personal hell. A place where darkness swallows everything and time never moves. I wanted to be numb. I wanted my heart to feel nothing and my mind to think nothing. A mindless drone. It was the only way to survive. I decided that if I made it through this night, when the rayless sun would rise, I would begin my self-inflicted mandate to erase all emotion. After all, I was told this was the way of God. The path I was on was what God wanted for me.

Unbelievable.

I felt him move. I felt space closing in around me and the panic struck me again like a concrete block had been dropped on my chest from 10 feet above. I felt the space above my face getting smaller and smaller as he leaned in. I could sense the pleasure he was taking out of this. I prayed to myself that he would just end this finally. I wanted him to. More than anything. I needed this to be over. I didn't care anymore what the next life held, I just wanted this life to be over. If you could even call it a life.

My hoping was in vain. I knew he gained more pleasure from the paralyzing fear he gave me than he would from ending my life. His game would be over then. This sadistic game he played by coming into my room every night, hovering until I felt his cold blood sending shivers through the stale air of my room. Every night I would wake up with the same startling, agonizing fear. Every night I said the same prayers. Every night would end with me feeling more hopeless than the night before because nothing ever changed. Every morning... there was no trace of him anywhere. Only the stale tears on my face, the tear stains on the pillow case, and the sleep deprived bags under my eyes that were the only visible evidence of the burden I carried in my mind.

Within the first week of my being separated from him, the night terrors ceased.  I then realized that this was more than just being scared of the dark, it was a spiritual oppression.  I could feel the tangible change in the air in my bedroom when one of these "terrors" was taking place.  Whatever it was, I believe it was connected to my ex-husband and whatever stronghold he had over me.  I know it all sounds a little flaky, I would think so, too, if I hadn't lived through it.  The fact that it ended as soon as I left, though... I don't know what more proof someone would need.  I knew at the time that I was fighting a spiritual battle.  Praise the Lord, I won. 

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