Demon Possession or Mental Illness?
by Grace Peterson
Before Andrea Yates made headlines for drowning her children, very little was known about postpartum mental health. If doctors screened new moms, the questions were usually vague and revolved around depression or not being able to bond with their newborn.
I didn't have problems bonding. Just the opposite. I was paranoid someone was going to hurt or steal my babies. Worse, I was seeing visions. I was cutting them, burning them on the stove, throwing them off a cliff. No matter how hard I tried to stop the intrusive thoughts, I couldn't. I felt like a terrible mother, a terrible Christian.
My husband and I were attending a fundamentalist church. A man I call Brock was a modern-day exorcist who was performing "deliverance sessions" on couples and individuals at that time. Although I told myself I was not the kind who willingly takes part in the latest fad, I knew I needed help before I hurt my children. I was sure I was demon possessed.
Brock took me in and asked questions about my past. My Masonic grandfather, he quickly concluded, had molested me and this installed the demon that caused me the intrusive thoughts. Cast it out and all would be well.
But things didn't go quite that way. The intrusive thoughts escalated. I became one of Brock's guinea pigs. He'd try different experimental procedures to exorcise the demon. He told me I was involved in all kinds of occult rituals. I was the daughter of Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor at Auschwitz. I didn't know what to think. Although Brock was a Bible-believing Christian and a compassionate warrior of the afflicted, he was also terse, short-tempered and rude. I loved him for caring for me. I hated him for being mean.
It took 7 years but I finally broke away from Brock's influence. It took another 10 years to recover. Writing my memoir about the experience has helped tremendously and I hope it will be of service to others.
There are traumas specific to cult survivors. Trust is impossible. We've been taught to avoid outsiders but now that we're out, what do we believe? Where do we go for help? We were duped. We believed a lie and maybe a tiny part of us still does. How can we ever trust our own thought processes again?