In mortality we forget who we really are. Once in this vulnerable state, we are then confused and abused by the dark side. Great growth can be won by fighting through the gauntlet to regain freedom, peace, and our own identity. We must be the instigator of this healing process; it must be an expression of our own will. But always in the wings is Jesus Christ waiting for us to express our faith and personal effort. In my experience He is so much more than a healer; He is my kindest, smartest, and funniest brother. He is real.
Jesus Christ is many things. He is our Savior. Our Redeemer. Our Healer. He rose from the dead so that we may live again. We rely upon Him for many things—to hear us in our anguish, to heal us from our hurt, to take our prayers of praise and supplication to God and to be our Great Advocate.
But He is also our Friend. And do you know what the best of friends do when they get together? Well, they might go out and sit on the porch with some lemonade, not speaking much, but just enjoying each other’s company.
Friends also laugh. They laugh! They hang out and they laugh.
Many times, I have tried to write about my personal “dark night of the soul”—an eight-week period between November 2011 and February 2012. Every time, I have failed. I suppose that, some day, the words might come, and I will be able to somehow put down chicken scratches that convey even a part of what happened. But, for now, I’d like to focus on a small ten-hour window of pure joy which occurred during this time.
When I was 23 years old, I found myself in the “ice box”, a very cold and brightly lit padded cell in the Washington County Jail which was fittingly named Purgatory. I had just spent the previous three days in the cell without sleep, reading the entire Book of Mormon out loud—even screaming it at times (I was going through psychosis with no medical care). A kind guard who heeded my pleadings had slipped it through the cat-flap in the door. I had been furiously reading this book of scripture about Jesus Christ, the one man who could unlock my every prison whether it be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. I was trying to cleanse myself of the satanic programming which had consumed me and had caused me to attempt suicide with a gun, leading to my imprisonment.
When you reach up for the Lord’s power in your life with the same intensity that a drowning person has when grasping and gasping for air, power from Jesus Christ will be yours.
President Russell M. Nelson, General Conference April 2017
While reading the book, a gradual change came over me. I went from the depths of Hell to being the most liberated I’d ever been in my life. After finishing the Book of Mormon, I prayed for myself. I prayed for my friends and family, especially those impacted by my actions. And then I prayed for my enemies. My heart was so full of love. I felt love seeping out of my heart and entering every part of my body. I ended my prayer by praying for all those who had hurt me, and I was about to faint from exhaustion when loving hands came out of nowhere and caught me, lowering me to the ground.
But when I touched the ground, it wasn’t the cement and drain I had paced over so many times—it was the most heavenly featherbed you could imagine. I felt like I was floating—nothing on earth can be made to feel the way this mattress felt.
I slept the deepest and most peaceful sleep I ever have in my life—there, in a tiny sixty-degree solitary cell. For me, it became a holy temple-prison.
* * *
I opened my eyes after I had slept. The bright light was still on above me. I could hear the prison guards opening and closing doors far away down the halls. I glanced up to the big metal door with its thick plastic square window. Before, I had noticed all of the frantic scratches people had made on the plastic. But now, I focused on an enormous letter “J” that had been carved into the window, with a circle around it. The letter and circle encompassed the entire window.
I sat up quickly. There was a man’s voice in my cell. Or was I schizophrenic—like some doctors had said?
I knew immediately who it was.
“It’s you, isn’t it?” I asked.
“Yep! It’s me.” I could hear the smile on His face.
I jumped up. “I LOVE YOU!” I yelled, my face bright and my eyes wide.
His laughter echoed around the cell so loudly, I thought a guard would hear. Or could only I hear His voice?
Dear reader, someday I’ll have a perfect memory, and I’ll be able to remember the conversation we had. For now, I only remember that it lasted about 10 hours (by the prison-guard changes, I guessed), and it was the most spectacular 10 hours of my life. We both just sat there—Jesus and I—and talked and joked and laughed until our guts hurt.
All the healing had been done that needed to be done for the moment. What Jesus really wanted was just to be with me. To enjoy my company—and have me enjoy Him. That’s what He really wants, from all of us.
I am still healing from many aspects of my satanic programming. However, I believe that as each of us finds healing in this life or the next, we will be able to reach that wonderful place of loving ourselves, because we feel the love of God. Then, upon that foundation, our hearts will be drawn toward praying for all people, and you’ll mean it—with charity that will transform you from being primarily physical to being primarily spiritual. And in this process, He can heal us to a greater extent.
And after the healing comes the best part—just hanging out and hearing Him tell you inside jokes, or talking about whatever you want, for as long as you want. You and your Best Friend.
By Nicole Marie Hilton, April 15 and July 22, 2020
What do you hold onto when all hope is lost and the world only sends you pain? When I’ve reached out, and found nothing, my last remaining hope was the idea of bringing the pain to an end, permanently. When that last option was taken away, God was my last hope. When nothing seems further out of reach than God, that can be when we truly find Him. When I shift my trust onto God, and his Son Jesus Christ, I’ve found lasting relief. I cannot become too dependent on God. The more I rely upon Him, the more freedom I experience and the more permanent my healing.
When I was probably 8 or 9, one of my brothers took everything out of a chest in our basement. William* (from now on, the name William will stand for all of my brothers) said, “Nicole, come on and get in this! It’ll be fun!”
I smiled at him and climbed in. I loved it when William played nice with me. But he could be unpredictable—often going into almost-manic phases where things could be lit on fire, or physical activities like jumping off of high places, dragging all my stuffed animals behind him on a scooter, holding me down to spit in my face, or blowing stuff up.
He has since grown up into a good man and a wonderful father, and he’s apologized to me. But in those days, I’d be lying if I said I never cried or was traumatized by him, and I was hoping this wasn’t one of those times.
I was in the chest. William said, “Well, get your head down…”
I dutifully put my head down.
He shut the lid, and put the latch down and locked it.
I tried to put my head up, but my back hit the lid. A seam appeared along the perimeter of the lid, and I could see my brother sitting about five feet away, watching my struggle.
I started to hyperventilate. I screamed.
I looked through the crack. I saw my brother’s face. For the first time in my life, I chose to swear.
“Oh…oh —-! Oh —-!”
I screamed and screamed, the lid bouncing against the latch. I focused on his face through the crack. Fear consumed me as his features transformed before my eyes. He was no longer my brother. His face distorted, and his brows grew and turned inward with hate. His eyes became slits of glee, and his mouth turned upwards into a grin of evil no child had the ability to wear.
My brother’s face had literally turned into that of a devil.
I screamed even louder—this time for a different reason. My heart beat faster and faster, but then he shook his head a little, his features went back to normal, and he was back. He leaned forward, and unlatched the chest.
I had been in the chest for about 10 seconds. An eternity.
Tears streaming down my face and breathing hard, I got out, shaking. I never wanted to go in there again.
* * *
Abraham was a prophet from the Old Testament. He and his wife, Sarah, were “barren”—they had no children. At a very old age, God promised them that they would have posterity. Though it seemed impossible, Sarah conceived and bore a son, Isaac.
Later, God came to Abraham and asked him to do the impossible: offer up Isaac as a burnt sacrifice on the mountain.
Can you imagine?
Abraham went through his “dark night of the soul”. Regardless of how hard it was, he went through with his worst fear—he was about to sacrifice his son. At the very last moment, an angel stopped him. It was enough.
Some say that everyone will have their “Abrahamic Trial” sometime in their lives. That everyone will have to face their worst fears in some capacity and overcome them for the glory of God. Many times, I felt like my entire life was one long Abrahamic Trial. But I didn’t remember what my worst fear even was until January, 2012.
My worst fear was being locked away in a box.
More specifically, it was being locked away with nothing but myself, the monster of fear, and the devils which plagued me to keep me company. To avoid this fear, I developed an unhealthy reliance upon the promise of exiting this life if the fear ever got too bad–as it did in fourth grade. It was a life preserver made of lead.
* * *
I was in a cement block cell with Hannah Morris*, a skinny girl in her teens who seemed to feel right at home in Purgatory, the actual name of the Washington County jail. She admitted nonchalantly that she had been a prostitute, and when I asked her about all the bruises on her body, she told me that she had begged her boyfriend to hit her.
“I love it. I just love it,” she said, running her fingers through her long brown hair. “He hates it, but he does it because he knows it makes me happy. He’s a good boyfriend.” I sat with my back against the cold white-washed cement wall and pondered what she had said. I didn’t understand her, but at any rate I admired her confidence. A lady came around with a cart full of books. I selected Treasure Island, but Hannah took nothing.
We spent the night in that cell.
I remember thinking, as the light turned out and we settled in on our sleeping mats, that I was so grateful to have her there with me. She was a buffer between me and the reality of what I’d done to end up in there.
The details tried to sneak up on me as I lay there in the dark, but I rolled over and focused on the pockmarked wall until I fell asleep.
In the morning, I asked her what to expect next.
“Oh, we’ll spread our asses and then be put in the fishbowl, next.”
“We’ll do what?” I said.
Just then, a guard came. The guard unlocked the heavy door.
“Hannah—come with me.”
“See ya,” she said.
I waved goodbye.
Soon after, after I’d had enough time to count the cinderblocks in the wall, a female guard came for me.
We did a strip search. I did, indeed, have to do what Hannah mentioned so the guard could check I wasn’t hiding a…well I’m actually not sure what they were looking for. But oh, how I was humiliated.
“Suicide watch,” she said, looking at a clipboard.
She handed me a green shield, which was held together with Velcro. It covered my torso down to just above my knees, like a giant paper bag. I put it on, and that was it; I was not even allowed underwear. It was scratchy.
Another guard came and led me down a cinderblock hallway. “We aren’t…going to the…’fishbowl’?” I asked.
He didn’t say anything.
We entered a hallway with windows along the right side. Singular tan cells lined the left.
I grasped my left arm and felt the cement under my bare feet.
We passed one empty cell.
The next cell had…a dead girl in it, staring vacantly back at me.
I stared in shock and stopped walking as I looked through the floor-to-ceiling window in the outward wall of her cell. The girl was sitting by this window, her forehead leaning on it, the fingertips of her hand grazing the window’s surface. I could see she once had her hand fully on the glass, but it had slipped down to rest on her knee. Her eyes were glassy and her skin was literally grey, as if no blood coursed through her veins.
I stood, shocked and horrified in the extreme. She didn’t move or even twitch.
The guard turned back to me and said, “move it!”
I jumped at the order, and I followed him to the next cell. The image of the girl was seared into my mind like hot coals.
He unlocked a large iron door and I looked up at him.
You want me to go in there???
I entered, and the door closed behind me with loud finality.
I was utterly alone.
* * *
“We must go on, because we can’t turn back…” The words from Treasure Island stared me in the face. My eyes lost focus on them, and my head started spinning. I couldn’t ignore how the gritty cement floor felt under my feet, or the kink in my neck from sitting curled up with my knees against me, or the goosebumps which so constantly erupted in waves up and down my body.
Why do they have to blow ice-cold air down on me all of the time? Why is the light up above so bright? Why am I in here?
The memory of me holding a handgun to my stomach pressed in on me. Then, turning it on my mother as she came around the corner. Her jumping on me, and struggling over the gun until I pulled the trigger and the bullet hit the cupboards.
The book fell from my hands and, shivering, I got up to pace.
It was five paces toward the door, and five paces toward the padded back wall, over and over and over again.
My dad’s weight as he pressed me to the floor. The cold grasp of the handcuffs, and being shoved down into the backseat of the cop’s car.
I started wringing my hands. My heart grew cold and beat like a rabbit’s. The enormous weight of satanic programming started to creep up on me—and it’s unexplainable unless you’ve been there and felt it yourself. It’s like you’re in a burning building, and you’d do anything to jump.
But there was no gun in my hands anymore. There was just a cold cement floor and padded walls.
Suicide had always been my ultimate back-up plan. I had a bevy of plans in my head that would cause a quick (or slow…) death in any variety of situations. I’d deliberately considered these plans over and over in my head since I was 9 years old. But now I was forced to look elsewhere—suicide was, for the first time, off the menu.
I had no idea how much I had relied upon those plans until it felt like that rug was pulled out from underneath me.
I paced around the little tan-colored padded cell, shivering, hyperventilating, and crying. Treasure island was forgotten as reality overwhelmed the words on the page. I couldn’t escape the screams in my head, which poured in on me like a torrential waterfall.
Someone came to the big iron door, quickly pushed a bundle of papers through the cat-flap, and left.
I ran to them and picked them up. They were a divorce decree.
I was numb. I didn’t feel anything. I threw them aside and kept on pacing.
After a couple hours, I pressed the little button on the wall, which was connected to a speaker.
“Yes?” a voice had said.
“What did the bra say to the hat?” I asked.
“You go on a head while I give these two a lift.”
The guard at the front desk said something back, but I couldn’t make it out.
My plan was to get on his good side, then try to convince him that I belonged with the other women in “the Fishbowl”—wherever that was.
I needed people.
I kept on pressing the buzzer.
Eventually, they turned it off.
The monster of fear grew in my heart, into the biggest proportions it had ever been in my life. I could have shared that small room with a ferocious and hungry lion, and it would have been a mercy. That prospect would be less fearful than being in this box alone.
Literally, the fear of not dying consumed me.
I am in Hell! I am in Hell!
At this point, I dissociated and I was nowhere.
All too soon, I hazily “woke up” in the back of my consciousness. I was watching a bruised hand slam into the heavy iron door over and over and over, and I heard muffled screams. They sounded like they were coming from underwater.
“Help me…help me…help me…help me.”
I focused on the voice, and it grew louder and louder. I then became aware of my jaw opening and closing. The sound became deafening as the screams registered as my own. I tried to control them, but I couldn’t. I watched helplessly, seemingly from the backseat of the vehicle of my body, as I screamed over and over, “HELP ME! HELP ME! HELP ME! HELP ME!”
My hand slammed into the painted door’s small square window. I became aware that I was naked, holding the tarp-like material they had given me for a “blanket” around my body. The green shield lay forgotten on the floor behind me.
As I became aware of all these things, I felt myself “sliding” into the personality who was “fronting”—we were becoming one person.
No! I tried to scream out, but all I could scream was help me, help me, help me.
The scene became bright in all of its magnificent horror. Terror and adrenaline like I’ve never known before coursed through my body. The bright light threw everything into a stark matte swath of pain. I knew I couldn’t stop—though my hand and arm were black and blue from bruises. I had to keep pounding that door. I had to keep screaming.
As the two personalities merged, I received the memory back of pacing the padded cell desperately—no one to listen, nothing to distract, no one to turn to. I received the memory of sliding into a personality that had been asleep for decades—one of the personalities that had bourn the brunt of the abuse. Being tied down upon a circular disc, and being stabbed through the middle with a special weapon in a different dimension over and over and over again—not being able to die because my astral form would heal itself again, and again, and again…
The sensation of being crushed. The laughter and dark faces painted with glee who surrounded me. The sensation of being in a timeless state where the torture would last forever.
My screams for God to save me.
No one coming to the rescue.
Pacing back and forth in the cell as the sensation of fear wracked my body and soul, enough time had passed that my shield had worn angry red lines which bled under my arms and around my neck. I now remembered taking the shield off and grabbing the tarp blanket to cover my nakedness.
I remembered feeling like a wild animal, not able to choose my reaction to being locked up, throwing my body against the walls, screaming in terror.
I didn’t know what age I was. Was I 4? 5? 6?
My back-up plan was gone. My new back-up plan, apparently, were the guards outside my cell.
They had ignored me—or tried to—for at least 5-6 hours.
Someone broke down. “MAYBE WE’LL HELP YOU IF YOU PUT YOUR SHEILD BACK ON!” an angry voice said over the speaker.
As this registered, a particle of hope entered my heart. I dropped the tarp and threw the shield back on, my screams an unending stream of desperate sound echoing around the chamber.
I slammed both arms and hands against the door.
The speaker was silent. The guards—who I could see through several walls that had windows about five feet off the floor—turned and ignored me again.
It didn’t occur to me to rely upon Jesus Christ and the tools He had given me. It didn’t occur to me that He could be the ultimate back-up plan until I had exhausted every other option.
After another hour of screaming—the guards doing nothing—something flashed before my mind.
I remembered a story about a man going through the darkest abyss to the sweetest joy imaginable because of his faith in Jesus Christ. His name was Alma the Younger.
God had answered his prayer.
As this image flitted through my head, a wash of hope surged into my fearful heart for a brief moment.
I had the answer.
The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, the sacred scriptures I had so often read while growing up as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the book which contained this story, would save me. I didn’t know how—but I just knew it would.
The screams of help me, help me, help me stopped.
There was a pause, and the guards at the front desk stopped what they were doing to look up for a moment.
My desperation was still at an all-time high. Yet I changed tactics.
“GIVE ME A BOOK OF MORMON!”
That was the turning point upon which my entire life hinges.
Opposition. Knowing we came to earth to experience it doesn’t provide much solace when we’re confronting it. Facing extreme opposition as a child trained me to attract and fan the flames of more and more opposition in my life. It also robbed me of the emotional tools to cope with all of it. Some say we will never be tempted more than we can handle; it’s a lie. If it were true, then there would be perfect people on earth, and we wouldn’t need Christ’s atonement. The fact is, that for many of us, we are asked to confront more than we can bear and, then, we finally learn to rely on God.
At the end of 2011, at age 22, I sat in my and *Josh’s living room on the burgundy couch, staring at the scar on my thumb. We lived in the basement of a house near downtown Provo, Utah. How had my life ended up here?
* * *
After my amazing spiritual experience in the hospital in 2009 (God Loves Broken Things), my life had tanked. The doctors had told me my thumb required surgery. Ever since I broke my back, it hadn’t worked. My left leg had gotten stronger, and I could walk, again, but my thumb still stubbornly wouldn’t do anything I told it to. So, I had gone in for surgery. They cut me open, and found nothing wrong with it. Then they cut my wrist open and tested the tendons. They worked perfectly. So, they sewed me back up.
While I was recovering from all these painful surgeries and wondering if I’d ever play the piano again, Josh received a phone call. I didn’t hear what was said on the other line, but I felt the world drop out from underneath me.
“Is it Teddy Bear?” I said.
He didn’t have to say anything.
I collapsed and couldn’t breathe. It may sound strange to those of you who haven’t owned a dog, or even to some of you who have had one. The reality of Teddy Bear’s death—which I had been feeling was going to happen for months—was unfathomable to me. I couldn’t process it. Even after I had driven all the way to St. George from Provo, I had begged his lifeless body to get up and run around. He had been my best friend. The little 2.5 year-old cinnamon colored labradoodle was as smart as a whip and completely hilarious. Those who met him often asked questions like, are you sure that’s a dog? Or is it a little boy in a bear suit? He had taken to sleeping in my room on my empty bed ever since I’d gone away to college and gotten married. He had comforted me when I broke my back. He was hit by an unrepentant neighbor who hated animals. And, now he was gone.
I spiraled into the deepest depression of my life for six months after that. To this day I still tear up when I think about Teddy.
* * *
Josh got home from work.
“Hey babe,” he said.
Then he went into his office and shut the door. I thought more about how I ended up there.
* * *
With physical therapy, my thumb eventually showed improvement. But, meanwhile, my food addiction got away from me, again. I ate to comfort myself—food was the only thing that was consistently there for me. It hadn’t occurred to me any “comfort” I received from food was fleeting.
I tried to go to my classes at BYU, but my heavy backpack was too much for my broken back. And my depression after Teddy’s death increased my feelings of powerlessness and abandonment. I eventually dropped out of college.
One day I had to get a password or something from Josh’s email. That’s when I stumbled on the explicit messages, and pictures, he’d sent and received through an online sex service.
He came home to find me red-eyed and bristling with anger. I threw the evidence I had printed out down at his feet, and he fell on his knees, begging for my forgiveness. The bishop—our ecclesiastical leader—came over and talked to me about forgiveness. However, I wasn’t offered any counsel to help process my own pain or to heal from my emotional trauma. This wasn’t the first time, or the last, that after being injured by a loved one, the responsibility was placed upon me to simply forgive my perpetrator so that everything could go back to “normal,” again. Without real healing on both sides, forgiveness simply becomes a way to pretend that nothing bad happened, and both repentance and healing are robbed.
I obeyed my bishop and forgave Josh, but he hurt me further. He often complained about not having the newest TV, iPhone, sound equipment, or car. I finally caved, and we took out thousands of dollars of loans, in my name, so he could get the things he wanted. But with how much money we were making, there was no way we could pay back the loans.
Furthermore, Josh didn’t want to have physical intimacy with me anymore—I was too chubby. I kept on thinking about the “perfect” girls in the online pornography, and there was evidence he was, too. I didn’t stand a chance against the fantasy.
Worse than the money or even the possible cheating and intimacy issues was the overpowering realization in my heart looming over every meal we ate and every PlayStation game we played together. It said, you aren’t supposed to be married to this guy.
Since I had broken my back and tasted of that other-worldly love I had felt during my “baptism of fire” experience, I wanted more. I never wanted to go back to being “normal” again, especially not the normal that was my current life.
But Josh didn’t have these same desires. He hadn’t felt what I had felt. “Normal” was okay to him.
And I loved him.
As a last-ditch effort to save our marriage, in 2010, I proposed that we get married in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple in a sacred ordinance called a “sealing”. I thought, maybe if we’re married in the temple, Josh will become more spiritual and we’ll get along better. Of course, a sealing is meant to reflect a sacred matrimonial bond, it is not meant to create one where it doesn’t already exist.
After we threw a big second wedding to celebrate our temple sealing and all the hullabaloo was over, I found that I was pregnant. After 12 weeks of pregnancy (and being off my psychiatric meds), I felt like I was losing my mind. I started taking Prozac again, and soon after that, I miscarried.
I blamed myself for the miscarriage. And I felt more alone than ever. After getting out of the hospital, I had saved the remains of my miscarried fetus. I stood in the doorway of Josh’s office.
“I’m going to go bury our baby in the backyard.” I said.
“Okay, have fun.” Josh said.
He hadn’t been listening.
A few nights after that, the Provo Tabernacle burned down. We lived a block away. I saw the flames reaching sky-high, and I remembered singing in the old building for a concert.
The next day, I stopped my bike there and stared at the smoldering ruins.
That’s exactly how I feel inside, I thought.
All of Provo was rocked. It had stood as a symbol for the town for more than a century—and now all that was left were the brick walls and charred wood.
I was reading about the tabernacle when someone sent me a picture—one of the firefighters had found a charred picture of Christ in the ruins—the flames had burnt the entire picture up to his outline, then stopped.
On October 1st, 2011, we had gotten tickets to General Conference, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meeting where thousands gather together in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City.
I sat in my red seat—one among 21,200 people. And our then-president prophet Thomas S. Monson got up and announced that the Provo Tabernacle would be re-built into a beautiful new temple.
I felt something inside of me stir, and whisper, this is a symbol for your life.
I was unsure whether to trust the voice or not.
* * *
I was sitting on the couch, still staring at my thumb, when I snapped out of my reverie. I still didn’t know how I had gotten to where I was, even though I knew each step, each choice I had made. None of it made any sense to me. I didn’t know at the time that I had multiple personalities, and I didn’t know that my marriage to Josh, breaking my back, not being able to hold down a job, going into debt, and not being strong enough to divorce Josh had all been a product of the abuse and programming I’d suffered since I was a little girl.
I reached up and felt my hair. I had, just the other night, been in one of my screaming and crying fits, and I’d cut it all off. Now my head was half-shaved. I didn’t know why I did these things, and as I looked up at Josh’s office door—which was closed—I realized that it must be awful being married to me.
Why am I here?
As I went back to gazing at my thumb, I felt pure truth enter my mind.
The thumb is opposable. It’s in opposition to the rest of the fingers.
The thumb represents the Adversary.
Your thumb stopped working the entire time you were in the hospital with your broken back. You received special protection during that trial, and there was nothing to oppose you spiritually. You were free.
Yes! I remembered…I had felt so free and clear—so “whole” even though I was broken while I was in the hospital that time. I had felt the hands of God on my shoulders. I had felt heavenly fire and a love so consuming fill my entire body that I would never ever be the same again.
But in the past three years, as I tried to continue life in the same way I had before, it had fallen apart. And I wasn’t strong enough to change it.
We each chose to follow Mother Eve into Satan’s fallen, painful world. We knew for a time we would forget our true selves and be captive to pain and possible abuse. Why would we choose this? Why would God allow it?
When I was 14, my life was hanging on by a thread. I felt at any moment that thread would unravel. I was afraid I’d break my promise to Heavenly Father — take my own life and be gone forever. I had already planned out and nearly executed my suicide hundreds of times since I was raised from the dead in fourth grade (an occurrence I hadn’t told anyone about). I had gone to the cliffs edge, or nearly jumped off a bridge, or considered falling upon a knife so many times I lost count. I felt utterly alone and isolated, and I was living in almost constant fear. I had also developed an eating disorder and several addictions, which made my life all the more hopeless. I had no one to confide in, no one to turn to. No one would understand me; no one would believe me, and besides, I was too ashamed to even try confiding in anyone.
I remember traveling with my family to northern Utah for a family event, and we attended church on Sunday. Unbeknownst to my parents, I left the young women’s class I was supposed to be attending and went outside. I crossed the parking lot and crossed over a hillock on the far side to enter a small wood.
I walked through the trees a little way and fell to my knees in some long grass. I prayed, “Heavenly Father, are you there?”
I paused, waiting for an answer. The birch trees around me were still. A bird chirped somewhere. I gripped my hands together tighter and said, “I know you’re there…I’ve always known you’re there. Although you don’t seem to be interested in answering me, I still keep on trying to talk to you…because that’s apparently how much faith I have, right? Or maybe it’s just stupidity.”
I opened my eyes when my sixth sense told me someone was listening in. Someone with a presence and power which were infinite. But there was no comfort offered from this “someone”—nothing. It was as if He were there, but He was giving me the cold shoulder. It was the same damn story every time.
The voices whispered, He’s punishing you…
I pressed on. “I don’t understand what’s happening in my life…”
You deserve everything you’re going through…
A mix of emotions welled up inside of me—depression, fear, frustration, shame, anger, even rage. I screamed in my head, yet whispered out loud as hot tears dripped from my lashes and nose, “Why do you seem to hate me so much? You love everyone else, don’t you? They all have normal lives, with normal problems, but me?? Something is wrong with me. And I can’t figure it out for the life of me! No matter how hard I try! And guess what? You are silent. For all the preaching and teaching in church, for all the promises they tell me—that you are a LOVING God, who CARES ABOUT ME, who will actually LISTEN and ANSWER my prayers—YOU DON’T! WHY do you hate me so much? I probably pray and read my scriptures more than all the other girls in my Sunday school class—combined! And You know it! And what good does it do me, huh? Well, guess what?! I HATE YOU!!! I HATE YOU, GOD! I KNOW YOU’RE UP THERE, AND I KNOW YOU CAN HEAR ME, AND NOW HEAR THIS: I HATE YOU, AND I’LL NEVER FORGIVE WHAT YOU’VE DONE TO ME AND FOR FORCING ME TO ENDURE THIS LIVING NIGHTMARE! I want to come home! I hate you! I hate you!” And with that I fell down, my head in my arms, sobbing.
My heart was already shattered in so many pieces, I was surprised it could break even more.
* * *
I lay in my bed in the corner room on the fourth floor of the hospital after a full day of physical therapy, chatting with my new elderly friends, a bariatric treatment, and utterly failing the Wii Fit game I had played at the behest of everyone on the floor. My balance score had come in dead last, behind all the eighty-year olds with broken hips…and this is a former gymnast talking. We all had a good laugh about that, and I had walked back down the hallway—without my walker—with my heart at peace. While I was still far from okay, I was definitely improving.
While the day had gone well so far, it took a turn for the worse when a “specialist” showed up. My mom had taken a break from where she worked downstairs to see me. I was sitting up in bed, and we were admiring the newest bouquet of flowers one of my friends had sent. It was full of cheerful daisies and orange spider mums, and sunlight lit up the petals so they glowed.
Then the lady came in. She looked so official in her lab coat, I thought I had to trust what she was saying—although my gut feeling told me to turn down her offer. She informed us she was trained in testing paraplegic and quadriplegic patients, to see what the chances were of them walking again. We were unsure of the test, but I agreed to it.
She uncovered my legs, and informed me that “this would sting a little.” Then, she proceeded to jab five- inch long needles into my left leg—inserting them into my nervous system. Then, she wiggled them around as they were attached to a device and computer screen by the bed, which recorded the data I was feeling.
While I was already feeling nerve pain all over my body, this jacked the pain up to the levels I felt at the moment I had broken my back—it literally felt as if I was burning to death.
I was already at a level 9 pain before the lady walked in—I mean, come on…really?
I tried to control my screaming, and hold still. I swear I’ve never been that brave in my life. She jabbed in even more needles, and wiggled them in just the worst way imaginable—right in the nerves—over and over and over again. I almost called her a Nazi.
After what seemed like hours, she took all the needles out and gave us this little sigh. Then, she left. The test did me no good, and I never received any data from it, but it left me with puncture wounds and sobbing in my angry mother’s arms.
Funnily enough, while I write this with resentment now, back then in the hospital I promptly forgave her after I had recovered a bit. Perhaps that was the final test.
* * *
I remember that night so clearly. The room had a muted blue sheen to it—as if the moon and stars were influencing the lighting in the hospital. The cleaning crew had been in while I was out eating dinner, and had swept and mopped, cleaned the bathroom, and changed the sheets of the bed. My flowers were moved around and replaced again. The cards and posters friends had made for me smiled from the walls and reminded me of how many were praying that I would be made whole again.
I had gingerly gotten into bed after brushing my teeth and washing my face, and I looked forward to having both my Mom and Dad visit before I attempted to fall asleep for the night.
“Hello, sweetie,” my Dad said, his face beaming as he kissed the top of my head. Then he grabbed a couple of chairs and set them up at the foot of the bed.
“I thought I’d read you a little article tonight. That okay?”
“Sure,” I said.
He whipped out BYU magazine, which had been rolled cylinder-like and stuck in his back pocket. He turned to a page and started reading. My mom was checking the bandages on my legs, but then after seeing they were okay, sat down next to my Dad.
The article was about when the Prophet Joseph Smith was confined unlawfully in Liberty Jail. My family and I are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Liberty Jail is sacred to us because we hold it in remembrance as a “temple-prison”. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland explains temple prisons in his article this way: “every experience can become a redemptive experience if we remain bonded to our Father in Heaven through that difficulty. These difficult lessons teach us that man’s extremity is God’s opportunity, and if we will be humble and faithful, if we will be believing and not curse God for our problems, He can turn the unfair and inhumane and debilitating prisons of our lives into temples—or at least into a circumstance that can bring comfort and revelation, divine companionship and peace.” He further says that, “You can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experiences with the Lord in the most miserable experiences of your life—in the worst settings, while enduring the most painful injustices, when facing the most insurmountable odds and opposition you have ever faced.”
As I listened to my dad read that, I felt the Spirit strongly. A mix of images flew through my mind—they started out blurry, but then became clear. I saw Joseph Smith as a young fourteen year old, walking into a grove of trees, kneeling down and praying, and then the visitation of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ; two figures in white appearing directly above him, brighter than the noon-day sun. It was all in my imagination, but I saw it clearly—then it was juxtaposed next to another set of images I had shut out of my head for years—images of my fourteen year old self walking into a grove of trees, kneeling down, then crying out in anguish. I felt again the overwhelming feelings of despair and confusion as my prayers went unanswered. I felt all the anger as I cursed God and swore I would never forgive Him for how my life had played out.
After seeing these images pass before the screen of my mind, I snapped out of my reverie and listened to my Dad continue reading. He was reading the words Joseph had cried out to God while imprisoned in Liberty Jail.
“O God, where art thou?
How long shall thy hand be stayed…?
Yea, O Lord, how long shall [thy people] suffer…before…thy bowels be moved with compassion toward them?”
My Dad continued reading, but I didn’t hear any of the words. The Spirit entered into my heart with such force, it felt like an ocean of knowledge had been poured into me. I saw my life flash before me in Technicolor—I saw all the bullying at home and on the playground, the sobbing late into the night, all the confusion and loneliness I felt, the running to books and addictions in order to cope, my near death experience in fourth grade and all my brushes with suicide thereafter, my brave struggles at making friends and trying to be “normal” during my teenage years, and the breaking of my back and feeling like I was in a prison of my own making. I saw that there were reasons for all these things. While I did not know the deepest reason for it—it was still hidden from me—I was going through those things to fulfill one of the purposes of my life. Laying there in that hospital bed, I surrendered for a small moment to this message: your life is about suffering. I had kicked against it. I had screamed and railed at God about it. I had tried to get out of it. I had been afraid of it. But with the Spirit’s guidance, a part of me accepted it.
I realized that it didn’t mean I had done wrong, or that I had deserved it, or that it was pointless, or that it was going to be endless. The Spirit told me in an instant: I requested and was ordained to this task—to suffer and overcome the suffering in order to understand, and then to help others.
My Dad was still talking, but I couldn’t hear a single word. The entire room went from being cast in blue, to a bright shade of fiery white. I felt a holy being enter the room to my right, and I sensed him stepping towards me, gesturing towards my head. Liquid fire started at crown of my head and felt as if it were poured dripping down over my entire body. My body’s sensation of feeling the fiery nerve pain disappeared into the most heavenly sensation of fire and unconditional love I’ve ever felt in my life. As the liquid light reached my toes and I stared into my parent’s faces, I thought they might see me burst into light, or ascend into heaven.
Right then, I saw Joseph Smith in my mind’s eye. He was in the dank and dark basement of Liberty Jail, suffering in body, mind, and spirit. My heart went out to him, and I felt an overwhelming feeling of love for him.
He cried out to the Lord, “O God, where art thou?…”
I heard the Lord’s response,
“My son, peace be unto thy soul…”
But then, the response was directed towards me.
“My daughter, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.”
Tears started streaming down my face. I was in a burning furnace of heavenly flame, and I had received a message directly from my Savior. I felt all of my suffering for my entire life turn into the sweetest joy I had ever known. I thought, I forgive you, God—for everything. This makes up for everything.
Then the spirit whispered, God would not put you through a refiner’s fire if you were not worth refining.
I looked into my parent’s faces. They were weeping freely, feeling but not seeing anything. I thought, I surrender. I will suffer whatever you want me to suffer—your reasons are pure and perfect. Take me wherever you want to take me.
Then I felt a strong and very real flesh-and-blood hand on my left shoulder and heard the words:
Your body is now a temple prison.
Then I felt a strong and very large hand from a different being on my right shoulder and heard:
This is your first Liberty Jail experience.
I knew, if I turned my head one iota to the right or to the left, I would see a hand there. Love radiated into my shoulders from those two strong hands. I stared forward, in so much bliss that I had no desire to turn my head to the right or to the left. I was content.
In our extremes we are often in a better position to give God our full focus and attention. The combination of being alert and humble allows Him to upgrade our lives and rewrite our truths if we will permit it.
The next few hours are a blur of pain in my memory. I remember that, despite what the demon man said, the doctors did actually come, and they did administer morphine and other drugs to curb the pain—the maximum amount permitted for my body size. Despite all of that, the pain was stubborn and only went down to a 10.
The doctors were, at the very least, grateful I stopped trying to knock myself out.
After all the body scans, and questions (“No, for the umpteenth time! I can’t lift my right arm or my left leg!”), they determined I needed emergency surgery, as a shard of bone from one of my fractured vertebrae was severing my spinal chord. They decided that, in addition to removing this shard of bone, two rods of titanium would have to be attached to either side of my spine to support the collapsed vertebrae. These would be held in place by drilling ten screws—five onto either side—into the vertebrae above and below L1 and T12.
The doctor who would be operating on me looked exactly like Doc Ock from the Spiderman 2 movie—the same Doc Ock who put a new metal spine—complete with four extra working limbs—on himself. This gave me some comfort, as I decided it was a sign from the heavens that not only would my doctor be capable of putting some permanent hardware in me, but my limbs would come out working better than ever after the surgery.
By this time, it was the very early hours of the morning of the next day. There had been no room in my thoughts until then for the deep fears that had crept up on my husband. Fears such as would my wife ever walk again? Would she have two working arms again? permeated his mind. For me, there had only been desperation and a silent, constant screaming within: get me under! Put me under!Help me escape the burning inferno that my body has become!
But right before the surgery, it finally hit me. I could be a paraplegic for the rest of my life. My fears took center stage above and beyond the pain at that point.
After desperately trying to reach my mom on her phone at 3am to no avail, I called Shelli Barnson—one of my mentors and best friends—who promptly picked up. I sobbingly told her what had happened and that I was about to go into surgery.
“Nicole, everything is going to be alright. God knows exactly where you are, and what you are going through. I’ll take care of everything—I’ll get a hold of your mom. I’ll start praying for you. I have a feeling it’s all going to be okay sweetie. It’s okay.”
I tried to believe her. As I hung up and gave the phone to Josh, and they wheeled me down the hallway to the operating room, I tried to be brave.
The medical team swarmed around me and lights shined in my eyes. A woman stood over me and said something, and I felt a cool liquid enter my arm. It registered that she had asked me to start counting backwards from ten.
So I counted, “10…9…” But then blessed darkness enveloped me.
* * *
I heard muffled voices, accompanied by a deep dull pain radiating from my lower back. As the pain registered in my consciousness, I almost panicked. No! No! Send me back to the blackness! Please! Please, I just want to be in a coma for a couple of weeks!
I felt as if I had woken up in a prison of my own making—and my rib cage and new metal spine were the bars from which I couldn’t escape. This prison was a torture chamber where only two choices were available to me: struggle and make it worse, or completely surrender. As I awoke from surgery I felt out the confines of my prison and did the only thing that made any sense…I chose to surrender.
The voices continued and I fluttered my eyes. The room was dark and small like a cave with a little light coming in through the door. It was filled with people. I moaned.
“Nicolee…” My mom leaned over me.
I felt hands on my face.
“Hey, sweet pumpkin.” It was my Dad. He put his hand on mine.
“Babe?” And there was Josh. I finally opened my eyes.
There was some hospital staff, too.
“How are you feeling?” said Dad.
“I’ve…I’ve been better.” I said. My throat was scratchy.
A nurse came to my side and asked, “Can you feel your legs?” I replied that I could, and my arms as well. But after trying to wiggle my left leg’s toes, or move it in any way, we discovered I still could not. My right arm was still difficult to raise, and my right thumb wouldn’t do anything I told it to.
They sat me up a bit, I tried to lick my lips, but my mouth was dry. I asked for some water, but they said they couldn’t give me any, so I crunched on some ice chips. Then they explained I needed to get up and try to walk a bit. It felt like a building’s worth of rebar had been installed in my spine, and they wanted me to walk?
I said that I’d try.
There was a catheter in me, and the nurse attached the bag to a walker. I grimaced and grabbed the walker, then stood up with my family’s help. I felt like an old lady.
It was a herculean effort, but I made it ten steps with a whole lot of assistance. Nerve pain like fire burst through my legs and up my spine and into my arms with every step. I almost collapsed after step ten, and they brought me back to the bed in a wheelchair. I was exhausted.
That was all the exercise I could do for a full 24 hours. But then we tried it again.
Something dawned on me after the first couple of days in the hospital. There was absolutely no mental illness, programming, or multiplicity in me whatsoever. Or, at least, it was like it had all been shoved aside so that only the whole parts of me were center stage for a while. It felt like a bubble surrounded me, keeping all the bad voices out. Even though I was more broken—physically—than I’d ever been I was also more mentally whole than I’d been since the Incident.
Breaking my body gave me clarity, a window into my true self. It was as if the breaking of my body was how I could let all the light in–and there were several ways this occurred. One, was that the intense pain forced me to remain not only in the present moment, but to be present in reality. (Those who have been through Satanic Ritual Abuse are taught to dissociate from reality, and often refer to themselves in their minds in the third person in order to cope with reality. But due to the intense pain, I had greater access to God, because I let it ground me to the present moment.)
The second way that the breaking of my body gave me a window into my true self was that it finally humbled me enough to let my spirit, and God, take over. I finally realized that I wasn’t strong enough.
I couldn’t do anything by myself. I couldn’t brush my teeth, comb my hair, or go to the bathroom by myself. I could barely breath by myself, as my ribcage expanding caused me excruciating pain. I relied upon the kindness of hospital staff and especially of my mom and my husband to do everything for me. I had to learn to accept more service than I’d ever needed in my life since I was an infant.
Everyday, I had to get up and walk. I’d engage my ab muscles, and I’d have help in getting into a sitting position at the side of the hospital bed. Then I’d put my hands on the walker in front of me, and my arms would be shaking as I’d use all my strength to stand up. I’d have two people on either side of me at first, holding me under my arms. I’d swing my left leg forward—which was “dead” (I could feel everything, but it wouldn’t do anything I told it to), and I’d lock the knee. Then I’d lean until my weight was in a straight line over my hip, and I’d step my right leg forward. Then I would do it all over again. In this way, I’d get 10-20 steps in, and count that as a huge success.
A steady trickle of visitors came through the cave-like hospital room. Two separate wards decided to have a fast for me. I received flowers and cards, reminders of how many people were praying for me.
After a week in the Provo hospital, my pain level was down to a 9 and they made plans to transfer me to the rehabilitation floor in the St. George hospital. But, somehow, they dropped the ball and simply released me—no ambulance or transportation whatsoever.
My parents did what they always do so wonderfully—they made do. They went and bought a La-Z-Boy chair, and put it in the back of the SUV. Then, they carefully transferred me to this leather chair, and drove with me in the back of the vehicle the three and a half hours south to the St. George hospital. Once they arrived at the ER and alerted them, the doctor came out as the team started transferring me to a gurney, and he threw a fit.
My mom later told me how he got on the phone with the team at the Provo hospital and had a yelling match with them. “I’ve seen this girl’s x-rays! And you just RELEASED HER?! DO YOU KNOW THAT HER PARENTS TRANSFERRED HER IN THE BACK OF THEIR CAR IN A LA-Z-BOY CHAIR?”
From then on, they treated me like gold at the St. George hospital. Not only did I get the corner room on the fourth floor with gorgeous views of the city (no more cave-like atmosphere for me!), but since my mom worked as a nurse in that hospital, one of the doctors decided to sneak me into the bariatric chamber for 10 free $1,000 treatments so my nerves would grow back better.
I remember my first treatment. They wheeled me down to the first floor, to a room with what appeared to contain a submarine. It was about twenty feet long and had portholes along the side. They would give us—the patients who would be going inside—cushions and see-through helmets with hoses coming out of them. We would be packed inside like sardines—well, all except me, I was the one who was most gingerly placed inside. I seem to remember the other people had limbs that wouldn’t heal or they had cancer.
After we were inside, the submarine would be pressurized (they would call it “diving down”), and we’d put on our helmets. Oxygen would be pumped into them, and we’d breathe that air for two hours. The oxygen was forced into our bodies, and would help us heal up to four times faster than regularly. I remember I’d get a zit one day, and it would be gone the next day! I believe this was the blessing which allowed me to be able to leave the St. George hospital after only three weeks of rehabilitation.
As each day waxed and waned with the rising and falling of the sun, I increased in my ability to live for each and every moment. To think a day ahead, an hour ahead—even a few minutes ahead—was too much. All I could do was breath in…and breath out. Swing my left leg forward, lock the knee, and step one step at a time. I’d focus on getting one bite down at a time, one nap in at a time, one hyperbaric dive in at a time, one physical therapy session in at a time. As I did this—as I took in life this way—every moment became precious. Despite the constant pain, life went from bitter to bittersweet. There was a moment where I was walking unevenly down the hallway for the first time without a walker—by myself—and I was putting forth 100% effort. As I swung my left leg forward and tried not to fall, I had a moment of realization: there was no falsehood in me. For one of the first times in my life, I realized that I didn’t need to garner attention or sympathy because I was starved for it. Why? Well, because I felt loved.
And it wasn’t because of the cards and posters wallpapering my hospital room, or the dozens of flowers or visitors. Those had been a good start…those had helped get me going. But it was deeper now. There was something…someone else I was aware of. Someone who loved me—someone I could not see.
At that moment, I felt warmth like sunshine on both sides of my arms and around my shoulders, bearing me up. I felt hands and arms surrounding me, holding me, embracing me, and helping me walk down that hallway.
This was unspeakably sweet for me.
Remember, up until then, my life had seemed tragic, confused, and dark—and I didn’t know why. I was a girl who still did not understand her childhood, who just thought that one day she started laughing in her second grade class and couldn’t stop—and from then on, she was crazy and carried the label of “bipolar”. That was my life. That was the story that I had been living up until then at age twenty. I had no idea I had been through spiritual and physical abuse—none of those memories had come back yet. I still had no idea I had been raped in second grade, or that any of the other abuse was real or could be taken seriously. I had no idea I had multiple personalities and had been split because of all the abuse. I just thought I was crazy, and that God had abandoned me. I had an incredible chip on my shoulder up until that moment. I always—always—knew that there was a God up there. I knew that He loved everyone around me—but I didn’t know that He loved me.
But there in the hallway, with my higher self guiding me through the pain, and the unseen hands holding me up, there was a possibility—a very real possibility—that He loved me. That, even though the voices in my head whispered evidence to the contrary, He loved me.
That realization was preparatory for what would happen next: the moment that would change the course of my life forever.
As the dark side abuses its victims, it also teaches them to harm and abuse themselves. It then rewards self-harm with mockery and shaming. At a certain point a perpetrator is no longer required, because the victim will perpetuate the abuse cycle with self-harm.
In January 2009, at age 20, my feet were set—albeit unsteadily and with the assistance of a walker—upon the path to the Tree of Life.
I had been, figuratively, learning the hard lessons of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil since I was a toddler. However, I had desperately wanted with my entire being to partake of the other tree–the tree representing the Love of God. I had wanted this ever since I had listened to or read about Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life while reading the Book of Mormon growing up. But, with so much programming I was not aware of (deep seated and false beliefs inside of me resulting from spiritual and physical abuse) there were walls built up between God and me. Because of these obstacles there were times when it was not humanly possible for me to feel God’s love without a miraculous intervention of some kind.
In Seeker Catches the Snitch, I wrote about how God finds creative ways to reach us in our deepest despair. In His great wisdom and compassion He also has a way of turning our failures and injuries into strengths. God saw his chance with me and took it after what happened one night at a friend’s birthday party. You see, the very programming intended to separate me from Him was about to bring me to Him.
Satan was about to make a very big mistake.
* * *
Jump! Jump! the voice inside of me said.
“Nicole, I wouldn’t jump if I were you…” said Josh*, my husband of one year, twelve feet down on the ground below me.
He was standing there in the commons area of Glenwood—the singles apartment building complex I used to live in before Josh and I had gotten married. We were back for a friend’s birthday party. The commons area was cozy, filled with rustic stonework, leather couches, a fireplace, and antler chandeliers. There were various balloons and presents tied to chairs along the walls, as well as a cake, sitting forgotten, off to the right on a table.
I was standing high above the scene, on the other side of a wrought-iron railing (which I had climbed over), which circled the pool-table loft high above the commons area. There was a giant bean bag down below. Josh was standing next to it, a look of consternation on his face. There were about ten other people looking up at me, mixtures of alarm, dismay, and boredom across their faces.
I laughed. “Oh come on! It’ll be fun!” I said.
My heart beat faster and faster. Adrenaline coursed through my veins. A still small voice inside of me whispered, Don’t jump, Nicole. This isn’t what honoring your body looks like. This won’t be freeing. Don’t do this.
But something else violently smashed those words aside. JUMP! THINK OF THE THRILL OF IT! YOU WANT TO DO THIS! The words screamed in my head. I thought, I have no choice, while at the same time thinking, I’m free to fly.
And I jumped.
For a brief moment, I felt weightless. My hair flew up around my head and I felt high as a kite. But then my heart twisted in my chest as time seemed to speed up. The floor rushed to meet me, and the collective weight of all the burden I’d been carrying slammed me into the ground with more force than I was prepared for.
My spine jarred up to my skull and back down to my tailbone. The shockwave burst the discs and shattered the bone at L1 and T12 of my lower back, sending shards of bone into my spinal cord. The vertebrae smashed together like compressed cans. As the lumbar part of my spine collapsed, I not only felt it—felt everything—but I heard the bones crunch inside of me like they were being ground in a stone mill.
I instantly rolled over onto my stomach from the center of the bean bag—which had had no stuffing in it whatsoever—and I went white as a sheet. I started shaking, and I felt like I was going to throw up. Beads of cold sweat gathered on my brow. Waves of pain and nausea flooded through me, up and down, up and down. I had never felt so much agony in my entire existence.
Josh said, “Come on, Nicole. Get up…”
Josh paused. I couldn’t think straight. Yet, I could sense that he knew something was grievously wrong. But I could also sense he was in denial.
“Nicole…please get up!”
We should have called an ambulance. But all I could think was, I can’t ruin so-and-so’s birthday party. I’m so ashamed. Look what you’ve done!
Josh tried to pick me up, eventually getting his arm under my left side. The shard in my spinal chord was still sharp and arrow-like in my spinal column. I didn’t know it, but at any moment, I could have lost the ability to walk. Forever.
But that didn’t matter. I needed to get out of there.
Josh halfway carried me to the back door of the commons area. My left leg wouldn’t work properly. I was only half-aware of all of the people gathering around, murmuring. My friend was very concerned. I mumbled something about calling her later. The pain was so excruciating I was about to burst…but the embarrassment was even more so.
Josh opened the door, and we awkwardly stumbled down the back steps, through the slush and the snow, then towards the car in the parking lot. Josh opened the door, and as soon as he shut it, I let out what I had been holding in.
Josh jumped and turned around in shock. I was screaming so long and so loud my vocal cords were about to be ripped apart. The pain was so exquisite that I was sure I was about to die. I thought I knew exactly what Isaiah had gone through when he had been sawn in half. I was being sawn in half!
My husband ran around the car and jumped in, starting it up as quickly as he could.
I kept on screaming and screaming. I couldn’t stop even if I wanted to—the screaming was an entity outside of myself now. Everything was muted. Another part of myself was faintly aware of being detached from my lower body, like one of those women with the curled hair and lipstick up on the stage, wearing fishnet tights, smiling as the magician does his dirty work.
I thought, How is she smiling? HOW IS SHE SMILING?
Josh yelled, “Where do we go?! WHERE DO WE GO!?”
“THE BYU CLINIC!” I screamed in my delirium.
We sped up the road to the clinic, even though the Provo hospital was right around the corner. Each bump in the road was agony. My body had become a torture device I couldn’t escape from no matter how much I cried out for mercy.
Once we got to the clinic, Josh got me out of the car and halfway carried me to the door. I was still shrieking hysterically. It was locked. He put me back in the car.
Every bump made me yell as if everything was breaking all over again. Josh didn’t know whether to drive like a maniac or drive 15 miles per hour.
“GO! NOOOOO, STOP! GOOOO!”
“I don’t know what to do! Oh God, help!”
We got a little ways down the road until we were almost back to Glenwood, when Josh pulled over right before the intersection of University Parkway and University Avenue. He opened the door and got out into the snow.
Delirious with pain, I gripped where the seat belt connects to the wall of the car and hung on for dear life. I was blinking through hot tears as they tracked down my clammy skin, and my throat was ragged. I couldn’t scream anymore. I concentrated on the vapor my breath made in the cold air. Each pressured exhalation sent waves of fire up and down my spine. And not only my spine, but my arms and legs as well…the fire even went up into my eye sockets.
The agony was not letting up…I tried to concentrate and think of what happens to people who go through serious trauma. First, they go into shock, right? And while they are in shock, the pain is muted because of the body’s response, right? Trying to think through the pain, I racked my brain for anything to give myself a measure of comfort. But my arms trembled as I clung to the seatbelt, and I realized with horror…if the pain is initially muted, that means…this is about to get even worse.
But I was at the absolute limit of what a human being can suffer without dying. How can it get worse?
Pretty soon there were ambulance lights all around our car. I heard Josh lose it at the back of the car—he started sobbing and became hysterical.
“It’s my wife! I don’t know what’s wrong with her! Oh please—please help!”
Some medics came around to my side of the car and opened the door.
They asked me questions about body positioning and everything became a blur of pain as they tried to get my body onto a gurney. I started to scream in pain again at several moments but all that came out were hoarse, sorry yelps.
Eventually, with about 8 different medics helping, they got me out of the car and onto the gurney into a position that caused the least amount of suffering. This position was a weird contortion of limbs, half on my side and half on my back, I would have not been able to hold in any yoga class for longer than 10 seconds. I was in so much agony, however, that I held the position for more than 15 minutes. (It’s amazing what the fear of more suffering can drive you to do.) After the ambulance ride was done, my muscles were screaming—but that pain was nothing—nothing—compared to the more serious pain I was going through.
Hell, I could have delivered octuplets with no drugs, no problem right then. I could have forced myself to run a sub three-hour marathon with no training. I could have done anything the human body could be pressed to be capable of—anything—if it meant an escape from the agony of what I was suffering.
When they ask you in the doctor’s office, or in the ER, what’s your level of pain, 1-10? Go ahead and tell them anything in that range. I won’t judge you. But leave level 11, for the realm of pain I’m talking about here.
Level 11 pain is literally searching for a blunt object to knock yourself out with in order to escape the pain type of pain.
And that’s exactly the level of pain I had reached when he walked in through the door.
They had wheeled me into a room that was far too cheerful for the situation I was in. I remember looking at the cheery giraffe and zebra painted on the walls and devoting a single shard of one of my personalities towards hating them!
My left arm was the only arm that was working relatively well, and I devoted all my energies to finding said blunt object.
I know doctors have shiny, heavy metal objects in rooms like this! They’ve got to! I kept on searching and crying, searching and crying, even when everything within arm’s length proved to be disappointingly fabric-like or attached to the bed I was on.
I couldn’t stop thinking, Where is the doctor?! Where are the nurses? Where is the pain medication? CAN’T THEY SEE I’M DYING?!
As if in answer to my questions, a young man with brown hair walked—no, sauntered—in through the door. I whimpered. Was this man going to help me?
He was in civilian clothes and needed a shave. He stood at the foot of my bed. “Hello, Nicole…”
I could barely look at him or think, who is this guy?
He fingered the fabric near my toes. “What a scrap you’ve gotten yourself into, huh?”
He walked closer to the head of my bed, tracing the metal bar with his left fingers. I cried out as another wave of pain—the biggest yet—racked my entire body. I felt like I was on fire.
He got to the head of my bed and stopped. I noticed that his eyes were a murky brown as he leaned dangerously close over me. He breathed on me as he let out a short inaudible laugh. Then he said, “The doctors and nurses aren’t coming for you. You see…” he glanced around towards the door, through to where the bustling ER was. Seeing all was clear, he leaned in closer than ever—his face inches away from mine, and said quietly, “they don’t actually care about your case. Accidents like yours…well…so avoidable. You know? I mean, what kind of an idiot do you have to be? To jump off of a loft onto a beanbag? For FUN? What?! Did you think you could fly for a little moment there, birdie? Hmmm?”
Then he grinned, taunting me, and I saw a glint behind his eyes that scared me.
He straightened up. I thought he was going to ruffle the top of my head with his hand, but then he glanced over his shoulder and I could see he thought better of it. He looked back at me once more and grinned again, then turned and left, dodging around a squat nurse who came in through the door.
She came to my side, glancing behind her at his back, then looked at me with a question in her eyes. I was too delirious to try to make sense of what had just happened. Before the nurse could ask anything about him, I started crying, “give me morphine! Please! Where’s the doctor?”
Going into your school years as a trauma victim can make you feel like raw meat thrown into a lion’s den. It strongly reinforced my programming that I was broken and alone. Even so, when I could turn my experience into empathy to protect and serve others, I found myself.
When I turned seven, we moved from Salt Lake City, down to the bottom left corner of Utah—to a city called St. George, a land filled with red rock and blue skies. I was excited for the move. I had, seemingly, an unlimited amount of friends in Salt Lake, and I knew I would make just as many in St. George…right?
After my first night in our new house, I hopped on my bike and went exploring the neighborhood. I passed by a house where a little boy was out front, playing in the yard. He seemed about my age. I stopped my bike, waved my hand and said, “Hi! I’m Nicole, I just moved here and—“
But right when I started talking, the little boy looked up at me, then made a bee-line for his front door, slamming it behind him. I was shocked. What could account for his strange behavior?
Well, after second grade and all the programming being cemented in my mind, I thought I knew why that little boy ran inside at the sight of me.
In third grade, because of the trauma of the rape and the stress on my body, I went into puberty. I remember being shocked at my first period. I learned not only from my mom, but from various online sites what I had to expect for the rest of my life. I remember opting for the large pads (made for adult women) instead of tampons at first.
I was swinging upside down from the monkey bars one day, wearing my blue and pink floral gymnastics shorts, when I heard her.
“Ew! Look at Nicole’s pants! What’s she got in there, a pillow?”
I looked around from my upside-down point of view. There was Haley Danes*, the most popular girl in third grade, pointing at the bulge in my shorts created by the pad. A crowd of girls quickly gathered around her and started laughing.
“Nicole wears diapers! Nicole wears diapers!” The crowd took up the chorus. I quickly righted myself, hanging from the monkey bars before I dropped to the ground, and grabbed the book I’d dropped by the corner of the playground set. I headed straight for the school. I’d beg the teacher to let me sit inside. Maybe this time, she’d let me.
When I got home that day, I went straight to my mom. “I need the smallest size of Tampons. Tonight, before school tomorrow.”
A few months later, I saw a crowd of boys giggling and laughing at me. They would talk behind their hands, and something besides the diaper theory spread like wildfire among my classmates—Nicole’s got “mosquito bites”. The boys watched my progress very carefully, until one day on the bus, a boy from my neighborhood proclaimed loudly that I had a nice “rack”. I didn’t know what that meant, but I knew it probably wasn’t good.
I felt like an object around my classmates. It didn’t matter if they were boys or girls. Around boys, I either felt like a sexual object, or someone to be spurned. Around girls, I felt like an alien who was out of sync physically and socially. I didn’t find anywhere where I belonged. Until 6th grade, that is.
In 6th grade, a girl named Maria Juarez* was in my class. She was short and plump, and had a beautiful smile and laugh that I admired from day one. I so wanted to be her friend, because I noticed there was something different about her. But I was afraid to reach out too much. What if my efforts at deep friendship were rejected yet again?
One day, our entire class was herded down the hallway to the library to listen to a short story. The teacher sat on the chair in the spacious part of the library, surrounded by windows. The rest of us—about 20 of us—sat in a wide circle on the floor. Maria was sitting straight across from me. She’d worn banana yellow leggings and was sitting with her legs straddled outwards, creating a “V”.
I was probably the only one listening to the story. I was so engrossed in it, that it took me a full minute to realize about half the class was laughing—and the laughter was getting louder and louder. When the two girls sitting on either side of me started to laugh, I noticed.
I snapped out of the movie in my head that was being created by the story, and looked around at everyone to see what was causing the laughter. I then saw Maria across the circle from me, her legs wide open, and a dark red stain at her crotch blossoming across the yellow fabric.
I didn’t hesitate. I jumped up so quickly, a girl to the side of me emitted a yelp of surprise. I strode across the circle to Maria, and reached my hand down to her.
“Come with me,” I said.
She looked around, confused, and saw everyone looking at her and giggling. She looked up at me, and I saw a flicker of trust in her eyes. She grabbed my hand, and I put my arm around her and walked her out of the library. The teacher didn’t even notice.
I walked her straight to the nearest bathroom. “Maria, I’m so sorry…but you’ve started your period,” I said, squeezing her shoulder.
“What?” She checked her pants, and then she started sobbing. I swung open a stall door and she went inside, then gently closed and locked it.
She cried and cried. I leaned against the stall door with my right shoulder and I heard everything in those sobs. I heard the embarrassment, the shame, the sense of terror, the injustice of it all, and the sorrow.
All I could say was, “I’m so sorry, Maria. I’m so sorry.” And I meant it.
I thought about everything—all the taunting and teasing I had been through at the hands of my peers in elementary school. It was all dark. And parts of me seemed to have given into that darkness…but this darkness was the source of all this pain. It was the source of the pain Maria was going through right then.
I vowed to stand against that darkness—that I would never add to it or be a part of it. I never wanted to hurt others like those kids had, and if I had, I was sorry.
I turned towards the mirrors near the line of sinks on the far wall, and I saw my reflection. I didn’t look like a little girl anymore. I was standing tall—without any of my prior shame or misery which had drawn my shoulders in and my head down in the last four years.
While I had been feeling everything Maria was feeling, I now felt something else. I felt…was it elation? Accomplishment? Joy.
As I hit upon that word, I was confused. Am I just a messed up person to be feeling this way, while this girl is going through this? But then I saw myself standing tall and strong in the mirror, and I realized something. I had been so alone during the past four years, and had turned inward. Yet, I had stumbled upon something—quite by accident. It was something that was taught in church, but never had it been more real to me than this.
To have friends, I didn’t have to give into the darkness and participate with the girls and boys who were hurtful to everyone else. I could have friends by reaching out to those who were hurting exactly like me. And even if Maria didn’t want to be my friend, I realized that rescuing her today was a beautiful experience in itself. I could serve others. Nothing made me feel more alive—more like my trueself again.
I turned back towards the door and put my hand on it. “Maria, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry they laughed at you. I’m sorry they did that to you. I’m sorry things had to happen this way. But I’m here for you, okay?”
Between sobs I heard, “Nicole…thank you.”
We became best friends after that, and I was so thankful to have a friend.
The dark side uses traumatic abuse to shatter our spirit and destroy our self-worth. Once broken, we are taught a barrage of emotions and behavioral responses intended to reinforce the victim’s spiral into social isolation and self-loathing.
When a little girl or boy goes through major trauma, and they dissociate, there is always going to be a part of them that they carry tucked deep down, from that time henceforth, which is in a state of fear and trauma. (That is, until they heal that part of themselves.) Generally, that part is kept under wraps, so that their core personality can continue on normally. Sometimes, though, those traumatized pieces rise up and can make life very difficult for the person and their loved ones.
We should remember that that part—the part that took in all of the abuse and is constantly fearful and traumatized—is the strong one. I have had to learn to recognize that. When those parts of me have come out that are anxious about everything, that attack others, that don’t know how to navigate social situations, etc., my boyfriend JJ has literally honored her—even when she is insulting him out of her fear of relationships or fear of hidden things being exposed. This honoring—this love—has taught me—the core personality, by example to love and honor the rest of me, too.
This has helped to heal me.
I wish I had known this, or had a mentor who knew this back in second grade when I first began splitting. But all I had were the adults and peers around me who were alternatively shocked, scared, threatened, bewildered, and angry at my behavior. The shaming I received from family and friends only deepened the cycle of self-loathing begun by the original abuse I received.
One of my first memories associated with the fallout from the Satanic Abuse and subsequent Dissociative Identity Disorder—besides the one where I was laughing and then crying uncontrollably in class—was when I recognized that my odd hysterical/sobbing behavior was scaring off my classmates from being friends with me.
There are always multiple factors working against every victim of abuse. Satan uses the reactions of others to pile on the shame and isolation to make life a living hell for the victim. And why does Satan do this? Well…because these kids are special. They are sensitive, they’ve got gifts, and they’ve got something in them that can help the world in some way. The veil is thin for them, increasing their spiritual gifts but making them extra vulnerable to Satan’s spiritual abuse. No wonder they are Satan’s top targets. He is going to focus a significant proportion of his weapons and henchmen on these gifted but vulnerable sons and daughters of God. He must neutralize, invalidate, and undermine their strengths–making it almost impossible for them to fulfill their earthly missions.
Take the simple and righteous goal of making friends, in my case. There were multiple factors Satan had arranged against me:
As a little seven-year old, I had yet to learn how to shove down my emotions. I wore them all on my sleeve. But with how expressive and sensitive I already was, with a recent but deeply suppressed rape, my bipolar emotions erupted uncontrollably, scaring away everyone who may have mattered to me. I’d be laughing one moment, hitting someone in anger the next, then sobbing the next.
I had negative programming instilled in me from the time of my first spiritual attacks. For every healthy virtue—such as being able to make friends—Satan installed the opposite in my subconscious like a computer virus. These tapes ran through my head: “No one wants to be friends with you,” “You aren’t fun enough to be friends with,” “No one likes you,” and “It’s best to go it alone; that’s the kind of hero I am.” Of course, I was also programmed to only notice the negative reinforcement around me, never the positive.
The dissociation created detachment and severe isolation. As each day wore on and became worse and worse, I became better at dissociating. I started to live in a kind of amnesia dream. I was eventually able to connect with some kids my age, but then things would happen—like when in 6th grade, I suddenly forgot everything I’d ever learned about my then-current best friend. I was in a panic. We’d known each other for months, yet I knew nothing about her—just her face. I had to fake being her best friend until I relearned everything about her. Because of dissociation, it was very hard to remember my peers and the details of the conversations we’d have. It still is to this day.
Living in a constant state of stress and fear hampers the mind’s ability to learn. When you are living with this level of stress, you are in survival mode, and flight or fight syndrome can kick in at any time. The mind cannot learn properly while in this state, and my social skills began to lag behind my peers. DID inevitably leads to social choices and behaviors meant to isolate the victim, who is already starving for approval and affirmation. When I noticed that my social skills weren’t matching up with my peers, I tried (and failed) to catch up with them by overreacting and overreaching. After these backfired, my isolation deepened and became a part of my broken identity.
Let me share an experience which illustrates all of these factors working together for the worst.
I remember standing there on the black pavement behind the elementary school in my jelly shoes, watching others playing hopscotch. I couldn’t remember who they were, although they were all in my class, and I knew that I had learned their names and interacted with each of them multiple times. As I stood there, I felt an overwhelming sense of shame at my failing memory. I felt like crying, and I longed to be part of the game. I wanted to laugh like that blonde girl, or know how to tease the others like the girl with the brunette pigtails. But I didn’t know how, and no one was looking at me or paying me any attention. There was no one to teach me. So…I simply stood there, watching them and feeling like I was a ghost.
The voice entered my head, a voice which said emphatically, no one likes you. No one wants to include you…that’s because everyone hates you. I fought against this voice, but it had been reinforced with painful experiences in the months previously. And I had been shattered inside since that strange time…the time with the bruises on my body and when it was hard to go to the bathroom. So, I finally started to give into the idea… No one likes me? No one wants to include me? Everyone hates me?
No one likes me…
When I got off the bus that day, I ran home; I had reached a new level of fear. I went around the house and gathered up all the candy I could find that was leftover from Halloween into a brown paper lunch bag. I told myself, kids like candy, right? So if I bring the candy, they’ll like me. It’s as easy as 1+1=2.If this doesn’t work, nothing will.
The next day, at the playground, I went around with my brown paper bag of candy. I held it up to all the kid’s faces, saying, “Do you want to be my friend?” When no one took any candy, I grew desperate. I started crying, “Please, take some candy! Please, why don’t you like me?! Won’t anyone be my friend?!” Then I started screaming and crying. I threw the bag, and pieces of candy scattered all over the cement. The programming had reinforced itself even further.
The faces of the boys and girls around me blurred. A boy in a striped shirt laughed. The girl who knew how to do cartwheels better than anyone else looked concerned, but didn’t step forward or take my hand. A boy with freckles yelled, “Aww, are you crying, crybaby? Why don’t you—“ and I didn’t hear the rest. I don’t remember the rest.
As you can see, the programming—with brutal effectiveness—brings out actions that creates enmity between the very people who should be helping the victim. The victim is programmed in such a way that, no matter what they do to get help, they just dig themselves deeper and deeper.
When we become so lost and alone that we seem out of reach of any comfort or assistance, God has a way of showing us that not only can He reach us, but that He knows us better than we know ourselves. He has a way of catching us in ways we never would have expected.
In fourth grade, when I was 9 years old and after we had moved to St. George, the first Harry Potter book came out. No one yet really knew about the series—it hadn’t picked up momentum yet. However, as my mom was passing through a bookstore, the cover caught her eye. She doesn’t know what made her do it, but she bought it for me. (This was the first of many times where my mom has, quite literally, saved my life.)
Now, understand dear reader…I was a voracious book worm. I was always reading at least seven books at once. In second grade, I finished the Lord of the Rings Series. I was always looking for my next “fix”.
I understand now: reading was the way I dealt with—or escaped from—trauma.
The Incident had already happened. And worse yet…other than my increasing signs of childhood bipolar disorder, and severe PTSD, I had no idea or clue that it had happened. So, how is a little girl of 7 supposed to deal with all that—especially if the adults in my life just wrote it off as me going through “a phase,” or being a little more emotional than other children?
I have since learned that even if no one on earth knows the deep pain you are going through and the endless dark hole into which you seem to be falling, there is one who knows. There is no place so dark that He cannot find you. He will seek you out and throw all the lifelines He can to you–in any way He can. Because He loves you.
In fourth grade, two years after the Incident, I had fallen so far down that dark hole that I had become extremely suicidal at 9 years of age. Because of the Satanic programming which had been done to me in a spiritual dimension, and which had been consummated by physical rape, I was programmed to literally “self destruct” every time I even thought of asking for help or telling the truth about what I was going through. I was living in a personal hell, but any time I reached out for a solution, I would become extremely suicidal and feel intense loathing and shame. So, I shoved it all down and turned to books as my sanctuary and hung on for dear life.
Jesus Christ not only knows each of us personally but also what we are going through–I can attest to that. As the best Seeker in the Universe, He knows exactly how to reach us, and He may do so through the avenue of our personal interests. He certainly did so with me.
“Nicolee…I bought a book for you,” my mom said one day. She handed me Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I said thanks and retreated upstairs to my room, took one look at the cover and thought, “What is that boy doing? How weird is that?!”and then I literally threw the book under my bed.
…I never, ever, treat books like that. Even if I don’t want to read them, I place them carefully on a shelf. But this one? Something about it both compelled me and repelled me at the same time, and it scared me. So there, under the bed, the book stayed for months.
Sometimes, I can feel evil—like drums deep down—boiling up inside of me, ready to spew out into chaos. In moments like these I can be overcome with suicidal thoughts. I had been suicidal already—many times. That kind of suicidal ideation—or whatever you want to call it—feels like someone takes over your body and walks to the kitchen to grab the knife, or walks to the edge of the cliff to throw yourself off. In those moments—when that personality takes over—there is almost no stopping it once it has begun.
So, I found it was best to just push it down and avoid it altogether. And so one day, to counteract the evil, I knelt down by my bed, searching for a lifeline, and there was the book—collecting dust. I hesitated, then gave in to a bright impulse and reached carefully far underneath the bed, to grab my salvation.
“Mr and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Private Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.”
I hate these people already. I thought. Sounds like the author does, too. I think I’ll read on… And from then on—even through to the end of 12th grade—I was known by most as “Harry Potter Girl.”
I whispered, I’m sorry Heavenly Father. Punish me if you must, but I can’t stay here anymore. Please…please let me read Harry Potter after I die. Even if you do cast me into hell.
I swallowed the handful of pills, I locked my door, and sank onto my bed. There would be no more confused sobbing at night anymore—I was leaving and that was that.
Everything went black…
Four hours later, the sun had traveled across the sky—seemingly oblivious to the little dead girl spread out on her bed.
Then there was a voice.
Talitha cumi….Damsel, arise.
I drew air into my lungs.
I lay there, eyes closed…just for a moment. I noticed the sensation of aircoming in and out of my nose. I felt my heart beat in my chest–painfully at first, but then it became rhythmic and steady. My once-cold limbs received warmth as blood began to circulate and pump through my fingers and toes. This was my body! I opened my eyes. There were rays of light coming in through the half-open blinds over the window, and I saw motes of dust swirling lazily through the air.
I gingerly leaned forward, flexing my core and getting up onto my left elbow, and blinked as I looked around my room. I saw I was alone. Then, I immediately rolled out of bed and hit my knees hard on the carpeted floor as fast as I could.
I began a desperate prayer—
“Oh God! Forgive me! Forgive me! I can’t remember….I can’t remember what just happened, but I’m back—I’m here now and I’m here to go through this! I…”
But being back in my body was overwhelming. I paused, gasping for air and trying to think straight.
Where had I been?
And my body…ugh! My body seemed disgusting to me. I could feel things in my body that didn’t belong there. Like there were programs and splits and suicidality and darkness and everything nasty you could ever, ever think of.
And it was all IN me!
I felt like screaming.
I felt like screaming—but it wasn’t God’s fault now. It was mine.I was the reason I was back there in that disgusting body. ME! I knew it through and through—God had given me the choice to come back, and I had!
My memories were hazy—I couldn’t hold on to them as they slipped away. But I knew the truth. God had shown me what would happen if I stayed dead. And it was so awful, I had willingly come back to my filthy body.
I stared out the window.
Any brave resolution I might have felt right before re-entering my body had disappeared. I couldn’t feel or remember why I had to come back. And now, from this side of the veil, I was absolutely furious.
I clasped my hands and knelt there by my bed, a mix of confusion and suicidal feelings roiling through me.
Then I came to a decision. I could make a compromise with God.
“Okay God. You have cheated me out of paradise this once…but I am coming back to You. You know and I know that my life is a living hell, and no one–NO ONE–should have to go through this! And so I’m coming back as soon as….as soon as…”
An idea occurred to me.
“As soon as I read the LAST word of the LAST book of HARRY POTTER! AND THAT’S FINAL!”
Harry Potter 7 came out eight years later, two weeks after I graduated from highschool.
I had many, many near misses—some I shouldn’t have come back from. I had been secretly suicidal for most of my grade school years.
But I always held onto one thread of hope. And it wasn’t God, or love, or my family. Those reasons, sadly, weren’t enough to keep me here at the worst of times. At the worst of times, I held onto that single thread–to find out how it ended—to find out what happened to Harry Potter. The boy who struggled with a past full of questions. The boy who had a horcrux of darkness implanted within him he had to fight against everyday. The boy who had gifts and powers to use for good if he should so choose.
And how would my story end? By the time I read the last word of the last book of Harry Potter, I had hung on enough times to know: I hadn’t been just putting off the inevitable until the end of 12th grade. My story would continue.
I’m sitting here today typing this to you, yes, because of my mom’s inspired purchase of JK Rowling’s wonderful creation: Harry Potter, the skinny scar-headed seeker from Gryffindor House. That’s why I’m living and breathing, about 2,500 times over. But I know that was a life preserver thrown down to me by the true Seeker–Jesus Christ. He found a way to speak to me during the nine darkest years of my life. And He will speak to you, too. He knows everything about whatever is good in your life that you feel a pull towards. He is in everything. Learn to see the messages He is giving to you daily–for He is God, and that’s how much He loves you. He will catch you.
Satanic programming isolates its victim and fills the mind with self-loathing, pain, and hopelessness, all the while keeping the source of trauma hidden. The only hope left to the victim is a hope for an end to the lonely life of suffering and misery.
(Salt Lake City, UT) – “The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) observed a 141.3% increase in suicides among Utah youth aged 10-17 from 2011 to 2015, compared to an increase of 23.5% nationally.”
“Our investigation showed that suicide is complex and youth can experience multiple risk and protective factors. No single behavior or risk factor could explain all the reasons for the increase we’ve seen.”
Imagine you hear voices in your head, saying, “you are not enough”. It’s not hard to imagine, right? I think hearing that voice and sometimes even believing it is a universal human struggle.
After The Incident in second grade, I heard “you are not enough,” constantly, but also so much more. I clearly heard specific sentences, such as: “You are a worthless piece of trash.” “You were made to be a sexual plaything of men, then to be slowly murdered in the most terrible way imaginable.” The voices would give detailed descriptions of what would happen to me. Accompanying these whispered sentences (which were deceptively in my own voice), were images and videos that would play over and over in my mind of me being raped and tortured to death in ways I can’t—or won’t—describe. These images and scenes would follow me into my dreams, even into adulthood.
The addition of pornography was a huge factor in the development of these sexual death fantasies. I was exposed to a book of pornographic images at a friend’s birthday party when I was eight. I can still see those images in my mind. Another factor was creeping downstairs to watch the violent or sexual rated-R movies my brothers were watching on TV. I felt like I was addicted to these movies—even though they terrified me. The dark side took a multimedia approach to my programming.
All of these tapes and images flooding my thoughts settled deep into my mind and combined with the un-dealt-with emotions I kept pushing down to my subconscious. Everything was used by the dark side to its advantage, and the hordes of hell seemed to combine against me. I’m sure the devils assigned to me were exultant during this darkest phase of my life.
Possibly, their greatest victory during this time was when I slowly stopped fighting. I stopped fighting the images and the sentences placed in my mind, and I started to give in. I started to believe them. A part of me even got a sort of high when I would take what Satan was giving me and run with it.
I believe the dark side influenced my peers as well as my family to reinforce what they were programming me with. Any bullying at home or at school was magnified ten-fold—especially because of how vulnerable and sensitive I was. If someone pushed me down or hit me, it felt like someone had stabbed me. If someone teased me, I felt all of hell mocking me.
At the same time, my mom was either gone to Salt Lake, or sleeping upstairs. This was because she commuted 4 hours each way for her job and worked long hours as a nurse. It seemed like I got my mommy’s attention for only a few hours a week. I have a caring mom, but she had no idea how to help me, and I had no idea how to ask. To this day, I believe my programming blocked me from revealing what I was truly going through at the time. And how could she have guessed? She had her hands full with a manic daughter and four out-of-control boys.
When it came to my dad, he was not equipped to detect signs of abuse or mental illness. When I had his attention, I felt I couldn’t and shouldn’t explain anything of what I was going through to him. If I described the evil images in my head, I thought, it would mean I am a bad girl, or even that I am crazy. And so, I didn’t explicitly say anything. Between all these complications and my programming, I was destined to suffer alone, completely isolated.
I held this question in my mind, and I asked it with every gesture and word I said—although I didn’t consciously know what I was asking: Why? Why? Why? I have tried to be a good girl, so Why? Why? Why?
So, you can see how a child facing all of this opposition could become suicidal in third grade, and then actually attempt suicide a year later.
One day, while our family was reading the scriptures, we read this verse: And he that endureth not unto the end, the same is he that is also hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence they can no more return, because of the justice of the Father.
This scripture terrified me. After reading that, I had an inward struggle. Not only did I imagine Heavenly Father to be strict and punishing, but I also created a paradigm where I thought I knew what committing suicide meant—I thought it meant that whoever did such a heinous act wasn’t enduring to the end. That there was absolutely no mercy whatsoever. While I definitely had a death wish, nothing could be worth being hewn down and cast into fire!
My will to simply exist without being burned alive for eternity was enough for me to live. So, I struggled onwards day by day, and hour by hour.
Every step seemed to be filled with unanswered questions and endless misery. I felt like a thousand voices were screaming obscenities at me 24/7. I felt like everyone else was having fun—everyone else had figured life out—and I was the only one stupid enough to be missing something. Day to day I tried to act “normal,” but I felt incredibly confused—I had absolutely no memory of The Incident, or even any of the memories around The Incident. I felt that no one could answer any of my questions—but they came screaming out of me anyway in behavior that was “not acceptable.” I was written off by many as being alternately frustrating, a pain, exasperating, irritating, an unknown variable, annoying, crazy, a freak.
At times—a lot of the time—I succeeded in looking and acting completely normal. I had friends, I played, I laughed, I drew pictures—everything appeared fine. Sometimes, the beast inside of me seemed to go to sleep, and I could breathe again. But when all the pain woke up, I would shut myself in my room and cry or sometimes act out.
In fourth grade, one day everything seemed black and white. I couldn’t stand it anymore. I realized that I already was cast into a lake of fire and brimstone—because that’s what this life felt like! And so, I decided once and for all to take my chances with a vengeful God rather than with this hellish existence on earth.
I waited until there was no one in the house. Then, with my heart beating erratically in fear, I went around the house, opening medication bottles. I took a few pills out of each one, until my cupped hands were brimming with pills. I remember they were mostly white and red in color.
Funnily enough, my last thoughts were of a book series I had become quite attached to…
I whispered, I’m sorry, Heavenly Father. Punish me if you must, but I can’t stay here anymore. Please…please let me read the end of Harry Potter. Even if I have to do it from hell.
I went into the bathroom next to my bedroom, and swallowed mouthful after mouthful of pills, gulping them down with sink water.
Then, my heart jumping into my throat with anxiety, I walked in a daze to my room. I shut the white door. I went to my bed—the bed that had witnessed so many nights of sobbing and tears—and I lay down.