This was my final assignment for my college writing class going over my upbringing in the Pentecostal religion and how it has effected my life to this day. Hope this helps nontheists understand the extreme effects these denominations have on young children. Basically, if you've seen Jesus Camp, that was my life. It was an extremely accurate documentary to the type of kids I was surrounded with and I helped develop their relationships with god at the camps I help run.
My “Broken Leg” As a Charismatic Evangelical Pentecostal
My first anxiety attack was when I was 16 years old in my high school English class. It was an incredibly scary experience that my mother and pastor identified as a demonic attack against my very persistent and faithful prayers I made for all my non-christian friends and family members.
As a Charismatic Evangelical Pentecostal we were motivated to reach out to any and all non-Christians to try to bring them into God's Army. We were trained to try to appear as not only as a confident and stable member of society, but a great amount of effort was pressed on us to pursue people's salvation in earnest prayer any chance we could throughout our daily lives. In high school I organized bible clubs and prayer groups that met before and after school that sometimes were in plane site to encourage other students to ask why we did what we did. When we would be approached by such questions we took it as an opportunity to share the “love of god” as it is presented in the gospels by Jesus Christ. Our interpretation of the gospels and especially the book of Acts motivated our denomination to be unapologetic in our public display of religious practices while carrying our bibles where everyone could see them. We also lived with the understanding that the spiritual realm was readily at work to hinder our efforts in spreading the truth of the Gospel message and we were always under the assumption that everyone needed to be saved as soon as possible and accept Jesus as their personal lord and savior. Teenagers like me considered ourselves vessels of the Holy Spirit, which was the presence and power of God and enabled us to do great and wonderful things that could only help our ability to be witnesses for Jesus Christ.
This became the reason why I lived and breathed. At a very young age I would stay up for days on end praying and reading every systematic theology book I could get my hands on as well as the two major translations of the bible alongside a 15 pound book called a Concordance that allowed me to read the bible in Hebrew and Greek. I had no idea what this would eventually do to my psychological state until many years later when I continued to have anxiety attacks. I never pursued help because it was driven into my mind that it was a sign of weakness, a sign that I had something that made me less than a normal person and a weak Pentecostal Christian. My pastor simply told me to pray about it, ask God for strength so I could continue to be a powerful prayer warrior for the people I brought to church to try to convert to our denomination of Christianity.
About a week ago I finally wore too thin and I knew I needed to seek professional help. My anxiety attacks and what I've come to learn as “Night Terrors” had become increasingly intense and disturbing. The details of these I am still very embarrassed to talk about but after long discussions with a campus Counselor and a medical Doctor I feel like I'm finally going to find legitimate answers and solutions to one day deal with these issues. I had assumed for a long time that if I was able to overcome these things with my own personal strength that I could become a much stronger person than if I sought medical attention, but I've come to realize that I should have sought help a long time ago because the chemical imbalance I have is just as real as a broken leg and no one would live with a broken leg for as long as I have.
Without going into great details of my own parasomnia instances (also called Night Terrors) they consist of being unable to wake up during frightful nightmares but your whole body and mind is completely convinced that what you are experiencing in this state of mind is not a dream. Many Night Terrors consist of seeing things and hearing things that you are completely convinced are happening to you in a completely awake consciousness. Extreme Night Terrors could leave victims with physical signs of struggles and experiencing these struggles in a conscious state but being unable to react or move. My experiences with parasomnia consists of a wide range of these and had me questioning my sanity ever since my first episode in my teens. The thought that they were spiritual attacks only scared me more and more since I was not able to control them. This fear only encouraged my anxiety and motivated me into weeks and months of insomnia so I wouldn't put myself in a vulnerable position. But insomnia encourages hallucinations since the brain needs to dream to rest, so I ended up experiencing awake parasomnia many times throughout my life. Even now it's difficult to get myself to sleep and when I do fall asleep it's been difficult to get uninterrupted sleep for more than two hours. I don't question my sanity anymore though as I've met with professionals who have helped others with similar experiences.
I still fear that my close friends and family members will not understand that this is a real mental and physical condition that I need help with, but I am still the person that writes songs that has touched their hearts and lives and I'm certainly still the person who has made them laugh in the past. I'm still that same person who has made good memories with them and who has the ability to love like everyone else. I'm still that person that made people laugh when I was trying to be a strong person with a secret that made me feel inferior to everyone else in my life. I'm now looking forward to the help I have and I hope to not be someone who needs to be dependent on medications but if I am, I will not be any less of a person than the next. My broken leg is just not visible to anyone else but I will control who I want to be and what I hope to accomplish in this lifetime.