(Updated August 2016)
It's no surprise to me that the first demon I would write about would be the demon of accusation. It is the demon I seem to battle the most often. There have been long periods, months, years, where this demon has been relatively quiet. At times I fight this demon weekly, sometimes daily, even multiple times a day. As I've healed I've learned a little more about my demons. And much to my relief, I have found a battle plan that leaves this demon impotent, forced to retreat.
My most recent battle with this demon occurred on New Year's Eve. I found myself, in the heat of battle, thinking of you dear reader. I understand how, when you stand accused by this demon, you lose hope, lose confidence. This demon strikes so hard sometimes that you lose your footing in this world. On New Year's Eve I won. And I want to tell you how I won that battle.
It started out simply enough. I spent my day, New Year's Eve, doing this and that to prepare for the watching my granddaughters for the evening. My sweet grandbabies are 2 1/2 years and 3 months old. I am the mother of four, I've had multiple children in my care. Now that I'm 15+ years on the other side of raising children, I'm really not sure how I did it. But I digress.
The details of the day are unimportant and insignificant. It was a typical day with typical ups and downs. So typical that had the night not gone like it did, I would not be able to recall the downs at all. But that's how this demon operates, in the minutia of our daily lives.
Up until midnight everything was perfectly fine. The baby was a bit fussy and needed to be held a lot, but nothing really out of the ordinary. My husband and granddaughters and I had enjoyed a couple of movies, ice cream, and baths (because mammaw doesn't care how much water or bubbles you use), ring in 2015 with the neighbors' fireworks, then off to bed. Uneventful. Peaceful even.
At 2:30 am things start to go down hill. While my husband and the toddler sleep, the baby wakes up. We head off to the family room for a bottle. But then she won't go back to sleep. For an hour she is awake, looking around, smiling occasionally, but peaceful only if held. That peace ended around 4am. By then I was sleepy and wanted to go back to bed. My granddaughter did not. For an 90 minutes I tried everything I know to soothe the baby to sleep. I walked. I rocked. I patted. I sang. I pacified. I gave tylenol. I gave gas drops. I changed positions. I put her down. I picked her up. I put her in her swing. Nothing made that baby happy. Every minute her cries seem to get more intense. And as her crying escalated, so did my frustration.
This is when this demon likes to strike, when your defenses are down. I'm worn out physically and mentally. I am frustrated at not being able to help my granddaughter. I am weak.
The accusations come. I accuse my husband of not caring (about me) because he is sleeping though this and not helping me. I accuse the lady at the store of trying to cheat me out of money with her over ring. I accuse my friend of not caring (about me) because she didn't answer my question directly. I start feeling angry. I remember what I felt like as a 19 year old, alone trying to comfort a baby, my anxiety level rises and the accusations start coming quicker and from different directions, and now toward me. I start hearing the voices of my mother, my father, even teachers from high school. You haven't accomplished anything in life. You aren't a good mother. You will never be one of those people (meaning successful). Your house is a mess. You are lazy. You are making less money now than you were in your 20's. You are a failure. That was ok, but so&so does it better. My anger swells as the baby cries louder and louder. I realize I am gritting my teeth as I get off the couch to get the baby from the swing and it hits me.....
I"m angry. Why in the world am I angry?
I'm going to go to the bible now. I beg you reader, even if you don't believe in Jesus, to hear me out. This is not about proselytizing. What I am going to tell you isn't going to convert you. But it may help you take on a new way of looking at things.
2 Corinthians 10:5....take each thought captive to obey Christ. If you are like I was some time ago you are thinking to yourself, "Great. In the heat of my battle I am supposed to have the strength to think like Jesus Christ. Right?" Well, sort of.
I'm not going to bother to pull up the scripture for this one. You probably know the story. An adulterous woman is brought to Jesus and he is asked about stoning her to death. You may or may not realize that this stunt was more about Jesus than the woman, but that doesn't matter to us here. The point is, this woman, afraid, weak, caught doing something against the law, is on the ground surrounded by angry men, waiting for death. Jesus doesn't answer at first, but when he does he tells them that the one who has never done anything wrong should throw the first stone to kill her. I imagine the woman lying there never looks up. It probably had never occurred to her that these people would be honest, that they would admit their own short comings and drop their stones and leave.
Then, and this is the cool part, Jesus says to the woman. "Where are your accusers?" I can imagine her dismay to look around and find them gone. And then Jesus says (paraphrase) "I do not accuse you either. (Go back and change your life)."
AHA! This is when it hits me square in the face. These accusations, these voices in my head that serve only to bring me down are not from God. Ok, I admit that I knew that but sometimes I'm a little thick headed. The word picture here- Jesus standing in front of a woman who was preparing herself to die for all the bad things she had done in her life, and he, God, does not accuse her of being any of those things. He is gentle with her.
And here I stand, worn out, frustrated, angry at accusers in my head, looking at my crying grandbaby, realizing that those accusations are not some sort of punishment for the bad things I've done in my life. They are not serving to make me better myself. Some of them are not even real. And the way I make these accusers go away is to take these thoughts captive. My husband would have gladly (well, that may be pushing it) gotten up with me. The poor soul at the store was really doing the best she could, technology seemed to be overwhelming her. My friend did not understand. My mother was wrong...and so on.
So in the heat of my battle with this demon, I have learned that I have to take the thoughts he places in my head captive and replace them with truth. The truth may not always be pleasant, but it will never accuse you. The truth does not seek to break you down. The truth does not compare you to others. The truth does not seek to hurt you. The truth will give you the tools you need to overcome any accusation.
Edit August 2016
I have been working with my counselor on this demon. I told her how I battle it and asked her for a specific strategy. Her assignment: make a list of qualities about me that I would not change. Easy, right?
It took 6 days before I could put one item on the list. "I am a crazy, confident, no recipe needed, top chef kind of cook." A little bit random, right? I had other ideas, but here's why this is the only one to make the official list.
It's the only quality I have thought of so far that I know no one can deny. No one can argue and tell me no, I'm not a good cook. I am a bad-ass cook.
I'm sure my therapist will want more to be added to the list. I've asked my husband to help. I am supposed to read this list every morning and keep it close at hand to re-read that list when I'm in a crisis.
As I've thought about it, I think the list is a good idea. I think a number of folks, especially victims and survivors, should make their own lists. Think about it, what would you put on your list?
I haven't been back in crisis yet to test this strategy. I will update this when I've tried it, because I know another battle with this demon will happen.