Monday, January 17, 2011
Bringing Down the Demons
“Maybe the Lyme Disease is making you too sick to work,” she said.
“But I’m over the Lyme,” I insisted.
“Then why are you still getting so sick all the time? Ulcers now? Bladder tumors again? Weakness and arthritis pain?”
The answer was obvious to this animist: the demons were in control. The time had come for the final showdown, and either I would defeat those wicked creatures or they would take me down into death.
You may think that all my talk of demonic activity is a metaphor. How could it be literally true? Do I really reject the science? Isn’t sickness caused by bacteria and spirochetes, chemical irritants, deterioration of the neck bones, and so on? Well, sure . . . but the physiology is just one layer of the complex physical-spiritual event we call sickness.
I agree with the animists of the past: demons are real. They attach themselves to us and damage us and can be extremely tenacious. They cause sickness and death, whether or not they harness tics or germs to their wagons.
And I’ve been around the medical carousel enough to know that all the cameras on all the endoscopic tubes in all the world wouldn’t be able to take a picture of my demons—only of the damage that they’d caused. The doctors and their drugs and tubes and surgeries had done me as much damage as good. It was time to take matters into my own hands. I canceled my doctors' appointments and set forth to meet the enemy.
First, I had to take my body back. I researched my illnesses on my own and carefully choose food to eat, supplements to take, and behaviors to change. I invested a large quantity of money in a health club—think of that money as my sacrifice to the god of strength—and I started to work out as often as I could. I stood ready to give up the things that had given my life meaning and purpose before, my blog, my art, those dreams of having my own business or buying my own house, so that I could fully engage the battle.
The most difficult part, though, was ditching the stress, that is, the physiological reaction to the demons of worry, fear, pain, unhappiness, perfectionism and resentment. Stress releases hormones and other chemicals, tightens muscles, and wrecks havoc with the body in numerous ways as the body rallies all its resources to cope with crisis. But there was no crisis. There never had been. It was the demons all along, chattering like monkeys in my mind, crying “Watch out! Watch out! Death is coming!” They were always, always, judging me, judging every single thing around me, and blocking out every other voice. They had set up housekeeping in my mind and were driving my soul to death.
With Charlie and Jack by my side, and with Suzanne as my shaman, I dove into the past and faced the demons of my childhood squarely for the first time in my life. I stood shameless before my mistakes, my wrongful decisions and behaviors, the hurt I’d caused, the troubles I’d created. There was no escape into positive thinking or new age denial. Those paths would have led me away from the truth, because a well-lived life always includes struggle and disappointment and pain. Only by looking at myself in true humility could I see the demons, and then I could see that they were not greater than my ability to destroy them.
The demons had set up housekeeping in my mind, the most vulnerable part of the human animal. Mind is humanity’s great adaptation but also our terrible weakness. Once convinced of the truth of an idea, the mind adheres to it with a spiritual superglue, and this is true at the micro-level of individual humans and their childhood misperceptions and at the macro-level of cultural identities. I guess that’s how we evolved to learn, but those things learned in heat or pain stick to the mind too tightly perhaps. What an opportunity for devils and hobgoblins!
Slowly, but surely, I beat the demons back. My health improved, my attitude shifted, until I asked Suzanne, “Am I still the same person? Who the hell am I?” Finding the answer to that one seems to be the next great journey for me. In the meantime, I’m back to my drawing table and I expect to write more regularly again on this blog and Charlie’s about my adventures in the land of Polytheistic Animism.
Best wishes to all,
PS: Thanks to all for your behind-the-scenes emails and comments—they keep me going strong!