A dark shadowy figure passed the door of my office. It moved on all fours and had a very feline shape, like a panther. I followed it down the hallway and into the empty room at the end.
I knew this was no earthly creature, but I did not expect the force that hit me as I entered the room. Doubled over in pain, my chest was drenched in sweat, and my head was reeling. A foul odor filled the room, rendering me nauseous. I stumbled to my knees, then collapsed on the floor.
“Mom? I saw something that looked like a cat come this way.” Marie had been working reception in the foyer. I heard her just outside.
“Stay away!” the words came out gurgled, as if I was choking.
“Are you okay, Mom?”
“No! Something’s attacking me! Stay out!”
“What should I do?” A good question, and I was wondering the very same thing, but the violence of the attack overwhelmed me and I couldn’t think straight.
“I just feel so sick! Get a bucket.”
I’d never encountered anything like this before. I was certain it was some type of demon, but what, I didn’t know.
“Throw the pail in here, but don’t come in,” I advised my daughter.
“Mom, I’m scared.”
“Don’t be! Whatever this is likes fear. I’ll be okay.” I only wish I felt as certain as I sounded. I heaved into the bucket as the pain ripples through my midsection. I felt like I was on fire. What was this thing?
I tried to focus on my breathing and center myself, but the waves of nausea and the sheer physical pain made it almost impossible. I was determined not to let this thing get the best of me.
Night was coming on and the only other person still in the building would be leaving soon. I didn’t know how I was going to drive home.
“Get Robert,” I called to my daughter.
I could see that Robert was alarmed when he saw me.
“I need to get home, Robert. But I can’t get there in this state. Can you take us?”
I don’t remember the ride home, but I do remember Robert’s helpless look as he left us in the driveway. Inside, I left Marie to explain to her father as I closed myself away in the bedroom to battle it out. I steeled myself for the fight, but it seemed the more determined I was the greater the force that hit me. I wanted to unleash my growing rage on this unseen foe, but somehow I knew that would only add fuel to its fury. The more I fought, the greater the suffering. I was growing weaker by the minute.
Then I remembered a book I had read in my last year at university: The Man Who Wrestled with God, by John Sandford It was recommended by my religious studies teacher, and tells the story of Jacob, who is about to ascend the ladder to Heaven when he is tackled by an unseen opponent. Jacob fights and fights, until he realizes that he is wrestling with God, and that the only thing to do is surrender.
I knew my only hope was in giving over to God. I’d had a dream once, where God picked me up and cradled me in His hands. I needed that now, so as I centered myself, I imagined that my mattress was the hand of God, and that with each breath I surrendered deeper and deeper into the hands of a loving force. I imagined myself falling through the blackness that had threatened me, and landing in a place of comfort and love.
Love yourself, were the words I heard to guide me. Love yourself just as you are.
“I can’t,” I wanted to cry out, but I knew the message was right. I didn’t love myself. The nausea washed over me again. “Okay, okay,” I thought. “I love myself. I love myself.” And suddenly, I realized that I could love myself. That if I could see me through God’s eyes, I wouldn’t be so critical, but would behold myself with forgiveness and acceptance. So for the first time in forever, I felt okay with me. And as this new sensation dawned, the darkness receded, and with it the pain and vomiting.
The battle was over.
I had found calm in the eye of the storm, and it saved me.