Religion Was The Most Important Thing
I grew up in an extremely religious family. Ever since I can remember, my house would be filled with incense smoke every weekend because all my family, friends and relatives would come over to pray. When they did, my parents would order me to serve everyone drinks, bring them the cigarette ashtray, and tend to their every need. My parents will then set up the altars and get ready for “deities” to possess their bodies so that “guidance” can provided to those who came to pray.
For context, my religion practices deity possession in which a deity usually possesses a medium and then speaks, acts and behaves through them. When the public has questions or concerns, they can come to these possession sessions to seek blessings or answers. My parents are mediums, and during the weekends, my mom would usually help out while my dad had deities take control of his body to guide his followers.
Seeing My Dad ‘Possessed’ For The First Time
I first witnessed this when I was about 4 years old. I’m now 38 and those memories of deity possession are still vivid. The ritual usually starts with lots of heavy drumming and chants. Then, the deity will possess the medium’s body, and this part scares me the most as the possessed would start to convulse and speak in a language unknown to us. Seeing my father do that was worse because I simply couldn’t recognise him after the possession.
He’d look at me and yell in varying volumes, break in and out between a spectrum of emotions and I was just terrified as a child (I still am now).
Decades into my youth, I was still playing my part for the family – doing these small chores every other weekend. Of course, sometimes, I would dread them – I’d then to find excuses to avoid attending these rituals. This made my parents angry, and they would ground me, forcing me to stay home on top of these duties that I no longer found meaningful.
Since I had to stay home all weekend, I had limited chances to spend time with my friends. At that point, friends were a very important part of life, and I couldn’t have as many friends because I had no extra time to maintain these friendships.
Apart from friends, my grades also suffered quite a bit because I couldn’t find time to study during the weekends even when exams periods were near. My parents did not allow me these exemptions.
I Was Convinced That I Was A Loser.
Over time, I started to see myself as a loser. I had low self-esteem and was very insecure. The only approval I got was when I would help my parents during the weekends, so I continued doing so. I felt lonely, had no one to turn to and before I knew it – I started to have suicidal thoughts.
Back then, in my late teens, I did not know who to turn to. I should have sought professional help, but back then, I was young and dumb. I resorted to self-harm. These acts didn’t bring me happiness, but they made it more bearable sometimes since I had an outlet to vent my frustrations on, even if that outlet was myself.
Later on, when I was helping my parents one weekend, I passed by the deity table and my possessed father told me to approach him. I was scared shitless, so I just did what he said. He told my mom to lift my sleeves, exposing my scars from months of self-harm. Everyone in the room was shocked. My mom then slapped me and asked me why I did that to my body. I didn’t know what to say so she raised her hand again to hit me, but someone in the room held her back. I then ran out of the house.
When I returned later at night, my mom had already told my dad what happened. The first thing my parents did once they saw me? They yelled again.
“You’re so useless, I shouldn’t have had you.”My parents
After they were done raising their voices, they forced me to show them where else I’ve hurt myself, of which I obliged. After I showed them my scars, they continued yelling at me. I just sat there and took it. Where else could I go? Who else would want me around?
My Parents Rubbed Incense All Over My Scars
After that night, my parents temporarily stopped the religious weekends and focused on “making me better”. The following weekends were hell for me. They forced me to drink different types of talismans, they would draw religious symbols all over my body, and they would force me to chant different religious scripts. They also took the ashes from the incense and rubbed them all over my wounds. It hurt so bad. Some were open because they were quite fresh, so they stung. Every. Single. Weekend. My parents didn’t miss a beat to “cure” me of whatever possessed me.
I broke down in school after about a month of religious torture from my parents. Some boys tried to make fun of how I smelled (because I reeked of the incense ash), and I just started screaming at them and throwing chairs and books in their direction. The whole class was shocked, and my teacher grabbed me to calm me down. I was sent to the counsellor’s office and told her everything. I told her about the religious weekends, what I was made to do and the suicidal thoughts that had been in my mind for months. She called my parents down and spoke to them. Somehow or rather, she managed to convince them to send me to IMH and seek proper treatment.
I Was Finally Free After I Reached Out For Help
From then, my parents stopped using religious methods to “cure” me. Instead, they were surprisingly cooperative and collaborative with the school counsellor in finding proper methods to make me feel better. They would gently remind me to take my medicine, bring me to doctor appointments and, best of all, allow me to go out on weekends to do whatever I wanted within reason. I could no longer stay cooped up in a smoke-filled room with loud drumming and chanting. I was free.
I continued to live, occasionally helping my parents as they got older and could not do as much. The times I decided to help them were of my own accord, and I was happy to do so. Our relationship has also improved, and I think the shock from knowing that their daughter is suicidal woke them up from the extreme superstition.
I’m 38 now and still believe in my religion, but I’m not too superstitious. I don’t expect my children to follow through; they can just explore what they’d like. I’m happy if they’re happy. As for my parents, we’re in a much better place now. I told them about my religious intentions with my children, and they fully support that. I think they realised how traumatising it must have been for me as a little girl, and I’m glad we’re finally on the same page.
How is your relationship with your religion? Have you faced any challenges as you navigated through life with it?