Series: The Outsiders
Title: The Tormented
August 26, 2018
Rev. Sandy Johnson
Prayer: May the words of our mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
We continue our series, The Outsiders and I have asked Leesha Nush to share her story,
I’d like to begin with the definition of torment: 1. great mental suffering and unhappiness, or great physical pain: 2. great mental suffering and unhappiness: 3. something or someone that causes great suffering or anger. When most minds think of torment their thoughts go to war, third world counties, and natural disasters. When I think of torment my mind doesn’t have to wander very far for vivid pictures of what it must look like, feel like or to experience the damage it leaves behind.
We see those children on TV running for cover, a hiding place. They are on hyper alert daily because they do not know what peace and safety look like. They do however know that bombs and weapons are daily a thing they must run and hide from. When night comes they find a place they hope will get them to the next day.
My childhood was like this, no I wasn’t in a war or a natural disaster, I lived in what looked like a rather normal house with four brothers, a Mom and Dad and many different kinds of animals. It looked like I was in a safe home, but that isn’t what was really going on.
So, what was happening behind closed doors? My dad and some other family members were hurting us emotionally, sexually and physically. They would take us to a place called “The Barn” where they tormented and brainwashed us. We know what it’s like to see a child die, and a friend being ripped apart by dogs.
Our minds soon did whatever these people wanted without questioning, it was what we thought would keep us alive. Now all these years later we know some of it was brainwashing or programming. Like the mice being shocked for a desired behavior. They controlled us and manipulated us.
In my fifth-grade year I was sent to the hospital for being out of control at school. The torment was so bad at home I was acting out at school. One day in class I wrote on the white board so hard it dug a groove into it with the marker. This would be my first breakdown. I was in a psychiatric hospital for 2 weeks. Tests were done (they thought I was crazy), my door was locked unless a nurse or doctor was in it with me.
One nurse was really nice, she brought me a teddy bear to tell my secrets to and keep me from being so lonely. When I was released, there was a moving van outside and away we went to Ohio. That move seemed like across the country to me. Later I would find out we moved because someone at the hospital had learned what was happening behind those normal house doors and my parents were afraid they would be arrested. I am sure someone inside told something.
We have done many years of therapy to become who we are today. Yes, you heard that right – WE. You see our torment was so severe our mind shut down at 3 years of age. And a new Leesha stepped into that empty space and became the host of our body. Leesha, the baby born to our body, went to sleep. This new Leesha grew with the body so that it wouldn’t die. She came to protect us. We wouldn’t know about this until many years later.
When we were 16 we moved out of our parents’ house into an apartment with a friend and got a job. We stayed in school, graduated from both High School and LPN classes. I joined the Navy to get away. You see, even while in our apartment the dad could and did hurt us along with the others. Our time in the Navy was short. We made it through boot camp and MS school, and were the second highest in our class, so we were sent to England to serve a 4-star admiral.
It was going well until the parties and drinking started, along with drugs. At one of the parties we were raped and the military to this day will not acknowledge that our oldest son came from this rape. God again was there: because of Joe, we are alive. Joe is my miracle baby. No one was going to take another baby from us. You see, when the body was 12, I was pregnant from abuse and they took the baby away in the barn, I never saw her again. I hold the memory of having and losing a sweet baby girl.
At different times during our life many personalities would be formed to help us survive the abuse that was taking place. At one point there were more than 30 personalities living inside of us.
I remember the first time I knew something was different about Leesha. We were working on the Christmas parade float and she was super sassy. Laughing, joking, poking fun at me and others. This was quite different from the quiet, subdued Leesha I had met just a few months earlier. I thought, perhaps she had a mental illness, sometimes these types of changes in personality are associated with people suffering from manic depression. I didn’t know what, but I knew there was something.
It was more than a year before I learned why. Leesha approached me after worship to tell me that she had DID, Dissociative Identity Disorder, and that one of her personalities, Dusty was upset with something I had said, and she had planned to send me an email explaining it. Wait, what? Did she just say that she has multiple personalities?
Leesha came to my house later that week and while we were talking I asked her about Dusty, in a few seconds a voice said, “Well, I’m right here, what do you want to know?!” That began a relationship with Dusty, Samantha, Ashlee and Leesha that has grown over the years.
Our scripture lesson also is about someone who was tormented. In some ways their stories may be similar. Although Leesha isn’t possessed by a legion of unclean spirits, she knows firsthand the confusion that comes with mental illness. We know today that some of the biblical accounts of possession and strange behavior are actually accounts of people suffering with physical disease or mental illness.
Jesus and his disciples arrived on the shore, following a horrible storm that nearly killed them. Jesus was sleeping, and the disciples woke him suddenly when the storm came, and Jesus calmed the storm, rebuking the wind. The disciples were understandably amazed and afraid at what they saw, this man Jesus has control of the very wind and waves.
Still reeling from this miracle, they step off the boat onto the area opposite Galilee and were face to face with a man who was filled with demons. He was well known in the town, they had sent him to live alone among the tombs, guarded by someone, he lived like a beast.
He was too dangerous to live in the community. Here he was, naked and so out of his mind that the chains they bound him with, couldn’t keep him safe, although they tried. Imagine the strength he possessed to break the shackles that bound him.
Jesus should have been afraid. I would have been. A deranged man, strong as an ox and so out of control that they have someone guarding him. Being in a cemetery would make Jesus unclean, as well, but Jesus approached, in kindness and compassion. The man fell to his knees as Jesus commanded the unclean spirit to come out of him.
The demon recognized Jesus, called him “Son of the Most High God.” When Jesus asked his name, he said it was “Legion for there were many demons within him.” A legion likely referred to the Roman legion which was 6,000 soldiers. That’s a lot of demons!
Then the demons begged not to have Jesus send them back to the abyss. Jesus saw the heard of pigs on the hillside and he agreed to send the demons into the swine. They rushed into the pigs and the herd went berserk, rushing into the water and where they drowned.
Viewing this situation from a Jewish perspective, we know that pigs were of no value and there was no perceived loss. Except these weren’t Jews. The townspeople were visibly upset at what happened and asked Jesus to leave. The man who was healed begged Jesus to go with him. Jesus tells him to stay and tell everyone how much God has done for him.
These Gentiles weren’t yet ready for Jesus. It would be years before Paul returned to share the healing grace of God through Jesus Christ. In the meantime, Jesus planted a seed among them that prepared the way for the later conversions. Redemption comes in a variety of forms. Sometimes quite dramatic, like this story from Luke. Sometimes it is over the course of many years.
After years of inpatient and outpatient therapy we have just four personalities remaining. We have me, Dusty, I’m 17. I’m the protector. Ashlee who is 7, whose job it was to look sweet and be daddy’s little girl. Then there’s Samantha, she’s an artist and is 12 years old. Last, we have Leesha Ann who was the 3-yr. old baby who went to sleep.
More than 50 years later she woke up and is growing and learning and one day will take over as the person who was born to the body. When she woke up, Leesha the “host” went away. Leesha the host is the one many of you met when we first moved here. She had kept us safe and grew with us for 50 years.
Even though we know torment in a personal way we also saw God working to protect us, throughout our life. First God sent us Girl Scout camp starting in the second through fifth grade. A whole summer away from the monsters and pain.
The year the body was I believe 13, God sent a bus ministry from a local church and the parents said we could go. It got us out of there way basically. So, Sundays and Wednesdays we were away from home for several hours. Years later I would drive that same bus picking up kids and bringing them to church.
And then there was VBS for two weeks each summer. God also put two ladies at that church that looked over us. We sat with them during church when Sunday school was done. Sometimes we fell asleep on them and they didn’t care that we smelled like a smoke stack. The parents were chain smokers and I hated how we smelled. Samantha was in missionettes (like girl scouts) and that is how and where some found God as our savior.
Fast forward to our move to Nevada six years ago. We moved to help our son Joe with his family because he has a special needs child. We loved being close to our grandbabies. It was our first “Art in the Park” and our service dog Chelsea was with us.
After about an hour we came across a booth with few ladies passing out water and even had dog bowls. We were new to the desert, so the water was a blessing. It was Pastor Sandy, her daughter Claire and Deena Weinberg. There was God again stepping into our path.
It took a few weeks before we felt brave enough to attend the church but when we did we knew God wanted us there. People greeted us, didn’t think we were dirty or weird. They welcomed us with open arms. Pastor Sandy even came to our home and talked, she didn’t act above us.
When my son and his family moved to Washington State we had a major surgery coming up and we were a mess. We felt so all alone. One day, feeling at the bottom of our ladder, truly, we headed our car for the biggest tree and floored it!
Wouldn’t you know God put his hand down and said NO. We ended up parking in the lot by the police department, running and crying like a crazy lady into the counseling center. There was only one man in the waiting room, there was no receptionist.
What a mess we were. We told him we need to talk to someone now if we were going to see tomorrow! He didn’t say anything just pulled a card out his wallet and gave us the personal cell number to a counselor. We dialed right away, and Dr. Nellie answered and after a small hesitation “hello can I help you?”
We told her we were sitting on a bench in the park by her office, and that we felt like killing ourselves. We needed help. She came right over and didn’t throw us in jail or in the psych hospital. We learned later that she told the receptionist to cancel all her appointments for that afternoon.
The reason I tell you this part is professionals don’t do that, they usually send you to hospital. Second, the man who gave us the number wasn’t in the waiting room when Dr. Nellie UNLOCKED the door. I believe he was angel. God put him there to give me Dr. Nellie’s number.
Our support circle came about after this. If you are one of the ladies who has supported us, if you’re comfortable would you stand up? I’d like to thank you for your bravery.
Hi, it’s Ashlee. These ladies have done so much for us. They have had us in their homes to care for us. They do their best when I want to play with them or when I need hugs. You have all seen me these past few months because I’ve has gotten brave and have gone down front for the children’s sermon.
These ladies threw us our first birthday party, helped Leesha Ann and me learn to read better and showed Dusty that Church and the Trinity, three-in-one, are a blessing not a curse or harmful to us. Poor Sandy met Dusty before she accepted Jesus let me tell she was one mean chick. Eventually we have all been baptized, in Pastor Sandy’s backyard pool.
These ladies got together when our core (child born to the body) woke up and locked us all inside. The three-year-old who was nonverbal, and the 7-year-old were “out” in the body. These ladies took care of u,s not knowing what the heck was really going on. Chey let us stay overnight at her house because the little ones couldn’t be left alone. With our therapist help we were able to open a door and reunite so that Dusty and Samantha could take care of all of us.
Then we added a few more people to that tribe when we went on the mission trip last February and the Walk to Emmaus, some were even men. We thought for sure people would turn their back on us. But this church family surprised us all. All of you are special, you accept everyone who comes through those doors. We are living proof of this. Some people call us “the girls.”
Something that stands out to me in a very big way is they love & trust us, just as much as before they knew about the DID. We are a puzzle at times that is hard to put together. But for most part we pretty smart. God protected us spiritually throughout the years of abuse and torture, and of not being loved. He held our hands when locked in the basement or the box for whatever dad’s reasoning was.
This church has played a big part in our ongoing healing. You haven’t pushed us away because we are weird or different. You show Gods love with your hands, words, actions that is real love. We love all of you because of God and your willingness to show his love. This church became our home and family. We never felt like that before. Thank you!
The best days I have had in ministry have been with these beautiful girls. Watching God keep them safe, bringing them here so that we can help “raise” them, it does take a village. Knowing them and understanding DID have been one of the most amazing experiences I have had.
When I consider how God protected them by allowing their mind to split into different personalities as a coping mechanism to the abuse I am in awe of God’s power and majesty. Truly a miracle if you ask me.
When Jesus healed the demoniac, he demonstrated to us that we are not to be afraid of people who are different from us. Jesus risked his reputation and his very health to bring healing and calm to a tormented man.
I believe we all have a demon or two within us. Perhaps it is our own history of abuse, neglect or torment by others. Jesus offers us all healing and a chance to live life fully and abundantly. In this story today, we saw Jesus heal a man who was tormented, and we know he heals us today.
Leesha’s story demonstrates the many ways that God intervenes in our life and provides for us and how each of us can be the hands and feet of Christ for our world, bringing healing to the tormented.
Let us pray:
Gracious Lord, healer of all of our hurts and torments, we thank you today for the story of Jesus’ healing and are thankful for the many ways you have healed our sister Leesha. Give us all courage to seek and receive healing and then to tell our story to others, sharing God’s love through Jesus Christ with everyone we meet. Amen.