Monday, February 21, 2011

My Son Does NOT Need an Exorcism!

After reading many of the viewer comments following Oprah’s episode on The Boy Who Tried to Kill His Mother, I was seriously annoyed by some of the posts. There were a lot of viewers who felt that Zach was possessed by evil spirits. With great concern, they urged the mother to take Zach to a priest for an exorcism. Other comments mentioned that Zach would be healed if he had Jesus and was in the church.

I believe these viewers were genuinely concerned and truly believed that what they were seeing was a possessed child. Their belief that the boy only had these issues at home was proof enough that their house was filled with evil spirits. I also think that it didn’t help that Oprah focused so much on the boy’s holistic therapy of lightness and darkness, I believe it may have reinforced the idea that the “negative energy” was evil spirits.

But as a mother reading these posts, I was offended. It once again reinforced the stereotype that my son, who himself has a mental illness, must be possessed. Personally, we’ve had a friend tell us that we should get an exorcism, because what my son had was surely brought on by the devil himself. Another parent I know was told that her personal sin was the source of her daughter’s illness.

It’s comments like these that make me realize how misinformed society is about childhood mental illness. It makes me feel like we’re living in the dark ages. On the flip side, I myself didn’t know much about it until my son became ill, so I don’t really blame people, but feel frustrated and helpless on how to change these stereotypes about mental illness. As long as people have these beliefs, our son’s illness won’t be taken seriously and he’ll be forced to live a life hiding his struggles so that others won’t be afraid and as his parents, we’ll be judged for treating him with medication.

Just for the record, we’re a Christian family who are actively involved in our church. Christ is the center of our home and marriage. Our children have been baptized. I pray over my son every night for healing and strength and we read God’s word together as a family... AND our son has a mental illness.

I do not believe for one second that a child that has mental illness is being used by satan, is channeling evil spirits or communicating with the dead.

These kids have an illness in their brain that causes their brain to function incorrectly. It’s something they most likely inherited, just like their eye color and smile. These kids didn’t become ill because they don’t have Jesus. As a Christian we believe that Jesus wants you to come to him by choice, thus the basis of free will.

I find it so odd that society can easily grasp the idea that if someone has a heart problem, they’ll experience problems with their heart or if they have eye problems they’ll experience problems with their vision, but in the case of someone having a brain problem, it’s hard for them to believe that the brain would not function properly, causing visions of monsters or triggering violent rages. The brain is the source of our moods, so why is it such a stretch that a brain illness can cause such outrageous responses in individuals who suffer with a mood disorder?

These viewers are quick to believe that there are real ghosts haunting a boys house, yet the acceptance of mental illness as being a real thing is a preposterous idea? I don’t understand.

So why does this annoy me so much? Because, if you believe that my son is having these problems because he’s possessed, you’ll hold judgement against my family for allowing my son to be treated by medication. You’ll judge us as being irresponsible parents and may even judge my son as being a bad seed. Because you’ll judge our family for not being under the wing of God and instead assume we’re living with evil.

That’s why I get offended.

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New post welcoming Oprah viewers to ask me any questions:


  1. Thankyou, you said this better then I ever could.

  2. And you should be offended. Opinions like that have no place in a modern society.

    (Rant finished)

    I am so sorry you have to deal with that. So so sorry. I am glad, though, that you are bringing attention to this--changing one person's opinion at a time has real power.


  3. Ah yes, the whole possession, oppression, something must be spiritually wrong attitude. Ugh! We have even been asked to leave churches because of our son with mental illness. Even our Pastor today doesn't understand HOW he can possibly have a problem with his brain.

    I ditto everything you wrote. Been there, done that.

    And what ticks me off the most, our babies are suffering and can't tell anybody. So unfair!

  4. I can feel your concern over such negative posts. It is sad that this problem is still so hush, hush. I did think Oprah dealt with the white energy overly much, except that it seemed to be working for Zach. I wish other remedies had been explored. But I applaud Ophrah for airing the show. The brain controls all of our functions and still so little is known about it. Moma Bear, you are providing a wonderful service here for families living with brain disorders.

  5. I get offended by comments like these, too, but we are Jewish and I can't tell you how much it irks me when those people tell me I need to follow Jesus. Even in my own family... I'm a convert and my dad's wife has convinced him that Jews are "evil" and he really shouldn't have anything to do with us. UGH. What kind of religion teaches people to be so nasty???

    We are fairly religious, both of our boys attend Hebrew school, we pray often together, and we celebrate the Sabbath most Friday nights with a fancy dinner, candles, wine and prayers. I have no weird skeletons in my closet that would put me on the "naughty" list with God and cause him to purposely give me a kid that would drive me insane. I didn't do anything to deserve this, guaranteed!

    In Maddox's case, being adopted from Guatemala, I suspect his issues stem from malnutrition. It's a common problem down there. People eat, but not enough (or any) protein. My older son is fine, but his birthmother worked for a family that owned a restaurant and we know she got paid in money and food. The MadMan's birthmother, however, was young and from a very remote rural area, so I strongly suspect she was malnourished while she was pregnant. Several of our friends with Guatemalan kids have strikingly similar characteristics, but none that we know of to our extent. If the birthmother doesn't get protein, then the brain can't develop properly. I don't think this is true of ALL kids with bipolar, but, in our case, I think it probably has something to do with it.

    ANY article you read online has the same nasty comments afterwards, no matter what the topic is. I think people feel they can be as nasty as they want when it's "anonymous" and spout off their negativity to make themselves feel better. We just need to ignore them and rise above it.

    Hang in there!

  6. Thank you for writting this...couldn't have put it better!!

  7. My family was Christian and my brother and I were both baptized. We are now both bipolar type 1. He chose to not take meds because he said God would cure him...he is very unstable and had his children taken from him because of his not taking medicine. I take medicine and function in society. Those who say that prayer is all you need can go get stuffed because it is not the truth. In fact saying prayer is all we need makes it sound as if we are not spiritual. Ticks me off too Mama Bear. You said everything perfectly.

  8. Hi In The Pink,
    From your personal experiences, can you offer any advice to me as a mother of a 9-year-old diagnosed currently with ODD & mood disorder. She is very verbal and physical, and there's such a gap between her logic & reasoning skills, which makes it very difficult for us to help her at times.

  9. Leigh,
    Sounds like a tough time. I do not envy your situation but I do have some tips. I used to have outbursts in class and very violent thoughts. What helped the most was being able to freely talk to my mom about the intense anger I was feeling, knowing she would not freak out even if I said I wanted to burn the house down. My mom even bought me a punching bag for my rages with the rule that I had to always wear gloves when hitting it. She needs to know that her anger is not a bad behavior. Her anger and defiance just need a healthy outlet. Also long showers helped sooth my mind. I hope that helps. Feel free to e-mail me at

  10. Great suggestions! My son has seen a lot of benefit with hot showers. When he starts to appear agitated we suggest taking a hot shower before he escalates. If we get him in there soon enough, it calms him back down.

    Our therapist suggested giving a name to our son's mood changes, so when he starts to act out we remind him that he appears to be listening to "insert name here" and suggest one of the previously agreed methods to calm down, lately it's been the shower. By naming it, it slowly helps him recognize his mood shifts and teaches him to respond with a calming technique.

  11. Thank you for your advice In the Pink & Mama Bear. She loves to take baths. I might share your blog post w/ her and let her know what worked for you. We've definitely had conversations about outlets and she's even picked some, but when the time comes - the outbursts - she's unable to shift to her outlet. We've come a long way but at the same time, more and/or newer obstacle arise. I look at her as a work in progress, which helps me on the really tough days.