Insights & Revelations By Fire

By: Michele Neil

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Doctors talked to my mother by phone. They feared the pain of my injuries could drive me "insane." Treating the pain was not a medical practice at that time. The physicians were concerned that pain relief medication might interfere with the body's attempt to fight infection. I found my own way to escape the unbearable, incessant pain. I was able to mentally separate my mind from my body. My mind floated at the opposite end of the crib, observing the wretched, monkey-like creature, present at the other end.


Even though eventually I learned to walk again, to play as a child I ever reconciled myself with that ugly, terrifying, pain-inflicted creature. I remained separated in some psychological way and in a mental fog that had numbed my senses and emotions. (This condition of mind did not end until my early thirties when I underwent corrective surgery...more on this later.)

As a student, I hid from children who made fun of my massive purple scars. Finding a place of safety was crucial and being invisible was that place for me. Also, staying out of my father's sight was the first step in trying to create a sense of safety.

I couldn't physically hide easily so I began to withdraw inwardly, developing a wall. This wall was to absorb the pain of rejection, of ridicule and fear. Wearing clothing that covered me fully became very important. Unfortunately my parents couldn't afford suitable clothing. I wore hand-me downs that were often sleeveless. In gym classes at school we were required to wear gym suits, which exposed the legs and arms. There were just so few places and ways to hide.

The sadness and despair I lived in during my hospital stay never lifted and for the next nine years I remained in the fog of depression. It worsened over time and I became suicidal by the age of seven and this continued until I was nearing the age of 14. I longed to be dead. Neighbourhood kids didn't want me around either. They'd chase me away with rakes and throw stones or beat me. I still have the scars on my scalp from the stones they had thrown.

I was afraid all the time, afraid of being harmed again, afraid of boys and men, afraid of being despised, like my father despised me. When afraid I wanted to be invisible and eventually I believed I was invisible. When people spoke to me I was shocked that they could see me and I didn't acknowledge their presence. I was afraid to "come out" and speak to them. I continued to retreat still further within myself building a thick wall that no one could penetrate. This retreat tactic was still evident and in use even as an adult. The wall became my own emotional prison. It wouldn't let anything in and it wouldn't let any real self expression out.

About the age of 12 my mother sent me to an all girl camp during a summer and I regularly attended a girls youth group. Through this group I was introduced to the Oshawa Christian Youth Centre. The Youth Centre attracted young people from all over the city in which I lived. The meetings were warm and inviting. People talked to me and seemed genuinely interested in me. I began to experience positive human interaction and I wanted more of it. I continued attend the Christian Youth Centre and my inward life began to change.


Longing to not be afraid and to find the courage to come out of the prison the wall had become, I turned to God. I asked Him to help me let go of my bitterness towards Him for allowing all that had happened to me. I asked Him to help me to love Him. After nine years, in a suicidal depression, there was an inner awakening at the age of 14. I became aware that behind my deep and hard wall there was a person inside, longing to be free to be herself and without fear. What I truly was inside wanted to be that outwardly. I had to overcome all the fears and understand what had happened to me.

From age 14 to 16 I suffered chronic insomnia. Seldom did I sleep for more than two hours a night. I tossed and turned, and repeated the question to myself, How do I go to sleep? I didn't know that sleep was a normal function of the body. I thought there was something I had to do. Maybe I didn't deserve sleep. Maybe I had left something undone and I was being punished.

My parents were aware that I was having difficulty sleeping but no treatment was investigated. I continued to attend the Oshawa Christian Youth Centre. One of the leaders gave me ministry tapes to listen to. One speaker talked about childhood trauma and how that trauma will manifest itself in the teen years. At that very moment I understood that my insomnia was due to the anxieties and stresses I experienced in the hospital while being treated for the burns.

That seemed to be all I needed to know because that night for the first time in two years I fell asleep minutes after going to bed. I was healed of the sleeping disorder immediately. It was after a year of good wholesome sleep night after night that I began to experience a sense of health and well-being.

At age 16 more powerful insights and revelations came through God. Healing began to take place and my confidence in God grew. For the first time in my life I felt joy and love. My love for God bubbled over and I made many good friends.

After high school I moved away to attend a college in another city. Fear still hindered me and attending school was a struggle. I was afraid of the social interaction. I didn't have the support of a Christian Youth Centre and I didn't have any friends in this new place. I was unable to finish my two year course. I was afraid and too shy to pursue work during the summer and my Dad's income was too high to qualify me for a student loan for the second year. In the meantime I had made some new friends and met the man that would become my husband.

I found employment at the local hospital through a friend. A year later I married. The way ahead grew difficult again. When I learned that my husband and I were going to have a baby I fell into a suicidal depression. I was baffled by my emotional state of mind and suffered much by it. Why did "having a baby", which should have been so wonderful, make me want to die? As the months passed caring for our baby son, I began to cope better but I remained in the depression for the next few years.


In three years we had another son and it was a very joyous occasion and I enjoyed the whole process. However, life became mundane and unfulfilling. I over worked and succumbed to pneumonia two to three times a year for seven years during which we had our third and last son. I felt bonded to this child as I carried him and after he was born. I enjoyed caring for him and loved him but depression plagued my life. I worked hard to escape and to fulfill some standard of performance I was driven to fulfill. Most days of the week were unproductive. I slept afternoons away when the children where at school. Or, I worked to exhaustion. I asked God for understanding and freedom from whatever was robbing me of joy and peace.

I read Christian and pop psychology books searching for answers to my emotional pain and deep sadness. Over the years I had forgotten about the monster, about the ravaging flames and the pain the flames inflicted and about the body I once had.

And, I had forgotten that I had separated myself from my body emotionally and mentally. When the physical pain eventually ended, around the age of six, I continued to remain disconnected. Throughout my life I had felt like an "it", neither male nor female, nor human for that matter.

In my early 30s my medical doctor suggested that I see a plastic surgeon. Neither of my arms would fully extend because of restricting scar tissue. In preparation for surgery I drew sketches indicating where I wanted the surgeon to work. For the first time in my life I was able to look objectively at my body. During the two years in which I had several surgical procedures a remarkable and phenomenal change occurred in the perception of myself.