I lived with my demon for years. Most of that time, I kept my eyes half shut. While I was certainly practicing spiritually, exploring various traditions and coming into contact with Spirit regularly, I wasn’t ready to see what was going on the other half of the time, the dark half.

I wasn’t around people who could help. They couldn’t even see what was going on. No one I knew believed in demons, as far as I know. I was coping, I was going through the motions of being normal; I was very, very good at hiding the darkness under my surface.

It was a matter of survival, really. Once I was a teenager, I knew without having to think about it specifically that if I started talking about the things I was experiencing, I would be labelled as mentally ill. I would probably be put on strong psychiatric drugs, maybe hauled off to a hospital. When you’re between that and ignoring nightmares, you keep on pushing your head deeper into the sand. Better the nightmares you know. Better not to hurt anyone else.

So what was it that changed? How did I come to understand what was going on inside me?

It all started when my Dad died. Until that point, I’d swung back and forth, trying to push away Spirit and then trying to embrace it, always hounded by my demons – literally! I’d learnt a lot about energy medicine, and about the sensitivity I had, but I’d not found a path.

When Dad died, it all changed. A dam broke and I couldn’t hold it all out anymore. I can remember the moment it happened; a normal evening about 3 months after I watched him die, and a wave of fear crashed through me. It was visceral; I was dying. I couldn’t breath. There wasn’t any warning.

I hadn’t experienced anything like this before, so sudden, so uncontrollable, so violent. My husband at the time called the ambulance, I looked that bad, and they took me in to check for a chest infection. Within days, though, I was having panic attacks every time I tried to eat anything. I couldn’t sleep; I couldn’t look my husband in the face, because his face wasn’t always his. I couldn’t look in the mirror.

I was no longer functioning, not by any stretch. I lost so much weight over the next three months. I couldn’t eat anything, I couldn’t take medicine; I was prescribed anti-depressants, but couldn’t take them. My husband called the crisis team a few times after finding me with a knife in my hand, in tears, frozen to the spot. I spoke to the nurses for the first time in my life about what I’d been seeing and hearing, about my nightmares, about the brief periods of spiritual elation I’d had over the years, and the words ‘bi-polar’ started to be cautiously passed around.

I was on the brink of throwing in the towel. It was a very close thing. I was only saved by a phone call.

I called a woman who practiced energy medicine and shamanism* who had trained under Alberto Villoldo in the Four Winds Society. I remember that she was driving when I called, and pulled off the road to talk to me. I told her everything that was happening, that I was going crazy and was going to end up in a hospital. She said the most important words anyone has ever said to me – you’re not crazy.

Then she told me to come and see her. And I did, and the rest is history. Within weeks, the panic attacks were over. I was on top of the fear, my physical symptoms were abating. She told me I needed to train in energy medicine with her, and I resisted the idea but not for very long. By the February, I was training with her, and by November the demon was out of me.

She wasn’t the one who told me about the demon. It took meeting a specialist in de-possession, who just happened to be teaching the protection workshop I went to that autumn, before I even heard the word demon. But by that point, I already knew; the night before I went to that workshop, I was woken up at 3 in the morning by a phone call of hundreds of voices whispering and laughing. There was a figure at the end of my bed all night. By the time I heard the word demon, felt the loathing it had for the workshop instructor surging through me, felt the nausea at the protective ceremonies, and heard it’s lies for the first time in my mind, I was ready to see what I was dealing with.

I saw it because I was finally in a place to deal with it. If I had known what was going on before that, I would have given up. With no knowledge, no support, no start at healing, no reclaiming of my power, I would have been overwhelmed by the truth, and I probably would have ended up in that hospital ward after all. Keeping my head in the sand all those years probably saved my life.