Content note: discussions of abuse
I have always enjoyed media around scary things. Scary things tend to help my PTSD, but there’s something more to it. It’s something I’ve been trying to figure out how to word, but just couldn’t ever fully construct the thought.
When I heard they were making a TV series about The Exorcist, I was way too excited. Season one was set around Regan, originally played by Linda Blair in the 1973 movie. You follow her story as an adult, played by Gina Davis. She has a husband and children but changed her name to avoid her mother as well as her history. Through the season, it comes out the Angela (her assumed name) is actually Regan and that’s why negative things continually happen to her family. She takes on the demon who has possessed her daughter and all kinds of stuff happens. I won’t say more in case you’re interested in catching up.
Season two just started and it’s really good. People were upset that this season wasn’t focused around Regan. However, it’s focused on the actual exorcists from the first season. They’re battling demons, themselves, and a conspiracy within the Catholic Church.
It’s all the things I love come together.
We have Playstation Vue and it has a DVR. We love it, especially me – I tend to watch more TV than T does. Regardless, I catch up on shows the next day or a few days later, so I was just watching last night’s episode.
About halfway through the episode, Marcus and Tomas – the two priests – visit a home where the daughter is supposedly possessed. In order to conduct an exorcism, certain things have to be found in the afflicted person. These include speaking in tongues, knowledge of the future, ridiculous strength, an aversion to holy things, and physical changes. These all have to be present.
Marcus and Tomas are debating whether or not the girl is possessed. They learn from an outsider that the girl has been ill all her life, going in and out of hospitals, but no one can figure out what’s going on. This is different than the mother had stated, which then concerns Marcus. After all, why would the mother lie?
Marcus searches the house and finds a box of pills. Medications including hallucinogens are found and he’s able to piece together quickly that this girl is being poisoned. The mother, it turns out, has Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSP).
Marcus bursts into the girl’s bedroom, pushes the mother away, and tells Harper “You are clean. You are pure.” Mrs. Graham, the mother, has been filling Harper’s head with lies in addition to the medications. Mrs. G yells at both priests, telling them to leave, but they refuse. As Tomas chases after the mother (and gets a head wound), Marcus comforts Harper:
M: “You’re safe now. Do you understand?”
H: “No, I’m sick.”
M: “No. No, you’re not the sick one. Your mum’s the sick one. You’ve done nothing wrong.
M: “I know. I know it does, sweetheart. It’s gonna carry on hurting for a long time. You’re gonna look at other kids, other parents, and you’re gonna say ‘Why me? Why can’t I have that life instead?’ And then… you’ll get better. You’ll come out the other side. You’ll be stronger than you were before. Cause you will know exactly who you are. That’s what survivors do.”
The mom then bursts in.
M: “Close your eyes and don’t open them, no matter what you hear.”
Marcus’ attention constantly shifts back to Harper, comforting her when he can in between this altercation with Mrs. Graham.
The third party mentioned earlier, a social worker, has gotten the cops as she was denied entry to the home. They show up at the perfect time to help put an end to the fight. The next scene occurs in a hospital, where Marcus and Tomas are catching up.
M: “Do this long enough, you think you understand evil in all its forms, every face that it wears. Then something like this comes along. Least with a demon, you know where you stand. There’s a… purity to the design, a logic, a form. But a parent who did that to their own child… makes you wonder what the hell you’re even trying to save.”
End spoilers, begin overanalysis!
Ever since I was young, I’ve enjoyed things around possession and demons. Despite growing up in abuse, I still felt interested in evil. I never really understood why. I felt like there must be a reason.
As I was watching this episode, Mrs. Graham’s action took me by surprise. I did not see this twist coming and was unprepared. My mother was accused of MBPS, which is part of what led to her pulling me out of school and away from healthcare providers.
A few weeks ago, T and I were catching up on one of my favorite podcasts: Wine and Crime. I had decided we should skip the episode where they cover MSP. One night, though, after listening to something else discuss the condition, I couldn’t sleep. The wheels in my head were turning, focused on the odd paralells. Instead of being able to sleep, I listened to the skipped episode.
One of the reasons I like Wine and Crime is because they go through the psychology behind a condition or crime. It’s done in a way that is tasteful and not full of ableism (usually). I started to understand even more about the need for attention that some people have. Mother meets many of the warning signs – craving attention and being depended upon, wanting others to see her as overly devoted and saintly, boundary issues, exaggeration, etc.
I’ve thought of the odd similarities before but thought it couldn’t happen because I am sick. Just because someone has some of these tendencies doesn’t mean they act on them. It also doesn’t mean they don’t take opportunities that present themselves, either. She did not have to make me sick, but certainly enjoyed the attention around it for ages.
She begged me to apply for SSDI, despite the fact that I was not even close to bad enough, because I feel that she wanted to tell people about her disabled daughter. She always told me I’d die early, that no one would love me, etc.
Whether she has MSP or not, the similarities are striking and telling.
Everyone needs a Marcus
I won’t lie – I rewatched these scenes three or four times. I cried for a while. I made T watch when he got home, simply because it confirmed a thought I had once about why I like these kinds of shows. I needed someone to witness the feels I was having.
The truth is I could’ve used a Marcus a long time ago, someone to hold me and tell me that this is going to suck and hurt. Someone to tell me it was going to eventually start feeling less raw, too, would’ve been amazing. Who knows whether or not I would’ve believed a Marcus.
Still, I know this phrase would’ve been beneficial: “Cause you will know exactly who you are. That’s what survivors do.” Hell, three years removed from contact with my mother, and this is still heavy (in a good way).
Even more, Marcus’ analysis of the situation in the hospital is, for me, spot on. I am strangely comforted by the idea of evil, demons, and possession. It has a routine to it. There are rules to that world that we don’t have in humanity, things that even evil won’t violate.
I would feel more comfortable, surer of myself against a demon than I do against my own mother – and that’s a damn shame.