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Michele Gower
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I love my Catholic faith, I wholeheartedly do. But I haven't always had a belief in God...

Early years
I was raised in a typical middle class family, and was loved by both of my parents. My Mum was Catholic (not that I knew that for many years) and my Dad was Church of England. I was baptised C of E. We didn't follow any religion or have any strong beliefs. I had a few friends that went to church, and although sometimes I went with them, I thought church was only for 'uncool' people. I knew a bit about Adam and Eve, but that was probably it. As I grew into my teen years, I sometimes went to 'fellowship' at the local church but it wasn't because I had any interest in religion, my friends were there, and so were some cute guys! 

Teen years
In my teen years I pretty much did as I pleased. I smoke, I drunk way too much, I tried some light drugs and just did the bare minimum at school. I wasn't a 'bad' teenager - I collected for Salvo's, coached Junior netball and baseball and played sport. I just...did what I wanted. 

I then met my now husband, Rohan, when I was 17 - during the Christmas holidays just before I began year 12. He was two years older than me, and there was something different about him. He had a quiet sense of peace about him, and unlike myself and most of my friends, he didn't smoke, didn't drink much and was just a lovely guy. He was very respectful to his parents, particularily his Mum, and just had a 'nice way' about him. 

When I was 18, the morning after my Year 12 formal, my Father came in and said that his arm was in a lot of pain, and could I take him to the hospital. I had a friend with me, who had stayed over after the formal. We had our Year 12 graduation ceremony later that morning and we were going to go together. I waited for my friend to get dressed and we jumped in the car to head to the hospital. After only a few minutes in the car, my Dad started making sounds like snoring but he didn't look at peace at all. I realised something was very wrong so jumped out to call an ambulance at a payphone (this was in 1994, before mobiles were common). I was so confused and upset that i didn't remember that I could call 000 without needing any money. By the time this registered, another minute or so had passed.

The ambulance came and took my Father. I have some foggy memories of exactly what happened next, but I remember visiting my younger brother at school to tell him that Dad was in hospital. I then rang my Mum to tell her, however, I don't remember where I rang her from.

Next I went to the hospital. However, upon arriving, we were told that my Dad had passed away. He'd had a heart attack. His first one ever. I didn't understand - the night before he'd been waiving us off in the limo, chatting with our family and friends, and now he was dead. I couldn't comprehend it. 

From that moment, I decided that there was no God, and if there was, I didn't like him

Adult years
Over the next 15 years or so, Rohan and I got engaged, bought a house, had a baby, moved up to the Central Coast and got married. We then went on to have another 3 children. When our eldest was getting towards school age, we made the decision that he would go to a Catholic school. My husband had gone through the Catholic school system, whereas I went through the public system. I figured that I didn't have a faith, so if the kids wanted to know anything about God, Rohan would be able to answer them, so it made sense to go Catholic

Although I wasn't a Christian, I did love the nurture and care that was provided by our local Catholic school. It was very different to what I had known. I loved the way the kids were asked to do a fundraiser for the homeless and for kids in poor countries rather than for the school. Values were being taught that I'd never really experienced before, high expectations of caring for others and a real desire to help those in need - it was really lovely

New age
Over the years I'd always loved anything spiritual. I'd been visiting clairvoyants for years, enjoyed having my 'cards read', using incense, reading my star signs, use numerology and more. I loved watching shows such as Charmed, Supernatural, Buffy and the Ghost Whisperer. I guess I always knew that there 'was more' to what we could see, but as I'd never really heard much about it, I simply didn't know what to believe. As I became more interested in the supernatural, I got deeper and deeper into it. I went to classes to learn how to 'connect with mother earth' and how to channel energy. I learnt how to read tarot cards and decided I wanted to become a psychic medium. I went to many events with famous clairvoyants and attended Mind Body & Spirit festivals. I had an interest in aliens, believed wholeheartedly in fairies and unicorns and believed that aliens had come into my daughters room. Clearly, I was mentally unwell. 

Then one day it all went too far. I had what would be called a 'breakdown' and ended up in our local mental health facility. What was deemed a breakdown, was actually spiritual. I heard voices, I was confused, I believed I could read peoples minds, I believed the most horrible of things and I was absolutely paranoid. 

In the mental health facility I was given drugs...a lot of drugs. It just made things worse. I was barely able to have a conversation, and was hardly functioning. If I refused to take the medication, I was threatened that they would inject it into me. I could no longer function. I had gone from a busy Mum of 4, a business owner and a community volunteer to someone who could hardly put a sentence together. It was the most horrifying. I truly was in the pits of hell.  I felt empty, like I had no soul. My chest was empty but my head was full

From lost to found
I was sitting at a glass door in the mental health facility looking out at this little garden, thinking that it must be the Garden of Eden. I figured that if I could just get out there, I would be saved - God would save me. I tried to open the door, but it was locked. I thought that if the glass would disappear than I would be saved, but that couldn't happen. As I was doing this, I was seeking God. I didn't know it, but I was.

I then had a realisation, that God can reach me in the building. He can save me. It doesn't matter where I was, even if I was in the pits of hell. During this time I was looking at the sun - it was bright and beautiful. I thought at that moment, that the sun is God, the power of God is in the sun. The sun went behind a cloud and I asked for it to come back out - it did immediately. And right at this time, when the sun glared so strongly I felt a warm internal explosion, a 'boom' that was completely soulfilling. It radiated warmth, it was powerful, it was energising, and somehow I just knew it was divine, heaven sent.

It was the Holy Spirit. I didn't know how I knew this, I just did. ("You will receive power, when the Holy Spirit comes upon you" Acts 1:8). In that moment, I heard words on my heart say 'Convert to the Catholic faith and you and your family will be saved'. I couldn't explain how I could hear words that were put on my heart, it was like nothing I've ever experienced before. But I knew that I needed to convert. Satan had his grip on me, but Jesus was going to save me. 

From this moment, I was covered with grace. I say this now as I know what it means, however, then I just knew that I felt so full, and no matter was said or done to me, I reacted in a peaceful manner. It was really quite amazing, as up until then I'd been a pretty fiesty woman who often felt the need to control people and many situations

The battle was on for my mind and for my soul. The drugs made me near lifeless. I would stand at the kitchen counter not knowing how to make a sandwhich. I could barely communicate with my husband and children and was not able to care for them. My mothers words to her sister was 'we have lost her, she's gone'. My body was there, but my mind and soul were elsewhere. 

The medication they had me on was horrific. I had the most disturbing vision, heard voices and didn't know reality from fantasty. I would watch tv shows and it would look like blood was dripping down the screen, I would go past a building with a flame as a logo and it would look like it was on fire. It was diabolical

I took myself off the medication, went to Mass as often as I could and spoke with friends who were Catholic. I had 3 dear friends who knew that messing around with the pyshic world was extremely dangerous - they would pray for me and check up on me. They would remind me that God doesn't let go of us, ever, we let go of him. I started reading the bible, listening to Christian music and praying - things I'd never done before. I learnt to keep my mind on the good things, and not on the bad, as now I knew where the bad came from.  I am so grateful to them and my family for loving me through this most horrendous time. 

Easter is the time when many people join the Catholic Church. This was not very far away - only several weeks, so I spoke with some people who would help me join the church. As the time got closer to joining, the battles got harder. One friend warned me, the closer you get to winning the battle, the harder the battle becomes. She was not wrong. There were times when I could barely think, I would drive around and around in confusion. What I didn't realise, but know now, is that the horrible feeling of your mind being overcome and being taken over is real. Very real. To combat it, I had to turn my mind to holy things, to good things, to Jesus. ("Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, think about these things' Phil 4:8). Sometimes the only words I could form in my mind was a very short song about Jesus. But everytime I said the name Jesus, the voices and thoughts would recede. I wouldn't have complete clarity, but enough to get me through until the next attack on my mind started. I knew it was supernatural, I knew Jesus was protecting my mind. I don't know how I knew this, I just did

God put words on my heart again 'Just make it to Easter, and you will be saved'. I had thoughts of taking tablets, but I did not have enough to kill me. I barely kept my sanity enough to stay out of the mental health ward. The attacks were big and they were constant. Satan did not want me to convert, he did not want me to belong to Jesus. However, as I now know, God always wins. 

Amazing Grace
At Easter 2013, I was received into the Catholic Church. As part of this process I had my first Confession (also known as 'Reconciliation'.) I confessed to sins that were very grave, ones that I now realised were so against God's plans for me. Some that were committed years ago, and I'd been carrying the natural consequences with me for many years. But the beauty of this process was that I could confess, offer to change my ways and that Jesus forgave me. I was reconciled with God, I chose Him, and then I had my first Holy communion, where I received Jesus in communion. This whole time, Jesus had been carrying me on his shoulders, like the lost sheep that I was. 

From here on in, I started to heal. I attended Mass often and received Communion. My mind started to heal, every morning it felt like a layer had been added to it, to separate me from the voices and thoughts I had previously had. I had the thoughts that my mind was being knitted together again, but I didn't understand it. Now I do ("You knit me together in my mothers womb" Psalm 139:13). The song Amazing Grace became 'my' song. It spoke directly to me - I was a wretch but He saved me. Satan tried to tangle me in his snares, in his web of lies and led me to danger, however, from the moment that I first truly believed in God, grace appeared.

God continued to heal me - my mind, my body and my soul. Each morning I woke up, and it's as if my mind was just a little bit more healed. The thoughts and voices were further away. Previously, I had thought it was normal to 5+ thoughts running through my mind at once, however, I was learning that this was not right.  As I healed, I found true peace of mind. My mind was quiet, it was clear. It was actually quite strange at times.  It was as if more were trying to 'break in' but they couldn't. As long as I rejected the thoughts and didn't 'connect' with them, they would fade. I can't put into words the exact way that it worked, it was divine healing - but it was like I was getting a new heart and a new mind (I will give you a new heart and a new mind. I will take away your stubborn heart of stone and give you an obedient heart" Ezek 36:26)

The Catholic Church, Jesus, Mary, the Saints, attending Mass etc all became a part of our life. My family agreed to start going to Mass every Sunday and I would go sometimes during the week. 7 years later, I still love my Catholic faith, maybe more each day. I love that I'm a part of the one true church that Jesus began. I love that He heals through the Confession and Communion. All these words used to be so foreign to me, but now they are words that I love.

The freedom that I have gained from being reconciled with God is amazing. I no longer suffer from OCD, I no longer slam doors in anger, feel the need to control many situations or am a slave to my business. I can laugh at myself, I don't take things too seriously, I have much better relationships with my loved ones and there is a constant peace in my soul which I never knew existed ("My peace I leave with you, my peace I give you" John 14:27). I didn't realise that peace of mind, and peace in the soul were actually true, I thought they were simply just nice, idealistic words

Supporting you
I have many friends - Catholics, Pentocostals, Evangelicals, atheists, agnostics, muslim and no doubt more. I love them all. I respect that all people have their own beliefs. When I talk with people, when I work with them, when I socialise, I don't judge. I will care for your wellbeing. I might call you out on some behaviour that could be contributing towards the issues you are facing, but I won't judge and I won't condemn As one of my all time favourite Saints, St Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) says "If you judge people, you have no time to love them"

"My chains are gone, I've been set free,
my Lord my Saviour, has ransomed me"

John Newton

About Michele Gower

I have a passion for supporting youth and families. My areas of expertise include Autism and similar diagnosis, raising teens and the general mental health and well being of individuals and family members. I am based on the Central Coast of NSW, but offer online consultations (via Zoom). Please reach out if you think I can be of service to yourself or your family...

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North Gosford NSW 2258
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