I did not write this past Thursday due to family visiting for the past week. In the interim, I have received some very beneficial feedback about this blog. Specifically, that although the blog is very factual, informational and well-written, it could use the human element, the story, to inspire someone to want to read through all the information. Of course, in the coming book I intend to have LOTS of stories, both personal and from many different people and traditions. I just have not yet started on that aspect of the writing journey. But in order to respond to this feedback, I decided to start telling my story. It may end up being a part of the forward, or its own chapter in the book, but it is important that I share it so that the reader can understand why I am on this path, maybe a little bit about how I got here, and why this subject is so important to me. It will also give me a chance to break up the intense and sometimes overwhelming nature of the research and do something different every once in a while!
As with everything, it is all so interconnected, it is hard to sort out where the story begins. However one thing I can say for sure: I have been searching for healing and for greater self-knowledge and consciousness my whole life...
Starting as a child, growing up in an upper middle-class white household, I had everything I "needed." Yet when I look back on that time, I see now that I was suffering from depression, suicidal thoughts, extremely low and poor self-image, lack of confidence, addiction, and very intense intestinal problems, and I was alone with my pain and misery most of the time. I had an undiagnosed case of obsessive-compulsive disorder in the privacy of my bedroom, and would spend hours rearranging the contents of my desk into precise patterns. For as long as I could remember, I would spend hours every week in the bathroom with painful elimination, including hot and cold sweats, nausea, and intense stomach cramps. In eighth grade, my family split in two, with my younger sister and I moving out of our family home with my mom, and my older sister and brother staying with my dad. That year, besides graduating to having permission to smoke cigarettes (and using up to a pack a day), I had an attack of spastic colon which brought me to a doctor. He prescribed muscle relaxants and a diet free of spicy foods to 'cure' my condition, thereby teaching me that if I was in pain I should take drugs. To give my mom and dad and their new partners some credit, this was still during the time in this country (1978) when people didn't really talk about their problems. So I want to make it clear I am not writing any of this as a judgment of my parents. They loved me and did the best they could, and I do not blame anyone for the story of my life.
Right before my second year of high school, I "fell in love" with an older boy, who became my boyfriend at age 15. He was 19. He began criticizing my weight (and everything else about me) shortly after our getting together, and I so I began skipping meals, eventually leading to a full-blown eating disorder, kind of a cross between anorexia and bulimia. I also started using diet pills, speed, and eventually crystal meth to help
me stay thin and to keep the weight off and to have energy to study or
work or whatever I had going on. I dropped 40 pounds between 15 and 17 years old, ending up at 105 pounds (at 5'7"). I also drank alcohol whenever possible, getting drunk on a regular basis. Yet I was a very good student, this being the way to gain approval in my family, and I graduated Valedictorian at age 17, after only three years of high school. Another factor in my late teens was that my back went out, structurally out of alignment I mean, for the first time, leading to extreme pain and the necessity of constant chiropractic care from then on.
During my first 'round' of college I took a health class on eating disorders and realized that I had a problem, from which I began to self-heal. Yet my boyfriend actually approved of my purging! I ended this extremely dysfunctional relationship at age 19, after four long years of misogyny and my second year of college (I read The Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them and couldn't believe how well it described my relationship.) I also had another intestinal attack and had to be
hospitalized, and I was finally diagnosed with colitis/spastic colon. I dropped out of college after ending the relationship and started doing more drugs, graduating to selling them (specifically crystal meth) in order to get some for 'free.' I also began hanging out at a local biker bar, using a LOT of drugs and alcohol, and being very sexually promiscuous.
Six months later I moved to North Carolina to return to college. I left the speed behind, and discovered psychedelics and the Grateful Dead. I took LSD for the first time, and mushrooms, and started experiencing freedom from my crippling self-doubt and anxiety over what people were thinking about me. I was able to begin to move freely without so much oppressive fear. I also started experiencing a lot more of what I would call the intuitive realm. However, I was also smoking two packs of cigarettes a day, and was drinking tons of caffeine in the morning, and using alcohol pretty much every night. All the while, while trying to maintain being 'normal' and functional, I never felt normal, or good, or right; I still struggled with addictions, crippling hate over my body image, OCD behaviors (like hours of gazing in the mirror picking zits), chronic back and neck pain, and suicidal thoughts. I tried a number of therapies, traditional and New Age, to help me feel better while in college but none of them seemed to help. But somehow I pulled off getting my degree, a BA in Psychology (what else?) and graduating suma cum laude.
I moved to a city in the northeast and attempted to get a regular job, but quickly became disenchanted with the hypocrisy I saw. So I quit the job and became a street musician. I traveled for the next two years, gradually working on deprogramming my mind from the cultural conditioning I felt prevalent in our society; during this time I also found the Rainbow Family and went to gatherings with other free thinkers (and psychedelic users). I sat in my first teepee and drank (very weak) peyote tea for the first time, but really liked the ritual around it's use. Eventually I ended up in Hawaii, in yet another dysfunctional relationship, with an alcoholic and 'acid-guru' who was 15 years older than me and who ended up being the father of my son. While in Hawaii, I worked as a dishwasher and then as a waitress in a coffee shop, all the while trying any therapy I could to help myself feel better, to get healed from depression, chronic pain, addiction, all of it. I did some Holotropic "Rebirthing" Breathwork sessions that seemed to help, to release a lot of stored emotion. I tried dietary cleanses with fruit and vegetable juice and wheat grass juice, which left me feeling better than I ever had. I took up yoga, and swimming in the ocean. I also kept using psychedelics, on occasion, and more often than not, when using them I would have profound moments of recognizing the oneness of all things. At one point all the healing work I was focusing on prompted my mother to say to me," You know, honey, healing yourself is a good hobby... but it's not a career!"
Mid-20's and 30's
I knew right from the moment I found out I was pregnant that the baby's father was not going to be in the picture. So I became a single mom at age 25, with a beautiful (and huge - over 10 lbs) baby boy. The father and I remained friends until his death several years later (he died from complications following a drunken accident).
My first indication that there might be some sort of trauma in my history came from a massage session I was having with my son's father about a year after our son was born. During the session, he would touch a place on my body, and ask me to focus my consciousness on it, drawing me into a deep sense of the present moment. After about 15 minutes of this he put his hand over my yoni (the sanskrit word for vagina) - more like over my pubic bone and curved down between my legs. His hand was on top of my clothes. The minute his hand landed there, a teeny, little-girl voice came out of my mouth, saying, "I don't want you to touch me there." This statement was followed by over two hours of uncontrollable sobbing, to the point of retching. The next day I felt as if the area of my body over my solar plexus had had a giant hole punched into it. I was dizzy and nauseous for days following this experience (which by the way did not involve any substances whatsoever).
Life moved on. I moved to Oregon, had a daughter with a man who was also not very available for fathering, who also had trouble with an alcohol addiction (again - no fault or blame here! Just reporting the facts as I see them). Stuff happened. I started experiencing some pretty 'bad' trips when I would do mushrooms (I stopped doing LSD at age 24 - long story for another time), usually winding up with me ending up alone and scared. Then when my son was about 6 and my daughter about 2, I had my second major experience of some kind of release of or indicator of trauma from my past. I went to a local Grateful Dead dance party, the idea being to drink some mushroom tea and then let go into the fun and sometimes transcendental dance zone which we could enter at shows. My kids were staying at a dear friend's house who they loved. I had just recovered from a pretty intense flu earlier that week, with a fever for a few days of over 102. I was feeling good, though, and had a small sip of the tea. About 30 minutes later, I felt this very heavy energy enter my body starting at the top of my head, and as it descended I started feeling all of the flu symptoms come back. I started feeling dizzy, and went to sit on the steps next to the dance floor. I asked for a certain friend to come talk to me, and told her I needed a healing circle right then and there. Now at that time I was not the sort of person who could normally ask for what I needed - but I just KNEW. This dear friend looked back at me and said "It is safe for you to be here." At that, I started wailing, in a high-pitched, other-worldy-sounding voice that did not sound like it could possibly come from an adult woman. This wailing caused many people at the party to leave (those who did not want to participate in a spontaneous healing circle!) and the rest gathered around me - for over two hours straight. Eventually someone asked me what I needed and I replied, "I don't understand your big words" in a really young-sounding voice. But they offered to take me to lie down in front of the fire. I experienced choking on what tasted like dust, remembering a crawlspace in my old house, and being more scared than I had ever remembered. Then, when someone offered to rub my feet, I got to experience feeling absolutely pure child-like joy, and what it must have felt like to laugh as a small child, with my entire being.
The ramifications of what it all meant, I just did not want to deal with.
I do want to add my gratitude to my son's father, Gary, for holding me while I cried, and to all the people who sat up with me at 700 Rock Creek Rd, helping me get through whatever that was. I learned the meaning of true friends that night. I am convinced that I experienced spontaneous age regression in both of these instances. More on that later...
Mid-30's - 40
More stuff happened. I got involved with a man who lived in Taos, NM and moved there to live with him and his two boys. We got married. I taught school and raised my kids. I was depressed and addicted and had chronic physical pain and low self-esteem, but was somewhat functional. I quit smoking cigarettes, spending three months in a black hole of depression, but made it through, mostly due to daily alcohol consumption. My limited personal time was spent exploring different kinds of therapy, spiritual and self-help books, looking for answers. My partner and I bought land and started building a healing center.
Then, in the winter of 2005, at the age of almost 40, I had a good friend call and ask if I could put on a house concert for him, as he was going to be traveling to Taos as translator for a Shaman, for some healing ceremonies later that spring. I didn't know what he was even talking about when he mentioned they would be serving a plant medicine called ayahuasca, but something in me said, quite loudly and distinctly, "I want to do that!" I began a cleansing diet three full months before the time of the ceremonies, preparing myself in the best way I could for what felt like a huge opportunity - to what end, I did not know. But my spirit was on high alert, and I honored that.
To Be Continued...