I am a working, single mom.
My world, my life, and my children depend on my long-standing career. I love what I do. I’m blessed to use my gifts on a daily basis and get paid for it in an environment that deeply resonates with my core values as an upstanding citizen.
I’ve been there for almost 20 years. My colleagues respect my work. I make a difference in my organization and in people’s lives. My children will attend my institution, maybe even share a classroom with me someday, and after I’ve spent 30+ years on the job, I will receive retirement benefits that will allow me to quietly see the world until the end of my days.
This is my life. This is who I am. This is what I share. This is what I allow people to see.
Still there is another side of me. I’m proud of it. I worked hard for it. It took four years of very deep therapy and intense healing work to get here—to share, to overcome the stigmas, the fear, and the shame.
Finally on the other side of a lifelong healing journey, I am deeply honored to be a member of the National Speakers Bureau for RAINN (The Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.
In that role, I share that I am a childhood sexual abuse survivor and that I spent the first 42 years of my life living in the total and complete darkness of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
I share what it is like to live in that all encompassing, dull, aching life-sentence of constant anxiety, relentless flashbacks, and suicidal ideation. I talk about how PTSD affects every single area of life, every decision we make, every partner we pick, every moment of our parenting.
Every day of your life is PTSD and usually, while in the depths of suffering, most don’t even know they have the disorder.
I didn’t know for the first 42 years of my life. I suffered in silence. I told no one about the anxiety, the fear, the thoughts that went through my head, the things that I compulsively did or the ways that I hurt myself and others over and over and over again.
At 42, I hit rock bottom. I needed a professional guide to help me understand the mess I’d made of my world because as far as I was concerned, I was an incredibly baffled victim of the universe deeply trying to make things right instead of just killing myself—which was Plan B all day, every single day of my life.
Within 24 hours of my first therapy appointment, I had my first memories of my childhood—not much, four images revealed like pictures turning in a book. While they explained a great deal and brought me an incredible amount of relief for the first time in my life, healing is a slow, arduous process and a year later, these images were still all I had to sustain my healing journey.
I knew there had to be alternative healing options to aid and quicken my recovery. I’d been gluten-free for almost two years so I would not have to take on the life sentence of pharmaceutical anti-depressants. Leaving behind processed foods of all kinds not only cured my depression, it also healed every other ailment in my body except the PTSD. But that gift led me to the knowing that just as infusing plants into my diet had healed my physical health, there had to be plant medicine to aid in the healing of my mental health.
As I researched, I found countless reports regarding the use of indigenous plants and ancient healing traditions to cure PTSD in combat veterans. Huffington Post, CNN, PBS, LA Times, Dr. Oz, and many other reputable sources documented the miraculous healing many vets had found through ethically, professionally-guided, therapeutic use of cannabis, ayahuasca, psilocybin, and other medicines of the earth.
When I found this information, I only knew one thing about PTSD: I knew the only cure was to unlock the memories in my subconscious. I knew that I had to find the key to the vault that held the atrocities I endured as a child, and then I had to feel all the emotions trapped with those memories. Finally, I had to examine all the unhealthy foundational beliefs created as a result of what had happened to me, and then remake those unhealthy, untrue, trauma-based conclusions into a brand new, healthy, foundational belief system.
I also knew that this sounded like a completely daunting, absolutely overwhelming, quite possibly unattainable task. It sounded like it would take years and years and years and would be, quite frankly, just too much. Although I knew what needed to be done to facilitate my healing, not many have the courage to actually do this work. I just didn’t know if I had it in me, and I continued to think that ending my life might be the only way out.
Around this same time, a fellow survivor shared with me that she’d begun therapeutic work with edible cannabis and had been gifted with her first childhood memories. She remembered her childhood bedroom.
Teetering on the edge of taking my own life, even the slightest progress sounded hopeful to me. I, too, wanted memories of my childhood bedroom. Something—anything—to give me hope that I might actually hold the key to my healing, that I might be able to some day be free of the PTSD prison and live a normal, peaceful, happy, healthy, harmonious life.
Although my friend’s news was incredibly inspiring to me, it created a deep internal struggle. The upstanding, law-abiding citizen in me knows this therapy is deemed “illegal” by our government and many in our society call it “drug use.” Having never broken the law nor used drugs, being the sole provider for my children, and thoroughly enjoying my long-standing career, a fear whispered to me that there would be a very real possibility of ruining my entire life if it was discovered that I had chosen this healing modality.
When my friend shared her breakthrough with me, I was in an incredibly desperate place, feeling as if my life was already in a constant, perpetual state of total ruin.
Subsequently, there was no struggle, no decision to make—it was do or die. I decided that, ultimately, the risk was no risk at all.
I had no other choice.
The day that I ate the 1×1 inch square of the bad, illegal, hurtful “drug” infused brownie is the day that the medicines of the earth gave me back my life, returned me to my power, and partnered with me in my journey to the happy, healthy, harmonious place I live in today.
It is the day I was gifted with the first significant memories of my childhood and what they did to me and others in that small military town.
It is the day I exploded the blocks to the feelings of horror and terror stuck inside tiny three-year-old me.
It is the day I got my life back, the best and worst day of my life, all rolled into one.
It is the day I finally found the hope I needed to continue living and to move forward in my healing.
Three years and various types of Earth Medicine Regression Sessions later, I found myself on my way to a weekend-long ayahuasca retreat. Well on my way to being completely cured of my PTSD, I still had reservations about my choice of healing modalities.
I stopped by my parent’s home on the way to the retreat. They offered me lunch. I politely declined saying I wasn’t allowed food. I hadn’t eaten since the day before, as a part of the preparations for the three ayahuasca ceremonies over the next three days, and I wouldn’t be eating again for quite some time.
“Where are you going?” my mother asked.
“A spiritual retreat,” I responded.
“Located?” my dad asked.
“Out by the university,” I said.
“There’s nothing out there but cows,” my dad replied.
“Yes, it’s a cow-based spiritual retreat,” I retorted.
Laughing at the absurdity of it all, my dad said, “Is it a cult?” to which I replied, “Yes, I am in a foodless, cow-based cult.”
It sounds ridiculous, but I will say anything to protect my life and the well-being of my children. Anything sounds better than the truth when the only thing people will hear is that I am using what most of society deems “illegal drugs” in order to heal my PTSD.
I struggled with the truth that I now know about the medicines of the earth. I remember how I taught local kids about healthy eating, and I feel it holds very much true for pharmaceuticals and the earth medicines available to us.
I would tell the children, “Fake food comes from a factory and will make and keep you sick. Real food comes from the earth and is good for you and will heal you from the inside out.”
Two days after my ayahuasca retreat, my therapist of four years exclaimed, “Your PTSD is cured. We are done here. You’ve done amazing work! If you ever need anything call, otherwise, take care.”
As I live in peace today, I am proud of the mother I’ve become. As I co-create a most exquisite life of things that feed my body, mind, and soul every single day, I am happy and healthy, more so than I ever could have imagined.
Although I am free from the prison of PTSD, I am still being held captive. I struggle with life in the Earth Medicine Closet of Fear.
Very few people know the truth about the path I took to heal. I struggle that I will be seen as a drug user and that the truth of my healing with be minimized. I struggle that the magnitude of suffering I’ve overcome will be clouded by the legality imposed on us by a government that thrives in so many ways on keeping us all sick and fearful.
Today I break free. Today I come out of the Earth Medicine Closet of Fear. Today I ask that we all take a moment to examine how it is even possible that our government make plants illegal. It is almost as absurd to me as the foodless, cow-based cult, yet we, as a society, allow this to continue.
Where does it end? When do we look at what is real, at the health and well-being of the suffering, and cures we have at our fingertips that our government insists we not have access to and, instead, treat as harmful. When do we say enough is enough, this is my suffering and I now choose to heal?
For me, the day is today.
For those suffering with PTSD and other curable illnesses, I invite you to take a step back from the propaganda that surrounds us and search out the truth for yourself. Look at the evidence, the testimonials and the slowly emerging academic research.
Know that we are each meant to be happy, healthy, whole, powerful beings of light and love. Know that the Earth provides us with all the medicines that we need.
It is time for us to rise up in our power, to utilize the tools provided to us by the Divine and to fearlessly join in the great healing power of our earth medicines.
Author: Christie Del Vesco
Image: Unsplash/Gerome Viavant
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
Social Editor: Yoli Raz