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December 16, 2020

I Did Ayahuasca & Moved to the Woods but I’m Still Grieving—& that’s Okay.

*Editor’s Note: Elephant is not your doctor or hospital. Our lawyers would say “this web site is not designed to, and should not be construed to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, or treatment to you or any other individual, and is not intended as a substitute for medical or professional care and treatment. Always consult a health professional before trying out new home therapies or changing your diet.” But we can’t afford lawyers, and you knew all that. ~ Ed

After we weather the storm of a rough season of life, when the clouds part, the sun shines, and we are seemingly suddenly in a much better place—physically, emotionally, mentally, or energetically—that is when the grief dissipates for good, right?

I think that this is not accurate. That’s how I thought it would be, so you can imagine my disappointment as I sit in a brand new beautiful life, yet still full of grief that refuses to hide beneath the surface.

After natural disasters and devastation, there are still months of repair work to be done even when the sun comes out. And so we, not being any different from nature, are the same.

2020 has been a disastrous year in many ways. And yet, those periods of ultimate destruction pave the way for new things to blossom. As beautiful as those things might be, it is okay to still grieve what we have lost.

At the end of 2019, I turned 33 and thought for certain that 33 was going to be my lucky year. I had big plans for my professional and personal life. I was working as a massage therapist and teaching yoga at a local studio in a community I had fallen in love with.

I was in a relationship with a woman who I thought I would marry. Although both the job and the relationship had been toxic in many ways throughout all of 2019, I was still convinced that 2020 was going to be a fresh start on both fronts and everything would be perfect. I had also planned to open up a bodywork and wellness practice of my own. This was going to be it. 2020, at age 33, would be the year I finally quit my self-sabotaging behaviors and build a healthy, happy professional and personal life.

The universe, a divine source bigger than my depth of understanding, had different plans for me.

After a little over a year of being at the studio, I was fired due to errors I made and horrible miscommunication. I thought I would be able to bounce back because I had my partner in my corner, loyal clients, and a desire to go out on my own. Then, after also just over a year and many turbulent, exhaustive fights, my partner, who I loved more than anything in the world, had the courage to finally end our relationship, which also caused me to lose the place I had called home for the past year.

It was the beginning of March, and the first two-week stay-at-home order had been placed in Ohio. I became deeply suicidal. From the age of 12, I had struggled with depression and anxiety, addiction, suicidal ideation, attachment issues, and borderline tendencies.

Although my life would look pretty much in order, my inner world and closest relationships were often unstable and toxic. And here, at the beginning of the pandemic, having just faced two major heartbreaking losses, I was ready to give up. For months, I wanted to die. I wanted my partner back; I wanted my old life back.

I thought of myself as a disgusting, horrible person and utter failure. I feverishly apologized to my ex and my ex-employers, but as heartfelt as my apologies were, they fell on deaf ears. People had had enough of me, and I got it. I blamed no one but myself, and I thought I was completely doomed. I had destroyed my life, and there was no coming back.

On top of that, the world was—and still is—in complete disarray. I was working with my therapist, life coach, spiritual teachers, and healers of all kinds, and yet nothing was bringing me back to myself for more than mere fleeting moments. Desperate for radical change, I turned to the only thing I had yet to try.

Plant Medicine. As someone who has gravitated toward alternative health practices for many years, I was ready for something different in an attempt to heal the PTSD that had plagued my life and turned me into someone I wasn’t proud of. I had read how much Psilocybin mushrooms—better known as magic mushrooms—could be used to help people recover from depression and PTSD.

I was fascinated by the way in which these mushrooms were shown to change the brain chemistry, and given the many testimonials I had read, I was hopeful. And so, in June, I headed to Mexico for a five-day Psilocybin healing retreat. I would love to say that I was magically healed in the three ceremonies I participated in—but I wasn’t.

There were moments of pure agony and grief, along with moments of existential bliss and a deep connection to the earth and my higher self. Yet I returned still heartbroken, grieving, and ultimately stuck with the same depression I had battled for most of my life. Determined to keep moving forward, I began microdosing mushrooms, moved to a new city, took on a new job, started making new friends, and ultimately started feeling some of the heartaches subsiding by August.

I was beginning to build a new life I could be proud of and was happier with than I thought possible, yet I knew that I was not in the clear when it came to sifting through my traumas from the past.

When I least expected it, I got the call to sit with another plant—the grandmother of the plant spirit world: Ayahuasca.

Though I knew it was likely I would one day sit with this powerful medicine, I thought I was far away from that deep dive. So, I didn’t go looking. She called me in the most unexpected way. While browsing through podcasts, I returned to a person I had listened to in the past. Her partner, at that time, worked as a facilitator at a plant medicine retreat center that was only about eight hours from where I was living.

Every cell in my body knew that that was where I needed to be. So, after a brief phone call with this beautiful medicine man facilitator, I booked my spot to sit. I will spare you the details and wrap it up with one dramatic statement: it changed my life.

It was the most terrifying, hardest, heart-opening, and beautiful experience I have ever had (and continues to be as I am seven ceremonies in). The land, the medicine, the community—it was all a beautifully wrapped package that I was honored to open. After all of the pain and destruction I had been through, I felt like it was all for a reason. It all led me to the exact place I needed to be to invite and invoke a different kind of healing.

I was supposed to be at the center for four days. I ended up staying for two weeks, and by the end of those two weeks, I had laid the foundation with plans to move here. I say here because it is where I am currently living. For many years, I had said I wanted to live in a tiny house in the woods in an intentional community where I could cook for people, offer bodywork, and continue to do my own healing work. And now it is finally my reality.

Yet even in the life of my dreams, some days, the grief holds strong. It’s like it is telling me it isn’t ready to let me off the hook so easily. The universe has instead set up the conditions for me to navigate, feel, and experience in a different way. It’s like being caught in the ocean in the middle of a hurricane, but riding it out in the safest ship known to man. I am still getting tossed around by the waves, but it isn’t going to kill me.

So here I sit in my beautiful room, embedded in nature, in a community that I love, offering the work my soul has been craving to offer, grieving all that I have lost and full of gratitude for all that I have gained at the same time. And, as fate would have it, I turned out to be right: 33 has been my lucky year, just not in the way I ever could have dreamed of.

I have tried to silence my grief, especially in these past few weeks. I was feeling like it doesn’t deserve to still be with me when I am in such a magical place living the life I have asked for. But it is time to let her be seen, to let her be heard, to let her know that she can stay, and that I can hold her, and that we will weather any storm together.

It is time to recognize and praise the polarity that must exist in this divine consciousness. To sit with things that are beautiful and hard in the same breath—and to know that that is more than okay. In fact, it is nature in its most beautiful form.

~

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