Paranoid Delusional Panic Attacks, Self Love and Shamanism – My Week With a Healer of Healers.

During my Ayahuasca retreat a few months back, I bunked with a lovely young woman named Eliza.  She described herself as a Medicine Woman who ran a retreat in Colorado.   The entire weekend I stayed relatively close to her because I felt comforted by her presence, but I didn’t think much about her beyond that.

In the weeks that followed, as I integrated the Aya experience into my life, Eliza continued to visit me in my dreams.  I knew I needed to reach out.  Once we had the opportunity to chat about what she does “for a living”, I signed up for a week of one-on-one healing/training at her retreat in Nederland, Colorado.  As I understand it, she is a healer of healers, a plant medicine woman, a shaman, a psychic, and everything that falls in between.

Last week I spent a full week at her retreat, Rise & Shine, Love.  I am however, going to state that before I even left for Colorado, the energy around me was in chaos.  The day before leaving, someone swiped my favorite Ray Ban sunglasses while I was shopping and later that day, I was the object of some pretty bad road rage.   In my experience, this means that I had quite the resistance to whatever work was about to occur between myself and Eliza.

After spending my first night at a hostel downtown and roaming around the streets of Denver, I arrived on her property the following day.  I felt a little panic on the drive up, not being a huge fan of cliff-side driving as well as always being the driver of my family outings, but I shrugged this reaction off.   However, when I began to unpack my belongings and settle in, something came over me that I have never experienced  in my life.  My head and shoulders grew hot, my heart raced and my breathing increased.  I knew that something very very bad was about to happen, I was with someone who was trying to swindle money out of me and I needed to leave IMMEDIATELY.  This was the first genuine bout of delusional paranoid thinking, coupled with a panic attack, I have ever experienced.  I started texting my friends and my husband, seeking someone to rescue me and talk me off the ledge I was standing on.  I felt I needed to leave the property immediately or that I might die.  The whole event maybe happened in a window of 20 minutes.

Once I connected with my breath, spoke to my husband and slipped into a light meditation (and let’s face it, had a damn good cry), I realized that these thoughts were not real.  I was creating them to avoid the Work that I had come here to do.

This was only the first episode throughout the week – I had two more, but each one became less intense and easier to identify.  I have a new found curiosity and empathy for people who have these attacks regularly and hope that in the future it can be something I  help people work through.

Throughout the week, the theme was self-love.  This act of loving myself properly has forever changed my life.  Here are some things we worked with:

  • Rituals that I would practice before bed and upon waking.  This included things like breathing exercises, self massage, tongue scraping and herbal tea.
  • Eliza taught me how to move my body and encouraged dancing and play activities – a great way to connect to with my playful side or inner child, which I had long since repressed.
  • I spent several hours naked in the sun, hammock, pool and performing self massage.  I had shed a layer of shame that most of us harbor about our body and ourselves.   This work has since enhanced my sex life with the hubby – it’s unreal.
  • Eating only fresh organic foods and herbs.
  • Guided Meditation.
  • Energy Healing.
  • Watsu with Eliza and massage performed by Integrative Bodywork by Galadrial.    

Later in the week I experience my first mushroom ceremony.  I was so grateful to find that it was similar to a mild Ayahuasca journey, with a lot of emotional release and overwhelming sense of love and connected-ness.  I hope to work more professionally with this plant medicine in the future.

To wrap up the trip, I was given the opportunity to see Nahko and Medicine for the People for the first time in Vail, Colorado.  This show was absolutely amazing and exactly what I needed to conclude my trip.   I highly recommend going to see them if you haven’t already!

The biggest takeaway from this retreat for me was that, without doing the Work on myself, I will never be able to effectively help others or be the healer that I know I am to be.   I will have trouble moving forward on my life path.  Without clearing out the stuff you have inside you, it is hard to be open to what is right here and available to you.  It is hard to see situations and others clearly or at least to see them without looking through the shit-colored glasses of your own struggles.

I will continue to take this beautiful experience and apply it to my every day life.   I do also want to encourage others to let go of some of their fear and think about their own self-love state and practice.  Life is so much more full and joyous when you clear out the cobwebs for a better view.

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The “War on Drugs”

Let’s talk about a different side of this “war on drugs” we all hear about.  This is an excellent buzz word/phrase and it is easy for someone to assume that our country has this huge drug problem that needs to be addressed.  All those pot smokers, cocaine dealers, and heroin users are really plaguing our society, after all…

Truth is, we have a HUGE drug problem that needs to be addressed, only it isn’t the illegal type of drugs that I am speaking of.  Today, I would like to expose myself a little more than usual and tell you all about my completely legal prescription (and addiction) to Adderall, a common ADHD drug that was first prescribed to me when I was 23.

After seeing an array of therapists for 12 years, trying every medication under the sun to soothe my “depression”, I found a doctor who thought to prescribe me a medication for ADHD, which he claimed to be the source of my debilitating depression.  I won’t go into depth about the numerous self-destructive tendencies I pursued to lead me to that moment, but I will say that I felt lost to this lifetime – I really didn’t think I would even make it into my twenties.

When I started this medication, my appetite plummeted and my ability to spend long hours at work and in my school books had been amplified to an astounding level.  I partied nightly and worked full time with no real difficulty.   In hindsight, this was a perfect blend of cocaine and speed.  I took myself off the medication during my second pregnancy and had a difficult time when I resumed my dosage, approximately one year after having my daughter, Tessa.  I was disappointed to see the weight loss was more gradual and the mood swings were ten times worse this time around.  Still, I persisted in taking the drug because, compared to the depression, it was heaven.

Then, I started to notice the side effects.  I went from happy to pissed off to weepy – in a matter of hours.  Every. Day.  I slept less than 25 hours per week.  Worse still, I couldn’t paint because my hands shook like I was withdrawing.

Side Note: At all times during my relationship with Adderall, I was seeing a physician and was taking a prescribed dosage as well as having to physically see my doctor once a month to check-in.  I did not abuse this drug by any means.

I took myself off again after we moved to Hawaii because I made the determination that I wanted to live a more natural lifestyle.  My doctor had advised against it and told me that I may need medical help with the withdrawals.  Still, I insisted on handling it on my own.  At that point, I was living in a tent with my husband and two children.  My husband held me nightly after the kids fell asleep, as I shook with chills from the withdrawals.  I cried in private every day because I wanted nothing more than to die.  This went on for weeks.  Several months later, after relocating to Florida, I tried to re-acquaint myself with the medication for some time, only to find that my tolerance had exceeded the amount my doctor could prescribe.  To me, this was a sign that now was officially the time for me to give up Adderall for good.

As of today, it has been approximately six months since I touched this medication, and roughly 60 pounds of weight gain that I struggle with on a daily basis.  I am now able to see how the medication produced mood swings that destroyed my relationship with the people around me, as well as destroyed myself.  I have been forced to evaluate my lifestyle and diet, now that I have an appetite for the first time in nearly six years.  It urges me to look at my reasons for binge eating and a lifetime of avoiding all glances in a mirror.   I have also reached depths of depression that would surely top any moment experienced in my adolescence.  In truth, this has been the most difficult time of my life.

I am so grateful for this experience, despite the hardship that it has caused.  I am happy to report that this lifelong depression I have faced is not actually a depression, it’s a lack of connection to this world and to the people who surround me, as well as to my true self.  My ability to connect continues to improve as I discover more about myself and as I learn to love myself as I am – a very valuable life lesson.    I do not wish to invoke sympathy with this posting, nor judgment for my actions.  I simply wish for people to be aware of these “safe” prescription drugs that are provided to us and to our children.   I would also love to offer support to anyone that has lived a life through the haze of Adderall and who may need some help coping with the detachment from this drug.

Ultimately, I hope to shed some light on the real “war on drugs”, as I know it to be.