Saturday, May 10, 2014

2013 - Dark Night of the Soul

This was my first painting ever created in August, 2013. It's a woman dying into the void of darkness.
This post is for all those who are suffering from depression, addiction, meaninglessness, existential crisis and thoughts of suicide. No one truly understands unless they've been through it.  I am on my knees and humbled by this life. I will be forever grateful for what the darkness has shown me.

2013. It was a year of death and rebirth, the final purging of a lifetime of pain and sorrow, and self inflicted mental torture. By far, the most difficult, dark yet transformative year of my life.  I never considered myself a crier, throughout the years of my childhood and early adulthood I had cried a handful of times. I had no idea how many tears were stored away. Finally after 3 years of nothingness, all the darkness I pushed down during my life was beginning to surface. In 2013 all those tears came bursting forth.

Numb and exhausted, this was how I felt about 5 years ago when I set out to reclaim my original creative self. The way I'd been living and the world around me felt so wrong and I was on a mission to find out why and how I got myself into this horrible state of mind. The grooves of negative thought patterns on the record of my mind had wedged themselves into my reality so tightly that the moment I was alone with myself with nothing to do, I would get extremely anxious. My thought structures and conditioning had an oppressive grasp on me so strong that I began to wither under the it's relentless command. "You're boring, you're a failure, you have no idea who you are, you can't stick to anything, you've hurt so many people and you're a horrible person, you'll never find your purpose", these all too familiar voices in my head played over and over. It got so bad that I couldn't even be alone with myself without having to grab for a substance to quiet the mind and numb the pain. Ironically, just as this discomfort became louder and more intense, my life arranged itself to have more and more time alone with nothing to do. I chose to face this darkness that was haunting my soul. Much of the past 3 years has been a dangerous elixir of tons of free time mixed with no desire or energy to do anything or be with anyone, mix these things together and you get a perfect recipe for insanity or liberation, I wasn't sure which way it'd go.

The year 2013 started out with a sincere effort to finally free myself from depression and conquer my addictions. All the kundalini and meditation I had done for the past couple years was working and the pressure of all my stuck energy and traumas had built up so strongly it was like a giant zit filled with puss and swollen, painful to the touch and ready to pop open. Little did I know that this was the year I was going to pop.

In January, I made an enthusiastic commitment to do the Kirtan Kriya Meditation for 40 days. This is a meditation that is specific for addictions and depression. And it started out pretty successful. I knew the power in the meditation and I wanted it to work as fast as possible. (open Root center) With a lot of free time on my hands, I was able to build up the time so by the 2nd week in, I went from doing 12 min a day to 61 min a day. I learned very quickly that this was a little too much too fast. By the 15th day so many of my issues were coming to the surface that I truly couldn’t handle it. I became so uncomfortable physically and mentally that I stopped half way into the meditation, got in my car and went out and got a bottle of wine and a pack of cigarettes and brought it home. Within 2 hours I had drunk the entire bottle and smoked about 4 cigarettes; successfully numbing the horror of my mind but making myself so sick that I was puking it up within an hour. A self inflicted purge. The next day I was in shock and horror that I would do something so horrible to myself.

"The serious thing for each person to recognize vividly and poignantly, each for himself, is that every falling away from species-virtue, every crime against one's own nature, every evil act, every one without exception records itself in our unconscious and makes us despise ourselves." ~Abraham Maslow from Towards a Psychology of Being

Addictions have been a part of my life since I can remember, I started smoking cloves then cigarettes at 14, started drinking and smoking pot around the same age, had a few years of vicodin use, and a coffee addiction since college. Pot has been my escape vice of choice, and with 20 years of continuous use under my belt, you better believe I had smoked myself numb. A thick haze of confusion, insecurity and doubt swirled around me keeping me ever stuck in my self destructive cycle of addiction, shame and self loathing.

Right before the uncontrollable binge in the beginning of 2013, I had pretty much stopped drinking alcohol (not by choice but because I had a chronic bladder infection that was inflamed by alcohol) and had slowed down with smoking pot, however it all came back to the surface with a vengeance that night when I tried to do 61 minutes of Kirtan Kriya and it was truly an unstoppable force. The next day in desperation I was on the Internet researching addiction and I came across the plant medicine called Iboga. After a day of research I found a place called Iboga House and I got a big hit from my inner authority that I needed to go there for a treatment with this medicine. So I booked the insanely expensive trip to Costa Rica on my credit card and hoped for the best. My intentions were to clear out my childhood trauma and get rid of my depression, quit smoking cigarettes, pot and quit drinking coffee. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I was willing to do whatever it took to get my life back and be happy. I've always known deep down inside that freedom and happiness were my birthright and I was determined reclaim myself.

After the 2 floods of Iboga in Costa Rica in March, 2013 I returned feeling very peaceful, very clean like after a long fast or cleanse, and I craved only healthy foods for about a week. I came back with a beautiful lesson on what it meant for me to just be. However during the journey's, I didn't quite understand what the medicine had shown me and to this day I still don't really know. The scenes that played in my mind during my journey were not necessarily comforting but showed me a grander perspective of the whole play of the cycles of life. It was so beyond my comprehension that I can't really talk about it, however I don't think it's that important to understand. The important part was that it cleared enough of my stuck energy out so that I came home a non-smoker. I haven't had a craving for a cigarette since then and I’m never going back. It’s been a year now. I’d say that alone is worth the $4000 it cost me for the trip. I did however, start smoking pot again about 3 weeks after I got back and my bouts of depression and extreme fatigue also came back with a vengeance. Perhaps the Iboga loosened even more stuck energies that were now emerging.

The problem with the Iboga House was that although they were successful at helping people quit their addictions without cravings, they didn't include therapy sessions or strategies to help people work with day to day challenges for when we returned to our life back home. There was also a lack of female nurturing energy there, all of the providers were men and trained by the founder Moughneda who is a traditional shamanic healer from Gabon. I understand that the traditional energy of Iboga is more masculine and it's medicine is to toughen you up, giving you a thick skin to be able to handle the intensity of life. To me it feels like it pounds you into submission. However I feel that people who are addicts have been deeply wounded and they don't need to be toughened up, they need to be heard and nurtured because that's what they didn't get as children which lead them to the addiction. The people running the Iboga house when I was there, although they seemed "happy", lacked the depth and humanity that comes when we release the emotion. I would advise someone with severe addiction problems to take Iboga to get off the addiction and then wait 6 months and take a series of Ayahuasca treatments to get to the bottom of the issues and allow the body to heal from the trauma. I wrote them a letter informing them of the changes I suggested.

It was April now. The fatigue and depression became utterly debilitating, I began to question how much longer I could go on living like this. The motivation to keep going slowly got sucked out of me, I had no passion or energy to pursue anything, no desire to connect with people, and an overwhelming anxiousness of not knowing how to face the emptiness in my life. Nothing in my life seemed worth fighting for. I continued to meditate as much as I could, utilizing self inquiry. There would be brief moments of relief when I could quiet my mind and expand my awareness. The other therapy I did was taking lots of walks in the beautiful park near my house and walking on the rocks barefoot and swimming in the majestic Yuba river. I also got myself to kundalini yoga classes as much as I could. And thankfully I had met a partner who's affection and support was helpful. However, this was a solo journey and I knew that a partner couldn't "fix" my problems. 

Continuing on with my goal of clearing my depression and addictions,  I did some research on self administering Iboga.  I decided to ordered some root online from a credible source in Gabon and got the instructions to distill it on my own. In order to ingest a flood dose, one would need to eat about 8 spoonfuls and it is the nastiest thing you'll ever taste. So distilling it down into a more potent powder to put in a capsule is the ideal way of taking it. In hindsight, doing it at home is not something I would recommend. Read about it here.

Working with sacred plant medicines as a novice is not something you want to mess around with. Having a trained provider and/or a trained shaman is imperative. DMT which is present in both Ayahuasca and Iboga, opens up the funnel of consciousness so we’re being exposed and in direct contact with other realms, some of which possess demonic entities who will take up residence in the weak and destitute souls of the earth. A Shaman is necessary because they have been exposed to these realms many times and can help one navigate or fend off any entities that hope to take advantage of the weak. I can’t say with certainty that I was exposed to these entities when I self-administered a non-flood dose of Iboga one night with my boyfriend at his house, however the next journey with Ayahuasca did confirm that something very dark was battling inside me.  

I can attest to what I've read online about the 2 plant medicines, they do not go well together. If one needs to get off of a hard drug addiction, I would recommend taking Iboga as an initial measure because of it's effectiveness. However then I would recommend many Ayahuasca treatments to help the soul heal and integrate back into life. Don't go back and forth. Some of the providers at the Iboga house seemed happy yes, however they felt a little robotic. They had suddenly stopped their addictions to methadone but hadn't really dealt with the traumas that were causing them in the first place. This resulted in a zombie like person that was happy but didn't have a lot of depth or awareness of emotion.

The shaman who I worked with a few weeks later confirmed that Iboga can actually do harm, and Ayahuasca and Iboga don’t go well with one another. After the 3rd round of Iboga, where I experienced true non-existence, my body was in shock for 3 days, literally shaking from where the journey took me. I had to keep walking around and moving because if I sat still somewhere I would just shake. 

2 weeks after that 3rd round of Iboga in June, I was happy to hear that a couple who were trained shaman were coming to town for a 2 day Ayahuasca retreat in June. It was going to be an intimate setting with just a handful of people in a beautiful home, just the type of style and situation I prefer. I immediately signed up.

The first night of this journey was the most difficult night of my life. All of my demons and shadows came to the forefront of my mind, the darkest images from my life were displayed in front of me. My body was so weak it felt like it was dying and I was either collapsed in fetal position or writhing in discomfort for the greater part of the journey. Within my body and in the upper realms, there was struggle for my soul. The spirit of Ayahuasca, or perhaps it was my higher self, was asking me if I wanted to live or die. I was so fatigued and overwhelmed with sadness at that point that honestly, I didn’t really know whether I wanted to continue my existence in this body. I would rather have died than continued to live in the emptiness that pervaded my life.

During the journey, I would have just enough energy to grab the bucket at the end of my mat and puke and cry and wail all of my sorrow into the bucket. I puked 7 times (the Shaman later said this was highly unusual and saw it as the result of the Iboga still being in my system). I felt like such a drama queen, I was definitely the loudest one of the bunch, but I couldn’t hold myself back. For once in my life, I just let myself fall apart. Read the rest here. 

After those ceremonies in August I took a 4 week art class with a friend and amazing artist, one of the 1st and only art classes I’ve taken.  We were there to create a mandala to represent our life and what we wanted. The final piece is the one at the top (Falling into the Void) During those 4 weeks of the art workshops I had a few breakdowns. One morning for the 3rd week of the class I showed up in tears and was greeted by one of the 4 women in the class. She didn’t ask any questions, she just saw the tears in my eyes and took me in her arms and let me cry on her shoulder. With her compassionate embrace, I completely unraveled right there in the middle of the yurt. She felt like an angel. That morning the teacher encouraged me to pour out my emotions on the canvas, and I painted this.

To me it symbolizes the tears that I was shedding which were giving life to a new flower within me. All the chaos and confusion and sadness I was experiencing was giving birth to a new me.

Finally the worst day of my life came, September 23, 2013. My fatigue and depression hit me like an atom bomb and for the first time I felt like just ending it. The deepest self-loathing burned me from the inside and my mind couldn’t find one single reason to keep going with this life. If my life was going to continue on like this, what was the point? What could I possibly have to offer the world? If my life was just going to continue to be suffering like it had been for the last 4 years then I didn’t want to live it anymore. That was 3 weeks before my 36th birthday. Well luckily I didn't have the balls to end it. The fatigue was so extreme, after some research I decided I had extreme adrenal fatigue. That was enough to convince me to quit drinking coffee and I did the next day. It lasted for 6 weeks. The first 2-3 weeks were extremely difficult. By the 3rd week of being caffeine free I was feeling more clear and my mental energy was kicking in so I signed up for a tax class and was actually enthusiastic about learning something new. (update - I started and quit again a few more times after this episode - Ahh Coffee is the most addictive thing ever!!)

In the 3rd week of October I did another weekend Ayahuasca ceremony with the same Shamans and had a very positive experience even though on the 2nd night I was on the toilet pooping and puking and wailing all at the same time. So much "shit" literally came out of me. A lifetime of poisons and toxins were released from me that night. Aya showed me that weekend exactly how my Marijuana addiction had been a temporary band aid. I realized how seductive she was as a plant medicine. She lured me in, making me feel creative, more spiritually connected, all the while pushing down my emotions, numbing me from my pain, and distancing me further from my true self causing more anxiety than good. 

Since that journey, there has been a tangible shift. My depression is gone! Amen! I’m finally starting to feel a undercurrent of true gratitude for life. I can finally be with myself. There's light coming into my life more and more. I don’t crave substances like I have in the past, however I'm still working on that dang coffee addiction.

I’m finally feeling a connection to something greater than myself. Where before I felt cut off, numb and denied a connection to higher power, now there is a growing relationship with the divine. It's a subtle and quiet connection that isn't what I thought it be but it's enough to lure me in closer. When I meditate I can connect more easily with the mysterious background of creation that I am. I am not afraid of death or suffering anymore. I get more glimpses of truth and what Ramana teaches that “I am that” which cannot die and does not suffer.  True freedom is approaching.  

Surviving 2013 has given me a strength I didn’t know I had. I feel like I can get through anything now.  My perspective on life has changed as a result of going to hell and back. I'm so grateful to be here and not be depressed anymore. And I'm so grateful for everything my shadows have shown me. 

Today, I feel at peace with myself. It's been 6 months and the depression hasn't come back. All my addictions are gone except for coffee. 2014 is the year I hope to be done with this energy sucker. (This finally happened in the beginning of 2015) The process of healing will continue, and I will keeping doing the work with Ayahuasca to go even deeper and release more karma.

As of today, I'm currently on day 100 of the Kirtan Kriya, I started it a couple weeks before Christmas. I’m doing between 48 and 61 minutes a day, it’s my anti-depressant, helping me stay positive, giving me energy and really allowing me to see the negative thoughts and allow them to pass without getting caught up in the story.

I feel I’m finally out of the muck and ready to move forward with my life and become a beacon of light and source of encouragement for others who want to transform themselves. Although many have suggested anti-depressants over the years, I never gave in. I managed to climb my way out of the depression through alternative means, for this I am empowered and excited to share these alternatives with others.