I heard of Ayahuasca for the first time a few years ago. Eversince then it’s been on the back of my mind as a potential last resort for finding help with my C-PTSD, which I’ve been living with for all my life (I’ve turned 51 in January). After researching all other potential treatment options, I had to find that there are none available to me any more. I don’t have access to conventional trauma therapy for limitations in my health insurance plan, I was repeatedly turned away by doctors and hospitals for the same reasons – or because they felt inadequate to treat a case as complex as mine – and I had to find out that I can’t switch health providers in order to overcome those limitations in my health plan. I also tried to get into a future clinical trial with MAPS.org, but was just informed by them that the earliest possible recruitment is for 2017 or later. It’s fucked up beyond comprehension and I don’t think, I can keep going that long with whatever small amounts of survival instinct or resilience I got left.
So… I started to look into Ayahuasca and according retreat centers again as well as the applied methods of serving the medicine. Apparently there has been some merging of indigenous ceremonies with western psychotherapy in recent years, sort of an attempt of bringing “the best of both worlds” together. In particular, above documentary featuring Dr. Gabor Maté and his work with drug addicts in the last 12 years along with his findings of trauma as the root cause of addiction has got all my attention. In this particular regard I completely agree with his findings from my own introspections, some of which I interestingly came across through alcohol combined with material triggering repressed emotions. You could say, it was my particular flavor of “shadow work”, if you will, however it doesn’t seem to be complete yet. I think, in my own research, introspection, mindfulness meditation and whatnot, I’ve arrived at the insight that whatever material gets washed ashore must be expressed verbally and emotionally (possibly physically) in the presence of a witnessing person (see “the helping witness” in Alice Miller’s work, e.g. “The Drama of the Gifted Child” and other books and articles that she wrote on all things child abuse and abusive environments) followed by a process of reprocessing and integrating all the fragmented emotional memories and imprints from the past, which we usually deal with via our personal set of coping strategies, where there often seems to be an underlying pattern of denial, blind spots in memory and repression of “negative” feelings. I can’t speak for everybody, but as for myself, I found this to be the case. In other words: The mind becomes very clever and creative in fabricating whatever narrative necessary to avoid pain and rather create new pain in other areas than to go the source of all dysfunction, which – according to Maté – can always be found in childhood and adverse circumstances there.
Right now, I’m specifically looking at a few select centers in Peru, Mexico, Portugal in trying to decide, where I think I can find the best blend of ancient healing modalities married to western concepts of individual psychological support, ideally with an assigned therapist and/or “facilitator”. It’s still somewhat of a challenge to simply google and compare one center to the next, but it looks as if efforts were under way to establish some important common criteria that should be taken into consideration before actually “booking” a retreat. Platforms like Ayaadvisor or Erowid appear to be a step in the right direction in terms of making common criteria for evaluation accessible for anyone interested in these alternative treatments. As there seems to be a surge in interest from westerners in undergoing these treatments, it’s twice as important to tell the wheat from the chaff in a manner of speaking, particulary as there have been some reports of fatalities and some shamans with questionable credentials and practices to say the least.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t somewhat apprehensive, too, in particular with regards to the initial phase of “purging” toxins from the body and involving a fairly rigid diet in preparing for the retreat and intake of Ayahuasca as well as some of the expectable physical side effects like nausea, diarrhea, headaches, insomnia, general weakness etc. Also, while only very few cases with severe and sometimes fatal reactions are documented, it’s a bit unsettling to think that physical death as a result from undergoing this procedure can’t be safely excluded. If one follows the very detailed and rigid instructions on how to prepare and also provides all medical info necessary to decide the best course of action, fatal outcomes are very unlikely to happen. However… it’s one potential outcome, it has happened a few times and thus can’t be fully ruled out. But then – I guess, I’m ready to take my chances seeing as I have arrived in a place that can hardly be called a life anymore and where it seems I really don’t have much – if anything at all – to lose but my physical existence. It simply doesn’t make sense to go on like this, without a perspective, largely isolated from peers and unable to provide for myself from having become disabled in the process of trying to repress the debilitating symptoms of this condition (to no avail, I should add).
It will be hard to collect the required budget and it has to happen in secrecy or via some form of sponsorship or escrow or else the system in my country of residence will take away whatever I collect (or whatever I manage to make on my own with the rest of whatever productivity I can muster in spite of 100% disability, the reasoning apparently being that if I’m “healthy” enough to make whatever little contribution I can, I’m good enough to support myself again. And trust me – I’d choose this over any other option any day, i.e. if I could be sure I can last in any type of work situation… I have tried, but I usually can’t hold a job for very long).
So – it’s my last bet, literally my last option. And time is increasingly of the essence as those parties willing to support me will not be around forever. It’s going to be all or nothing. And it looks more and more like I’ll eventually get to start my life – or end it in the process, one or the other way.
Wish me luck.