LSD and Me - Milestones - Turning 50
Psychedelic therapy, in controlled, loving, safe, beautiful environment can be so therapeutic (not recreational). It had been over a year since I tripped, but after the mania of my 50th birthday, depression and PTSD hit so hard I felt the call for some jungle island psychedelic therapy, which is like hitting a “reset” button on the brain. So grateful for my respectful, compassionate guide this past weekend. After hours, of staring at the palm trees with tropical birds, me being cradled in a couch and snuggling a pillow for hours, I then culminated by I dancing out “Abbey Road” while watching Caribbean waves crash to the golden beach below. By then I was ready to get home to my own bed and cats in Bocas Town, just 8 miles away, yet a world away. Tripping feels like a weight has been released, relieved. Reset back to myself again, myself that only knew of beauty and love in this world, before trauma set in. I can breathe again. Laying there on that couch dancing my hands to the music, like a conductor, while watching the palm trees, clouds and Caribbean all dance to the music, the same message kept coming to me: “It’s good to be home, it’s good to get back to the essence that is myself, my TRUE SELF.”
Yes, I’m a yoga teacher, vegan, don’t drink alcohol, don’t even smoke marijuana (only eat high-CBD edibles for anti-inflammatory effect). I live so CLEANLY, and have for most of my life, to try to quell depression, which I have struggled with since I was a child. Some of us, we have brains are are just predisposed for it, and as much as I have traveled the world in search, and tried every single possible remedy, the yoga and vegan diet and no-alcohol for sure HELP, for sure are a positive step in the right direction, yet tripping is the only thing that keeps life-long (I have a documented diary from when I was 12 talking about it) suicidal ideation from turning into making actual plans. When actual plans start to creep in, I know it’s time to trip.
I hadn’t tripped since my 49th birthday (November, 2018), because as you may have read in the article “Journey of The Wounded Healer”, there was a perfect storm of me overdoing it, with uncontrolled dosage of free-flowing, massive amounts of liquid acid, combined with me detoxing off of a particular psych med (stop the stigma, some of us literally need it to stay alive, and your pill shaming only makes us feel more shameful and useless to society, so stop it with your soapbox lectures – you could be putting someone’s life in danger). As a very experienced psychonaut the “episode” (which was actually an ayahuasca flashback that lasted a week, even though I hadn’t taken ayahuasca in years) after my 49thbirthday was so terrifying and life-threatening, that I was scared off of all psychedelics, and took that year experiencing severe PTSD. PTSD not for the childhood trauma, not for the rape(s), not for my work in the underworld of sex entertainment (stripping, etc.), and not for the near-death-experience of drowning, of which I am STILL recovering five years later (lungs/brain). For the record my five years working in da club (and elsewhere) were the best years of my life, a super manic time, but also the most ALIVE I’ve felt, the most in-power, in control, I’ve felt. The most I traveled the world first class all the way and discovered amazing feats, the downside of a five-year manic phase is the super high-risk behavior that comes with it. That high-risk, invincible feeling is what bagged me a knighted rock star, but it also put me in what I can see now as life-threatening situations that I’m so grateful my street-smarts (paranoia) got me out of the industry alive.
Happily celibate for four years now, and identifying as an out-of-the-closet lesbian, I felt a freedom of what can only be described as a psychotic break, as it taught me that everything is arbitrary, and what is the heart of life, which is really compassion for animals, for my parents, for myself, for my clients, for the stranger walking down the street talking to themselves. Yet the PTSD symptoms I felt were related to me remembering that week-long psychotic break, how terrifying it was, how amazed I was I survived it, even though I called both my parents during it to say “goodbye, this is it, I know you did the best you could and I love you, this is not your fault”. I spent literally the last year afraid of my mind, had I permanently skipped over from simply bi-polar (neurotic) to schizophrenic (psychotic)? It scared me so much that I backed of tripping entirely, not even microdosing for over a year, when psychedelics had been my friend, my safe-space, my home for so long.
When I survived the 49th birthday, I thought well, I better surround myself on my 50th, and really make it a celebration of the fact that I SURVIVED a ½ century. Often the PTSD would tell me that I belonged face-down on the bottom of that pool, that I never was meant to be resuscitated, and many times I have actually resented being resuscitated. I was finally out of this world, faced the void, and was brought back a weaker version of myself (physically/mentally) to fight out this life.
Only by teaching, could I really be of service in this life, and actually all of the above has made me a BETTER yoga teacher, in that for every person who walks in my door of the yoga studio, that I built from the ground up, on property on which I paid for in full, am I humbled and so full of empathy that sometimes it brings me to tears when complete strangers tell me I have something “special” about me that allows them to get in touch with themselves on a deep level. Yeah, “special” is one way to put it!
The 50th birthday was over the course of two days, at a super posh resort. I’m not rich, by any means, not since a con-man from Panama City ripped me off of my life-savings of $50,000, every dime I owned. I suppose that was a trauma too, there was some gangsta shit going on on both sides (mine and his) in this fight. My parents were urging me to flee to the States while I decided to stay and thug it out, yet, with nothing except my property to my name, absolutely nothing to fall back on. Anyway, don’t get it twisted, I scrimped and saved all year so I could afford 2 nights at this super posh, remote location called Red Frog Beach Island Resort on Isla Bastimentos, while my house/yoga studio is on Isla Colón in this beautiful Caribbean archipelago, in a busy/noisy party (alcohol/cocaine flowing, of which I admit, before my drowning I imbibed in far too much) town (fortunately I didn’t much like cocaine, I don’t like “uppers”, much prefer depressants, like alcohol, which I am almost six years sober now). This is why I hardly leave the house. I live in a town that might as well be called “Margaritaville”. I rented two nights a private villa at the remote resort, in case of quite common rain (yet both days were almost preternaturally sunny, with white sand and skies of blue).
Among the very small guest list, we had rented three villas/bungalows on the beach. Being the introvert I am, I rented a one-bedroom, beach front villa, right on the beach, with a private pool, all to myself (a pool of three feet of water is what I had drowned in, don’t even think it was a rip-tide, those I know how to fight). I needed a safe space to retreat to if a panic attack were to come on (not unusual for an introvert at a party). Just up the hill from my villa, was the super posh La Rosa Beach Club, so I could send people up there to enjoy themselves, if/when I felt overwhelmed and needed privacy. The videos you see below were shot during these two days. As you can see it was quite idyllic, tropical and fun – in fact I had whipped myself up into a manic mood for it. After fifty years of battling a mood disorder I can whip myself into mania if/when I want to – usually it’s when I get in “drag” (full make-up, hair, sparkly costumes, etc, when I’m ready to create art in the form of photo and/or video shoots). That’s what you see below. You see mania, not a truly happy person, but a bi-polar person in the actually fun grips of mania, enjoying this beautiful time in the country in which she was born, Panama.
The downside to a manic episode, is yep, you guessed it, severe depression. I made it through the holidays with not one call from my three siblings, and even though I’m an atheist, a phone call, text, or message on social media would’ve really felt nice. I do want to shout-out to my Okinawan sister-in-law to sent me a “non demoninational holiday greeting”. That still brings tears to my eyes, that my Japanese sister-in-law is so thoughtful and sweet (even though she is juggling a job, a husband (my brother), two kids and recently bought a new house, and recently had to adjust from moving the her beautiful island that I visited, of Okinawa, that land of fresh tofu and orchids and smiling people, to New Jersery, SHE is the only one who reached out, so that you for that Kaori-san. Yes, the holidays have the highest suicide rate for a reason. I had written my mom and said, I made it to 50, I want to see Bocas Yoga’s 10th anniversary (25 February, 2019 – soon), and I would like to see my black rescued cat out through the rest of her life (she’s about 12 now, and my last rescue lived until 18), and I said, that’s it I’m tapping out. So, I knew when I write and tell my almost 80 year old mom who has her own anxiety and physical issues, that I’m tapping out, it’s like a felt this benevolent presence. Not a voice. I’m not hearing voices, but a benevolent presence, just saying, you know what, I’m proud of you for not tripping on your birthday – it would have been to much (too many people, too much activity going on, too much talking by people who can’t appreciate just the sounds of nature, and not their own voice), but the time is right now. The mindset and private/safe physical setting all came together quite beautifully, naturally, and the medicine dropped in my lap (no I will not hook you up, don’t ask – I keep my job as a yoga teacher professional and I’m not a dispensary, I just share my story).
As you can see in this picture, I’m not in “drag”. No make-up. Wearing my contacts instead of my usual, daily prescription glasses, yes, and polarized sunglasses (don’t trip without polarized sunglasses, it just makes everything that much more vibrant). When “Abbey Road” came on I got up off the comfort of the couch and danced my ass of with super-hero lungs that came out of somewhere, then I was ready for the ride back into noisy, bustling, colorful, Caribbean Bocas Town, so I can sleep in my own bed and be with my cats. The reason I share this with you is not to promote drugs, but to STOP THE STIGMA against mental illness, and also the stigma (started by the Nixon administration) against psychedelics as medicine for overcoming addiction, PTSD and depression. The set and setting make all the difference in the world. You’re not going to find therapy at a psy-trance concert (or maybe you will) – what you need is to be with no one but yourself, and perhaps a quiet, respectful, compassionate guide nearby in case you need anything, like hydration. I feel a “reset” button has been pushed in my brain, and for now, I am not writing a suicide note in my head every-time I go to bed. I am so RELIEVED that I was able to take this medicine without it triggering a psychotic episode. I feel free, weightless, comforted and at a level state. Not manic, not depressed. Nice and level, like a smooth peaceful ride. Of course this state won’t last forever, so I continue to monitor my moods, be of service to others who are struggling in terms of being a yoga teacher and offering compassion and a safe space to practice (not in a bar, not in a hostel, not on a dock with water-taxis of tourist ogling you, but a proper custom-built yoga studio). I am relieved that if when the times comes I can reach for the medicine again, but not have to take it as often as I used to. If/when the time comes when even the medicine doesn’t work, please know mental illness is just like cancer. No amount of essential oils (which I’m allergic to by the way, so STOP with the suggesting them, they make my throat constrict which triggers my muscle-memory into recalling my drowning which I was actually unconscious for). Just like any terminal illness, you can fight it, struggle, live some happy times, enjoy nature, people that love you. If you’re bipolar that list will be small, in fact it will be filled with people who once idolized you, used you, then eventually stabbed you in the back trying to BE you. Trust me, you don’t want to be me. Just like mental health warrior Carrie Fisher brought so much light, laughter and joy to the world, and how she herself fought the stigma of speaking of addiction and mental illness, she eventually succumbed. No one “commits” suicide – it’s not a crime. People die by suicide, and it’s NO ONE’S fault. I am a suicide survivor myself (someone close to me died by suicide and I still feel the guilt of that although I know rationally I should not).
Yes, I talk about dark shit. Welcome to my world. If not for the darkness we couldn’t appreciate the light. So, beware of “gurus” or “teachers” wanting to sell you happiness and nothing but rainbow and sunshine sparkling out of their asses. Those are the frauds, the snake-oil peddlers. I’ve fallen for them. I prefer to be AUTHENTIC and speak my truth – now THAT is true yoga. Is it for you? Dare to look in the mirror and ask yourself that.
Epilogue: I do want to thank Christy were who flew all the way from New York for the birthday weekend – she knew me well enough to keep me separated from the other birthday party that was occurring at her villa on the second day of my stay at the resort. She also was considerate in making sure her guests didn’t even walk by my villa, on their was to the Beach Club. Megan, my dear “daughter in my head”, a brilliant marine scientist, who took the 12-hour night bus from/to Panama City, Panama to Bocas Del Toro just for my birthday party weekend, for being the ONLY one I invited to stay with me on the second day. She’s an introvert, and sat in the chair next to me in bed all day, with our view of the Caribbean just right out the villa’s sliding glass door, great view from bed. I told her crazy stories from my life and she silently listened with such a sweet, receptive, non-judgmental presence. She is the mystery young-woman I gave the diamond ring to in the “Journey of a Wounded Healer” episode. Last, but not least, Shelley who came down to check to see if I was alive on the second day, and then kind-fully took her leave. She wanted to make sure I hadn’t drowned overnight when left alone. To the person who invited themselves to “hang out” at my villa the second day, they were kindly asked to leave, as I really did need that second day just to lay in bed and recover from my introvert/socializing hangover, and Megan was the only presence that could handle exactly what comfort (just silent listening and understanding) that I needed. She earned that diamond ring. All the other diamonds I had I gave to my sister in Santa Barbara – still didn’t get a phone call. Let this be a lesson, money/diamonds can’t buy you love even from family. That sizeable amount of diamonds were from mostly from former customers who were trying to buy my love – didn’t work for them, so I should’ve know it wouldn’t work for me. I am grateful for my TRUE friends that get me and offer to be that lifeline. If/when the time comes, please know there is nothing you could have done differently to change the outcome. I feel a relief just writing this. Thank you for allowing me to air it out, it creates a catharsis. Share YOUR story, stop to the stigma!
FOR THE RECORD MY LEGAL PAPERS FOR WHAT HAPPENS TO THE BOCAS YOGA FOUNDATION IN CASE OF MY DEATH ARE ON ON FILE AT Mendoza,Valle & Castillo and Arias, Arias & Asociados, My lawyer is Jaime Ricardo Arias, who has my documents sewn up tight for the property/house to be left to an animal sanctuary.