“What brings you to this work?” the therapist asked, peering over her glasses. Her hands fastidiously carried on knitting. Her gaze locked on me. It felt like a strange job interview, an evaluation to see if my pain merited the intervention.
“I’ve had an eating disorder over half my life. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t trying to control or change my body. I’m tired of this self-loathing,” I said, voice cracking. “Now I’m a mom, and it’s even worse – this most cruel voice berating me inside, shaming me for all the flaws and imperfections. I thought having a baby would change how I see my body. In some ways it’s changed everything, but mostly because I don’t have time or energy to fight myself anymore. Now I have this precious baby and this vicious eating disorder that feels like a wall between me and him. I have to tear it down.”
She handed me a tissue with a promising smile and said, “Well, that seems like a good clear intention. Let us see where the medicine takes you.”
“Do you think it’s possible to resolve this in three sessions? I’ve heard each one is like five years of therapy, so that seems doable, right? I asked, hoping.
“The medicine works at her own pace and rhythm. We don’t get to choose how long it takes or how fast it goes. You have to decide if this is really what you want and what it’s worth for you to get there. Then you have to be willing to surrender.”
The certainty of her presence, the way she spoke about the medicine felt as solid as the couch I was sitting on. She seemed like a person I could trust and more importantly she felt like she could play a maternal role some part of me desperately needed. What I didn’t understand yet is that at the root of all of these struggles was the search for a Mother.
That was nearly six years ago. I’ve lost count and interest in tracking how many ceremonies I’ve had. Now the medicine has become her own character in my life. She is the great maternal figure I was always seeking, my manager and my muse, my accountability and my compass. My greatest teacher and guide.
Alongside being a wife and a mother, a daughter, a sister, and a friend – I have discovered, with the medicine’s help, I am a spirit called to break cycles of pain and unconsciousness in my lineage system. The pioneers didn’t necessarily see themselves as special. They were hardworking, humble people with a purpose, set out in search of a new earth and fresh land in which to cultivate and expand. Theirs was a quest for a new destiny. So, too, is mine.
When I started this journey, I held the belief I could control everything if I tried hard enough. Back then, I thought control was the point. The medicine has helped me understand control is not only an illusion, but it has absolutely nothing to do with agency or sovereignty. Back then, words like agency and sovereignty were intellectual artifacts I understood apart and separate from myself. Back then, when my body, my youth, my ability to please were still my greatest assets.
In my first session, I intended to meet that Eating Disorder part and annihilate it in whatever capacity required. I could tell it thank you. I love you. And all those other true and forced words it needed to hear to let me get on with my life. Words I’d tried to feel a million times already in therapy. Maybe it would work differently with psilocybin coursing through me.
The medicine had a deeper agenda. This is part of her genius. She works from the inside, out, cutting beyond the surface layers, going straight to the source. She doesn’t simply dress wounds. She finds where they originate. She fills that hole with light and love and in the wake of her healing touch, new life begins to grow. The Eating Disorder was no match for the medicine’s might. As she worked through me, I gradually recalled a distant feeling from childhood, a familiar sense of being stuck in the middle of two opposing walls. These walls would press in from either side, leaving me trapped in the center. With all my will, I’d press my tiny, little girl arms in attempt to hold them back. To keep from being crushed.
I hadn’t thought this thought or felt this feeling in so long. Now, it washed over me in visceral detail. My body began to tremble and shake. Part of me wanted to look away from the memory, but the medicine gave me the courage to stay with it, to go deeper. Just as it seemed imminent these two oppositional forces would crush me – I recognized them as my mother and my father, the steel walls of my childhood reality.
This was not a repressed memory, or even a specific event, but rather a recurring way of experiencing my childhood. A way of being in the world so daunting I had no choice but to tuck the feeling away in some deep fold of time, space and self. That fold is where the Eating Disorder lived and lurked, trying to keep me safe, trying to buffer me with all-consuming thoughts and challenges.
The medicine didn’t stop there with her great wisdom. She pressed forward while I tried to keep up. She blew past blame, shame and victimhood, landing straight in the squishy center of my own dissonance. Inside this intricate web, she showed me the depths of my own Mother Wound. She helped me understand that one of the ways Little Girl Micah survived the constant battles between her parents was to make her father, The Bad Guy, and her mother, The Victim.
My commitment to my mother’s protection insulated me from seeing the truth of her humanity. Her life was a sacrifice to the school of Maiden in an era that made false, hollow gods out of concepts like Man as Moneymaker and Woman as Housekeeper. I watched my mother deny her desires, dull her potential, and cover the truth of her rage with pretty décor and dainty dresses all the while internalizing a message: this is what women do – everything for nothing. All the while, my father praised her self-deprecation. His expansion, a byproduct of her denial. I called him the perpetrator and her the martyr. Theirs was a dance in which both lost sovereignty.
My mother’s maidenhood braided into mine as we became an enmeshment of creation and destruction, the great casualty of which was the female body. The body my mother starved. The body I starved. All the hungry women in the world shrinking out of woman, back to girl. Self-denial called discipline; an abomination made totally acceptable.
This is how I was unconsciously trained to hurt myself, but not how I would consciously raise my children.
I felt my lifeforce rising up inside me as Pachamama tore down those walls lodged in my mind. Dismantling the faulty logic demanding my acquiescence, my prettiness, my complicity and replacing each falsity with a lush, green vine. The vines stretched and filled the space beneath my skin and rooted me into the Earth. A garden of abundance growing from within. She sent me out of this dark night of my soul not like Sleeping Beauty, but as a Mother Warrior born from her womb. Then she placed me in the center of my life for which I will never again be hungry, sorry or quiet.
Residue from a lifetime of programming doesn’t deconstruct in an instant, even when we’ve seen the Truth. We still have to work to hold the wisdom, to thread the understanding from the Great Beyond. When my spirit is weary, I lean on her vastness and ask the recurring question, “How will I mother when I was not mothered myself?”
Then, I press my ear to the ground and listen and wait. Every time the answer is both different and the same. Always it reflects a kaleidoscope of her perfect creation. Holy, but firm, I hear her whisper.
“Look all around, my child. The answers are waiting for you. Everywhere you turn, there you will find me, showing you something, helping you remember. You want to know how to play with your baby. Look at my otter splashing with her pups in the water. Can you hear their laughter? Can you feel their great joy? You are afraid to show your fierceness, that it might hurt your child? Watch my lioness with her cub when it steps beyond the den. This is an entire education in love and boundaries, perfect and complete. Watch closely as she takes her cub by the scruff. See her give him a firm shake before nuzzling him back to her strong, beautiful body. The lioness doesn’t hesitate in owning her power. Her power is his safety and her own. Don’t forget, you, too, are another among my perfect animals. Go, walk wild, fierce and happy into your life.”
About the Author: Raised by evangelicals on a farm in rural Tennessee, Micah Stover is now far from home in Mexico where she resides with her family and works as an integrative support therapist with trauma survivors. Micah is currently writing and revising a memoir, chronicling the path to healing intergenerational trauma and PTSD with MDMA, psilocybin and guided psychotherapy. To learn more about her work, check her Website or Instagram.