Updated: May 3, 2021
It often begins with shaking, the earliest indication the medicine has begun her work inside my animal body. How easy we forget we are, after all, animals. My legs twitch and spasm. My fists clench. I’m gripping the sheet that covers my body. My jaw is tight. I’m not sure what is happening, but I can feel something swelling inside. My right hand still clenched begins to hit the pillow next to me. I’ve barricaded myself into a cavern of cushions and sheets. I don’t know why I am hitting the pillow and part of me, almost instinctively, tries to refrain. I was never given permission to be angry.
My husband, sitting beside me, gently asks, “Can I get you a bigger pillow?”
I hear and feel my breath releasing from my body. Slow, steady, strong.
“I don’t know. I’m not good at these anger exercises,” I respond, feeling frustrated.
“Let me get you one. Maybe you’re ready now,” he says, closing the door to our room, so my sons sleeping just down the hall won’t hear me if I scream. A part of me feels momentarily self-conscious.
What is happening to mommy? Where is this crazy rage coming from? It that what it is – rage? I’m not allowed to be angry. I need to gracious. Pretty. Lady like.
These were the old tapes playing in my mind. Thoughts raced, but the medicine doesn’t let me linger there, one of its greatest offerings. In this medicine space, I’m a primal thing, more feeling, less thinking.
I’m remembering suddenly I have a body. My hands move from the pillow to that body as I collapse onto the sheet, feeling my skin. The scar above my pubic bone where they cut my oldest son out during an emergency Cesarian. The curves that now pad certain areas where once only bones protruded. I realize my body has feelings. That it holds pain. I want the pain out and over. I want to hold my sons without pain anywhere in between us. I want them to grow up and fall in love with someone not carrying this kind of pain. But there are so many of us. The medicine shows me how vast the trauma reaches into the depths of our humanity.
I sit back up. My blonde hair falls around my shoulders, framing my face. It’s long, sensual, feminine. I am sensual and feminine, but these are aspects of myself I’ve historically rejected or covered up. Having learned somewhere along the way my sensuality made me vulnerable and drew the wrong kind of attention, I disassociated from my body and negated my longing.
But in this moment, my sensuality feels different. There’s an almost unbearable lightness to it, a remembering of my innocence, lost somewhere in the layers. I feel strong and soft, big and small. It seems possible to be both, to have my body and my brain not in opposition but in rhythm and lockstep. This is my power.
I take another punch into the pillow, my hair cascading around me like a veil. Still, my anger is not right, not entirely my own. Or it is entirely mine, but that part of me has been vaulted closed and I don’t have the key. I’m in my head again, not my body. Only it’s not my voice talking. It is my father’s voice. Then every boy or man who tried to make me be only a body without this equally big, beautiful brain.
The medicine courses through me. Suddenly I am not punching the pillow. I am beating it, emanating a growl and a purr. It feels good to feel, to find this place where I don’t apologize for being completely myself. I’m not sorry anymore.
My angry dance with the pillow unravels a knot deep in my womb leaving me euphoric after, and exhausted. Like how I feel after good sex, the kind of sex the medicine has helped me discover. The one where my body feels pleasure, not only pain.
My eyes are closed, and everything is nothingness for a minute. A pure sheet of black velvet appears like a curtain drawn closed, marking the end of one scene and the beginning of something entirely different. Hints of gold flicker in the distance shining light on the shadows.
Palo Santo wafts through the air. The gentle breeze of early summer filters in the window. My husband is clearing the space and whatever just released. His gift is with the elements. Mine is with the metaphor. I’m grateful that I can know love in my soul, even if my body and my brain are still figuring out how to talk to one another.
I lay in the stillness with a sense of satisfaction and completion. In the void space that follows the exile of pain, I’m empty of all the contamination. Now I can fill myself how I choose, instead of how things are chosen for me.
I wonder what possibilities exist in this place with so much choice and agency. The medicine gives me a box. Inside the box is a black, transparent leotard with golden flecks.
I slide into the leotard like sliding out of my old shell and into the new one, becoming pearlescent as the air grazes my skin. I reach back into the medicine box discovering a shield which I place over my heart. This happens just in time as countless objects propel towards me. I think it’s bows and arrows. I am being hunted by natives.
But as the objects come closer, I realize they are not bows but penises. Hundreds of them flying through the sky. I deflect each one with my shield. Masculine energy conditioned for penetration of all kinds. I understand now a woman can be violated in many ways, not limited to rape. I am one of those women. I know my conditioned role, the one where I’m supposed to play along and submit to this energetic attack and territory marking exercise. Only I’ve come here to claim my new role. I am a warrior in my suit of spirit armor and submission is not my dance. I’ve come to take back what was always mine.
Everything stops again. The sky returns to stillness, only the twinkling of stars lights up the great expanse. The black velvet curtain draws closed once more. My legs begin trembling and shaking as letters form words like a scrabble game behind the screen of my eyes.
“Your body is your own,” a strong, maternal voice says to me. She is firm and non-negotiable.
I start to repeat these words over and over again to myself.
Your body is your own. Your body is your own. Your body is your own. Your body is your own.
The message seems simple, obvious. Only it isn’t. Or hasn’t been until now. The revolution to reclaim myself was long and hard and absolutely worthwhile. The medicine showed me what was mine and nobody else’s. She gave my body back to me by helping me understand how it works and what it needs, by showing me I am sacred.
A lifetime spent waiting for the world to tell me my body was okay was complete. No more waiting for permission to take up space, to have desire, to experience pleasure. No more sealed lips. My body had arrived like a gift in real time, untainted, resilient, powerful and ready to pave a path for others to follow.
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 heal
intergenerational trauma and PTSD with MDMA, psilocybin and guided psychotherapy.
Micah’s forthcoming prescriptive memoir due in Fall 2022 takes the reader on an epic journey
from the near loss of her son in the NICU through an ancestral underground riddled with trauma. Divided into three parts, the memoir’s structure mirrors the arc of the psychedelic healing journey beginning with preparation, moving into the psychedelic world and finally emerging into the new landscape of integration. It balances theory, instruction, exercises and narrative to help the reader walk away with a visceral understanding of how to pursue this healing path and what it might entail. This essay comes directly from the psychedelic space, illuminating how the medicine works in metaphor to help the individual rescript the personal narrative to reflect the restoration of power lost through sexual violation.