When I began my healing journey with sacred medicines, the plan was to have three ceremonies. Then be done and be better. End of story. On with life. No more depression or anxiety. No more numbness or hypervigilance. Just me in my body, being free.
Back then healing was an endgame, some sort of unconsciously capitalist concept packaged and sold with a definitive finish line and strong return on investment in which I’d take the insights gleaned in my three sessions and thread them into my life. Then I’d get right back on the social hamster wheel with my new upgrades in tow.
Back then my Control Part put lots of physical parameters around metaphysical things.
I’ve lost count now of how many ceremonies I’ve had, how many journeys taken through the depths of myself. Certainly, more than three. The good news is really that I’m just getting started, just getting to the good stuff, the soft squishy center of me.
By the third ceremony, I was better. The return on investment strong. I’d also come to understand it takes years for trauma to unfurl, to rediscover yourself in stable, safe waters.
Have you ever had a necklace get tangled in the depths of your bag? Multiple, tiny, delicate knots. Rush the process. Break the chain.
As it turns out, the point is not how long it takes, but that it happens, period. That you learn to simply be in the present, with the process, and the vast unknowing. You learn to love the questions and the work. In so doing, you come to love yourself. To hold your gaze without disassociating or fighting the pain.
The great curanderas have always known this – the medicine is woven into the wheel of life, not a thing to place on top. The medicine is of the earth, as we are of the earth. One and the same. When we remember this, it gets easier to trust.
Each ceremony, the medicine moves through me like a tailor-made module in my death and rebirth journey. Each trip taking me to a part of me exiled, forgotten, gaslit to oblivion.
Then, bringing her home to rest and recover. To play and sing.
I feel the medicine move the seal that closes and opens this portal to another. I hear the medicine spirit begin to speak.
“It’s time to start writing down the words,” she instructs me.
I get my notebook, like a good student.
“We’re going to look at that anger now,” she says.
Ugh. I don’t like the anger. I think.
“But I want to look at this numbness I feel,” I say like a little girl asking for one more cuddle.
“The anger and the numbness are connected. Trust me,” she says, a gentle reminder.
I get my ceremony notebook, my pen.
I can’t think the words, just capture them as they pour from some ancient tongue through my humble, shaky fingers. The point is not to think. That’s called integration, and it comes later.
“There’s an anger inside. I don’t like that it is mine. I tell my clients righteous rage is love. I know this is true. But now, I’m searching for that place inside me where righteous rage lives as love. Only I can’t find it. That feels like a problem to solve. How can I help others if I can’t feel it myself?”
It is quiet for a while.
Then the medicine poses a question: “My child, can you forgive yourself for being angry and imperfect? That is really the point. Can you love yourself the way I love you and you love me? Can you remember we’re made of the same essence?”
The writing part of the ceremony completes, and the medicine takes me to the memory box, the great treasure trove of possibilities and pain where all my internal family of parts reside. She pulls out the ones to work with today.
The first is a sixteen-year-old girl in tight, faded jeans and a crop top. She’s wearing too much makeup, trying to cover some things while over-exposing others. She’s frail and pretty. She averts my glance, but I can feel she wants to be seen. She needs my help. Out of the memory box, she’s like a street girl, tough and tattered, but also fragile. She clutches a bag of some sort over her heart and her stomach.
Deep in the interior landscape, I try to approach her. As I get close, she hisses. It’s a kind of warning. She doesn’t trust me. She’s my Street Girl Part, covered in bruises. She’s been through quite an ordeal. Closer in, I see tear streaks through the makeup. She moves and growls like a wounded animal who’s learned to survive on the defensive. She doesn’t know how to be any other way.
She’s angry, but no one has given her permission to feel anything. She’s looking at me like a kid looks at their mom for approval.
Then I realize I am her mom, and she is me. And this is another one of those epic re-parenting moments coming to fruition.
I tap into her need to be mothered and tune myself to my Loving Mama Part and watch as the defenses dissolve. Street Girl drops her bag and the tough exterior, revealing a gaping hole. The hole is the hollow of her pelvic bowl. The numbness that follows unyielding, intolerable pain.
Now I understand exactly what is happening here.
She tries to talk, first in a quiver. I realize she’s never uttered a word until now. Before this moment, no one has spoken to her, acknowledged her, really seen her. She’s like a baby with its first scream, the shocking transition from the womb to the world. Her words are indiscernible, animal sounds.
I sit patiently, earning trust, until finally she says:
“I was not numb. I felt everything. Every single violence on your watch. Each unworthy boy who wanted your body for his own. Each hand that touched you the wrong way. I felt it all.”
Now, we are both crying. The girl in me and the woman outside, emerging and healing. Loving Mama Me feels ancient and wise, yet I’ve only recently begun to know her cadence inside me. The most astounding part is that she exists, despite all the pain and trauma. She was still able to emerge. She knows what to say and do in hard moments. She knows how to hold and create safety. To generate repair authentically from seemingly impossible material.
As they sit in the truth together, the street corner morphs into a cozy room, a sheltered space. They’re close and connected. The Mama Part reaches out her hand and my Street Girl doesn’t flinch or wince. She receives. It’s what she always wanted, safe touch.
Mama Me says:
“I’m so sorry I let bad things happen to you. I can’t imagine how scary and lonely you must have been. I’m sorry I wasn’t there, that I didn’t understand or listen. In my heart, I was trying to get us love. I knew we needed love. I just didn’t have the wisdom then that I have now to know love is not a thing that ever comes at the cost of your body. I’m so sorry no one told you how sacred you are. I’m sorry they made you think you were the problem. They were wrong, not you. I know it’s going to take time. I’m not going to leave you again and you get to take as long as you need. I want all your feelings. You are the gift and the prize.”
What comes next feels a lot like waking up from a dream. Crossing over the bridge from the depths of one dimension into another. Speckles of gold flicker and shimmer in the air. It smells like jasmine and rain. I feel a kind of wholeness and solidity in my body that’s brand new, but also familiar, a thing my soul has always known. I see Mama Me and Street Girl Me like a movie on a screen. They’re holding hands and walking together, so intimate and safe. The way I imagined it could be between mothers and daughters. Street Girl was a wilted flower before, not anymore. Now she’s tall and commanding, like a bundle of luscious peonies. The deep interior projected outward, then threaded back creating a more cohesive self.
The ceremony draws to a close, and I ask the medicine to show me in distilled light the moral of the story.
In a whisper, I hear the words and feel them like strings tuning my heart. Righteous rage is love. Numbness stems from repressed anger. Clawing out of the barbed wire of our pain stories is an arduous, but worthy endeavor. Wholeness waits in wonder in a native land that knows love is our birthright.
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.