Meet Chloe, a travelling harpist who lives out of a van with her partner Scott. If you’ve seen her enchanting an audience with her angelic tones you might be surprised to find that this happy-go-lucky free spirit has a history of depression.
Chloe hit rock bottom in 2014 after six years in a toxic relationship. She says her feelings of darkness and despair were so intense that it’s sometimes hard to talk about it. But yesterday she bravely shared her story with The Truth about Mental Health, and it’s nothing short of amazing!
For Chloe, western psychology, psychotherapy and other popular healing modalities helped her cope but ultimately didn’t heal her at the core. In her darkest hours she felt called to something radically different… Or it called her… And it’s called Ayahuasca: an ancient shamanic medicine from the Amazon!
Its psychedelic properties are not for the faint of heart but many swear by it’s transformative powers. In this fascinating Q & A discussion Chloe shares her journey before and after experiencing this life changing traditional medicine.
Tell me a little bit about yourself, your background, career path and lifestyle.
I’m 26 years old, and grew up in Newtown, Sydney. My personal background has taken many twists and turns over the years so I’ll try to sum it up as best I can. I remember my early years to be particularly bright and at my most optimal. I had a close and strong connection to what some might call spirit.
That connection provided me with a foundation of bliss-fullness and a deep knowing of my own value and place within the universe.
It was experienced as an unwavering source of truth, love, and connection that completely fulfilled me up until the age of 6. Being connected to truth was both a blessing and a curse. It was beautiful to experience it directly, but it became increasingly more difficult to live with in the world as I could clearly perceive and feel people’s blockages and areas of denial which became incredibly frustrating.
Of course I was never received very well as I would naively try to help people by openly talking about the very things people tried so hard to hide and deny. Unfortunately, I was ignorant to the world I was born into, and didn’t realise that outwardly expressing my overwhelming joy to be alive was extremely irritating to many people who weren’t able to access that level of joy.
This intolerance for my natural expression began in my family and then extended out into school where I would be singled out for many years.
I was fortunate enough that my mother had introduced me to the piano at the age of five, the same year I began school. Music became my refuge to not only cope with things like bullying, but to give me a sense of worthiness and purpose when friends, family and teachers would reflect back to me otherwise. It became a lifeline for me. Since then I have been dedicating my time towards music and recently the Harp. My experiences with music has inspired me to use it for therapeutic means in the future.
Since the age of 17 I started studying psychotherapy and alternative healing modalities to use as coping mechanisms, as I had experienced many let downs in the psychologists I was appointed to. This sparked a deep curiosity and inspiration within me to heal myself rather than turning to modern western approaches.
Currently I am in the early stages of working on creating a conscious digital production company with my partner. Later this year I will have become a qualified Kambo practitioner. For those who don’t know, Kambo is a complimentary shamanic medicine used alongside ayahuasca.
The next year will involve my partner and I travelling to places such as Thailand to run Kambo retreats and to learn about sustainable agriculture and energy methods so we can contribute this knowledge towards some exciting future projects that we are working towards.
What was your life like before taking Ayahuasca? Was there a particular catalyst or series of events that lead up to taking this medicine?
My life before Ayahuasca was nothing short of grim, and sometimes difficult to talk about. When I graduated high school, my parents went through a messy divorce in the same year. At the time I had no where to live and so I decided it would be best to move in with my high school boyfriend at the time.
Within the first few months it became very apparent to others around me that my relationship was hostile and abusive. This abusive behaviour was normalised very quickly as I moved in with him, as denial was very prominent within his family. So whenever I expressed my objections towards my boyfriends behaviour, it was ‘gaslighted’ so to speak, and I was treated as a walking overreaction by both himself and his family. I didn’t know at the time that this was also the way my father treated me so I was unable to distinguish this behaviour as abusive.
I stayed with this man for over six years and had tolerated daily abuse, manipulation and fights with him until I had broken down into a shell of a human being. It was an unfortunate stretch of events that reflected my relationship with my father, and my self esteem was so low that any strong feelings I had at the time were ignored by those around me and thus ignored within myself.
By the end of it I no longer felt emotion, I had put on weight, and my voice had vanished. At a certain point I knew I was in big trouble and began looking for a healing retreat. I stumbled across Ayahuasca testimonials on YouTube. When I found it, I knew immediately that I was going to embark on a journey to Peru.
At the same time I discovered Ayahuasca I had already booked flights and hotels with my partner and his friends to the U.S, so I called my travel agent and asked him to do his best to get most of my money back.
I was lucky enough to get my flights back on credit but at the same time I had lost over $4000. But It didn’t matter to me. I told the travel agent to transfer all my flight credits to Iquitos, Peru.
I broke up with my boyfriend, moved out, and got on the plane a month afterwards. At the time I felt like I couldn’t be honest with my family about what I was doing due to the fact that my family are quite conventional. My mother is a midwife and my sister is a nurse who are both passionate advocates for western medicine, so I decided to keep my intentions to do Ayahuasca a secret. So nobody I knew at the time was aware of what I was doing in Peru.
Tell me a little bit about the experience of your first Ayahuasca journey. What impact did it have on your mental health and wellbeing?
I remember my first time taking Ayahuasca distinctly. I was in a group retreat with around 13 people in the circle. Being the youngest member and my first time being overseas by myself, I had accumulated all sorts of feelings of uncertainty and vulnerabilities. When it was my turn to drink the medicine, my hands were so shaken that I almost spilt it. I sat back down and got myself into ‘game mode’ as best as I could. The next ten minutes was spent calming my nerves and learning to trust the process. Here’s where it can be a little difficult to comprehend and a little crazy to most people so bare with me.
After ten minutes I remember a faint light blue grid coming through the back of my eyelids. It slowly started to form a dmt-like “blueprint” of the room that shaped itself like a Fibonacci sequence that began within me, and spiraled outward for as far as I could perceive. A blue print is normally, in common thinking something that is not ‘real’ where as this Fibonacci structure was clearly representative of the structure of reality itself. It showed me that the physical world before me was simply an overlaying ‘hologram’.
I began to see and feel reality itself to be something that exists underneath and beyond the illusion of physical matter. I experienced this as the feeling of relief, as if a blindfold had been removed. The closer to reality I became, the more at home and at peace I felt.
Resting into this relief, I noticed some more faint figures at the front of my eyes. They looked like moving blobs of energy but as I looked closer they became recognisable as a group of beings waving at me. I couldn’t perceive them very clearly but from what I could make out, they had a very close appearance to those of aboriginal spirit artworks.
As they drew closer to me it looked like they were right in front of me, welcoming me as a family member and attempting to hug me. Their presence was incredibly loving and deeply peaceful. They proceeded to speak to me energetically, comforting me at the early stages by saying things such as “Congratulations, you did it! Don’t worry or fear anything, you are safe with us. We’re so happy you made it. Thank you for coming. You are protected”. It was like they had a deep knowing of my path, my journey and had followed me up until this point.
As they were speaking to me they were lovingly pulling flower wreaths/garlands over my head and putting flowers in my hair. I could actually feel them stroking my face. I started to perceive some of the spirits of the jungle as large insect-type beings and tree-spirits with really long arms. After enjoying this for what would have been ten minutes in real time (time doesn’t exist on Ayahuasca) the spirits began waving their arms towards my bucket. They said it was time to purge. At this point I didn’t even feel the need to purge and wasn’t sure if it was the right time.
About a minute afterwards I felt the deepest sense of nausea at the pit of my stomach. It was a very confronting experience as you could actually perceive viscerally the painful emotions as nausea and vis versa. There was no separation between the two. I perceived spirit of Ayahuasca whisking around my body and gathering all the pain she could find in my stomach. I bargained with her for over an hour, asking her to give me some time as I was not emotionally ready to purge yet. She would ask me every five minutes, “Are you ready yet?” And I would ask her for more time.
After an hour of negotiating back and forth I finally said, “okay, go now” and a few seconds later purging everything I had. After this I couldn’t feel the medicine nor could I perceive my spirit friends, so I went back for a second dose of Ayahuasca. The rest of the night was spent purging and saying hello to different jungle spirits, spirit animals and aliens. I also got shown a vision of a Harp, which I later bought and has been the greatest source of my fulfillment.
The next morning my debilitating depression had left me completely. The jungle had a vibrancy to it and everything felt alive. I had access to a deeper part of myself and my experience. I knew that morning that I was going to be okay.
Have you taken it since and did it help you further? What were the subsequent experiences like? Are you planning on taking it again?
Since my first Ayahuasca experience two years ago I have taken the medicine 12 times. The second time I went to Guatemala to a retreat for over two months. Except this time I had more unpleasant and gritty experiences than I did positive.
The most painful experience I had was after doing a two week traditional ‘Dieta’ that involved being in isolation in a tiny hut in the thick jungle with no walls, only eating brown rice and boiled plantains. I wasn’t allowed to speak to anybody with exception to the shaman’s check ups every few days.
At the end of this two weeks I was so starved and vulnerable having not spoken to anyone that when they told me to attend an Ayahuasca session, I broke down crying for the full 9 hours that it lasted. I felt so alone and all of my childhood pain of being an outcast came up at once. The shaman did his best to comfort me the majority of the time.
Most of my experiences in Guatemala were dealing with intense feelings of pain, isolation, paranoia and father wounds. However this was also the most life changing experience and I came home completely transformed.
The moment of leaving the retreat became a magical synchronicity of flowing events and coincidentally meeting people along the rest of my travels who were recently introduced to the idea of Ayahuasca and were thinking about doing it. Life turned around from the perspective of “What can life offer me?” to “How am I supposed to help this person right now?” I found myself continuously aligning with people who needed to had heard of Ayahuasca and needed to learn more about the medicine.
Long story short, I found it much easier to be in the right place at the right time.
At the moment I am not planning on taking Ayahuasca anytime soon as I don’t feel called to it. I also have been doing Kambo regularly on myself which seems to be doing a very similar job to Ayahuasca.
Do you have any recommendations or tips for others considering taking Ayahuasca?
It might sound harsh, but If you’re someone who doesn’t want to continue tolerating the weight of your pain, and is willing to do whatever it takes to walk through it, then you know you are ready. Ayahuasca is a big commitment with big payoffs if you set your intention clearly to walk through any painful situation to heal.
If you are someone who is content in perpetuating a destructive cycle on a daily basis to escape your pain then you are definitely not ready to face the pain that Ayahuasca will bring you. Many people seem to be under the impression that the medicine will do the work for them and that it will be the answer for a quick fix which couldn’t be further from the truth.
I also suggest that if you do decide to take Ayahuasca in the future and are experiencing very vivid and painful emotions, then do your best to let Ayahuasca take you there. She will continue to lovingly pull you down into the feelings and you won’t have any control over it, so to make the session is productive it’s just best to surrender to the dive. Emotions and feelings can’t kill you, and you will pop out the other side as a brand new human if you just trust the process.
I recommend doing your research, and ensuring that you have the best shaman available. The first retreat I went to was not an experienced shaman and so many issues came up in the group that he was not able to deal with appropriately. So make sure you prioritise the shaman first, and the facilities second. Other then that, enjoy the ride!