How I am Changing My Mind After Trauma- Part 1

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The soul should always stand agar, wrote Agatha Christy. Mine, was flung wide open a few years ago on a regular morning while on my way to work on a city bus. Although I did not know it at the time, an albeit minor sexual assault would radically change my mind. Not only my ideas about myself and the world around me, but the fundamental neurological structure at the base of my cognition, and in many ways, my personality. 

I became paralyzed by the fear of a recurrence of this very specific trauma. But it was too late, the monster in my inner closet was awake and banging on the door. Long suppressed sexual trauma began to trickle in the back of my psyche. The fear that I had learnt to control over 15 years since I was sexually exploited as a 15 year old, spread like a toxic tar across my mind.  I had always struggled with disassociation, a common symptom of PTSD, yet as a youth and young adult, I did not understand that this is what was happening, let alone what it signalled. 

My first memory of having a dissociative episode goes back to elementary school, which means that before I had any direct trauma, I already had the neurological tendencies associated with post traumatic stress disorder. How is this possible, I have come to wonder? Was trauma a specific mental amplifier that loudened the roar of cognitive malfunction I had already inherited? Why did minor trauma cause so significant duress in my life to the point that I was nearly hospitalized on a number of occasions?  These questions have kept me up at night and keep my nightmares company. 

Within 5 months of the bus incident, having just lost my grandmother (an emotional trauma I was also not processing), I was attacked by a stranger for a second time. This time, while walking down the street in Berlin. I had decided to move to Germany for 6 months with my partner who had an exciting work opportunity. I had just finished my masters and was feeling freed up for the first time to take a leap of faith into a wild unknown. In reality, this is what I told myself as a distraction for the inner turmoil that was erupting in my mind. My partner had been living a broad already for the previous 6 months so I spent a lot of my time in a wandering mental state. I was loosing touch with reality, yet was not grounded enough for recognize it. 

By the time of the Berlin assault, I was already seriously depressed, anxious, and dissociative. I regretted by choice and felt guilty and weak for not making the most of this amazing opportunity. But no pep talk could keep my spirits up. My mind was troubled in a way that I had never experienced. If I was inclined towards partying I would have likely picked up a hefty drinking habit. I do recall buying weed about 2 months after the incident. I was smoking daily as a coping mechanism before the relocation but was not sure how to access in Berlin. In hindsight, this only made matters worse. I became even more isolated. I no longer posted on social media or reached out to my family. I felt as good as dead, and on the inside, I was. 

Aspects of my PTSD continued to worsen over the next two and a half years. Yet as my mental health declined, something powerful was rising. An intuition, an awareness, a knowing. Before setting off on my European misadventures I had a series of coaching sessions. During these sessions I became obsessed with the idea that there was a large gift coming my way. That my true purpose on life was soon to be revealed and that this transmission would radically alter the course of my life. I was desperately reaching for it and my patience, I must admit, was pitifully thin. 

My mind was ready to be cracked open. The trauma was merely a catalyst for something bigger. It was the discovery of self-portraiture during a lonely day locked in my depressing apartment that transformed my relationship to the changes in my mind. By looking at myself through the lens (and then screen), I started to receive insights into subconscious realms. Poems would stream out of my after meditating on an image for 5 seconds. I could journal for many pages on the meaning of a single photograph. Where was this information coming from? What did it all mean? What was I really learning? 

In the last few months, I discovered the science of psychedelics which has been a complementary resource for my inquiries into the transformational healing power of trauma. I had never experimented in the past, but had always been interested, yet in reality, I knew nothing. Reading How To Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan solidified my desire to use psilocybin to facilitate access into deeper levels of knowing, healing, and transformation. 

Over the last week and a half I started micro dosing. As my mental health is still challenged at times, I decided to go this route as it would help ground me before embarking on a more radical pilgrimage. So far, I have noticed a significant decrease in generalized anxiety and depression and a heightened sense of belonging and acceptance. I have felt the quieting of my ego during meditation, and intuitive trust of energetic experiences. I can feel my neurosomatic circuit slow is often manic hum, and have felt a general peace of mind that often seems completely out of reach. I have still experienced moments intense emotional disturbances and disassociations but I have also been witnessed the the patterned attempt of dissociation fall short.   

The very subtle down regulation of my default mode network, is at the root of these micro-neurological changes. Perhaps the reduction of my narrative self is what allows for the soul to walk into our psyche, bringing healing power. Although I have not watched the disintegration of my Ego Self, I have come to understand, as Pollan and countless others has, is that I am not the same as my story of myself. New connections are creating new stories, new metaphor, new insight. Micro-dosing provides a steady alternative to another path or way of reacting. 

Jen Holden