My trip to Costa Rica was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Yes, it was purposefully planned to hit the pause button on my life and to shine a light on the deep places in my heart.
But I didn’t realize how difficult such honesty would be.
I thought leaving my church and leaving my marriage were the hardest things I’ve ever done.
But nothing prepared me for the stark reality of coming face to face with ME.
When I left my marriage, I knew that I had embarked on a new phase in my life – but by no means did I enter into a celebration of freedom.
It broke my heart to leave a man I loved – and for whom I will always have love.
Our story is not for public display; I will only share my journey in the hope that it may help you, too.
Though my life was in upheaval, my spirit was resolute: To embark on this new chapter of my life in a healthy way, a spiritual path – an awakening – was needed, and a key question cried out for an answer:
How did Brenda fall in to a toxic church relationship and jump from that into a marriage fraught with similar toxic patterns?
This answer, I believed, was needed to avoid jumping into any other alliances. And I sure didn’t want to waste any more time sleepwalking into relationships.
After many tears shed, I knew I needed help getting to the root.
Through this very blog (a reader contacted me), a path forward presented itself and was confirmed by my dear niece, Deena, and my sister, Shirlee.
There is a place in Costa Rica, the Iboga Wellness Center, that uses what Americans deem unorthodox methods to address deeply-rooted hurts. The week-long, psycho-spiritual retreat has been purported to produce the effects of 10+ years of therapy.
People I love and respect affirmed that they were truly set free.
Freedom – and answers – were what I longed for.
I booked the trip in June and in the three months leading up to the retreat, was weaned off of Zoloft. Iboga is an ancient medicinal root that originates in Africa, and it does not mix well with pharmaceuticals.
It fights and weeds out toxicity. The first treatment focuses entirely on removing toxins from your body – and following that first dose I was flat on my back for an entire day.
It was hard. This was no spa resort. For much of the time it was me – and my bed – and a pail to catch vomit.
That first recovery day, I had severe panic attacks and considered fleeing. There were no distractions; I was face to face with ME for yet another five days.
Midway through the journey, a river cleansing ceremony was held. Imagine Eva Gabor on Green Acres, trekking down a slippery 15 foot embankment in a pounding rain.
Just making it down to the river was a victory for my psyche. The ceremony itself was powerful – my hurts were named and seemed to wash off of me as the rain poured down. Next, my intentions and dreams were also voiced. The river took them, too and I sensed that the current would take them to fruition.
I cried healing tears.
And was ready to go home.
My body didn’t want to face another Iboga ceremony. I reasoned with myself: “There’s a hurricane coming; I need to get home to prepare.” I questioned the process, “How much more can I look inward? I’ve gotten some release – I want to get back to my soft bed.”
Yet I knew there was more, and I wasn’t about to let fear talk me out of what I traveled there for.
The second journey involves a guided meditation.
All I can say is that I came face to face with little Brenda; the child who so didn’t want to upset anyone that she kept all of her fears and hurts locked up.
I had a bird’s eye view of my soul, shrunken down and diminishing with every passing year.
I saw that because my true feelings were never expressed, they lied dormant, unfulfilled. To cope (and not upset the apple cart), I learned over the years to suppress feelings of anxiety, depression and insecurity because they were “bad.” I became adept at psyching myself up into a false optimism.
This worked for a while, and I even enjoyed some success – but the false front is not sustainable. Eventually you crack.
The church had built on this faulty premise, teaching that feelings were bad and you couldn’t give them any credence. It was a sin to be sad.
And my soul continued to die inside of me.
The performance that became my life – surviving the church, trying to present an image of the happy marriage – mostly, trying to present the image of a happy Brenda, nearly destroyed me.
All I wanted to do was make everyone else happy.
And I realized I couldn’t.
Happiness or not is a choice we all make individually. No winning the lottery or taking exotic vacations can shift a person’s paradigm from dark to light.
Least of all, mine.
As the facilitator guided me back through my life, I SAW me…little me…crouched down and crying soundlessly.
I recognized her and my heart welled up with such love for her. I held her in my arms and said over and over again, “I love you. You matter. I will never silence you again.”
My soul is now free to feel. Decades of feelings are now validated and by doing so, I no longer need to look to external sources for validation.
I am valid.
I am whole.
If saying those words out loud to yourself is uncomfortable, I pray for your own healing.
We are destined to have a great love affair in this life…and it is with ourselves.
How can we enjoy a healthy love with anyone else until our own souls are restored?
Yes, I took drastic measures to have a drastic change in my life.
And I got what I went to Costa Rica for.
I recorded this week’s video before my trip. I look forward to what comes out of me in the future, now that I have had a major life healing.
When I feel un-moored, I am so grateful to now have practical tools to get me back to ME.
My thoughts on Kindness and the new Word of the Week….
Ah, SURRENDER. Yes, it’s uncomfortable to let go, yet so freeing to open up to something beautiful and new.
By the way, if any of you have questions about my week at the Iboga Wellness Center, please ask. What I’ve written here is a condensed version, but there are volumes more to tell.
I wish for each of you the freedom that comes from healing the little soul on the inside so she (or he) can grow up into maturity and strength and power.
You deserve that.