Categories
healing Meditation

The 15 For 15 Meditation Challenge 🧘

This is the welcome email for my The 15 For 15 Meditation Challenge 🧘. to help people meditate fifteen times in fifteen days. It’s a free fifteen day journey, where you’ll get 5-6 emails from me helping you to create a daily meditation practice. You can read the first email in the Challenge below.

Welcome! I’m grateful that you signed up for this challenge. 

Before we jump in, I’d love to know why you joined me on this challenge. There are thousands of meditations apps, articles, and teachers who could help you on your journey.

Why are you here, in this email, in this course?

I’d love to hear from you, feel free to email me directly what you’re looking to gain from the next fifteen days. 

With the ’15 for 15 Meditation’ 🧘 Challenge, I want to you to prove something to yourself:

You can meditate fifteen times in fifteen days.

I discovered my own system for meditation creating a daily practice.  

Whether it’s finding calm during your stressful day, sleeping more deeply at night, or relaxing your body before starting to work – starting a consistent meditation practice produces results. 

Have you been feeling stressed out after the pandemic, an upcoming career change, or grieving a loss due to Covid-19? Emotional exhaustion is real, and we have to take care of our energy.

The way that we  interact with the world is of great importance. We need to learn to protect our energy; meditation is a practice to teach us how to do this.

To start, I share with you an article I wrote about meditating for 30 days in a row, from scratch

Both teaching and practicing meditation has changed my life. I want to help you get to where you need to be, and see how meditation can help. 

Did you start this journey because of wanting to find your own unique energy on the topic of healing? 

How the Challenge Works

This is a two week challenge. During these fifteen days, you will:

    • Choose your meditation space at your home, office, or even in your car.
    • Connect, communicate, and meditate with other mediators on a similar path as you
    • Develop a muscle to journal/write after every session and track your meditations minutes
    • Start to meditate on Day 1, continuing to meditate fifteen times in fifteen days
    • Learn more about different types of meditation from breathwork to yoga nidra (yogic sleep) and vipassana (insight) meditation 
    • Experiment with different types of meditations—different formats, varying lengths—to broaden your practice
    • Expand your practice by addressing your meditations and integrate your newfound knowledge and energy into your daily life 

In other words, you’ll get over the analysis paralysis often caused by trying to commit to practicing and become a full blown meditator.

You’ll receive short emails with step-by-step instructions for each stage of the challenge.

I hope you’re as excited about this as I am. I can’t wait to see how this goes!

Tomorrow, I’ll send you an introduction about how to start the challenge, a spreadsheet with over fifteen free, handpicked meditations, and we’ll start your first daily practice. 🙂

See you tomorrow as we kick off this journey together!

Much Love,

Ryan

PS: If you are reading this, you probably found my writing from my newsletter, have followed my work around the Influencer Economy book or podcast. Or you may have taken a breathwork class with me. Or, if you found me somewhere else…I’d love to know how you found me!

Big thanks to my editors: Tom White, Joel Christiansen, Amber Williams, and Jesse Germinario.

Categories
Breathwork CPTSD healing Meditation Recovery

How I recovered from my family’s botched drug intervention and became even stronger

A few years ago my family staged an intervention. The event caused a disruption to my life that forced me to double-down on my own mental wellness and inner work. The intervention shocked my body, and afterwards I found a series of helpful strategies to help me regain my strength and health. Some of these tools include meditation, breathwork, sound baths, yoga, journaling, group healing, and therapy. 

After decades of working on my own healing, I did not realize how my own healing would cause ripples in my family, which caused a giant wave to crash onto me. While I am on a life-long path to wellness, self-love, and self-acceptance, my family acted confused, controlling, and unwell. 

I am doing well now, and feel more resilient than ever. I got through the intervention, and I wrote some actions and takeaways to help you in your own quest for a healthy life. I’m far from perfect, yet I strive to make daily progress. I have a lot to be grateful for. I want to be clear that I felt great before the intervention, and after building myself back-up, I feel great now. 

The day after the intervention 

It is 5:00 am and the sun isn’t yet up. 

The sound of an Amazon delivery person slamming a package on the concrete outside the front door startles me awake. 

I am hungry, scared, and lying on a couch at my friend’s house in Venice, California. 

I have a new reality on my hands. 

I have no idea where my children are. 

For the past seven years I have known where my children have slept, until now.

My heart is shattered in a thousand pieces on the floor.

I do not know when I’ll see my children again. I miss them greatly. 

I feel acid reflux in my stomach after the stress combined with a loss of appetite come together with my feeling of deep loneliness. I had no appetite the night before—my body was still in shock. I feel hungover as if I had drunk half a bottle of tequila last night, yet I am stone cold sober.

I rest, covered in a blanket and my head on a couch pillow, wishing I were sleeping in my own bed. As I reflect on what happened the night before, I cry. 

I am scared. I know my life will never be the same. I am heartbroken. 

 Just twelve hours earlier, my family botched a drug intervention, for weed. 

After my diagnosis of C-PTSD, a form of on-going childhood trauma, I had been using a small amount of cannabis before practicing yoga or meditation. 

I have been into yoga for decades and cannabis helps me to deal with the physical pain of the practice. As a newcomer to meditation, cannabis helped me get into twenty minute sessions within a few weeks of practicing. Eventually I was going into forty minute sessions after a few months of practicing, it was helping to sooth my body.

WTF is going on. I openly shared with my wife that I have been taking cannabis, which is a plant-based medicine. We even went to a cannabis dinner a month prior to this intervention. 

Cannabis greatly helps me to process the physical pain in my joints, wrists, hips, and ankles. 

The cannabis helped to treat my pain when I experienced PTSD flashbacks during the practice. 

Don’t get me wrong, in my twenties I smoked my fair share of cannabis, and it could have been seen as excessive. Yet, at this phase of my life, I felt the medicinal benefits of the cannabis plant to help with the physical stress of healing my trauma.

I’m grateful that I live in California, there is a cannabis dispensary a mile from where I live. 

In order to helpmyself find answers, I meditate. I reflect on what happened. 

The last moments of my pre-intervention life are walking home from a church.

For an hour prior to the intervention, I attended a community-organized meeting at a neighborhood church with a few other local parents. We discussed a local ballot initiative to tax corporations who are avoiding paying their share of taxes. A teacher from the local school ran the meeting, and he is hopeful to sponsor a California ballot initiative to return the tax money to fund public education. 

Leaving the church, I check my email. I see a bizarre email from my wife, who is forwarding me an email from my brother-in-law. 

The email subject says: 

Fwd: ryan letter

The email is blank, and includes an attached letter. I don’t bother reading the letter, it feels too random for me. 

I text a friend about the bizarre email because my brother-in-law has rarely emailed in my ten years of marriage to his sister. In fact, he doesn’t have my email address, which I later learn is why my wife forwarded it. We have only ever chatted on the phone less than five times. 

My brother-in-law has a low key southern drawl and speaks with few words. He is well over six feet tall with blonde hair and speaks in a meaningful way so that each of his words count. Years ago he shouted at me to argue that the Confederate Flag was not racist, and that was the most in depth conversation that we have ever had.

Walking in the darkness of night, I am calm. My wife is out of town in North Carolina visiting her family with my two young daughters. Her sister just had a baby, and they are off visiting the new bundle of joy. 

My wife also has blonde hair, and is a few inches under six feet. When she is around her family her southern accent comes out, yet while we are living in California I rarely hear the draw. I can usually tell when she’s talking to her family on the phone based on how much of her accent comes out. 

My wife is supposed to be out of town, and seeing her alarms me.

I continue walking. I am a bachelor in spirit, excited to saunter home, take a bath, meditate and snooze. I am peaceful. I am excited for some alone time. Except I am not alone as I walk towards my house.

I have a work bag on my shoulder, and in it my car and house keys. 

I am shocked to see my wife in the driveway. She is supposed to be on the east coast, or so I thought. 

I get a pit in my stomach. I am scared to imagine what she is doing back. Her entire body language looks off. 

She carries herself more like a police officer than my wife, and I do not like it. 

It had been a few months since our marriage counselor diagnosed me with a form of insidious, ongoing childhood trauma called Complex PTSD. Now, my wife surprises me by standing in our driveway. What was she doing here? 

My wife’s presence was the first sign that something is about to go terribly wrong. 

I walk in front of my next neighbor’s house. This feels like a spooky Halloween movie where I am waiting for someone to jump out and scare me. 

My wife exclaims in a concerned tone and no southern accent: “Ryan’s here,” motioning to a group of people in the yard.

In shock, I sternly say: “Katherine, what are you doing back?” 

“Hi Ryan,” she says blankly, with no emotion. 

WTF is going on here, I say to myself again. 

I see bodies in the background that appear to be my two brothers who live in Northern California, and my brother-in-law. 

Then I spot a stranger, a long haired man lurking in the nighttime shadows in my front yard. 

They are all approaching me.

As I write this I am feeling the fear again in my body.

The random person I see looked like my brother Michael’s friend named Andrew. Andrew has long hair, and for some reason I think Andrew’s in on the intervention. I am scared.

“Andrew’s here?” I blurt.

“What the f*ck is Andrew doing here?” I demand.

My younger brother blurts out: “Ryan it’s not Andrew. I love you bro.”

He opens his arms up and is walking across the yard, motioning to give me a big hug.  

My brother used to have blonde hair, and now has more of a receding hairline style buzz cut. When my younger brother is upset, he has the energy of a pit bull. 

The last time we had a meaningful exchange about our family he texted me to “f*ck off” and that “I think we both agree that it’s in our best interest to not speak for a while.” 

I took him literally and we haven’t spoken very often since then. He can go from happy to angry without a moment’s notice, and I’ve enjoyed us taking a break from one another. I don’t need a hug from him.

His energy is off, he is trying to close in on me. I think to myself: 

Oh sh*t, are they trying an intervention?

I see the long-haired guy back-pedaling into the shadows. It isn’t a good feeling. I later find-out this person is an interventionist, focusing on drugs and addiction. I see his floppy hair waving in the wind, as he walks backwards hiding. 

He does not identify himself which is a sign that this is not a safe environment for me. If he wanted to engender trust I would expect him to raise his hand and introduce himself and the goal for the conversation. 

In my head:

This isn’t cool. It feels unsafe. Why isn’t this strange long-haired man identifying himself?

As everyone lunges towards me, as if they are about to ambush, my intuition kicks-in.

It feels like I was reliving my childhood trauma in real time, but I am not a kid. I have options. 

My survival instincts immediately fire up. 

Conveniently my car is right in front of my neighbor’s house. I grab the key in my hand, open the driver’s side door with the key fob, and jump into my Prius. 

Like Lightning McQueen around a turn, I peel out from my street, looking for somewhere safe to drive to. 

Thinking to myself:

What the hell is going on here? And where the hell are my kids?

I find a church a few miles away, and park close by with plenty of lights around me. I feel safe. I exhale.

What the hell just happened?

Since my Complex PTSD diagnosis, I have been aggressively working with both eastern and western methods of healing through therapy, journaling, psychedelic medicine, yoga, and meditation. I vociferously read books on trauma and healing, specifically Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery. She writes that in the 1970s, people who’d experienced various forms of trauma were labeled as “hysterical” when talking about their pain. 

Some of these patients were taken to insane asylums, clinics, and doctor’s offices to be “cured.” I got scared of thinking of myself strapped to a chair against my will, while some doctor in a lab coat experimented on me. I immediately went to the worst place when I saw these people.

After meditating in my car for a few moments, I made some phone calls. I need some grounding and reassurance that I am not crazy. I call some people who know me, and can help calm me down. 

I called my marriage counselor, but she is on another call.

I then call my two friends. They both are shocked at what is going on, and have no idea that anyone in my family wanted to stage an intervention for me. They know me reasonably well, so I am surprised to hear that they are not dialed into this intervention.

Friend number 1 is a doctor whose heritage is Hispanic. We once traveled to Istanbul, Turkey together. On the plane ride over we were both asleep when someone yelled “is there a doctor on the plane.” He instinctively woke up and went to attend to a sick person on the flight. He is surprised on the phone. 

Friend number two is a low key and mild mannered friend of Indian descent. We had recently spent a weekend together over the summer hanging out at the OC fair drinking beer, eating fried food, and watching Michael McDonald perform with Chaka Khan. He is easy going. He is a lawyer and also surprised to hear the news.

I am sweating, incredibly nervous at this point. I am breathing to stay alive. If I do not breathe, it feels like I may not live. I am anxious, scared, and very alone. 

I give my friends my wife’s phone number, and brothers’ numbers, asking them to check in with my wife and family.

Friend number 2 reports back in a few minutes, they are now at a restaurant/bar called Upper West having dinner. I exclaim:

“They just had an intervention and are at a f*cking bar eating burgers!” 

Friend number two calls back and says that they want to speak with me. I agree, and await for our marriage counselor to call me back. 

My marriage counselor, finally gets back to me after what feels like an eternity.

She is in her mid fifties, with grayish black hair, and has shows empathy for her clients. She initially diagnosed my C-PTSD and I am forever grateful for her work. She has a service dog named in her office which helps calm her child patients down. She also sounds surprised. 

“Hey, what is going on? Katherine staged an intervention, do you know anything about this?” I ask both confused and angry.

“Ryan, I have no idea what is going on,” she says, equally puzzled.

“Wait, you don’t know what is happening? How do you not know?”

“I have not spoken to your wife since our last session in which she said she was no longer going out of town.”

“Well, she changed her mind, again. And she went out of town, and came back early. She brought some out of town family and staged an intervention. WTF is going on?!”

She calms me down and says, “Why don’t we call her on a conference call.”

After trying her for a few minutes, my wife finally gets back to me.

On speaker phone, my adrenaline is pumping. 

I angrily demand that she answer a simple question: “Katherine, where the hell are our kids?”

“Ryan, they are safe.”

Terrified, I keep talking with my face in my hands: “Katherine, and whoever is on the phone right now, where are my children?”

“Ryan, we’ll tell you that when you meet with us.”

Frustrated and ready to pull my hair out, I reply: “What are you talking about? Are our kids here in L.A. or back on the east coast?”

“They are safe, and we need to meet with you.”

Why is she so adversarial? 

I have the most adrenaline going through my body, possibly ever in my life.

I am furious that they will not share my kids location.

Then in a feverish outburst, I hear a series of voices telling me such things as:

“Ryan, you’re addicted to cannabis.”

“Ryan, you’re on the verge of a psychosis breakdown.”

“Studies show that cannabis can cause psychosis breakdowns.”

After a confusing phone call with no clear agenda, we say goodbye. The people on the call demand that I meet with the interventionist, and then they will share my kids location.

My kids are now the center of a hostage negotiation for a meeting. I am appalled. 

When it’s just the two of us, the marriage counselor says to me: “Ryan, that isn’t the wife that I remember talking to during our last session.” 

I tell her thank you and we log off.

I am still terrified that they would not tell me where my kids are. I do not want to sleep in my house that night. I am scared they would come back and try another intervention. 

I think:

What the hell is wrong with legal cannabis? Are they following the outdated Nancy Reagan Just Say No to Drugs campaign? Cannabis is a plant and it is medicine. My younger brother smoked pot out of a soda can in our basement when he was in middle school. What is he thinking now? I am confused as to why no one ever mentioned this addiction before.

I received no calls from my family, in-laws, or wife prior to this intervention ever confronting me for an addiction. No one has ever asked me if I have a cannabis problem. There were twenty steps between doing nothing and taking my kids away for an intervention. WTF?

I call my friends in Venice, and they put me on their couch for the night.

Waking up the next morning helped me realize that while my heart is broken into a thousand tiny pieces, it’s up to me to put it back together. I am powerless against my family, my wife, and the drug interventionist. 

While this is a nightmare to contend with, I ultimately spend 5 weeks apart from my children, while my family attempts to shove rehab down my throat. 

I refuse to entertain any rehab, psychological evaluation, or their request to send me to a psychiatric hospital for an overnight stay. 

Over the next few weeks I created my own program to recover from my C-PTSD, that includes these elements for how I healed with over 100 sessions in a 5 week span:

  • Sound meditation baths
  • Yoga
  • Breathwork
  • Therapy sessions
  • Journaling 
  • Practicing gratitude
  • Meditation
  • Group healing in support groups
  • Ancestral healing by making amends to distant relatives

I also gave up alcohol and cannabis for the remainder of the year. 

Additionally, I celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s without my children for the first time in my life. 

I cannot control other people. I can only control my actions.

I prioritized rest, meditation, and being honest with my truths. 

I did not let anyone twist my truths into their agenda. 

In the spirit of mental wellness I share this story to help recover from my C-PTSD and the worst 14 hours of my life as an adult.

Interventions are cruel, inhumane, and punishing things. There is no due process. 

I had nothing else to do except take care of myself. I even thought about taking him to court in order to strip him of his license, except that is too much work. This man helped break up my family, and it devastated me at the time.

This felt like capital punishment as my kids were taken away without getting a hearing, or even a courtesy heads up that anyone felt like I was an addict. There was a small mob of people outside my house ready to bring me to the executioner with no just cause. Led by a man in the shadows—a stranger with long hair. 

I later found out that my parents had sponsored the intervention behind my back. It was a gut punch to get the news.

I did learn a lot after the intervention, and in some ways am grateful for it. I realized how sick my family is, and how much work I’ve done to improve my mental health over the years.

How I changed after the intervention: 

  • I am more gentle with myself. I am kinder to myself when I make mistakes.  
  • I accept that I did not cause my family to run an intervention. I cannot control them or their behavior, the intervention was their choice, not mine. 
  • I can only take care of myself and my children, otherwise I am powerless over people. 
  • I made a New Year’s intention to love myself and my children, and no longer spend time with people who are not serving me. 
  • Live and let live, I cannot change anything in the past. I accept what I cannot change.
  • I take life one day one at a time, and focus on the next step to take, focusing on the moment

The cannabis helped me go deeper into each practice, enjoy the deeper state of my mind, while soothing my pain. 

Meanwhile both my family and in-laws have generational alcoholism in the family tree. 

A few weeks before the intervention, I confronted my father-in-law about his alcoholism over the phone. He father-in-law has grayish hair, is around 6’5”, and in his mid-seventies.

He often has a Bud Light bottle in his hand anytime I see him after 6pm. When I come to visit him he usually buys me a six pack of a favorite beer, and we spend time talking about football or basketball. 

Separately around the same time, I had recently confronted my Dad about his anger and bullying ways towards me. My Dad is also in his seventies, and has a quick temper. He has two modes, calm, or enraged. here isn’t much middle ground. 

A few weeks before the intervention he yelled at me over the phone. I called him to ask a question about the time frame and urgency overbooking Christmas travel airline tickets, and he shouted at me. 

His anger upset me, and a few days later I texted our family that i would not be attending Christmas vacation with our family this year. For the first time in a long time I opted out of a family holiday trip. 

Did I shake up the family trees? Did I confront two powerful men about their own character defects? Was this intervention retaliation? 

I’ll never know. It doesn’t matter. I created my own program and now it’s up to me to keep doing the work to help myself, my children, and anyone whose love comes into my orbit.

It took me an entire year and a half to publish this piece. In my heart I knew I was right, I just had to pick the pieces and put it back together.

I have not spoken at length with my brothers or parents since that night. 

They have told me to “deal,” “get over it,” and “we don’t know how to help you.” I learned  that unsolicited feedback is criticism. So I move on.

If I had to do it again, I would not change a thing. The intervention really clarified my position towards my family. I love them. I do not think that I will ever trust them again, and that is okay too. 

I am truly happy in my life. I love myself, and that is what matters. 

I have been doing the work for decades and it is paying off. I have a solid health and wellness tool kit, and I hope that my stories can help you too. 

Big thanks to my editors:

Sara Campbell, Drew Stegmaier, Lyle McKeany, Tom White, Julie Trelstad, Zachary Zager, Maria Sweeney, Katherine Canniff, and Joel Christiansen.

Categories
Breathwork dreams healing

Lucid Dreaming: Definition, Triggers, and Controlling Your Story

It’s around Christmas time. I’m at a holiday party with friends, many of whom I have not seen in decades. 

I am back home in Des Moines, IA. I hug old friends as I greet them, and we laugh hysterically at one of our friend’s drunken grandma, who is so wasted that she goes to bed early.

It’s great to catch up with Kelly, Murph, Shuter, and Kelly’s sister. Their smiles are big. Everyone is cordial, and we are having a hysterical time. 

Except I’m not physically in Iowa. I’m having this dream while in my bed in Los Angeles.

This isn’t an ordinary dream. It’s a lucid dream—a dream where you feel like you are in control. In some cases you can actually control what is happening.

What is a lucid dream?

In a lucid dream, you are aware that you are dreaming, and the dreams feel vivid and real. Imagine if you were an active participant in your dream rather than a witness? 

In lucid dreams you are controlling the dream like it is a real-life video game. You control the story. When you wake up, the dream is deep enough that it feels like it happened in real-life. 

After the dream I wake up and jot down a few notes in my dream journal about what happens. I feel calm.

I get out of bed and walk down the hall to check on breakfast. I feel happy.

I last recall seeing these people drunk at high school parties or in the summers after we all went off to college. 

In the dream, I made amends with people who I have not seen in twenty years, enjoying one last party together. It was like we were all younger. Their hugs make me feel loved. 

My last meaningful memory with Kelly was in freshman year geometry class with Mr. Cummings. She was a cute older girl that I acted cool around, trying to keep everything low key. Our teacher, Mr. Cummings died of brain cancer that year, and I remember hiding my tears from my Dad as I walked away from his funeral towards our car. 

People like her were my surrogate family, who I confided in to help me get through the ups and downs of life.

Murph and I played baseball together in little league, where I struggled to get hits and make plays on the field. Baseball was never my sport, yet guys like Murph remained optimistic and light around me. His freckled face and monotone voice helped me to feel calm. 

Shuter and I played a lot of front yard tackle football together, and sometimes sat together at lunch in middle school. He was another person who I wanted to act low key around. 

Getting back into my morning routine, I have positive energy from this dream, lots of it, as I recall these decades-old childhood friendships.

I carry this loving energy with me as I drink my morning smoothie, drive to run an errand, and type at my computer to start my work day. 

The waking state after this lucid dream is can feel better than an orgasm. 

If you can believe it, my body feels more relaxed than it does after I have sex. 

Do you want to have lucid dreams? 

How to trigger lucid dreams

The chances for lucid dreaming increase when you practice meditation, specifically sound bath and breathwork meditations. Since I started practicing breathwork, my dreams are more alive. 

Keeping a dream journal helps me to remember these dreams.

When I wake up at 5am and have a dream, I grab my phone and type out a quick recollection of the dream. This helps me to recall my dreams in case I forget them. 

My dreams are fleeting and I need to write them down. 

Breathwork and a dream journal are my two devices to help me experience lucid dreams and train myself to write out these moments. 

Studies show that if you wake up after 5 hours of sleep, stay awake briefly, and then go back to bed to try to enter an REM  (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep period,” than you can possibly trigger a lucid dream.

You can also trigger a lucid dream if you use a Mnemonic induction of lucid dreams (MILD), which uses “prospective memory,” the act of remembering to do something in the future. When “you wake up after sleeping for 5 hours,” you “tell yourself several times that the next time you dream, you will remember you’re dreaming.”

In my recent dream, making amends at this party helped me to open up a part of myself. 

I never officially said goodbye to these friends when we all went off to college. It’s like these childhood friends were dangling in my mind and I cleared out old cobwebs. 

Lucid dreams allow me to look at my dream as if I have the full awareness of my waking state. 

Lucid dreams give me energy. 

One of the cooler benefits of practicing breathwork, meditation, and other reflective practices is that they give me a chance to have these dreams.

I was embedded in the fabric of Des Moines, IA for the first 18 years of my life, and then I moved away. And thus all my friends went away too. 

You remember old habits, ways of life, and friends from your past. Meditation helps heal lost parts of yourself. You uncover parts of yourself that go beyond the conscious mind. My brain helped me to pick specific people from my past, and have a healthy and fun interaction together. 

It is freeing, cathartic, and quite enjoyable. In this case, my dream helped to close the loop on past connections. 

If I practice breathwork before crawling into bed, I’m almost certain to have a lucid dream. It calms me down, and opens my mind to the benefits of dreaming, and it’s a lot of fun to take these dreams with me the next day.

If you want to try a breathwork class with me, you can explore the possibility of having more clear and lucid dreams. I teach virtual classes every Thursday at 6:30 PST, and you can RSVP here.

Thanks to my editors: Katherine Canniff, Sara Campbell, David Burt,Drew Stegmaier, and Joel Christiansen.

Categories
healing psychiatry Recovery

I Fired My Psychiatrist, Experimented with Ancient Healing Methods, and Feel Healthier Than Ever

Sitting on a brown leather chair, wallet and car keys resting on a side table. It is winter and I’m wearing a black sweater, blue jeans, my right leg rests on my left knee. 

Tears streaming down the side of my cheeks, I wipe them with a tissue, and take deep breaths to calm myself down. 

Next to my possessions lay a white notepad with Pfizer emblazoned on the top, a pen with Zoloft printed on the side, and a box of tissues. The musty room smells like an old library. 

On the wall straight ahead are numerous awards from organizations such as The American Psychiatric Association and plaques with MD, PHD, and other degrees. To my right is a bookshelf of literature, many of the books are written about medicine, art, and Greek history.

Across from me sits a seventy-year-old Greek woman, with eyes wide open, a witness to my tears. She is my psychiatrist. I see her a few times per year.

“Ryan, you aren’t well. How often are you crying?”

“I don’t know. I am not keeping track. I guess once a month.”

“You aren’t well. I’m recommending an antidepressant for you. I recommend that you go on Lexapro.”

I exclaim: “I’m supposed to cry in here. This is why I come to see you. You are prescribing me a drug for crying. What the f*ck?”

She pulls out her pen and paper.

“No, I won’t take this drug. I am not going back on antidepressants,” I push back.

Noticeably uncomfortable, the psychiatrist gets up from her chair, and walks over to her desk. She grabs a notebook that contains the details of my work with her. She grabs the files and comes to sit back in her chair, acting as if the files will somehow validate her decision. 

The tension rises, I’m not supposed to reject the prescription from a doctor. 

Smiling with calmness, I retort back, “I’m not going to fill the prescription. Feel free to write it. I am not going back on an antidepressant because I cried in front of you.” 

She is frustrated and so am I. Our session ends.

At this point, I am done with this psychiatrist. Going back on antidepressants isn’t happening. 

What a joke. 

I march down the stairs from her second story office, to the parking garage.

Opening the door to my Toyota Prius, I see the psychiatrist’s Mercedes in the spot next to mine, I think, ”What the f*ck?” 

I drive home past a Whole Foods, Starbucks, and local overpriced West Los Angeles coffee shop – I’m stressed. Looking back, I’m in one one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the city, of course my drug pushing doctor drives a Mercedes.

I am embarrassed to admit that charges $600 per session. We meet for less than an hour of work.

When I fired my psychiatrist

I call my Dad a few days later and tell him: 

“My psychiatrist is a con artist. She writes her prescriptions with a pen that says Pfizer, on a sheet of paper that says Serzone, and has stress balls in her office from Eli Lilly. She is sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry. I’m done. It’s over.”

I had to fire my psychiatrist. 

I was done with the pharmaceutical industrial complex. 

I take control of my health, ending my relationship with a white collar drug dealer, who practices corporate psychiatry.

For decades I went down the conventional pharmaceutical route for treating anxiety and depression with Big Pharma drugs, psychiatry, counseling/therapy. The treatment had some benefits, but I hit a brick wall. Does this sound familiar?

If you have been on and off antidepressants, I can relate. 

If you have seen enough therapists that you can count the number on two hands, there are millions of us.

If you have experienced the sexual side effects you hear about on antidepressant TV commercials, then I’m right there with you. 

And if you’ve wondered WTF, why are prescription mental health drugs being advertised on TV to begin with, I’m feeling you.

Going the modern mental health route made me desperate. It took me decades to figure it out.

The drugs managed some of my pain by treating symptoms, while not healing the root cause.

After firing my psychiatrist, I forged a new path, which was unconventional. Using ancient methods, a recovery program, and native/indigenous techniques for healing, I got results. 

The ancient healing methods I tried

It took me six months to familiarize myself with the different modalities, and a year to truly feel like I had a handle on my health again.

Here is what I did to improve my mental health the natural way:

  • Meditation – Practicing meditation became a daily ritual. Whether it was alone listening to an app or practicing with a teacher at an in-person studio, I worked to ease my body, mind, and soul through the practice.
  • Journaling – I journaled after every meditation session. Sometimes I would write long outlines of ideas, other days I would write anything that brought me to tears, some days I wrote my ideas for future writing projects.
  • Psychedelics – I experimented with microdosing psychedelics. For each session, I set an intention of a phrase like “I am healthy” or “I am well,” and repeat the intention for several minutes. I integrated what I learned through talking to professionals and journaling. 
  • Yoga – I practiced yoga 2-3 times per week on the mat. The poses (asanas) helped me calm my body, increase my physical stamina, and decrease my physical pain. I also practiced the breathing part of yoga, yoga nidra (yogic sleep), which helps PTSD survivors.
  • Breathwork – Breathwork helps me calm my body down, giving myself permission to relax my mind. During the first months of sessions, my left side body would get triggered. I learned to calm myself down as I unpacked a lot of trauma that resurfaced.
  • Therapy – I went through three different therapists during this recovery process. I found that my therapists did not have a tool kit to talk about integrative healing and mental health, which is why I went through three different ones.
  • Recovery program – Spiritually I was unwell, and I needed a new peer group to aid in my recovery. With weekly meetings, the program acted like an ancient healing circle, which became a “chosen family,” that helped aid my rehabilitation. 
  • Advocacy – I got very interested in uncovering racism in American culture. I looked at racism as more of a disease, exploring the root causes of my own role in it. I marched in a Black Lives Matter protest and started talking to my white friends about racism. 

I was spiritually unwell, and corporate drugs weren’t helping anymore

Looking back, I realize how unhealthy my psychiatric experience was. I trusted a doctor who wanted to prescribe drugs for pain management, rather than helping me to heal.  

When I told her that I ended our relationship, she demanded that I come see her. She acted like I was doing something wrong or ill-conceived by stopping our work together.

She wanted to see me for another session, where she would charge me another $600. It was like she couldn’t quit me or let it go. And somehow I was in the wrong, like she had some strange attachment issue.

We went back and forth over email for months with her wanting to talk to me. I had nothing to say.

I sent her a check for $600 and I did not realize that I owed her for two sessions, which was $1,200. 

Wanting to end the relationship, she discounted my final two sessions to $300 each, for $600 total, and stamped my invoice as PAID.

Mental health in the corporate system did not work for me. Healing comes from within, not from a bottle of pills you pick up from Rite Aid. Paying $600 in retrospect was a total rip-off. 

Doctors are profiting off a system that is taking advantage of depressed, anxious, or unwell people. While we are like guinea pigs, testing our moods with chemically created pills, they are beholden to these corporations.

We are not cars that need to be serviced. Mental health isn’t like checking wheel alignment, rotating our tires, or servicing our engine.

Human beings are complex creatures. We have a heart, a brain, and a soul. 

My psychiatrist lacked a true sense of spirituality with her practice. 

Meanwhile the solutions for healing laid before me the entire time. While breathwork, psychedelics, and meditation may seem fringe or new wage to some, they have been around for centuries.

In retrospect, I was spiritually unwell. My sickness contributed to unstable moods, anxiety, depression, and suffering. The natural medicines helped increase my spirituality, which subsequently improved my health. 

Through the years I tried Serzone, Zyprexa, Lamtical, Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Lexapro, and other drugs. 

I was looking for a magic drug to save me. There is no silver bullet in healing. I had to experiment to find out what worked for me. It’s not like weightlifting where you can see your muscles grow, and an increase in weight. 

I learned to be gentle on myself. Accepting that no one was going to rescue me, no corporate drug pusher was going to be my savior, and I had to do the work myself. 

I implemented some of my own ancient healing practices, and they helped. I feel good, and my health is what matters. What is important is how I feel, not a clinical definition from a psychiatrist. 

What has been your experience with psychiatric drugs? Leave a comment or subscribe to my newsletter and shoot me an email, I’d love to swap stories.

Big thanks to my editors: Chris Holinger, Ali Q, Drew Stegmaier, Lyle McKeany, and Joel Christiansen.