There's a specific way I am called to work with herbs + people right now. Between 2015-2017 I served over 600 folk, by donation or sliding scale, trying to do my best in 90 mins to get a full picture of what someone was struggling with, how its showing up, hold stories of trauma, and try and squeeze into a .pdf protocol everything I could about what I knew about trauma and make some sound herbal recommendations. I went big. There were days I really hit the mark and days that I didn't. I mean, not everyone wants an 11 page write up, no? Over 60% of the folks I served were marginally housed, on a fixed income, and/or facing both systemic oppression as well as the lasting effects of developmental trauma and sexual violence.
It took me some time to really appreciate how I work best, and how that relates to what I know about how trauma moves through us. I was trying to use a model of pathology: studying whats wrong to be in relationship with what brings health, restoration, liberation, deepening, connection. The latter framework is a salutagenic one, which focuses on coherence and resiliency. That's where I want to play. For many reasons, but specifically in relation to how we as folks with intensely conditioned nervous systems experience distress as well as joy and pleasure. In fact, if you winced at the mention of joy or pleasure, you're in good company, as it is one of the most challenging places to explore. It also, is like the carpool lane, you get where you want to go a bit quicker when we can increase our tolerance for joy and inner celebration. We mostly see this approach with ourselves via 'self-care' talk, but for those of us with a lifetime inertia towards not being too much, too happy, too talkative, to comfortable, too rested, too confident, to aware, ......I could go on, the path to widening our tolerance of such things happens at different rates in different parts of the self.
The mind has one fancy story, the nervous system another, the gut does its own thing....we have a moment of peace and then ricochet into a somatic/emotional flashback into shame spirals....its a real thing, not something that a change in 'perspective' can alleviate (alone) and really exhausting to navigate alone. The carrot at the end of the survival mode stick supposedly is the joy and pleasure and such, right? Maybe. Honestly, as long as our narrative supports our ability to tolerate joy or rest or inner worth as something earned, then we will likely be at the mercy of the never-pleased-enough inner critic longer than we wish to be. Most of the folks I have had the honor of working with who have settled a bit into the idea that they have some complex trauma or pervasive exposure to stress also have a deep awareness of living in a culture that is violent and depends on the extraction of resources from marginalized folks and bodies. What I am super not implying here is that we get to think our way to happy and are able to bypass the multi-dimensional layers of systemic oppression (white-supremacy-capitalist-colonial-cis-hetero-ableist-patriarchal....). I am passionate about finding the right tension between uprooting oppressive ways of relating to our inner worlds with the demands/passions/extraction/accountability systemic oppression places on us. We are always part of both, our inner and outer worlds.
Plants are a damn fine support as we navigate this tension. So are our ancestral and earth-informed/based/loving spiritual practices. So is not being alone in the process. Isolation is AWFUL. So, here's how I am passionate about supporting folks navigating challenging and multilayered neuro-emotional systems. I make no more than three recommendations, we work slowly, to explore the landscape of your nervous system and its ability to restore, relax and be flexible. Sometimes, a full herbal protocol or checking in with a medical provider about mineral or vitamin levels, thyroid function, etc. is called for. I don't ignore when patterns are presenting themselves that need greater attention, but my focus really is in exploring what happens when we try to stretch the nervous system a little out of its comfort zone, a little more relxed than it typically identifies as safe, a little more self-congratulatory than we usually get to be, a little more playful than we are familiar with.....its sort of like a baby crawling, the desire and knowledge that we are going somewhere and that something comes after laying and rolling is totally there, but the muscle memory and strength has to be developed before the first crawl really happens. Deepening the fluidity and flexibility of the nervous system is no different. It's a skill that many of us sacrificed at some point to be safe(r).
I make typically no more than three recommendations for a single session, a combination of plants and maybe an assignment or practice to try that builds on what already we know is part of you or brings you comfort. Going slow and not hitting the system with too much is essential. ESSENTIAL. Particularly if we have found ourselves to be overwhelmed in the past by too much emotional intensity from people we trust(ed) including helpers, intensive dietary restrictions or protocols, health changes, etc. If you have strong reactions to medications, get all the 'side-effects,' fear becoming dependent on herbs or support, etc.: slow is essential. Many of us with CPTSD and co-occuring things like anxiety, panic, depression, all the various ways our system manages its load, have a really hard time making too much 'progress' to fast, because often when we start to feel better, big stuff gets remembered, re-experienced, emotional flashbacks (which can last for weeks) pull us back into states which don't seem to let us access the feelings of progress we were just enjoying. It's real, I find few practitioners who really understand this as a natural consequence to repeated exposure to trauma. (You're not crazy and its not a character thing.)
So I like to offer my support as someone who has to be vigilant about this very pattern daily. I really like working collaboratively with folks who want some plant help while they tackle things in therapy or are trying to deepen the relationships they can hold with loved ones and acquaintances, want to bring something creative into the world or try and have more intimacy with their inner worlds, etc. The heart, the neuro-emotional self, the gut and the thinking parts have to move and communicate with each other for us to get to really experience the things we desire. So, that's how I am working as an herbalist at the moment. If you think you'd find value in exploring this approach, you can grab a session down below, and when you sign up, you'll be able to access a private page with some resources and prep work so we can maximize our time together.
And, of course, if you have any questions, feel free to ask over at the contact page (or there is the faq page too).
Sending you lots of plant love!