As a young girl, Astrid Heijnen recalls being sexually abused by three different adults.
The first time was at the age of three, again at six, and then at thirteen. On two of these occasions, it involved close relatives.
Those childhood traumas impacted Astrid emotionally and psychologically through her entire life. Now 57, she revealed, “I managed to quell the childhood abuse for a long time. A lot of problems arose but I never realized what was at the root of them. When at the age of 33 I found out I had an older sister, it was a huge gift in one sense, but also triggered the deeply repressed past pain.
“I had to get psychiatric help. I was ready to die at that point. I knew I loved my kids but couldn’t feel it. My heart was completely shut off. Therapy helped a lot but didn’t cure things.”
An ayahuasca experience a few years ago freed the Amsterdam mother of two from the trauma of her past. She was also able to forgive her abusers.
“It took me almost twenty years to find out about plant medicine, and when I used ayahuasca for the third time I asked to be shown what I hadn’t wanted to see, hear, and experience in regards to my sexual abuses.
“When I was just three years old my abuser said, ‘If you tell anyone your little brother will die.’ When you are three you take everything as truth, and I did not want to be responsible for his death. The second assault was by the father of a friend. The realization years later that his daughter thought it was normal shocked me. The third incident, involving a close relative, struck me the deepest. I couldn’t breathe; I couldn’t comprehend the betrayal.
“For a long time I envisioned demonic figures often. I realized others couldn’t see them, but I could see them clear as day. My schoolwork suffered. For months I thought I was losing my mind and that I’d die soon. I couldn’t tell anyone what had happened, and decided then that absolutely no one could be trusted – and that all men only wanted my body.
“I hated my body and the lust it aroused in others. I have had a lot of difficulties in sexual relationships most of my life.
“Then, during my third ayahuasca experience last year, I faced a terrible ride. I almost screamed to let it stop, but oh my goodness – the liberation afterwards. There was only peace and love, and so much gratitude.
“Two years later, I was able to visit one of my abusers and tell him that I forgave him. I was also able to hug him.”
“Ayahuasca freed me and enabled me to forgive unconditionally, which is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.
Astrid has now taken ayahuasca and yopo 10 times each in the last three years. She believes she is developing a greater understanding of herself and others, a deeper connection, and loves being in the company of others on similar journeys.
“I’ve learned self-acceptance and forgiveness. I’m more open minded and see the bigger picture now: what seems bad often turns out to be a blessing.
“During my third ayahuasca ceremony, I specifically asked to be shown everything I had been unconscious of – what was bothering me in regards to the abuse.
“I said, ‘show me all, once and for all – and free me of it once and for all.’ Boy, did I get it. You might call this experience a bad on, but it certainly wasn’t.”
Astrid joined the #ThankYouPlantMedicine movement several months ago, and is an active member in our Facebook community.
“The #ThankYouPlantMedicine movement is doing such important work in committing to removing the stigma surrounding the medicines.
“I often think the medicines may have saved my mother’s life if they had been accessible and not stigmatized. She was diagnosed as a manic depressive and eventually committed suicide. I strongly believe she could have benefited from using psychedelics. She needed help and sought it from all kinds of clinics. They couldn’t help and only stuffed her with toxic medication.
“Please look at my story: plant medicine is so helpful for all kinds of traumas and addictions. I believe it is a crime not to enable the use of it.
Emily Sinclair is a member of the Ayahuasca Community Committee with the Chacruna Institute For Psychedelic Plant Medicines. She has also run an ayahuasca retreat in Peru for six years, and volunteered at another center. Emily noted, “Astrid’s story is similar to many others I have heard in relation to healing sexual trauma with ayahuasca, narratives which always center around forgiveness and compassion. This level of forgiveness is perhaps difficult to even imagine. It is through finding empathy and becoming aware of our inter-connectedness that it seems possible. Just as sexual abuse shows us the worst of what human beings are capable of, this ability to forgive and heal from such horrendous and debilitating acts shows us the best of our potential.”
* DISCLAIMER & IMPORTANT SAFETY MESSAGE
The #TYPM movement does not encourage any illegal use or abuse of plant medicines and psychedelics, whether cultivated in nature or lab synthesized.
Psychedelics and plant medicines, even within the confines of applicable laws, are not appropriate or beneficial for everyone. They are not magical cures; they are tools that, when used properly – with respect, clear intentions, guidance, and a safe, supportive environment – can catalyze personal growth and healing.
To minimize harm and increase therapeutic potential, it is imperative that one performs sufficient research, adequately prepares, and integrates their own experience.