Awakening with Ayahuasca: how I cured my eczema and healed my life!
One more step, Mark. Keep going, one more step. Almost there. I repeat this mantra over and over so that I cannot feel the hot pokers searing my body and the knives slashing into my joints. I arrive at the clinic, relieved to see Laurence’s affable smile. Simply being in his calm, reassuring presence helps me feel a little better. The acupuncture treatment certainly isn’t pleasant but it doesn’t matter given what I’m accustomed to living with.
“Every night this foul stuff oozes from my body,” I tell him.
“Excellent,” he replies. “It sounds like the illness is starting to come out. Be patient. Over time, the colour should become lighter and the oozing should eventually stop altogether.”
He tells me of an ancient Chinese saying regarding the treatment of illness through acupuncture: “Better: good,” he says in an exaggerated, comedic Chinese accent. “Worse: good. Same: bad.” My cheeks burn as I smile for the first time in a long while.
“Change is positive, even if it seems to be worse initially,” Laurence explains. One of the few people with whom I’m able to share my jungle experiences, he’s fascinated by my tales of ayahuasca.
“There seems to be a link between that and the work you do,” I tell him. “Both are ancient systems based on healing at an energetic level.” “That’s right. The Chinese believe that all bodies have a life force energy called Qi, and all illness is the result of the impairment in the flow of this Qi. The needles work manipulating and balancing this energy.”
“Sounds fairly similar to what Hamilton was talking about when he discussed the straightening of crossed energies,” I reply.
“I believe so. The acupuncture works on the mind, body and spirit simultaneously. That’s how mental, physical and emotional problems can be addressed. Just like with ayahuasca, in this practice we don’t make a distinction between the emotional and physical.”
A few more weeks pass, and my condition continues to deteriorate. Although I believe in Laurence, I’m right at my limit. As I lie in bed surrounded by blood, fluid and dead skin, my mind conjures images of the machetes that are commonplace in the jungle. I fantasize about hacking off my limbs. One morning, I come out of the bathroom after taking a shower and collapse on the floor, clawing at my legs in a frenzy. An hour goes by before I return to my feet. I continue scratching late into the evening. I don’t want to die, I think, but I cannot go on living like this much longer.
Even though I’ve begun to believe in God, it gives me no comfort. I cry out in desperation, “Help me, please God. Help me. Where are you? I need you now.” But even He is not listening. I rack my brain for an answer.
I remember hearing about how hypnosis can help with pain relief and wonder if it can do the same for itching. I find a local practitioner online and make an appointment immediately. The hypnotist tells me that not only can he help with the itching, but he can also cure the eczema. He relates his previous successes, including the complete curing of a patient’s skin condition in only six weeks.
In the first session, I slip into what he describes as a light trance. For me, it’s a profound state of relaxation during which the itching ceases. That same evening, I have a vivid dream, like none I’ve dreamed before. I’m standing before a mystical-looking man dressed in white robes. He has a large egg in his hands. In a blinding flash, he transforms it into a stunning, huge white horse. I mount the beast. We ride under a large expanse of water, then surface, riding above the ocean and off into the most breath-taking sunset I’ve ever seen. I’m bathed in bliss. I awake euphoric. I consult Laurence for an interpretation.
Glowing with comfort and peace he tells me, “This is the beginning of the journey of your spirit, an awakening of consciousness that will culminate in the blissfulness of the dream.” I cannot even imagine how that could come about. “Ultimately, it is love that heals,” he concludes, patting me on the shoulder. I have no idea what he means…
Thoughts of Peru never totally leave my mind. As the months pass, the appeal grows, nudging me away from the disparaging vision of myself, pitted against a hateful world, toward a serene, compassionate person, surrounded by love. Only with Laurence’s support can I maintain the faith that there’s more to life than suffering.
I spend hours staring out of my window. I’m fascinated by my neighbour’s tree, its trunk arching toward the sky with branches outstretched, welcoming the sun. As winter turns to spring, bare branches give way to budding leaf growth. The warmth of midsummer brings flowers bursting into full bloom. The walls of my prison cell are closing in on me, the air stale and stagnant. My parents’ garden is a riot of colour. Rather than take in the beauty of the burgeoning outside world, I take it as a personal affront. The leaves outside turn yellow, wither and fall to the ground, as another year of my life comes to an end..
With the passing of another year, it strikes me that it may take many years for me to get better, if I’m lucky. I think again of ayahuasca. Also a form of energy healing, its intensity suggests to me that it could work faster than acupuncture.
For now, the thought of having to go through that literally gut-wrenching experience again is enough to make me stick with the current treatment in the hope that a miracle will happen.
Instead, my condition deteriorates once moreâ€”the oozing, which had stopped after a couple of months, returns with a vengeance, preventing me from sleep for four days straight. On the drive down to London to see Laurence, my eyes drift shut several times. A crash seems inevitable. I’m too tired to care. Somehow I arrive unscathed. When I enter Laurence’s consultation room, I can barely hold back the tears. “I just can’t go on like this anymore,” I tell him. “I’ve reached my limit. I’m going to stop the treatment and go back to the jungle.”
As caring as ever, Laurence replies softly, “I understand. I won’t charge you for this treatment.” His voice falters just enough to make me wonder if he too is on the verge of tears, “Best of luck with everything. Please keep in touch.” As with my parents, I feel sorry for him and guilty, as though I’ve let him down.
To withstand the journey back to Peru, I resort once again to steroid cream. This time, it makes little difference. This time, I make an appointment at a local private hospital to see someone as quickly as possible.
To prove the extent of my illness and ensure that I’m given something that actually works, I stop using the steroid cream for the three days prior to the appointment. Once again, every inch of my skin burns like I’ve been dowsed in boiling oil. The slightest movement sears me through to the core and my skin feels like it’s ripping apart. The night before the appointment, I hang on hour after hour, telling myself, “Tomorrow this will all be over,” as the putrid liquid flows freely from my infected left arm.
When morning finally arrives I must pry myself from the sheets. I may be in a similarly desperate state, but the specialist is completely different to the last one.
Dr. Basu is gentle, benevolent and most importantly, actually listens to me. I actually believe him when he says he can help me. Two days later, the steroid pills he prescribed enable me to move without excruciating pain. He suggests I spend a week in the hospital to monitor my condition.
Even though a dismal hospital is the last place I want to be, it’s the only way I can get the treatment and medication necessary to return to Peru. The stark, white room contains five other beds, all of which are occupied. Each has a curtain for privacy and a TV, which can be rented by the day for an exorbitant fee. The nurse offers me some filthy, oversized pyjamas that I politely decline, thankfully having brought my own. “Welcome,” says the man across the way, “I’m John.” He’s around fifty and of Indian descent. I think it unlikely that “John” is his given name. “Hi,” I reply shyly without meeting his eyes. “I’m Mark.”
The others also introduce themselves. I’m by far the youngest patient here. I quickly learn the medical history of my fellow roommates. They’ve all suffered from terrible skin diseases for their whole lives. “I’ve been in and out of this place for the last twenty-five years,” John tells me. “These days I spend about half of my life in here. They’ve tried every treatment and they still can’t get rid of my eczema.” He sounds almost proud of its severity. There is a genuine feeling of warmth and solidarity amongst the patients, though I don’t want to join their club. As inspiring as their bravery and acceptance of their condition is, living with this disease is not an option for me.
Every morning, a new doctor appears to take my history. Twice a day, a nurse comes round to administer treatmentsâ€”smothering me in the same steroid cream I’ve been using all along, the only difference being the massive quantity. Fortunately, this large amount offers me a little relief. It doesn’t matter how temporary it may be, as long as I’m well enough to travel. It’s so obvious to me that these endless rounds of appointments and applications of creams are a dulling suppression, a dead end. My mind and body scream it’s time to get out of this world nowâ€”time to go and discover true healing.
At the end of the week, a doctor assesses everyone to see whether they’re well enough to go home or whether they have to be moved to a ward in the main hospital. I’m deemed well enough to leave.
Many of my companions are not so lucky. For John, it’s his seventh straight week in hospital and there’s no likelihood of him going home anytime soon. I’m sent on my way with instructions to keep using the steroid cream until my follow-up appointment with Dr. Basu.
With the frequent use of liberal quantities, it’s possible to keep the eczema under the surface enough to get around. However, the internal furnace never ceases to roar, and every move continues to prick my skin with itchy needles.
As soon as I return home, I go online to see when the next Blue Morpho tour starts. There’s one in a week. I wait a couple of days to see if my skin gets any worse. When it doesn’t, I sign up and book a flight. I suspect that it may take a few weeks, or maybe even months, of ayahuasca before I’m healed.
I tell my parents that I’m going to try a plant-based medicine that has the ability to remove the root cause of my eczema by working at the body’s energetic levelâ€”something that Western medicine simply cannot do. I don’t want to lie to them, so I give them a small part of the truth. The rest will have to wait for another day. That way even if they don’t believe what I’m saying, at least they won’t be able to argue with the results.If I start talking to them about spirits and witchcraft, they’ll think I’ve gone insane.
And the last thing I want is for them to be subjected to the same terror that I’ve been feeling for over a year. All my hopes for recovery lie with Hamilton and ayahuasca.
I’ve left my parents house in England only a handful of times over the last twelve months. And now, I’m flying halfway round the world to the Amazon jungle.
I manage a small smile at the sheer madness of it.
(Excerpted from Mark’s book, ‘Shedding the layers’. Buy it now on Amazon)