Part 3 of how I got here.
I’m not gonna lie: 2010 was the most difficult year of my life, for a myriad of reasons. But that’s a story for another time. At the end of the year, I found myself in a new city pretty much building myself back up from the bottom. One of the positive things that did happen that year was that I adopted a dog and my dog, Jamison, and I moved our butts to Portland, Oregon.
Once in Portland, I spend 2011 doing part time contract work until I finally landed a full time job at the end of the year. I started as a project coordinator and worked my way up to a project manager over a 3 year period. At the end, I was miserable. I worked 60 hour weeks plus a 1.5 hour commute every day. It caused me so much stress that it made me physically sick.
I ended up quitting my job before I had a new one lined up and it took me six very stressful months to find a new job. It’s the job I hold now, and I like it a lot. There is just enough chaos that it keeps me interested, but not so much that I am overwhelmed. I have a ton of flexibility including the ability to work from home a few days a week.
During this time, I fell in love with the beauty of Portland. It’s so green and luscious. Even though it rains a lot, there is enough sun that it makes up for it. It’s springtime as I write this post and it’s so freaking beautiful right now, I can hardly stand it. My mother also moved up here and it really started to feel like home. I’ve made some great friends and feel like I have my community up here. (The one thing that bums me out, is the lack of cultural and racial diversity, but again, that is a blog for another time.)
Once I got myself stable, where I didn’t feel like I was fighting for survival, I started to try to get myself healthy again. Stress depleted my immune system so that I was constantly getting sick. It came to the point where if I were around anyone with any sort of sickness, I was sure to get it.
I joined a CSA and I did the Whole 30 a couple times, which did seem to help, but I think mostly for the increase in vegetables more than anything else. Then a friend of mine invited me to an essential oil party. My experience with essential oils up to that point was to use them to scent candles. I was also at the time trying to figure out a more natural way to “freshen” our house, other than Glade plug-ins, which also seemed me make me sick. (Looking back, I can’t believe I ever used those.)
The girl hosting the party ran a diffuser with lavender and peppermint and it smelled amazing. I was intrigued by the fact that these were the aromatic oils harvested from plants. I got a starter kit with a diffuser, and started collecting oils. At that time I was using them for everything, including adding them to water and drinking them. (I don’t recommend doing that now.) Oils were diffusing in my house pretty much every day, and definitely every night. I started researching online and also got a few books on aromatherapy.
After a little bit, I could feel a change in my mood and my energy. I was sleeping better and all in all, I have had a fantastic experience. I now say that essential oils were my gateway drug to herbal medicine.
After having this positive experience, a friend of mine convinced me to take an online herbal medicine class called “Herbal Medics Basic” from The Human Path out of San Antonio. OMG that was an amazing class. There was so much information, not just about herbal medicine, but how to apply it to working with under-served populations and in post-disaster situations. Sam Coffman, who teaches the class, is an ex-Green Beret and has been using and learning this for years. He teaches in a very matter of fact way and includes enough chemistry and physiology that it all made a lot of sense. The class also provided the supplies for us to make medicine of our own.
And here I am. I think something that used to turn me off of herbal medicine in the past was the woo-wooness of it. Sam did not have an ounce of woo-woo in his teaching and I loved that. Because of that, and once I saw my own results, first through the essential oils, then through the medicines we made in the Herbal Medics class, I became convinced of the importance of helping people be more reliant on themselves and the world around them. All this can be used in conjunction with western medicine to help us all lead healthier lives.
I have continued classes through the Human Path, which I will write about in other posts. Last year, I attended the Plant Medicine Gathering in Portland. This spring I signed up for a CSH (community supported herbalism), which starts up in two weeks. I planted a garden and turned my guest room into a home office/apothecary and started purchasing books. I’ll be writing about my classes, my garden, my medicine making, books, resources, and other things as I move through this world. I hope you’ll join me.