Iboga Rescued Me From Overwhelming Anxiety And The Darkest Year Of My Life

Photo by Subbotina Anna.


by Holly Stein

on March 12, 2015

Editor’s note: This story was originally posted on Facebook, and the author received such an overwhelming response that she decided to share it with the Reset community.

For the last 12 years I’ve battled with general anxiety and depression and have taken an insane variety of anti-anxiety and anti-depressant pharmaceuticals (all of which either didn’t help, made me feel like a zombie, made me feel better but disconnected, or left me feeling worse than I did before as soon as I stopped taking them). I’ve been to hundreds of hours of therapy and spent countless hours reading self-help books using all different approaches and methods.

I had ups and downs over the years, and after a steady improvement I weaned off an anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication with the support of my psychiatrist in January of 2012. In July 2013, I had my first panic attack since I was 18, and after that my anxiety escalated tremendously. It felt like everything started to make me panic, and I started to slowly lose my confidence and ability to function. From suffering and feeling massive anxiety throughout my whole wedding day, to panicking on chair lifts snowboarding and developing anxiety on airplanes and boats, I started to lose the ability to do things I enjoyed. Worse yet, “everyday” normal things started to fall apart — from getting in elevators (as a wedding planner I ride in elevators all of the time), not being able to be a passenger in car, being scared of getting sick after eating, and much more. I felt like the walls were closing in on me. I was physically and mentally sick with anxiety all of the time.

I’ve had multiple weddings where I’ve sat outside an elevator for 10 minutes trying to “will” myself to get in, only to end up carrying my emergency kits up and down many flights of stairs. Nothing helped, and the anxiety led me to an onslaught of severe depression and dependency on my husband. I felt like the only thing I was good at was faking it. There was rarely a day that went by that I didn’t crawl into a ball in my bedroom and sob uncontrollably from depression. But as soon as I was in front of other people, at work, I could lock it up and put on the best fake smile around, which only made me feel worse.

I developed an extreme identity of self-loathing and was unable to control my emotions. I took every comment personally and blamed myself for everything that happened. About once a week someone would tell me to “eat a cheeseburger” or that I was too skinny, and while I would laugh it off, it left me feeling crushed and insecure that people thought I was ugly. (P.S. If you’re reading this and said this to me, I love you and have no resentment. I have now found confidence in loving myself, but just know that you never know someone’s journey, and shaming someone’s body can be hurtful, even if it is “skinny shaming!”)

I knew things were starting to unravel pretty badly when I started having suicidal thoughts. Often. It got so bad that I had to ask my husband to get the gun out of the house because I really didn’t know what I was capable of when I was in those dark moments. However, rationally and logically, I knew everything. I knew to be positive, and to not say the word “can’t” and all of the most important tools to change these horrific mental habits, but I somehow lacked the ability to convert them into usable feelings and thoughts. And I knew I wasn’t a quitter.

Fast forward to months and months of researching and learning that psychedelics have an unbelievable success rate in curing anxiety, depression, PTSD and other mental struggles when used in the correct setting. I followed people like Amber Lyon and Aubrey Marcus and discovered the medicine, iboga, which is the bark of a root from Africa that has been used medicinally for hundreds, if not thousands of years. I then found a retreat overseas and researched and talked to them for months before booking a psycho-spiritual session with them for January 13-20, 2015.

Iboga is a very spiritual medicine, and from the moment I booked the trip in November, 2014, I knew I made the right decision. And then, from the moment I arrived, I could feel the medicine was working on me. During my stay I did two sessions with iboga, which we call “journeys.” They last about 10 hours each. The results were nothing short of life-saving. From the two journeys I had, I experienced visions that showed me where all of my anxiety, depression, insecurity, and self-loathing stemmed from when I was 9 years old. It showed me that I was beautiful, that I loved myself, and that I had everything I needed to overcome all of my struggles and fears, and that I could do it. It let me take all of the knowledge that I had and finally convert it into usable emotions and thoughts. Iboga is not a magic plant that solves all of your problems, but rather a tool that gives you the insight to conquer your demons. It was by far the toughest week I have ever gone through, but it was the most rewarding, life-changing weeks of my life and I would do it over a million times.

So many of us battle these demons of self-loathing, insecurity, anxiety, and depression, and we bury them deep inside as not to show weakness. I know, I was the best at it. Many people reading this will probably think, “No way — she always seemed so happy.” If anyone reading this wants to hear more about my experience and journey or learn more about iboga, or wants someone to talk to, please, please, please message me. I would love nothing more than to share my experience with you or lend an ear, with absolutely no judgment. If I can inspire just one person to keep going amongst their struggles, or inspire one person to try iboga, or inspire just one person to know they are not alone, that is more than I could ever ask for. Also, for those not suffering, please try to keep in mind that everyone is on their own path in life, doing the best they can, so be kind, and do your best to reserve judgment. What you see on the surface may not be the whole story. One kind comment can give someone the encouragement to keep going, while one hurtful comment can spiral someone’s entire day into depression. It’s happened to me a lot.

Lastly, I want to thank my husband, for all of the support and love he provided me through what was the darkest year of my life, which I know caused him tremendous pain at times as well. I also want to thank the providers at the retreat. You guys literally saved my life, and I will be forever grateful. I consider you all a part of my family, and you will all be forever in my heart. You guys know more about me than some of my closest friends, and I know I will never be able to repay you for what you’ve done for me. Know that I will be thinking of you often.

So, while 2014 was the worst year of my life, I can finally see that you can’t appreciate the good without the bad. I feel as if I’ve been to mental hell and back, and know that 2015 will bring (and already has), strength, love, inner-beauty, and the ability to conquer all challenges that come my way.

For the first time in my life I can say that I am genuinely happy and it feels incredible! I have finally found the meaning of life.


This article has been edited for typos and clarity, and to remove the names of specific people and places.