Since my twelfth I've been battling with frequent severe migraines. These are not 'just' normal headaches. I call them "visits of the beast" - because of the monstrous stabbing pain that makes me nauseous and sensitive to light and sound. All I can do is lie down in a dark room, cry for relief and hope it will pass soon.

I’ve tried almost everything: from a neurologist, physiotherapist, chiropractor and chinese medicine to reading books, following diets, watching documenteries and getting help from healers. But the beast keeps coming back monthly, weekly or sometimes even daily.

Now, I have been told that hidden emotions might be causing my migraines. And finding out where these emotions come from, might make the recurring phases of pain go away. My triggerpoint therapist asks me if I’ve ever heard of Ayahuasca. Oddly enough this term was new to me only 3 months back, but has come my way several times lately.

Ayahuasca, meaning the garland of the soul, is a hallucinogenic tea originating from the Amazon, where it is used as a healing medicine during spiritual rituals. Users can see and experience intense visions released by the subconscious: old emotions, trauma, and troubling behavioral patterns can emerge.

It seems a bit extreme, but I am desperate to find the cause of my migraines. Ayahuasca could be the solution so I do not doubt and sign up for a session.



It already began three days before the ceremony. A nagging headache. The doubt. The fear. It came so far that I picked up the phone, willing to cancel the whole thing. But they told me not to. Cause “Mother Ayahuasca is playing with you already. This is your body preparing for what is coming. You are not the only one..

For the past two weeks I was not allowed to take any medicine when I felt a migraine attack coming. The combination with MAO inhibitors would be dangerous so I had to resist the urge for a pain reliever. Other adviced preparations include 3 days of sexual abstinence and avoiding all tyramine containing foods (alcohol, cheese, processed meats and fish).



Fortunately, there is no need to travel all the way to the Amazon rainforests. Our ceremony location is found somewhere in a residential area in the Netherlands.

It is the middle of the day as I enter a dark but attractively illuminated room filled with 15 mattresses, each accompanied by a bottle of water and puke bucket.

I’m not surprised. The nickname of this drink is ‘la purga’ because people often throw up during the intoxication.

First, we share our intentions for being here and immediately after we receive a shot of DMT. A bitter tasting tea, quickly followed by a mint or mandarin to cover the bad taste. Then another shot with the vine of the pendulum plant that makes sure the DMT can reach the brain and do its work.

Now it’s time to lie down and wait. Only 15 minutes till you will start noticing the effects they say. I try to make myself comfortable and pretend to myself that I’m not at all nervous, while listening to my rapid heartbeat.

Ayahuasca, soul searching in pain - by zilla


Complete chaos. I am no longer present but somewhere lost in my mind. Thoughts shoot back and forth so fast that I cannot focus on any of them. Every time I realize that “something” is going on with me, I already fly in a different direction and don’t even have the time to think things through. I have no sense of my body but am aware that I’m in an altered state, which makes me restless and already longing for this trip to be over.


I feel something tickling on my cheek and reach to it. Suddenly I am back in the room and notice a tear slowly sliding down my face. To my surprise, my eyes are filled with more of them. I cry but do not understand why. In fact, I do not even feel the emotion. I’m just crying. And that’s fine. Letting go, although I don’t know what.

“Why the tears?” I ask myself as I check out several options that might upset me. But none of them does anything with my feelings. It is as if my emotions have temporarily shut down. It feels peaceful, so I do not even try to fight the tears. I just sit there, crying and crying. With a little smile on my face because I realize what kind of a weird situation this is.

In the meantime, I watch my neighbor making crazy gestures and waving her arms in the air as she blurts out small sounds of happiness.


I’m sweating and my head is thumping. I am incredibly thirsty and would like to drink, but for some reason, I cannot raise my hands to get hold of the bottle next to my bed. I am conducting an internal battle:

Take that bottle, you need it. Do it, come on!
Why can others get up and move? Zilla, get over it!

I also have to go to the toilet, but standing up seems like an impossible task. So now I’m even more in doubt about the water. What if I drink too much and my bladder will burst?

Afterwards, when I tell my friends about the struggles, one of them points out this could be a wise lesson to myself. That I should better listen to my body; not reason with my gut feelings, but act on them. It might have something to do with the unprocessed emotional worries, doubt or indecisions causing my migraine. Or maybe I am just searching too hard for explanations.

Ayahuasca, soul searching in pain - by zilla


Suddenly I shoot up and grab my bucket. My body has had enough of it and throws out the ayahuasca. From what I’ve read online, this is considered a ‘spiritual cleansing’ that removes all negative states. I stare into the bucket to see if I can find any fear, anger or sadness inside.

The bottom seems to move deeper and deeper into an infinite spiral of nothingness. Holy-freaking-shit! Did I really see that?

The vision only lasts seconds and the bucket swiftly transforms back to normal. I am glad I didn’t feel the urge to put my arm in it to test the depth! Strangely enough, I do not mind the puking. We did not eat 3 hours before the ceremony started and now I understand why, only water comes out.

Evert, my boyfriend who lies on the matras next to me, leans over and starts talking. But I do not understand the words that come out of his mouth; as if he speaks a strange language. I know he is worried so I press a smile out to show him I’m ok. He puts his hand next to mine and I understand the gesture to grab his hand. This sends an electric pulse from my fingers to my toes. From that moment on I feel safe. He is with me and nothing can happen to me anymore. Our hands are intertwined and our fingers start to play.

The sensation of touch is so all-consuming that I forget everything around me. It’s just me and him. And that other hand..

Wait, what? I open my eyes and inspect the situation but there is only two of them. As soon as I close them again though, I am sure there is a third hand involved in our game. I know it sounds weird, but I was so in peace that I just accepted it and continued to stroke the two hands.

Ayahuasca, soul searching in pain - by zilla


The pain in my head takes over and that is all that I can think of now. My pillow feels like a rock and I cannot find a comfortable position.

Someone starts playing a guitar. It is the most wonderful sound I’ve ever heard. Even though the music kind of hurts my head, it also has a reassuring effect on me; this pain will pass. At the beginning of the session, they told us that it is not possible to get stuck in an ayahuasca trip so I hold on to that piece of information and keep repeating it in my head while the melody of the guitar synchronizes with the pulses in my head.

The average ayahuasca trip lasts between 2 and 6 hours. But this phase seems to last forever to me. I keep searching for answers about the cause of my pain but the headache has reached a level that I cannot ignore anymore. It distracts me from finding answers. There is just pain and nothing but pain.

One of the supervisors asks what is going on. I stammer something about my headache and he asks if I have drunk enough water. Yes, I say, and I proudly show my bottle. But that is far from empty. Of course, I wanted to drink but I couldn’t. “Just wait,” he says and he walks away. When he comes back he has a cup of tea with him. Normal tea this time, to re-hydrate and calm down.

I completely lost track of time. But meanwhile, most people are already asleep so it must be night. I just sit there in silence whilst trying to figure out why my head won’t let me sleep.

Ayahuasca, soul searching in pain - by zilla


During the round of “sharing experiences”, I get to hear the stories about other people’s revelations and beautiful journeys. Which is devastating to me. I wish I had an interesting insight to tell but all I can come up with is a mix of jealousy and self-pity.

By the time it is my turn, the only words I can bring out is that “there was only a terrible headache. It’s still there and I’m afraid it won’t go away anymore…” after which I burst into tears.

Everyone is quiet. Evert takes my hand and starts talking. He understands my frustration. Explains that I had hoped for a solution for the migraines, but got treated with one instead.

I want to run from the circle of compassionate looks. But again, I am frozen to my seat. They tell me it is uncommon but does sometimes happen that one first has to go deeper to be able to get out. I get offered a free second round of Ayahuasca because the supervisor is sure it would help me and doesn’t want money to be a barrier. “Thanks, but no – never again” is my answer. He then assures me that he would have been rich if he had gotten money for all the times’ someone said the same, yet did come back later.

I realize how safe and well-taken care off I feel. That all this could have been very frightening if I hadn’t had fully trusted the people leading this ceremony. When it is time to say goodbye I get lots of hugs. Not the type you would give to someone you don’t know. These are real heartfelt and emotionally charged hugs with positive vibes.

Ayahuasca, soul searching in pain - by zilla


Significant parts of what I described above only came up in the days and weeks after the Ayahuasca session. So I’m slowly starting to realize that I might have gone through more than just pain. That the headache was just the only thing that stuck in my mind right after, but unconsciously I did process things.

Although I cannot really say I learned a valuable lesson like some others, I do feel like this was an important step in the process of becoming migraine free.

I suffered through the day, but I was brave enough to fight the beast. And just that feeling of taking back control – even in a failed attempt – makes this journey worthwhile to me.

If you are considering to take an Ayahuasca ceremony, know that things can go differently from what you expect or hope for. But seeing others go through this and coming out relieved, awakened or joyful, made me believe Ayahuasca can definitely help to break free from deeply rooted difficulties.

It is just not for everyone. You need to be ready for it and strong enough to face your own demons. Looking back, I myself wasn’t ready yet..

But I am not done battling.