Amánda Efthimiou Knows the Medicine She Needs
After suffering from anxiety and depression for years, the wellness practitioner had a profound psychedelic experience that set her on a path to healing
Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
Amánda Efthimiou told her story to producer Sarah Vitak for an episode of The Daily Rally podcast. It has been edited for length and clarity.
It was really up and down. I was depressed, one moment, anxious another. I took all kinds of pharmaceutical drugs. Not only are the side effects ranging from nightmares to my libido being super low, but I was feeling really disconnected from my body and the wisdom of my body.
I’m in Tijuca National Park in the jungle of Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil. I grew up in New York, the United States, to Brazilian and Greek parents, and I have very strong ties to Brazil. I am a psychedelic wellness advocate and integration educator. I help people to integrate transformational experiences that they have in altered states into their daily lives.
Growing up, I was a walking pharmacy, so to speak. I took SSRIs, anti-anxiety pills, sleeping pills, to help with and manage the symptoms of depression and anxiety that I had.
I was suffering for many years, and I was also quite young. I was finishing high school, going through my university years, and still navigating what I wanted to be in the world and who I wanted to be in the world. I was also taking a bunch of pills, and I wasn’t in my body in that process. That was very difficult.
For example, I remember in my freshman year of University I had a boyfriend. We were in this love bubble, but I was so out of it. I feel like I almost don’t even remember the details of my relationship. The medication numbed the highs and lows of a human experience of love.
And so there was this moment when I was finishing college, and I was about to go traveling, and I was like, I want to be fully present when I’m traveling. I want to be fully immersed. I’m already on the path of weaning myself off of antidepressants. I’ve been working with a psychiatrist to do so. It’s not that I just decided to go cold turkey.
So I went traveling, and I basically went overland, starting in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, in Argentina, all the way up to Quito, in Ecuador. And I did most of that overland, over a period of eight months. It was incredible. There’s so many different topographies—there’s desert, there’s mountains, there’s beach, there’s salt deserts, there’s jungle.
I see other cultures and how they take care of themselves. I’m seeing how these cultures are working with plant-based medicines, natural medicines to help themselves, even if they’re feeling pain or if they get stung by a mosquito. They’re working with plants to help them get well. And so I was really curious about that. How come we don’t do that where I grew up in New York?
In Peru I heard about psychedelic wellness for the first time, and I knew at that time I wasn’t ready, but that trip changed my life. It opened up my whole world.
I went back to the US, and I met this incredible community of people that were doing things differently. They have an alternative way of living. They were always talking about how they were feeling, and that’s what I wanted to be more in touch with. Not be in my head and not push aside the uncomfortable things that were coming up, and actually embrace them and make them part of me, so that I would grow and become wiser and better.
So when they expressed that they work with plant-based medicines, psychedelic, non-psychedelic, all forms of plant-based medicines, I wanted to try it. I was super scared. I was so nervous. But, even though I was nervous, I was ready. And I had no idea what was going to happen.
I had a profound ceremonial experience that essentially opened the door.
It wasn’t easy, not in the beginning. It was these cyclical moments where I was in my body and not in my body, but when I was not in my body, I was observing myself. I was observing all the things that were happening in my life. So there were a lot of conversations with myself, but in different ways so that I had all these different perspectives. And it’s also conversations with nature, with animals and plants that exist within you, because you are nature, nature is you. So there’s also this very deep, profound sense of unification of one with the world and the environment.
I was having a conversation with myself outside of my body, and then I would come right back into my body. And so when I came back, I came with all these tools and tricks and ideas to help arm me to become more myself. It gave me even more confidence in my body. It was this affirmation of the sacredness of my being in this world, like I am meant to be in this world. My body exists here now. Many people have this when they’re actually in near death experiences, but we don’t have to go there. It’s such a gentle, beautiful way to do that.
When I entered, I thought, It’s gonna be cause and effect. I’m gonna do this experience and I’m gonna get well. But what it really did was start me on that path, because this by no means a cure, but it showed me the rest of the paths that I didn’t even know were there.
Only months later did I realize that that moment is what increased my capacity to feel more. I was starting to feel everything, all the emotions, all the sensations. It was like a rocket ship to transformation. It showed me that I really had what it takes to uncover the root causes of my issues, and not just take a pill to treat symptoms.
Trust yourself. Take a moment to close your eyes and breathe, and just feel you for a bit in silence. What, who are you? What do you feel like? What does your body feel like? For many of us, we can’t even access that.
So if anyone wants to even try something like this, just start with a deep trusting of your own body and coming into it. And then when you go and you work with plants then it’s deeper. It’s much deeper.
Amánda Efthimiou is the founder of Integra, which designs programs for hospitality retreat centers and wellness facilitators focusing on altered states and transformational experiences. She also serves as a director at El Puente Foundation, which bridges Indigenous wisdom within modern psychedelic applications.