An Open Letter to Colin Garland

Hi Colin Garland,

You were right. You were right when you told me ten years ago that I should be very careful who I shared our experience with. That friends and family would probably not understand what we were doing. That they would judge me and it could really get us into trouble because no matter how I explained it, they just wouldn't understand. Well, you were so right, that I never told anyone. I tried a few times throughout the years to touch lightly on that time at the "Healing Center" with trusted friends and even family. And to your validation, they would instantly become concerned and fearful, and ask prying questions into the details of my experience. I felt attacked and scared and would change the subject, falling deeper and deeper into silence. You were so right, Colin, that eventually, I even stopped telling myself about that time. You see, I was 19 when we spent a summer at the healing center, those blips of memories, started to feel bad, dark and cloudy. Rather than reflecting on that time with positivity, it became riddled with problems and pain. Luckily, there is something the brain does to help people cope with tough times. Abusive times. And my brain did it for me.
This will probably surprise you, but I am 29 years old now, Colin. I’m an adult. I am in a supportive and healthy relationship. You and I shared so much when I was 19. Doesn’t it make you happy to know that I'm doing well now?
Well, I will remind you that I wasn’t doing great at 17. In fact, I was a total teenage mess. And after I attended your trip to Costa Rica through Global Classroom (Site was taken offline a week after publishing this website), we stayed in touch via email. You were an adult who had won my trust. You were fun, mysterious, you listened to me and even wanted to stay in touch after the trip. I don’t think I had ever gotten so much attention, especially not from a male. You were also more than twice my age. We emailed for about a year, extensively. Remember writing to me almost every day? I was in Vermont, attending my first year of college. I would tell you issues I was having, insecurities, etc… and you took the time to write me long, oftentimes multi-page responses. You could fix me, you were a shaman.
Are you still a ‘shaman,’ Colin?
I’ve finally found the right word to express what that year long email correspondence was. Are you familiar with the word ‘grooming’? It’s easy enough to google. Unfortunately, I am very familiar with that word, that concept, and I have you to thank for it. By the end of my first year in college, you not only had my trust, but you had carefully, oh so carefully and deliberately, brainwashed and manipulated me. You had filled my head with tales from your travels, your spiritual conquests and above all, your ability to help me, if I would be bold, courageous and trust you. You told me you saw me in your ‘vision quests and meditations,’ that you had been visited by my ancestors and knew I came from a long line of powerful women. And now it was my turn to step into my power. But there was a catch - you see, you held all keys to the doors I needed to unlock. You had studied with indigenous tribes across the world. I lived in Hubbardston, MA and barely knew who I was. I just needed you in order to step into my power as a woman. You would teach me the ways of ‘the old, the ancient. the magical, the forgotten.’ Interesting that I needed a man to become a powerful woman. Do you remember this, Colin? Because, at 28, I started remembering this too.
Isn’t it strange that the summer at the healing center, studying under you, was one of the most healing times of my life? Wait, why would that be strange you ask? Well, ask 20 year old Laura, and she would tell you that it had changed her life for the better. But she couldn't tell you any details because she was scared people might not understand. Ask 23 year old Laura and she wouldn’t really know what to say, even if she could. Ask 26 year old Laura and she might say “I learned how to meditate and stayed in a cool multi-million dollar healing center for a summer.” What is strange is that I had eventually forgotten one of the most pivotal experiences of my life? Well Colin, here is another term I am intimately familiar with: repression. Have you heard of it? A person does not simply ‘forget’ big moments in their life. However, a person does, usually unconsciously, repress big moments in their life. We repress them because they are too painful and abusive to process, not because they are happy and healthy. But like a thorn in your god damn skin, those repressed memories work their way out when you are ready and safe enough to confront them.
Ask 27 year old Laura about how old she was that summer and she would tell you she was 25. Ask 29 year old Laura, wait… thats me now! Well, I will tell you everything. With a little bit of digging, I found out that I was actually 19 during that summer. That made me 17 when you and I were routinely emailing. This was shocking, because that was over 10 years ago. How was I so off? You’d think I’d remember how old I was.
Well I should back up. 28 year old me started to get flashes of that summer. Like a dark room and someone flickers the lights. One flicker was of a dark basement room. One tiny window for light. But there wasn’t much light coming in because it was nighttime. In fact - ‘it’ always happened at night because, the staff left every night and we had the healing center to ourselves. You were on top of me, and I was floating in the top corner of the room, watching my body, and your body on the bed. I didn’t feel anything, I just watched.
Well, Colin…here is another term I am dreadfully familiar with now. It’s called dissociation. Again, this is all very googleable. You encouraged me to dissociate, you praised me every time I “left my body.” You told me that it was a sign that I would soon be shapeshifting and coming more into my power as a spiritual woman. Unfortunately, I wasn’t a woman (I was a girl) and I wasn’t gaining spiritual enlightenment through your ‘sacred sexual ceremonies’ (I was dissociating, and got real good at it due to the frequencies of these ‘ceremonies’). Colin, you promised you would help me! I trusted you. My family trusted you. I remember you telling me that ceremonious sex wasn’t about love or attraction, it was about healing. Good thing! Because I was never attracted to you, which made the sex absolutely terrifying and repulsive. But you encouraged me, praised me, told me I was becoming so strong. I was in so far over my head at this point, how could I stop now?
Well that blip of a memory faded pretty quickly, which was okay with me because it was overwhelmingly awful.
But they just kept coming. One, after the next, after the next. These repressed memories flooded into my consciousness, and finally…like 10 years later finally, I couldn’t repress them any longer. Are you familiar with panic attacks? Well at the ripe age of 29, I had never had one. In fact, I had a rather emotionally numb 20’s which I’ve since learned isn’t a good thing. But these damn repressed memories were uncontrollable. I attended a play last summer called The King and I. I didn’t make it more than 20 minutes because this old man was on stage surrounded by his many subservient wives and children and suddenly I couldn't breathe. I couldn't move. Luckily my sister and friend escorted me out of the theater, where I collapsed on the grass, and gasped for air and choked on my violent sobs. Well how is that even related to that summer with you? A story of a man, in control of his women. It’s called a trigger, which leads to a flashback. I always thought a flashback was for trauma victims. So it took me a few more months to truly realize that 17, 19, 23, 26, 28 and 29 year old Laura - well, we were all victims.
Last summer was one of the hardest. During the early stages of coming to terms with just how abusive my time with you was, I couldn't even look at men. I was beyond terrified of them. One day, I went to the grocery store and a man walked by my car. Suddenly I was paralyzed and couldn’t get out of the car. I literally had to call my sister and thankfully she was able to talk me down, bring me back to reality, remind me that you were far away and that I was safe. I turned the car on, drove home and spent the next couple of months never going into public without my boyfriend or best friend by my side.
Recalling a repressed memory is quite different than recalling something you have forgotten. It doesn’t seem real, it’s so hard to believe. Especially because I thought that I was being helped, that I was healing, that I was becoming strong. But as these memories flooded my consciousness, as my tale slowly and painfully came out of silence, I was left feeling taken advantage of, tricked, brainwashed, manipulated, demoralized, scared, ashamed, sad, helpless. Talk about flipping the script. My brain and I tried for 10 long, hard years to justify, deny and repress that time with you. Even the smallest inkling that that time was somehow bad, was straight terrifying. I remember you telling me that there would come a time in my life where I would question our ceremonies at the healing center. That my brain would try and ‘make sense’ of everything, and you encouraged me not to try and rationalize the magic we had experienced, that the ‘rational' brain could not understand our ceremonies.
However, you see Colin, the awful thing about grooming, manipulating, brainwashing and excuse my bluntness, but
repeatedly raping a girl who is dissociated,
is that she will remember someday. She will remember when she is a woman, mature enough to understand what she couldn’t when she was 19.
The fact that you are currently leading trips through Raven Adventures (this site was also taken down but has since but put back up) is rather unsettling. Groups of teenagers attend these trips, oftentimes in remote areas where you can be extremely influential on them. If I had never been on one of your trips, where we established our first strong base of trust, I doubt I would be confronting you now. In my opinion, you should not be trying to heal anyone. Stop trying to use sex to heal people, especially teenagers. If you were such a healer, such a shaman, why have I been seeing a therapist for the last 5 months, (a real therapist) undergoing EMDR therapy for my flashbacks and having to rewire how I view sex, love, relationships and trust?
When you lured me into a summer of healing in that awful basement bedroom, I was in need of a hug, some advice, maybe a hiking partner who could help me understand that I was a good, lovable and beautiful person. Instead, you sexually, spiritually and emotionally abused me in ways that are too dark to divulge the details of. However, there is beauty in this world, and there is a silver lining.
I thought I was a healthy woman this last decade. But it was false. The dissociation didn’t stop when that summer ended. And since I have been dealing with the abuse from that summer for the last year and a half, I am feeling, for the first time, that I am strong, beautiful, and in control of my life. Isn’t it just a little bit ironic, that in order to heal and understand who I have been for the last decade, I had to confront the abuse I fell victim to at a healing center under your guidance?
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