In Thoughtfully Mag Issue 5, our “letting go” issue, author and blogger Tara Mackey shares with us about creating an identity of wellness from her new book Cured by Nature. Here, I sit down with her to take a closer look into how she came to focus on her health and find her inner power.
Thoughtfully: Tell us a little about you and your wellness journey.
Tara Mackey: To begin, I was born on drugs. I spent my first two weeks on earth in rehab. My mother drank and did hard drugs while she was pregnant with me, and by the time I was six years old I had seen her overdose one too many times. My grandparents ended up getting custody and raising me at the age of seven, which involved going to court and testifying against my mom at the ripe age of six.
By the time I was 13 years old, I was prescribed my first medication: a heavy duty mood stabilizer called lithium. At 16, another diagnosis followed, along with more drugs. By college, I didn’t need any outside escape: My escape was prescription medications, and I didn’t need an excuse to get them, either. I was told I NEEDED these drugs, and they all had my name on them. From pain killers to muscle relaxers, anti-anxiety meds, to anti-depressants, heavy opiates and birth control: you name it, I’ve probably taken it.
By the age of 24, I was on 14 different kinds of prescription drugs, most of which I was instructed by my doctors to take every day. I was a zombie. I could barely concentrate, was always messing up at work, had the most vicious, toxic people in my life and was constantly dealing with the debilitating side effects of the meds. I was always going to the hospital after experiencing strange symptoms like kidney infections, unexplained migraine headaches and sometimes even blackouts (without touching a drop of alcohol.) Life looked like it was going to be an unhealthy, uphill battle.
Just five years ago, my life looked a lot different than it does today. A typical weekday would have found me awake around dawn, scrambling to find clean work clothes and make one of six or seven dozen buses, trains and subways to work at a laboratory. I was popping (prescribed) pills all day, every day and faced with a daunting and depressing New York City lifestyle. I had a corporate and scientific resume – neither of which reflected my dearest dreams or goals. I was barely eating, hardly sleeping and I was desperately addicted to my drugs to solve pain, problems and my personality.
I experienced a series of tragic events, including a physically abusive relationship, the suicide of one of my best friends as well as my own failed suicide attempt. I realized at that point that I didn’t want to die. In fact, for the first time ever, I wanted to truly live.
A few months before my 25th birthday, I came off over a dozen pharmaceutical drugs—cold turkey. I do NOT recommend this to anyone. I suffered incredible withdrawal symptoms equivalent of what I’d seen my mom go through coming off heroin. But within weeks, I started treating myself lovingly, with respect, and living my dearest dreams. I broke up with my abusive boyfriend for good and in fact, I broke up with the idea of accepting ANY kind of toxic relationship into my life. Prescription drugs were possibly my most toxic relationship.
I moved across the country to California and started meditating daily, educating myself on health, eating whole foods, treating myself naturally, composting, taking supplements and herbs, reading empowering books and gardening. Within mere weeks, I was looking at a completely different person and she was living a completely different life.
When I first came cold turkey off my drugs, I was NOT trying to stay off them forever. Just a few short years later, at 29, I am teaching about natural wellness and I love it. I cannot picture a scenario where I’d EVER go back to relying on a pharmaceutical drug for my emotions, focus, pain or anxiety. I’ve learned so much and I feel amazing. I am the healthiest and happiest I’ve ever been and my work makes me super excited to get up in the morning. I am living in my dream home in my dream city with my dream job, engaged to my perfect partner, after less than five year of listening to my heart and soul. I’m very passionate about sharing what’s truly possible for others, no matter what they’re going through!
What inspired you to write your new book Cured by Nature?
I’m incredibly lucky to have been found by my publishing company, Skyhorse (formerly Lyons) through my blog, The Organic Life. They reached out to me, asked if I’d be interested in telling my story and gave me a three month (that’s 12 week) deadline for the manuscript of Cured by Nature. If that alone is not a testament to what mind-work can get you, I don’t know what is. I said yes, of course! I’d always dreamed of writing a book!
I had the unprecedented fortune of working on my book WITH my publishing company instead of for them, which was super helpful and unique. My editor was amazingly supportive and encouraging, so I hunkered down and wrote the manuscript in three months time, and then we spent a year editing it. I knew what this could be, if we really did it right.
In Cured by Nature, I’ve presented an incredible resource for people just beginning in their healing journey, as well as a lot of insight for people who are further in. I really did my homework and I was totally honest about my story. There are a lot of never-before-published stats and scientific studies included – ranging from the benefits of natural healing to the alarming rate of pharmaceutical drug use in this country. Combined with my personal journey, I think it’s a true eye opener of what human beings can accomplish with a little hope and determination. I really believe that everyone is truly perfect and can be healed. I think that comes across in my work.
If I can do it, you definitely can. Find out why you’re really here. And if you have a message, don’t die with your story still in you.
What did you learn about yourself in the process of Cured by Nature?
I learned a lot about honesty and my personal strength. There is a lot of therapy in telling your story. Before I began, only a handful of people in my life knew what I went through as a child or about the time that I was coming off my drugs. Now, strangers come up to me or write to me after reading Cured by Nature and instantly we feel a bond, because they know it all. It’s incredibly liberating to have people love and accept you for who you are and what you’ve been through—both good and bad.
I realized at a certain point that writing the book was becoming an incredible therapy for me, and I just hoped every day during the writing process that it would turn out to be the important resource for other people that it was becoming to me. It truly has done the same for others, which has been the thing I’m most proud of. At this point, we have testimonials from readers that Cured by Nature has saved lives.
It may sound silly, but I always say that I wish I had Cured by Nature during my personal wellness journey. I would have felt way less lost and alone.
How did you find your own inner power and how do you maintain it?
Mind-strengthening techniques are the basis for the book and truly, for my life. They’ve played a huge hand in my identity, health, personal successes and in opportunities that have come my way. There is an art to manifesting and maintaining your health, improving your body and achieving all of your goals and dreams. I believe it starts with meditation. Give yourself the time to figure out what you really want and why you’re here.
I also think it’s really important to stand guard at the door of your own mind. For instance, notice what you are letting into your thought patterns and why. Notice who you’ve allowed to shape your life. Was it you, or have other people taken control of how you feel and what you believe? Who are you doing thing for?
For years I thought I was completely helpless to my own body, thoughts and emotions. I was—or wasn’t—doing things strictly for other people. I thought another person or a pill was there to solve my problems or carve my path. Truthfully, my problems never got solved and my path never became clear until I took control. No one else is going to do it for you. No one can.
Sometimes it seems easier to give our power away. But in reality, we’re squandering one of the greatest gifts we have: to live as our true selves.
Meditation combined with a daily connection with nature and wellness-centered meals are really, truly what’s done it for me. I pay attention to where my focus goes and what I’m using to fuel my body and my mind. I share many of these techniques in the book.
What have you let go of that has allowed you to bloom?
I’ve completely let go of other peoples’ opinions of me, and I’ve stopped letting them influence my actions. I’ve also stopped defending myself.
I know it may sound hard to do, but I think of it this way: That is not where I want my energy and focus to go. People’s opinions can—and will—change. Trying to fit them or please everyone is just like chasing your own tail. At the end, you’ll be exhausted, confused and no better off.
Once I dropped the idea that I needed anyone else’s opinions to form what I was capable of, this opened up a lot of doors in my life. I have a HUGE imagination, and by cutting out any focus on the negative, I have left myself a lot of time for self- improvement, learning and growth. I can cultivate the places where there is love in my life, instead of trying to weed out the places where there is negativity.
This is where all your important personal shifts and changes happen, so I’m really grateful I learned this pretty early in my journey.
Make sure you surround yourself with people who ask you, “Who are you becoming?” instead of focusing on who you were yesterday or last year. These people will show you—and attract for you—what’s truly meaningful.
Where do you go for your wellness inspiration?
Nature is my go-to! I am lucky enough to live in Southern California now, after 25 years in New York City. I will always love New York, but the expansiveness of California is unmatched. I can go skiing, hiking or to the beach—all in the same day. I absolutely love my little surf town in sunny San Diego, where I often hike Torrey Pines or do a run or meditation session by the ocean. I actually wrote all of Cured by Nature on Swami’s beach by Yogananda’s Self Realization meditation gardens, so I definitely head to the sea to collect and organize my deepest thoughts and feelings.
Just ten minutes of sunshine a day can have a huge impact on your well-being, mood and mental clarity, so I try to get 10 minutes to an hour outside a day at minimum! My favorite activities are hiking with my rescue pup Raelie, riding my bike down the shoreline with my fiancé or doing yoga on the beach.
How do you live thoughtfully?
I live thoughtfully by honoring my message, my thoughts, feeling and connection with nature—in relation to others. I try to stay conscious of the impact I am having on the world, and focus on the constant improvement of my values. Whatever nourishes my soul and helps humanity.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Be Happy. Stay Weird. Live Well! Thank you, Thoughtfully—for all you do!
Photography by Tara Mackey