My story begins with a horrific childhood, what can only be described as a series of unfortunate events.
I was born in September, but was very ill and stayed in the hospital until December - I came home for my first Christmas. I may have had a viral infection - my sister says I was having "digestive issues." This was the 1950's, so babies were isolated in cribs and allowed to cry. I suspect that while my mother visited me often during that time, she had two other young children to care for at home, so I probably was not held much during those first few months.
My mother had multiple sclerosis and became quite ill by the time I was about four. Family friends have told me their memories of that time, saying that I was often left with dirty diapers and screaming for attention. I was shy, hid from everyone quite a lot, or clutched onto my mother's skirt in desperation. I do not fault her at all - this was at a time when there was no day care for kids. She was ill and struggled caring for her three children. She had to be placed in a nursing home, and I was not allowed into the nursing home to see her. My father would leave us kids in the car while he would go visit my mother. This went on for a couple of years (?). My mother passed away when I was about 6, so I have only shadow memories of her.
My father brought in a housekeeper to feed us kids. She wasn't a mom substitute, but she at least made sure we were fed and clothed. My grandfather lived in an apartment attached to the house - he was the only grandparent who was still alive when I was born. He and I were very close. I was extremely bonded to my grandfather, much more than I was to my father.
My father worked long hours as an architect in Chicago. I have few memories of him, mostly greeting him at the door when he came home from work, and by then it was bedtime for me. My father dated a woman who lived in our neighborhood, and after a year or so, they were married. Unfortunately, on their way back from their honeymoon, my father became ill, went to the hospital and was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer - he died soon after. I had just turned 10. So, there I was with a new stepmother who I didn't know and who, quite frankly, hated me from the first moment of our new lives together. Shortly after this life changing event, my grandfather fell down, hit his head and died from an aneurysm. I was the one who found him.
After a couple of years of living in hell with my stepmother and stepbrother, both of whom used me as a punching bag (physically and emotionally), my stepmother decided one day that she didn't need me around anymore, so she gave me one bag to pack, took me to the train station in downtown Chicago, bought me a one way ticket to Minneapolis, handed me the ticket and walked away. I was 12 going on 13. My brother and sister were allowed to remain in the house in Chicago. She called my Aunt in Minneapolis and told her to to pick me up at the train station (my Aunt and Uncle had not agreed to take me in). I spent high school with my Aunt and Uncle, and while I was given food and shelter, it was quite clear I wasn't welcome. My Uncle molested me, and my Aunt was less than diligent in protecting me from him.
At 17, I was declared legally independent. From that point on, I was completely on my own. My stepmother inherited all of my father's things, my Aunt inherited all of my grandfather's things, so I started with nothing. No family, no material possessions, nothing. In college, I was drugged and raped by the head of my dorm during freshman year. Still, I endured.
I am explaining this as a background to my extreme (and quite understandable) depression. I suffered from PTSD, and from the age of 13 to age 30, I was wishing/hoping to die. I suffered from ongoing migraines that varied from stomach-churning painful to flat-out neurologically debilitating episodes. I managed to get through college and two post-graduate programs, but I was miserable every minute of every day. I had endless fantasies of being hit by a car, etc. I didn't want to kill myself, but I didn't want to live.
One day, at age 30, I heard a voice in my head. It's time to die. So, I mentally prepared myself to die. I was ready. I didn't know how I was going to do it, but I was going to die. I was drawing artwork of my emotions, I was reading spiritually inspiring work (Joseph Campbell and others), and I was spending quiet time reflecting/meditating on my situation. As I quietly sat, pondering the depth of the black hole in the pit of my stomach, feeling profound separateness from anyone and everyone else, and really focusing on how trapped I felt in that bottomless pit...I suddenly died. I let my soul go. I released my soul in an explosion of emotion. I traveled outward, out of my body, out into space, out to the deepest darkest part of space. I could see pinpoints of light (stars) in the distance, but I was in a safe, warm embrace, filled with complete knowledge, total joy/ecstasy. I was at one with everything. I was consciousness itself, back to my home. My soul and everyone's soul was one. We are God, all of us. All knowing, all seeing. I had gone from profound separateness to profound inclusiveness in an instant. I suddenly understood that old saying that life is but a dream. That deep space blackness was the real world; this human world is just a dreamlike state of being. Yes, we are all dreamers in the same dream.
I spent two days in that state of floating in space. I was also here on planet earth, functioning as a human does. I remember grocery shopping but still being out there in space. I remember drawing my artwork and listening to Peter Gabriel's album "Us" while still being out there, floating in space. I remember driving, but I was still floating in space. I called in sick for work so I could focus on what was happening to me. I was two souls, but only one was in a real world.
After two days, I felt the need to decide whether I should stay on the other side or return to my life in this human dreamworld. From the time I was young, I felt that my purpose in this earthly realm was to inspire/help others achieve their own dreams. Somebody that I inspire was supposed to do something very important to the betterment of all souls, perhaps a work of art or a scientific discovery? I also felt that the reason my life story had no family bonding/love was so I wasn't contaminated with preconceived ideals about what "normal" should look like. My path was meant to allow me to have a very different viewpoint from other people. In this way, I could bond with consciousness/all souls (well, we are all consciousness) rather than individual humans.
So, I decided to come back into my body so I could continue my work. My two souls were reunited and I have never had a moment of true depression since that time. My migraines went away (for the most part), and the people around me were stunned at the change they saw in me. I think they could feel my appreciation and gratitude for everything around me - well, maybe they saw a person who didn't suffer from migraines any more. I only told a couple of people about my experience, my then fiance and my therapist. I have told very few people my story, and only those I think have an open mind.
Although I am a scientist, I leave an open mind about the true nature of soul/consciousness. There is no scientific explanation. It's a profound knowingness that cannot be expressed in words. Of course, the scientist in me knows that my brain must have released a megadose of serotonin during my awakening, but does that mean my soul didn't leave my body? Or was that release of serotonin a kick from my soul as it left my body? Is the physical just a manifestation of the soul's desire?
There are so many questions, but one thing I know for certain, God (consciousness) has an insatiable appetite for adventure. I'm just one tiny fragment of that adventure, but it's an adventure worth carrying out until its natural completion.