For the better part of a decade, the pain had taken virtually every aspect of my life hostage. After years of unsuccessful treatments and therapies, my condition had been classified a “permanent disability” by the doctor in charge of my Worker’s Compensation case, crushing my hopes for recovery. From such a dejected space of perpetual pain and suffering that had no end in sight, life no longer seemed worth living.
Yet to my friends, Facebook followers and even members of my inner circle and family, I appeared to be living the life of some charmed, West Coast corporate rockstar. Though my pain may not have been visible to the naked (or even the well-trained) eye, that made it no less real or excruciating for me to cope with.
From a hard-hitting rock bottom that was soon to throw my entire life’s trajectory into question, a more intuitive, authentic and hopeful approach to being began to emerge. Through trial and error, I would soon discover an entirely new metrics for discerning personal truth and navigating reality — according to the longings of my own heart and soul (instead of following the corrupted desires of a systematically manipulated, fearful, stress-ridden and overwhelmed mind).
Unbeknownst to me, it was in that space of a complete paradigm reboot that the Living BETA platform would be conceived.
Otherwise described as a quantum leap or a life-altering trigger-point, renowned author and spiritual intellectual Eckhart Tolle describes the “dark night of the soul” as a detrimental period marked by “a collapse of perceived meaning in life.” Often triggered by external conflict and personal crisis followed by a period of extreme inner turmoil, overwhelm and confusion — these low, difficult periods in life resemble “what is conventionally called depression,” according to Tolle.
“Nothing makes sense anymore, there’s no purpose to anything… The meaning that you had given to your activities, your achievements, where you are going, what is considered important, and your life for some reason collapses… [usually because of] some disaster which seems to invalidate the meaning that your life had before. What has collapsed is the whole conceptual framework for your life, the meaning your mind had given it.
There is a possibility that you emerge out of that into a transformed state of consciousness… awaken into something deeper, a deeper sense of purpose or connectedness with a greater life that is not dependent on explanations or anything conceptual.”
By winter of 2015, my “quantum leap” had been a long time coming. Despite how agonizing my health problems had become, I had been feverishly clinging to my well-admired, San Francisco career-woman status for seven brutalizing years. In my type-A, methodical mind, nothing made sense anymore. Why had my red-hot pursuit of the American Dream resulted in so much pain and suffering? According to society’s unspoken rules, guidelines and expectations, I felt like I’d done things right; even by the book.
So why did everything feel so painfully wrong?
Once a Rust-Belt tomboy with unusually high-reaching goals for the economically-depressed, former coal mining town of my childhood, little Cassie had worked feverishly hard from a young age, determined to prove her naysayers wrong about the kind of future she could create. With the help of student loans and a long list of generous scholarship donors, my adult self surprised her working-class kinfolk by earning two degrees before landing my childhood dream job at Pixar by 25.
I’d racked up six feature film credits with the animation giant before joining a Bay Area design agency where I tackled projects for some of the most influential brands of our time (such as Coca-Cola, Visa, Google, Amazon and Samsung). My designs were displayed in art galleries and published in design books; my work ethic consistently rewarded with generous bonuses and raises. As my career catapulted to new heights, my health crashed and burned.
Making a state of wellness all the more out of reach, I suffered from not only one mysterious chronic pain condition, but two. My junior year in college (not long after loosing my Father and being raped by a serial sex offender on campus), I received the diagnosis for Vulvodynia: a vaginal pain disorder that could make sexual activity, wearing pants or even walking across a room difficult (and sometimes downright impossible). Four years later at 25, I was struck down by my first brutalizing flare-up of Repetitive Strain Injury (on the exact same day I graduated from intern to full-time employee at Pixar). RSI is considered to be a “work-related injury” that’s defined by inexplicable myofascial pain throughout the upper body. Both conditions got worse with every passing year of my high-caliber career.
Chronic pain disorders like mine are destroying the lives and livelihoods of rising millions, with billions of dollars squandered on dead-end treatments; highly addictive, non-curative prescriptions; Worker’s Compensation and Disability payouts in addition to what the workforce looses in talent and productivity. Though the public dialogue around chronic pain is slowly getting louder, few seem aware that there’s an estimated 1.5 billion people suffering with mysterious and unrelenting pain conditions worldwide (more than cancer, diabetes and heart disease combined). That this is the most expensive health epidemic of all time (by a long shot), and the prevalence of such conditions are rising at alarmingly fast rates.
By early 2016, I found myself fantasizing, more and more frequently, about hurling my broken body off the Golden Gate Bridge. I had spent 10 of my 31 years on this Earth battling a traveling circus of invisible, mysterious pain symptoms that few in the Western medical system seemed able to confidently explain, let alone cure. My health and sanity had deteriorated so dramatically that no amount of denial or resistance could mask this sobering truth: I was utterly powerless to my chronic illness, and like members of any Twelve Step fellowship might put it, my life had become unmanageable.
From the darkest, most delirious and mentally exhausted place I’d ever been, a small, familiar voice of inner guidance and intuition piped up, and an alternative plan started to manifest. From this washed-out space of mental ruin, I started to recognize that I had everything to gain and literally nothing left to loose by forfeiting my status as a big-wig, workaholic woman for some new, yet-to-be-determined identity. My once ruthless will to control, strategize, research and direct every aspect of my life began to fade en lieu of a softer, more intuitive and fluid sense of self.
First in a whisper, then progressively with more clarity and authority, I finally got the message that my nervous system had been attempting to relay for the previous decade: it was time to dramatically change my ways. As my overactive, hyper-critical mind became more distant, a whole host of rebellious, contrarian messages started winning command of my attention:
“Now is not the time for critical thinking or hesitation; now is the time to listen to your gut and do everything differently.”
“Follow the spark of hope wherever it may lead you,” I heard one night in a dream.
A more optimistic, adaptable and resilient self began calling the shots; envisioning creative ways to live, rather than following suit with the many unoriginal ways that people from my downtrodden hometown were choosing to numb out or die. I, yet again, allowed myself to dream big and feel hope for my future, despite the demoralizing forecasts of my doctors, cynics and doubters.
From a place of bodily instinct, cellular intuition and a sense of inner knowing that I would come to trust more with each passing day, I started taking steps to pull the plug on my big city existence, trading in everything I’d ever known for the free-floating, unpredictable trajectory of some unemployed drifter. I saw my future self searching for alternative answers and healing methods abroad, leaving no stone unturned until my debilitating pains and sicknesses became a thing of the past. I started to believe that the perceived impossible was in fact possible again.
On March 31, 2016, I boarded a commercial airliner with a one-way ticket to my first nomadic home-away-from-home: an eerily beautiful, mystical little island in Southeast Asia called Bali. My remaining belongings stacked up in a storage unit, my career on indefinite hold and my future-identity on stand-by, I took the first big step in letting go of the lost, lonely and tragic character I had become during the San Francisco chapter of my life. As the plane took flight, a nervous yet buoyant heart was making space for the more aligned, peaceful and empowered existence that lie ahead.
Day by day, I progressively developed faith in a much less orthodox version of reality. With the help of my fellow travelers and a host of alternative, Indigenous and shamanic healers from around the world, I came to recognize that I was ultimately the only person on the planet who was capable of healing my illnesses and wounds. I learned that the suppressed emotions and unresolved traumas from my past were a major source of my holistic dis-ease. I came to see that my codependent desires for success and acceptance had led me so absurdly far away from center that I had lost track of my “actual self.”
With my new willingness to call all of my behavior patterns, choices and belief systems into question, I transformed my real-life story into the pilot program for the Living BETA method. A rookie vagabond with a new lease on life, I had begun the long and involved process of discovering my own truth, of remembering who I had always been at my core and of being led by my most authentic drives in consistently choosing to take “the next right step in a self-honoring direction.” Though I had yet to coin the phrase, I began to “BETA Test” every action and decision that I made.
By March of 2017 — after a solid year of unemployment, travel and dedicated holistic healing work — my life was finally no longer ruled by chronic pain.
Having lived at the helm of my own personal health crisis for more than a decade, I recently decided to give myself a massive (and terrifying) gift: the permission to start sharing more of the creations and philosophies that I’ve long kept too close to my chest. After spending six years in university academia, seven years as a corporate graphic designer and the last three years dedicated to travel, self-exploration and alternative healing, I’ve decided to turn my focus away from doing paid work for others so I can spend (at least) the next year of my life bringing my own personal projects, art-forms and creative endeavors into being.
I recently launched the BETA platform to share what I’ve been learning with others — especially those still suffering from perpetual dis-ease, chronic illness and other symptoms of psycho-somatic-spiritual misalignment.
I am heeding the call to become a leading learner, a social activist and the kind of budding filmmaker who’s bold and brazen enough to share her unadulterated truth and experiences in a compelling and impactful way. I’m choosing to do all this not only because it honors the deepest yearnings of my heart and soul, but because I believe in the incredible healing power of storytelling and aspire to help forge a healthier, happier and more pain-free version of humanity for our collective legacy.