I always knew, even as a kid. Something inside me was a little different. My thoughts and processing weren’t the same. My relationship with nature wasn’t like my other friends. I HAD to be outside. I thrived through curiosity, listening to water, meandering in the corn fields, riding my bike for miles, catching crawdads and running for long periods of time. Adventuring in the outdoors was my element.
My third year in college, 1993, while studying disabilities in a teaching psychology class, I realized nearly everything we were learning about a disorder called ADHD was describing me. My psychology professor suggested to visit the counseling office and mention the program that tested students for ADHD for free. I was soon on my way to Kansas City for testing and was diagnosed with ADHD. The test also revealed I scored the highest, at that clinic to date, on my ability to process spacial patterns. This spatial visualization is now recognized as a gift.
The university encouraged me to take a prescription because you could not be part of the extra support college program unless you took medication. It’s weird to think this was even acceptable back then. I decided not to take any prescription. My thought process was … I’ve made it this far in life w/o it so I can manage it just fine on my own. This decision was the best choice for me at that time and I’m so grateful for listening to that inner voice within. There I was in college, trying to manage math, science and teaching classes to become an Earth Science Teacher. It wasn’t easy, but I finally graduated in 1997! Six and a half years and three major changes later (of course none of them related), college was a success!
After graduating, my interest and connection to ADHD was put on hold for many years. Then in early January 2013, National Geographic published an article “Restless Genes” by David Dobbs. This article helped me see ADHD as a powerful asset for life. A few days later I bought the domain name www.restlessgenes.com and began to write about my journey with adult ADHD.
About 18 months later, during the summer of 2014, I was at a low point in my life. My career had slowly shifted to social services and I sat in front of a computer way more than being in a field working with people. I knew my work was meaningful helping others, but something was missing. This was different from my past careers of outdoor guiding and wilderness therapy and working for the U.S. Forest Service. As a result, I began to seek something. Change? A challenge? I wasn’t even exactly what is was I was desiring. What I did know is that I was slowly dying inside. My life had become a routine prison. Most people would’ve died for the life I was living. I was a mother, lived in a beautiful new built home, had chickens on private property, a steady income from both myself and my husband, but my adventurous free style nomadic traveling gypsy life had come to an end. Life was boring and predictable. I was trapped in my own home. To add to that, the way I processed things wasn’t compatible with my husband and we were in an unhealthy relationship on multiple levels. As I was slowly withering away inside, I unconsciously called out to the universe for a new path.
In mid-October of 2014, a casting company found my blog and called me thinking I might be a good candidate for a show called “Naked and Afraid.” I had never seen the show, but watched a couple of episodes and knew instantly it was for me! This would be the adventure I had been seeking and a chance to test the survival skills I had accumulated working in the outdoor guiding field for years. Before I knew it, I was submitting videos and flying out to LA for interviews. They made me an offer and within a couple months I was on a plane headed to Panama City. I would film for three weeks, naked in a deep insect infested jungle on Isla San Jose with a complete stranger! The show’s concept is one man, one woman, no food, no water, no clothes. Two strangers are then dropped off into a remote wilderness location for 21 days. A camera crew follows them around and creates a story line, most often around the most dramatic moment of the challenge. I endured 21 days surviving in my element, just like a child being in nature was my home. I still hold the record for the most amount of bug bites up to 2,000 on any given day. It wasn’t easy to endure the amount of pain felt, but I persevered. A primal energy took over my body and mind. It was much different than spending the 600+ nights under the stars over the past many years working and exploring in the wilderness. My DNA and ADHD was activated to truly tune into the environment. The squirrel joke wasn’t a joke anymore, it was a way to survive. My six senses were alive and ready. I became completely connected. Something within me changed during that experience.
After filming Naked and Afraid, my body took weeks to recover and to regain weight back, as I had dropped to under 100 pounds! Yikes! Those painful and pesky 2,000+ bug bites recycled in my skin for a total of 5 months until they finally disappeared! However, it was this two-week period that flipped my life into a 180. I experienced a spiritual awakening. Before Naked and Afraid, I never believed in awakenings. It was something you read in a book or saw in a movie…. you know that woowoo stuff really doesn’t exist. The spiritual community didn’t interest me until it happened to me, so there was no basis or knowledge for what I was feeling in my mind, body and soul in initially. During this time, I was supremely blissful. I cried everyday full of love, peace, raw energy and happiness within. This lasted for about two weeks. It was a pure connection to the universe kind of feeling. I thought I was going crazy, especially since I had no clue until the end of the two weeks what was happening to me. During this expedited intense expansion of spirt, my place in the world and beyond was just known. I can’t really describe it in words beyond trust and knowledge. No monkey mind, no second guessing, no ADHD getting in the way – just pure clarity. My purpose of being on this earth realigned and I trusted the calling. I divorced, moved, changed jobs, restructured my way of thinking, way of being, connection to my feminine energy and more. Most of it was seamless and fluid. It wasn’t easy, but when we trust a path to its core, we have the ability to just do it. No fear lurked in me around this process of transition. I was able to move through anything.
The spiritual awakening led to my interest in Tantra as a personal new spiritual pathway. Soon, I said good-bye to the social services and listened to the call of Tantra drawing me in to share the practices with the world. As a result, Earth Tantra was born. Earth Tantra is the way in which I guide and help all people heal with nature and transform with Tantra. Tantra is a practice of connecting or “weaving” mind, body spirit and others to expand toward self awareness and enlightenment. It is a way of life that embodies our awakened being. Most people associate Tantra with sex. Yes, sacred sexuality is a part of Tantra, but only a small part. The purpose of Tantra is connecting with the natural world, within and others to reach our higher self and spirit. Many ADHDer’s and spectrum folks are drawn to Earth Tantra’s nature-based settings and very small groups. It’s an honor to serve real people like me.
As a small business owner, ADHD supports me to multitask, hyperfocus with projects and direct energy to individuals and groups. It’s important as a guide to be able to change moment to moment, leaning into the challenges of working in depth with others and to shift energy when it’s needed. Another of my ADHD attributes is intuition. Since my intuition is strong, I trust, listen and go with it. It hasn’t failed me, and it feels good to say that I can trust myself at this capacity. Trusting your intuition in business, life, relationships, etc, and decipher it from the over processed fear-based monkey mind, is easier than most people think. Fear holds us back from doing this – once we address the fear and learn to trust, it unfolds naturally for us. ADHD hasn’t been easy but growing up without a label and learning to navigate its challenges and gifts on my own is self-empowerment. I’m so fortunate and honored to be surrounded by patient parents, friends and loved ones, who accept my nontraditional life.
My heart is filled with gratitude for this path every day. Now, I do my best to pay the ADHD connection forward by supporting others with ADHD, including my daughter and life partner.
Tara Skubella is a mountain mama, Tantra Guide, ADHDer and Naked and Afraid Survivalist. Tara lives in South Park of Colorado at an elevation of 9,500 feet and enjoys backpacking, snowshoeing, learning local history and geology, and spending as much time outside as possible. Learn more by visiting Tara at www.earthtantra.com or instagram.