Here is a memory that still haunts me.

I was living in NE Portland in the late 1980’s, and teaching psychic development classes several times a week. The majority of my students came from the naturopathic, chiropractic, massage and medical schools, needing to balance their academic studies with something more felt, intuitive and humane. A beautiful red headed nurse named Valerie enrolled. She did well in class for several quarters and then began behaving in confrontive and fearful ways. We talked after class and she confided that she had been diagnosed as a Paranoid Schizophrenic, and decided to go off her medication. She was dating a friend of mine who was a psychologist, so we joined forces, both of us talking to her about the importance of her medicine and the need to stay on it. I knew she loved our classes, so I used them as leverage.

I can not allow you to continue with your studies until you’ve gone back on your meds and stabilized.

She did not listen. Valerie dropped out but continued in my life by coming to my home at odd hours, and begging for predictions. She was sure others were plotting against her and insisted I go with her to Canada to help her start a new life.

My husband was a doctor and took me aside to warn me of her condition. She is becoming dangerous now, Karen. She could harm you, so be very careful. I held my ground about the medications, not knowing what else to do. She stopped visiting, but continued to make disturbing phone calls.

slate-floor1One evening I wrote a letter to my sister in New York describing the situation: if we should be murdered in our beds, I want you to ask about Valerie. I dropped the letter in a post box the next morning as I drove my son to school, then stopped at my usual coffee shop to reward myself with tea, a scone and the morning paper. I was thinking how hard it was to get him out of bed on school days, and wondering about a solution, when I saw the Oregonian. The front page displayed a color photo of three bodies being carried from a house in black bags, with insert pictures of Valerie and her little girls. I dropped my tea in horror; my breathing became labored and deep. My mind raced. Could this nightmare be real? I looked again at the photos, the house, the body bags, and the police. The article said that Valerie’s children had been playing on the beach at Rooster Rock State Park when she pulled them away, drove home, shot both of them, then shot herself. Her note said that she did not want them to grow up with the same hellish disease.

I drove home doubled over with grief and disbelief. I could not eat, sleep or think of anything else for weeks. My dreams were haunted. I blamed myself for not knowing how to help. Soon the police arrived, making accusations that I had somehow encouraged her to take such drastic actions through my ‘new age’ methods. They had found class materials and some of our recorded sessions in her home. I was angry, hurt and sarcastic.

Yes, that’s what I do. I charge clients $50, and then tell them to go home, shoot their children and themselves. I make a great living that way, wouldn’t you?

The policeman continued. What exactly are these groups you have? Are they like a séance where you talk to the dead?

I forced a normal tone in my voice. No, they are like a self-improvement class you would take at Portland Community College. I don’t teach there because I like being self-employed, but I used to teach there. I did for years.

The newspapers took up where the police left off.


A columnist from the Oregonian took the opportunity to write at length about her hatred of ‘these ill-equipped new age people.’  Friends, students and professionals wrote letters in my defense, but they were not printed. Willamette Week did a feature article on the psychics Valerie employed. I was encouraged not to meet with the reporter, but I was eager for someone to see the credibility and truth of a situation that was being blown out of proportion, so I gave her a free session, and explained the healing and expansive aspects of the work. The reporter was young and receptive, but her story was written. She was only visiting to fill in the details. That’s when I learned the difference between promoting the truth, and a story that sells papers.

Valerie had been to a competing psychic and reported distorted information about our sessions. This man, whom I had known for years, was telling others to avoid my work based on her paranoid stories. When I called him to talk it out, I found him eager to slander, so I threatened to sue and we parted ways. 

I was being attacked on all fronts, not eating, sleeping, or working.  I closed my business to recover. Months later we found a farm house in the Columbia River Gorge and moved in. I spent months sitting on the front porch of that little white house, looking into miles of rolling hills, tree tops and the river below. I did not want to work again. My body lacked walls, boundaries, and the natural protection that enables people to easily function in the world. My ability to see and help is in direct relation to living filleted open, like a fish. I spent months in silence and introspection, being healed by my surroundings.

playing-cardsWhen clients managed to locate my phone number, I told them I was finished, out of business, with no desire to continue.

I had a client from India who worked at Tektronix. I had read for him for years.  He was always surprised when I knew who he was on the phone. That was our ongoing joke. Kaarin, how you know it is me? When he rang me and asked for a session, I told him what I told everyone else, but he reacted differently, he said, I can wait.

Well dear, you will have to wait a long time because I am finished.

He rang me the week after and asked again. Are you ready yet? Must I wait longer?

I am not ready, I told him, I will never be ready again.

No Kaarin. This is who you are. You can not walk away from yourself. I will wait. You are my psychic. There is no one else.

He called every week and we had the same conversation, until finally I relented and read for him. I am grateful, in retrospect, for his persistence because he helped me open my door and my heart one more time.

2 thoughts on “Unreachable

  1. Karen,
    My heart is hurting for you, stunned, and hurting for all those who are like “Valerie” and those who know people like them. You had told me the story before, but I couldn’t hear it with this much detail.
    This is my job at NAMI. I talk with people who have mental illness, or more likely the parents or siblings of the mentally ill. It’s not easy… and in my experience contagious…And Karen, the line between Amy and Valerie seems narrow! How to determine if one is a possession and one is a brain disorder?!
    Today I picked up three messages from a deranged man. He left strings of words and thoughts as if we would know what they meant… nascar Bob Hope vietnam penis angels then he would say his name then the string would continue. He went on and on, and called back filling three vms! I listened enough to see/feel if there was a phone number and then just couldn’t listen any more. There wasn’t. It hurts too much. In my lack of boundaries empathy I fear going there…I’m still unsure why I am here..but I know I am helping family members take the next step…It’s just a little hard…
    And then in the end of your story I’m jealous of your Indian friend having enough money to consult you on a regular basis!
    Much love and appreciation for your gifts!!!

  2. Thank you Cora! Your words wash over me with such compassion and love. I can’t imagine doing your job. I wish my work was more affordable too, but the price reflects my capacity to hold what I’m given, and my capicity is not very high anymore. I wish I were wired to see lots of folks with no penalty to myself. Thanks for continuing to read my words. It takes courage to share them. Love! KB

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s