In April 2022, Catherine and India were honored with a “Champion Of Children '' Award by The Colleagues, an arm of the Children’s Institute since 1950 and members who have served Los Angeles' most vulnerable children — those harmed by community and family violence and abuse. Past honorees include Audrey Hepburn, Maria Shriver, Nancy Reagan, and Betty Ford.
Photo Credit: Alex Berliner/ABI images
I seem to do well in a crisis. I managed to hold it together through my very public battle to extricate my daughter India from the nxivm cult, and weathered the inferno of the Malibu Woolsey Fire in Nov 2018 (which separated me from Maya and Celeste, my two youngest children, and left me homeless, without even a toothbrush to my name). But once the dust had settled and India was safe and her predator had been incarcerated for 120 years, I took my own descent into hell. The hell of chronic pain (which affects one-third of the globe’s population). My world got small fast. This chronic pain did not emerge in a vacuum. It was the result of how my nervous system learned to adapt to a lifetime of stressors - always on high alert, always anticipating danger. This pattern was so ingrained, I don’t think I even noticed that I was running on adrenaline as my baseline norm. I didn’t have an off button. So my body put the brakes on for me. My primary care doctor explained that I had what is maddeningly referred to as “medically unexplained symptoms.” My blood work looked completely normal and all my tests came back perfect - no evidence of organ failure and no structural damage of any kind. But there was no denying the pain throughout my body, it was nothing less than unbearable. A litany of specialists and ensuing diagnoses of incurable illnesses followed: fibromyalgia, undifferentiated inflammatory arthritis, peripheral neuropathy, connective tissue disorder and pre-auto-imune. I was prescribed medicines that didn’t give relief and given a prognosis. “Once you have had this pain for 3 months, your brain is set for life. That’s it! Those neural pathways can’t be unlearned.” That was seriously terrifying. Chronic pain until the end of days? I refused to accept this as my fate. There had to be a better way. And true to my character, I refused to give up until I found a solution. It took the better part of 2 years to feel like hell was in the rear-view mirror, but eventually I discovered evidence-based therapies that gave me lasting relief, beyond the traditional treatment of pain management. Today, I have renewed hope, gratitude and a new lease on life. And with that, a desire to share those resources with people who might also be looking for solutions, for whom conventional modes of healing may have fallen short.
Photo Credit: Phylicia J.L Munn
My original search for self-improvement brought me to NXIVM and what became a seven-year hell with a whole lot of learning. I was systematically programmed, brainwashed, taken under the spell of a predatory cult leader, and was ultimately branded and sexually abused. This was my life, less than a decade ago. And it was restricted and limited, but the brainwashing had me believing the life I was living was happy and free. It wasn’t until after leaving, and sufficient time and effort, that I started to see my life for what it really was. I battled back to find the happy ending I yearned for, and the support I had in my life was finally safe and loving. Yet, I still found feeling any general well being really difficult, and it sometimes felt impossible. But healing takes work, and I’ve had to learn to be ok with that. I had to learn who I was. I had forgotten what I used to love, and I had forgotten who loved me. It was hard to feel anything other than anger and fear. I’ve been learning to love my body and my mind. Learning to listen to myself has been a lot harder, especially when I could not hear much of my own voice, wants, and needs. Most importantly, I had to start looking at myself differently. And these components led to my most important discovery - WHO is India? Talk therapy helped. Yoga helped. Journaling helped. But self expression and feeling more personally free was much more layered than I thought, and it was a lot harder to feel. It was much more than just the labels and the checklists. I had to change myself into the person I knew I wanted to be, not what the programming had left me with. I wrote a book, produced a documentary, talked A LoT, and I still struggled with just feeling ok - let alone happiness and joy and love and connection. There was more to this thing called healing for me. I needed to help my body and my nervous system feel ok and not get shocked into the past as much. Harder said than done. But PTSD was making being in my present life difficult.(doc and book mentioned here as expression activism). This was going to be layered, and I somehow needed to undo the nearly decade’s worth of information ingrained in me. I had to regulate my nervous system to live more authentically and not be in pain and as much fear and doom. And I did this through “traditional” therapeutic techniques AND the use of “non-traditional” techniques like psychotropics. Initially I was told to “physically adapt to the trauma,” and that “that was the best option.” I knew there was a better way and I really believed that I might not need to “outsource” as much of my own healing and recovery as I had once thought. My life now couldn’t be more opposite than it was only 5 years ago - I have a husband, two rescue cats, an authentically close bond with my family that I had lost for a long time, and work that allows me to be a voice for others. I know I am one of many out there who have felt silenced and suffer in silence and shame. I think we’re all still learning together, and no one needs to feel alone in healing and recovery. It’s already been hard enough. Healix was born through a passion for everyone to be able to experience healing as a full mind + body. I don’t think talking is always enough. I think we all want to feel different, but I think a lot of it is fake it till you make it and asserting our own will in the direction we want to heal. Taking healing back into our own hands rather than always thinking someone else knows you better than you. Trusting the right people and the right medicine has been key for me, but learning to trust myself has been the most freeing and greatest reward so far.
"Still Learning" is India Oxenberg's intimate, first-person account of how she was lured into and, seven years later, escaped from the NXIVM cult, DOS. As the secret sorority within NXIVM's vast Ponzi network, DOS was created by Keith Raniere and his acolytes to serve as a course of "slaves" to Keith and the other "masters." Despite the fantastical headlines, the focus of "Still Learning" reflects what many parents and age peers of India's will recognize as a far more familiar 20-something conundrum - a new adult trying to discover who she is, and in the process second-guessing the advice of parents, concerned siblings, and close friends woh prove to be all too right - about a romantic partner, a sharp turn off of a hard-won educational track, or a dangerous group like NXIVM. India's is a surprisingly relatable "adulting" tale set amidst one of the most alarming news stories of the day, rich with data on warning signs that distinguish exploration from exploitation. This is much more than a survival story; it's a deeply personal reflection on how to come out (or help a loved one come out) the other side intact, still hopeful, and remarkably adult."
In this harrowing memoir, Catherine reveals the personal and riveting account of losing her daughter to a cult, and her fearless mission to save her. Full content for a dropdown: In 2011, Catherine joined her daughter, India, at a leadership seminar for a leadership organization called NXIVM. Her 20-year-old daughter was on the threshold of building a new company, and they both thought this program might help her achieve her dream. But quickly, Catherine saw a darker side to what appeared to be a self-help organization designed to help its clients become the best versions of themselves. She watched in horror as her daughter fell further and further down the rabbit hole, becoming brainwashed by the organization’s charismatic leader. Despite Catherine’s best efforts, India was drawn deeper into the sinister organization, eventually joining a secret, “elite” sorority of female members who are ordered to maintain a restricted diet, recruit other women as “slaves,” and are branded with their leader’s initials. In CAPTIVE, Catherine shares every parent’s worst nightmare, and the lengths that a mother will go to save her child. Featuring interviews with past members of the controversial group, and experts in the field of cults, Oxenberg attempts to draw back the curtain on how these groups continue to lure in members.