My Story - from 6 year old to Shaman

Shamana Sarah Petruno's story from childhood until now, all in one place. 

by Sarah Petruno, Shamana

I first discovered that psychic gifts ran in my family when I was 6 years old.

My father sat both my twin sister and I down, and told us that she had the family curse, but, thank god, I was declared curse free. 

What the curse was remained vague, except that it seemed to involve having premonitions of people dying in dreams, seeing the future, and having scary dreams. He had it. Amanda had it. I didn’t want it.

Growing up, Amanda saw Spirits and had terrible nightmares. I saw them sometimes too, but because I didn’t have “the curse,” I thought it was fun and exciting.

Throughout our childhood and teenage years, we stayed up at night talking about what we would do about certain Spirits the next time we saw them and trying to learn more about them from an endless supply of ghost stories and ghost shows.

In our senior year of high school, as we applied for colleges and prepared to go in different directions to pursue our studies, I was diagnosed with my first mental illness.

Major Depressive Disorder.

I began taking medications.

Shortly thereafter, I got another diagnosis. Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Off to college with 2 prescription medications that barely worked, I was 18 with 2 mental illnesses.

Over the course of the next 4 years, I gained 2 more diagnoses and a handful of more pills and dosages to try.

Social Anxiety Disorder and Bipolar Disorder.

During this time, I was in college and working 2 jobs to support myself, while taking a full class load.

My father, my biggest supporter and mentor, was also dying of alcohol addiction.

Shamana Sarah Petruno's story from childhood until now, all in one place. 

In my senior year of college, right before final exams, he passed away as a result of complications from his addiction.

As soon as I graduated, I left the state to go live in the mountains of California with my now-husband.

The next year, we moved to San Diego, California where we would stay for the next 4 years.

I was in the process of figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. All through college I worked in research labs and in the fields of biology, neuroscience, and behavior. My research as an undergraduate had been published, and my lifelong goal, or so I thought, was to become a tenured researcher at a major university.

Towards that goal, I started working at University of California - San Diego (UCSD) for a lab studying visual neuroscience. As research associate and lab manager, I was the hands on experimenter, directly carrying out the experimental research. I became an expert in my area and was recruited by another lab, to help them set up and build their lab infrastructure and experimental paradigms.

During my time at UCSD, I saw the dark side of Academia. The faculty wars, the funding crisis, and the general misery of faculty and staff. Despite this, I felt it was still my goal to be an elite researcher and I decided my next step was graduate school.

Meanwhile, I took a deeper look at those 4 mental illnesses. I was still medicated and it still wasn’t working. I found a therapist who helped me heal from the loss of my father, and in doing so, she taught me techniques to manage my symptoms.

Techniques like meditative breathing and restructuring my belief systems.

With her help, I safely weaned from all medications. While the symptoms were still present, they were so much less severe and far more manageable.

And with her encouragement, I applied to graduate school.

I was accepted to several Ph.D. programs and I left my sunny life in San Diego, for University of Wisconsin-Madison.

When I started as a Ph.D. student, I was also 8 months pregnant with my first child. I hit the ground running and felt I could do it all - student, mother, researcher.

But, all the late nights alone with a newborn and all the alone time spent in a lab gave me a lot of time to think. 

I realized that I didn’t want this life. That it wasn’t my goal, and instead, it was my deceased father’s goal for me. Furthermore, the misery that I saw at UCSD, was worse at my new school. Much worse. I wanted no part of it.

And around that time, I was given an out.

I was told that I had the gift of shamanism. It ran in my family and that it had been passed down to me.

While I didn’t exactly run into the arms of being a shaman, it was my only “Plan B” from the “Plan A” that I despised. So, I went with it.

I lived a double life as a secret shaman and as a graduate student.

As I developed my gifts, healed myself, and began to understand more and more about our energetic world and how to live within it, a funny thing happened. All symptoms of my previous mental illnesses disappeared without a trace.

And six months after I was given my spiritual out, I walked away from my once dream of being a star-researcher with a Master’s Degree in hand and I turned to shamanism.

I never thought I would be a shaman. I never thought I would walk away from my lifelong dream of being a scientific researcher. But, I did and I am.

And I haven’t looked back.

With love,


LAST UPDATED: April 29, 2015

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