Yep, you heard me. But first, I would like to make a clear disclaimer:
Most of them are illegal, and for a reason. MANY of them will lead to addictive, self-destructive and sometimes deadly situations. As for the special class of Psychedelics, they can be dangerous if taken unsafely and without preparation, and can provide (very) unpleasant experiences for individuals who take the matter lightly or are completely unfamiliar with any kind of introspection/working through emotional issues or unconscious patterns. So please, tread with car, be respectful and most of all, be safe.
That being said, a friend (a psychologist with a PhD who also happens to be a meditation instructor) recently said that psychedelics are the future of psychotherapy in the West, which I think could be true.
As y’all obviously know, in the 1960s there was a lot of hope around their potential – then they were shut down and (I believe, mostly for political reasons), somewhat demonized for a few decades. And now they are resurfacing again in more favorable light. Their potential to help those suffering from addictions, anxiety and depression is well known. The Johns Hopkins University for instance is conducting many experiments with the therapeutic potential of psilocybin (they have been for a couple of years – I have friends who have even participated in the studies), and the success rates are encouraging. I believe that for people over 18 with no preexisting history of psychosis or severe PTSD, when administered carefully and with respect (and if for the first time, with the presence of a competent guide), psychedelics are not just drugs, they can be powerful therapeutic tools. BUT still, I must say it again: KIDS, DON’T DO DRUGS !!!
I saw a great documentary called “Fantastic Fungi” a few months ago, which planted the seed (the spores ^^) in my mind.… hmmm, it’s been a while! And recently I came across some (very respectable, organic and 100% vegan ^^ ) mushrooms. So I decided to embark on a solo quarantine psilocybin session on Friday night. Kind of crazy, right?
I have taken mushrooms several times in the past (maybe 4 or 5). My first time was around age 20. But I had only ever done it in a recreational, or at best, exploratory (a.k.a. with a boyfriend, mostly to have what I would humbly call “cool synesthesia sex”… LOL), spirit. Never in a therapeutic mindset, never with self-development or self-improvement in mind. Never ever ever with an underlying spiritual framework or meditation practice. In the past, the experience had always been a mix of excitement and fun, but also high anxiety due to my pathological fear of losing control. Every time, once the trip began to kick in, I would get overwhelmed and panicky and have to rely on those around me to reassure me and help me work through said anxiety. It might be worth mentioning that in those days, I was also drinking, depressed, numbing my issues, and basically clueless about how to be healthy/heal one’s past/take care of oneself. No wonder I had a horrible time as soon as I tried to let go.
Fast forward 5 or 6 years of therapy, discovery of self-care, meditation, and basically growing up. At 33 I have much stronger foundations and a much fuller mental-health toolbox than when I was 23. So I decided that quarantine could be a good moment to REALLY turn inwards, administer a thorough self-scan of sorts, assess where I’m at: how I can cope with anxiety during anxious times, what my deepest beliefs about myself are, perhaps even what I can do to help the world with my limited talents and abilities.
So I cleaned up my house, fasted for 6 hours, displayed my plants in a beautiful arrangement in my living room, fed my cat, lit a ton of candles, blew a few out because of the fire hazard, made a pretty cushion-blanket arrangement on the floor, asked a neighbor friend if I could call them if anything went horribly wrong (if I was about to murder my cat or something), wrote down an intention: “May I find safety and trust inside myself” (- i.e., not “outside”: if you have a history of addictions you probably know what I mean), meditated, then gathered all my courage, said a quick prayer in my heart (I think of myself as an atheist on most days!), said “fuck it” out loud, and ate the damn things.
They tasted much better than in my memory. But then, fasting for 6 hours will make anything taste delicious.
Long story short: my only “weapon” during this internal hero’s journey was to try something utterly new: to lay down all weapons from the start. To stop fighting. So I committed to complete surrender and trust, both in myself and in “the spirit of the mushrooms”, whatever that meant. I trusted it to be my friend and work with me (or rather I promised to work with, not against, it). Unlike what I did in the past, I would not treat it as an enemy to fight. And this made all the difference.
What a life-lesson! I was able to do the most beautiful self-parenting job ever, and have a WONDERFUL experience. I was expecting horror, demons, overwhelming feelings of nausea, terrifying hallucinations, threats of insanity and morbid thoughts, etc. I got none of that. Instead, I found gentleness, joy, acceptance, positive internal dialogue, a sense of internal “solidity”, even those feelings of interdependency and “oneness” that so many psychonauts (and meditators) report feeling.
I even wondered at some point if I had taken too low of a dose. I almost felt disappointed that there was no drama. Then thankfully, I shook some sense back into my silly self: Anne, you wanted to experience safety and trust, and now that you have, you want drama and suffering just for the experience to feel worthwhile ? Fuck no !
[This is one of my deepest and most annoying patterns: freak out before an event -> during the event, realize there is nothing to freak out about -> NEVER learn from the experience -> Repeat for all eternity.]
So I tried the new thing: I spent most of the experience meditating and just being there. I enjoyed every second of it. Making friends with myself was the goal: no distractions, nowhere to run.
And that was the big take away in the end: there is nothing left to fight or be afraid of in myself. Sure there will always be anxiety, especially during times of uncertainty and collective fear. Sure, there will always be suffering, that’s the first noble truth of Buddhism after all. But there is no longer that internal enemy to hide from, no big monster to avoid. Nothing much left to numb = when I am at my best, my foundations are solid enough to breathe through very intense emotions and know that I will survive. Even death seemed like not a problem if one truly lets go and accepts it.
A few hours later, I ate the lovely fruit platter I had prepared in advance, and called it a night. I picked up my cat and went to bed. It was as simple as that.
Today, the feeling of being my own friend, and knowing deep down (not just intellectually) that “if you truly let go and accept, anything is ok”, remain. It really does give you strength when shit gets challenging in the outside world.
[And it also helps to learn how to “die well”, as Plato, Cicero and Montaigne wrote about philosophy – and the Buddhists about meditation. Yep, psychedelics really do famously help people make peace with death – whether their own or those of others or loved ones].
So yeah. I don’t know when I will able to se my family again – they live on a different continent. My parents are both high risk corona-people. One of my parents is already in very poor health and might die soon of non-corona (of ALCOHOLISM). And yeah, things feel really dystopian, even apocalyptic these days, especially when one spends more than 5 minutes on social media.
And yet, it IS possible to sit with the fear and pessimism, to make space for the anxious feelings, to hold them until they pass. I hope we can all learn how to make something meaningful out of this extra-ordinary situation that will probably become the new normal. We’ll figure it out. Or we will perish as a species and the raccoons can finally take over.
Oh, and by the way: I’m 200 days sober today, YAY 🙂
P.S. Before you kids get any funny ideas, there are also many other worthwhile introspective quarantine occupations out there, OK ? For instance, check out my baby sister’s beautiful knitting project (don’t worry Nadine, no one can rival with the sobriety scarf^^).
Sending out lots of courage, hope and warm hugs to everyone out there.
Hang in there !