My name is Brian and I want to describe my psilocybin success story.
First, some background. I am a 48 year man old employed in the IT industry. I have been plagued by depression and suicidal ideation for much of my life. My mother was an alcoholic and committed suicide in 1993. I was repeatedly abandoned in my youth, living with six different sets of caregivers. I was sexually abused by a person in a position of authority when I was fifteen. I briefly experimented with marijuana as a youth. I joined the military immediately after high school as a way of escaping my home environment. I held a security clearance and lived a very straight laced life. I got married and our firstborn child was a SIDS baby. The marriage did not last.
After turning forty, I realized I was well on my way to becoming a bitter, angry old man, taking out my frustrations on anyone nearby. I needed help with my state of mind. I began therapy and prescription anti-depressants. I found therapy was re-traumatizing. I tried over a dozen meds and was considered treatment resistant. I accumulated a handful of diagnoses- PTSD, major depression, dysthymia and double depression. My lack of progress became frustrating. I kept reading how depression was an easily treated disorder, yet nothing seemed to work for me. My condition worsened.
My collection of self help books grew. I spent a lot of time researching dysthymia and depression online. I read with interest the spectacular news reports and studies on the use of ketamine for treating depression. A local doctor offered the treatments and I took a half dozen sessions at considerable expense. The ketamine helped, but the effects are only temporary as expected. I could not afford many more treatments. I seriously considered an illicit ketamine supplier.
My therapist had also mentioned psychedelic mushrooms. I initially dismissed the suggestion but then I found the recent psilocybin research studies. So, wary of potential interactions, I started with a quarter gram of magic mushrooms and gradually increased the dose to match the Griffiths psilocybin study. I do realize the illicit nature of these activities but I was desperate. It seemed I had little left to lose.
My twelve step program asserts that a childhood of abuse and neglect leaves a spiritual wound. I very much wanted to feel a sense of connectedness with the universe or a spiritual higher power. For all of my life I have felt that the world is a cold and uncaring place. My philosophy was, “Life sucks, then you die.” I had a very hard time accepting the belief that a higher power was actually concerned for me. I had problems loving and accepting myself.
I have two problematic personal demons. The first is a skeptic/critic that refuses to believe in anything. The skeptic always expects the worst and would rather be right and miserable than happy. The other demon has been my urge to kill myself. I had the opportunity to squarely face both of these. I was able to meet both of these personality aspects with love and acceptance for the first time in my life. I was able to thank each of these for their protection during my life. But it was time to grow and put these aspects to rest. I realize these aspects will be with me for the rest of my life but they have lost much of their power and influence.
On Jan 31, 2015, I took 4 grams of dried mushrooms and I had a therapeutic breakthrough experience. I experienced an intense internal psychodrama which was exactly what I was seeking. I directly experienced my subconscious and I faced my fears.
For the first hour and a half after dosing, I felt let down, that I was cheated out of a transformative experience. That the old pattern of non response to medications was continuing. I though that perhaps my anti-depressant meds were interfering with the psilocybin. I was not experiencing any visual hallucinations or even ketamine like rapt attention at what I was viewing. I was growing impatient and just wanted the trip to end. For a long time it seemed that the only thing I was experiencing was a body high. Then, the psilocybin really kicked in.
I was experiencing intense suicidal urges. It felt unbearable. Then I would distract myself, drink a sip of water, look at the clock. Get up and move around a bit. Then I would come back to the chair. Back into the thick of things. I kept returning to the skeptic and the suicidal aspects. The skeptic did not believe this would do any good. The suicide believed all was hopeless, that I might as well kill myself. I kept coming back to these feelings. I tried distracting myself with meditating on on my cat, Missy, and the feeling of relaxing with her. Then back to the suicidal and depressive thoughts. I tried comforting myself without any success.
I recalled my therapist’s advice, “Whatever you do, don’t look in the mirror.” I felt I had to face these feelings and fears so I stared at myself. I kept expecting to see my head replaced by a skull. By the symbol for death. I stared deep into my eyes and did not shy away. I moved closer and closer to the mirror until my nose touched the mirror. All I saw was myself. I said , “I love you Brian.” Warts and imperfections and all. I became really conscious of myself, as if I was really seeing myself for the first time.
About three in the afternoon I crawled into my bed. Soon I felt like my subconscious was visible. I welcomed and lovingly invited the suicide persona into my life. I accepted that persona as part of me, not a negative to be discarded or avoided. I felt the skeptic rear itself and did the same thing. I envisioned sitting on a park bench in the warm sunlight with these personas. I also envisioned surfacing from the depths of the ocean.
I sensed my subconscious as an iceberg with ninety percent submerged and hidden from view. I felt like there was no more avoidance. I hugged myself repeatedly. This cycle repeated several times. I would accept then avoid, but each time I kept coming back. The skeptic was trying to poke holes in the experience. I recalled thinking this was it, there was no more to life. I was facing the end, whether now or at some future time. I was poised at this cusp for a long time. Then I thought, “I choose life.”
I was able to find the scared teenager that was behind the suicidal urges. And I was able to feel the sensation of peace and love for the first time in my life. I actually felt content. I was able to see my new cat, Missy, as the embodiment of the universal spirit, who only wants to be loved and accepted. I palpably felt a sense of love and acceptance. All of my subconscious was basking in the sunlight. I felt comforted and accepted by the universe. I had finally felt that sense of connection to a spiritual higher power. I felt content laying there in bed.
I got out of bed and began petting Missy some more. I felt the love and acceptance of the universe took the form of Missy. That Missy represented the love and compassion of the universe, but just for me. All the universe wanted was some love and affection in return. That did not seem like too much.
After coming back to normality, I kept coming back to the central fact that I had faced my fears. Yes, I repeatedly shied away, but I kept coming back. I had finally accepted my shadow self. Now I can say, “I love you Brian,” and mean it. Those enormous demons did not seem as overpowering. I realize the skeptic and suicidal personas are a permanent part of my personality, but they are no longer in the driver’s seat.
I believe it took the combination of therapy, a 12 step program, ketamine and mushrooms to get to this point. Therapy and Adult Children of Alcoholics gave me the cognitive framework setting the stage of my psychodrama. Ketamine bought me much needed time. And psilocybin helped me personify my problematic traits and accept them with love. Now, I am no longer at war with myself.
I know my realizations are not new. They’ve been part of spiritual traditions for thousands of years. But for the first time I truly felt them.