Dear People of the Shroomery.
I feel lead to write this to thank you for all your help in the last few months.
As this will be a rather long "trip report" (through I would very much rather self title it "Report of Psychedelic Depression Therapy"), I will post it 11 parts. Part 1. My Illness(es).
I am 38 years old and have suffered from major depressive disorder for nearly all my adult life. My depression is characterized as treatment resistant (recalcitrant), in that despite taking a wide variety of antidepressants and taking part in a variety of other therapies over the years, I am not cured. I have a family history of this general type of depression. My depression is not in the category of bi-polar or schizoaffective disorder. I also have a low level anxiety from time to time, though this is much less debilitating than the depression itself. My depression is not the "winter blues" (SAD - seasonal affective disorder), though I do live in a northern State.
Recently therapy-wise, I have gone to general professional counseling. I year or two ago I went to a class in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), and started practicing that on and off. I exercise approximately 3 times per week. I eat moderately healthy (which means moderately unhealthy too). I drink alcohol regularly, perhaps 0 to 3 beers per day. I drink approximately 2 cups of coffee per day. I also pray and meditate in the Christian religious tradition. The most recent prescription meds I have taken are Gabapentin, Lamotrigine (Lamictal), and Escitalopram (Lexapro), though in the last 4 months I have only been on the latter two of these.
Another issue I have along with my depression (co-morbid with it) is chronic lower back pain. I have been to many many doctors and tried a variety of therapies, remedies and medications. I mention this because often chronic physical pain tag teams with more mental/behavioral health issues, as is the case with me. (From about 2001 to 2003 I was also on a opioid (Kadian) for my back pain.) It would take a book to record all the treatments, therapies, remedies and medications I have partaken for the lower back pain. I have been to acupuncturists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, neurologists, massage therapists, accu-pressure, sub perceptual electro stim, reiki therapy, faith healers, have gotten ex-rays, cortisone shots, CAT scans, MRIs, etc.
It should also be known that I lead a rather normal, "boring" life. I am married with no children, and a cat named Palantir. I work full time one on one with an adult with autism in a home setting. I did my share of pot and shrooms in college, but have not partaken in either for about 15 years.
Earlier this year I watched the documentary, Neurons to Nirvana
on Netflix, and was very impressed. I then read an amazing booked called The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide
, by James Fadiman, which I highly recommend. I also did some reading about the recent resurgence of psychedelic medicinal research around the world, and its potential for such varied maladies as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, OCD, helping terminal cancer patients with the anxiety involved in their impending death, major depressive disorder, etc. (The cancer study was done at Johns Hopkins, the top medical school/center in the US.)
My Prescription Meds.
The following was done with consultation with my wonderful wife.
I concluded that Lamotrigine/Lamictal (LAM) 50mg would not effect my therapy one way or another, but that Escitalopram/Lexapro (LEX) 30mg would significantly reduce the therapy's effectiveness.
8 days before therapy, I therefore went down to 1/3 of my LEX dose, and then 5 days prior went off LEX completely. I stayed on my full dosage of LAM however.
The after therapy, I concluded to go back onto LEX but at 10mg (1/3 the previous dosage). This would help to gauge whether in 3 or 6 months the therapy had any lasting effect to counteract my depression.
The therapeutic plan was to take the medicine in the morning. I was sure to get a good nights sleep the night before. I also cut down significantly on my caffeine intake in the week prior. I had a banana and a glass of water for breakfast. I had heard that lemon juice helps accentuate things, so I cut up a fresh lemon and squeezed some in another cup of water. I didn't watch TV, or listen to the radio or any music that morning.
I had heard that pure cocoa helps accentuate the medicine, so I decided to take the medicine in cocoa. (I have since reconsidered the validity that cocoa accentuates psychedelics.)
I used a coffee grinder and powdered the medicine, put it to a cup a cocoa, along with honey and drank it about 9:15 AM. By the way, I think the medicine tastes terrible, but this concoction helped make it less terrible.
The therapy itself - continued.
A theme of gratefulness came across again and again. It wasn't like I was directly coming face to face with my Higher Power, but that I was seeing all of his creation in a renewed and brighter way. Sort of like a spotlight was on everything, to show the brilliance in the normal, to see the amazingness in the mundane.
I was grateful for my guide, for my wife, for the plants around me, for my house. And this is despite all the faults and imperfections of each of these things. I didn't see them as perfect, but as wonderful despite
their brokeness. The lack of perfections would usually bother me, or keep me from really appreciating things. But in all these things I was content, at peace, in "shalom". I even noticed the floor was really dusty in places, but it was not bothersome to me.
For I while I listened intently to the soundtrack to The Passion of the Christ. (Disclaimer, I like the movie but in no way endorse Mel Gibson or some of his less than perfect views). I was able to appreciate the mystery of the historic Gospel narrative, its oriental nature, the ancientness, the exoticness, etc.
It was interesting that when deep in therapy I periodically realized that my guide was in the room and I was almost embarrassed. Perhaps because he was not "with me" in therapy it felt a bit strange. And I am very glad I had him there, in case of emergencies. But perhaps if I ever do therapy again, I would have him in another room.
I do remember my mind was in a way "racing", like I had ADHD or something. Perhaps this was due to the medicine's ability to remove a sense of time from my consciousness, but it seemed like I would have a thought - (deep realization, an intense focus on something or someone, or an idea, picture, feeling, or color), - and it would give way fully to another totally different one, again and again. And my brain was unable to keep focus on an object for too long. It was like watching tv while your friend flips channels excessively. Not that this bothered me that much.
The Therapy itself - continued; plus coming down and some insights I had.
I spent an extended time of looking at two photographs of myself and my wife, one from 11 years ago, and another from this year. This was extremely valuable. It was like I was seeing myself like I was looking from the outside at me. Not an out of body experience, rather a perspective which was totally unique. I had a massive amount of compassion, empathy and love towards myself and my wife. I could "see" problems in our lives, ways in which we have been hurt in life, problems in our marriage, etc. I was able to see us both as little children, in need of love and patience and healing. (If I ever do this kind of therapy again down the road I will be sure to have even more picture of people handy.)
I also looked for a while in the mirror. What was interesting is that 15 years ago when I did psychedelics recreationally I never liked the mirror. But now it was great. I really enjoyed how I looked. I even had an insight into who I was and the path I was on.
Eventually I started coming down a little. I was aware of a number of insights, which I wrote down (in no particular order):
- that deep breathing is good for me.
- that emotions are a gift to me.
- that strong
emotions are not bad for me (see the movie Garden State).
- that my Higher Power is good.
- that there is an immense amount of beauty in the world (I was intellectually aware of this before, but I was now more emotionally aware of it)
- the importance of me making good lifestyle choices.
- that there is no magic bullet for me in life.
- that taboos and limits and moderation play an important role in a happy life for me.
- that I need to work though hard things either in counseling or in journaling.
- that focused, productive self reflection is essential to my healing
- that I need to listen to the still small voice
- that I need to be a better listener in general
After the fact I realized my attitude towards a particularly important issue was changed, even though I have no recollection of thinking upon the issue during therapy. I had for a long time felt insecure about my life success, as judged by the world's standards. I have a number of high school friends who have gone on to be very successful in their careers and business, and have compared them to myself, who earns a very modest living working with people with autism. Amazingly after therapy, this insecurity was no longer present. I now know that my life is not so bad, and I am not ashamed of not making much money compared to others or being as "successful".
Post Therapy - the rest of the day.
I did a lot of journaling about thoughts, in the style of stream of consciousness writing. I tried my best to recount as much as I could remember because I didn't want to waste the experience by fading memories.
The active part in the therapy was over after about 5 hours, by about 2:30 PM. I was surprised it was so quick, but possibly grinding the mushrooms before ingesting got them into as well as out of my system quicker than had I chewed them.
I got very hungry and ate a medium sized meal, of an apple and some chips and salsa, while talking with my guide about the experience.
We took a walk outside.
As I came out of therapy, my back pain came back into my consciousness. In other words it was hurting a lot. This is possibly partially due to the mushrooms and the experience itself, and partially due to being so sedentary for 5 hours. But the fresh air and walk did it some good.
I did have a headache, which was similar to a caffeine withdrawal headache, and after further reflection, I am pretty sure it was due not to dehydration, but the caffeine withdrawal.
My guide made sure I was ok on my own and I gave him my blessing to leave.
I journaled some more. I was and am committed to continue to journal daily about my thoughts, frustrations, and any continued insights. I have continued to journal daily. I am also committed to do Mindfulness (sitting still with eyes closed and focusing on the breath for 10 to 20 minutes per day, called MBSR).
In the early evening I decide to go to the gym for a light cardio workout. In part this was to get my blood flowing to help my chronic back pain.
I ate a lot that night and went to bed around 10 PM.
Edited by CSTolkien (10/22/15 10:58 PM)