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Weak trip report

trying for level 5 to treat depression

I haven't had a classic psychedelic drug (mushrooms or LSD) since the 90s. (I did have a ketamine infusion in January for a research study on treatment-resistant depression.) My interest in psychedelics was renewed after hearing about recent research as a treatment for depression, which I've struggled with all my life. Over the past several months I've been engrossed in learning about psychedelics, which I realized I never understood back when I took them. I never experienced anything like "ego death" probably from taking low doses and being on fluoxetine, an antidepressant that probably dampened the experience. (I haven't been on any antidepressant or other prescription for over a year now.)

I've been eager to have a high-dose ego-dissolving trip like what the researchers are doing. It took me a while to learn about protecting my anonymity on the dark web. At one point I got scammed out of $66 by the Onion Mixer, a supposed bitcoin mixer that took my bitcoins, but never sent anything out.

I found a trusted seller with multiple mushroom strains. One was labeled “A+” and the reviews backed that up. I wanted 5 g, but ordered 7 g because they were sold in multiples of 3.5 g. After the order came, I kept it in the refrigerator for a week before I was ready to take them.

Over the previous few weeks, I prepared 6 hours of music, mostly Grateful Dead jams and jazz. I wrote down a long list of aspects of my mental health I would like to overcome, and some things to try to remember to tell myself if the trip gets challenging. I was braced for a challenging trip at 5g of A+, but unafraid. I wanted a strong life-changing experience and felt ready for anything.

I had disturbed sleep the night before, but got up with the alarm unlike most of the week. I went for a half-hour jog in the park as I often do on weekends. It was 27 degrees F, but I wore plenty of layers and felt excited that I finally arrived at the day that I would take the trip I’d been planning and looking forward to.

I picked off a 0.4-g cap to eat and weighed about 4.6 g to make tea with. I crushed the 4.6-g portion in a plastic bag and put it into a glass. I boiled a cup of water and poured it over the crushed mushrooms with a couple teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to steep for 10 minutes. I poured that tea through a strainer into one cup. Then I put the crushed mushrooms in the pot with another cup of water, brought it to a boil, removed it from heat, added a mint tea bag, and let it steep for 13 minutes. I then poured that through a strainer into another cup.

I got settled at my desk with a high-back chair that I tilted back and put a blanket over me. I reviewed my list of things I'd like to overcome and things to remember if it gets challenging and took a moment to focus on my breath. I hadn't eaten for 16 hours, but was not hungry as I usually go 16 to 22 hours without eating each day. I picked up the 0.4-g cap and said, "I'm giving myself to you", and ate it. I started the music and proceeded to sip the 2 cups of tea over the next 8 minutes. I put on an eye mask and listened to Here Comes Sunshine waiting for the trip to start.

After half an hour I just felt mildly dizzy and started getting concerned because I expected tea to kick in faster than that. I felt fidgety and got up to use the bathroom and ate some of the crushed mushrooms from the strainer. After getting settled back down with music and eye mask, I started seeing colorful patterns. It was amusing and similar to the trips I had in the 90s.

I started laughing. For some reason I didn't want to laugh, but tried to tell myself to surrender to the experience. I laughed on and off the whole time and I continued to struggle with not wanting to laugh. Reflecting on this later in the trip, it seemed like a test of my ability to let the mushrooms take control and I somewhat failed.

After another half an hour it wasn't getting any more intense and I was far from anything like ego dissolution. So I got up and ate all the crushed mushrooms from the tea pot and ate the other 2 g. I was disappointed that it wasn't going far, but thought I'd try to get as much from it as I could.

After settling back down with the music and eye mask, I started thinking about what to do next, after the trip. I knew I wanted to try again and thought about what I might write to the seller about the mushrooms. I assumed (and still do) that the seller had the best of intentions - that those mushrooms were A+ at least in another batch, and if it was a weak batch, it wasn’t the seller’s fault. Or maybe I shouldn't have stored it in the refrigerator for a week.

After a while, I got bored, though still seeing mild colorful patterns. I thought of Fadiman's experiments with problem solving at lower doses of LSD and thought I'd try to do something relatively productive. Prior to getting settled I set up a musical keyboard next to my desk. I can't really play, but I've tried to learn in the past and thought I'd dust it off in case I feel like getting into it at the end of the trip. So I started playing piano along with Dark Star. That was fun. I found some simple patterns that I enjoyed playing. Dark Star is harmonically fairly simple and I already knew the key. I laughed at myself when I made sloppy mistakes and said, "that's why I'm not in the band".

When the music changed to Coltrane, I just cracked up hysterically at the thought of me trying to keep up. I was getting tired, which is a chronic problem for me, so I went back to the eye mask. But I soon got bored again and decided to see how much I could figure out about the key and chords of the music. So back at the keyboard, I found the root, then the song changed (still Coltrane) and I found the root again and that it was minor and started looking for something to play. But I grew more tired and ended up lying with my head on the keyboard for a while.

I soon realized if I'm going to lie there, I'd be more comfortable sitting back the chair. So I did that without the eye mask, but still with the music - watching the itunes visualizer. It looked just like it always does. I wanted the trip to end so I could move on to working on the next attempt. I started writing some of this trip report in my head, but mostly felt too tire to actually write.

I was getting more contemplative and looked for things I could take with me and integrate in my life. I looped through a thought pattern several times. I noticed something about my mind, like my thoughts were racing, or I was struggling with a small decision like whether to get up and use the bathroom. Then I thought "I'm always like that". Then I thought I might just be more mindful of it in this state. I wrote, "just see what it is and don’t judge or try to change".

I thought of my list of mental health issues I want to overcome and thought the mushroom isn't going to solve any of that, even with a stronger trip. It might just reinforce things I already know about how to deal with the problems. I wrote, "it’s a journey. you don’t get there. you keep striving towards it."

Four hours after I ate the first cap I decided to end it and make dinner. I was surprised to find that my blood keytones were up to 2.2 mM, which normally only happens after a couple days of zero-calorie fasting. They were only 0.4 before starting the trip. I don't usually try get into ketosis because it wears me down after a while. But when I initially get into ketosis it can have a great antidepressant effect. So I had been cutting carbs the previous couple days to try to get my ketones up for the trip in case that would help it be less difficult.

I was pretty exhausted the rest of the night, but started writing this report. That night I had no sleep disturbances and woke before my alarm with plenty of sleep - very rare. I felt calm in the morning. At the grocery store, I had more eye contact with the clerk and really appreciated her smile in a way that’s unlike me.

As the day went on, I went back to my usual tired, stressed, fearful self. But I’m amazed that I’ve written this long report. One item in my list of things I want to change is, “be a good reader and writer.” I normally have a hard time writing anything more than a short email and I didn’t think I could actually write all this. It may not be interesting to other people, but to me it shows me that I can do what I didn’t think I could. That might be the most valuable part of the trip.

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