23 Jan 2019

Psilocybin Therapy in the Wild, Part 3: One Man's Story of Anxiety, Trauma and Mushrooms

by Roderick

In Part 1 of this series, Namé’s background and motivation to seek psilocybin therapy were explored. In Part 2, the full report of his experience with guided psilocybin therapy was presented in its raw form. In this third and final installment, the immediate and lasting effects of the event are reported to educate and enlighten.

Namé studied and searched; he prepared and focused. For the first time, he consumed psilocybin under the watchful eye of a therapist guide. He approached the experience with goals and anxieties, but also with purposeful resolve to use it as a transformative event. The father of two, struggling with the loss of both his mother and wife, had found the power he needed in psilocybin to make the changes he sought in his life.

The first 24 hours

“Those first 24 hours were very, very rough. I was at the point where I thought to myself that no one should do this. That the purging and the catharsis wasn’t worth the immediate aftermath of suffering.”

With some hindsight, Namé reconsidered. He recognized that the goals he outlined for his trip might have been overly ambitious, especially for his first psilocybin experience. When asked if these first 24 hours were “necessary or productive,” he replied:

“I think it may have provided me some insight into the fact that I actually did change. The dread and regret I was feeling was proof to me that I had lost my old identity, which was ultimately a good thing.”

The doubt that he felt in the immediate aftermath eventually evolved. With the outcomes that would come from this solitary event, he resolved to pursue further sessions, with more targeted and focussed goals.

“...just to try to address one single thing and not a lifetime’s worth of issues. I probably did try to do too much.”

His guide took notice, sympathized and offered understanding, and gave Namé some parting advice at the end of their session. He suggested seeking “physical normality” by eating and drinking, bringing Namé’s heightened mind back to his earthly body. With some food and drink, Namé quickly felt a return to the everyday, with renewed energy and determination for change.

The short-term effects

The effects were immediately noticeable to those around him, while being subtle enough for Namé’s children to be none the wiser. He mentioned that they, aged 3 and 7, had been much more perceptive of the growing friction between him and his wife, rather than any sudden changes resulting from his encounter with psilocybin.

The people closest to Namé perceived the change in the tone of his voice. He flowed with positivity at a time when he was still struggling with his separation from his wife. While remaining challenged in the weeks after psilocybin therapy, he felt he would ”be better able to endure and come out of it a better person.”

The transcript, produced by the guide during his psilocybin session, became an indispensable asset. Namé mentioned that Michael Pollan suggested in his book (How to Change Your Mind, 2018) that a transcript assists in putting you “back in that state of mind and it helps calm or quiet the mind. Going through the transcript makes it a lot easier to remember [the experience] and put yourself back in it.”

With these new tools, Namé approaches life in a newly found way. Since the psilocybin therapy, his anxiety has been transformed into what he describes as “how a ‘normal’ brain feels it.” The things that used to render Namé an anxious husk, even sadness and depression, felt lighter and less overwhelming.

The impact his anxiety used to have on his life has been significantly lessened. He is no longer left exhausted after a day of reacting to imagined threats. The change has allowed him focus on the environment and people around him. He has noticed that he seems to better understand and absorb the emotions of others. This sense of connectedness to others has left Namé “feeling much more human.”

On the psilocybin therapy itself

With some time to reflect on his experience with psilocybin therapy, I asked Namé whether he would suggest this method of healing to others. He absolutely recommended it, though he emphasized caution. “It’s not a joke. I’ve spoken to many people before and after the treatment and most often you get the reaction of ‘Oh, I’ve done shrooms’ as they roll their eyes.”

”Psilocybin has a profound effect on the brain, but it’ effect is dictated by the setting (how and where you do it) and the set (what your preparation and intentions are). I would recommend it for someone who can talk to a therapist who can help them decide and prepare, and talk to people who have done it. I was as prepared as I could have been and even then I wasn’t ready for the come down.”

The emphasis on an open and experienced guide was important for Namé. Since the therapy, his guide frequently checks on his well-being. This played a significant role in the most important part of a successful therapy: ”You need to believe that it’s the right thing for you. I wouldn’t go into it reluctantly or without understanding that you are going to cure yourself, no one is going to do it for you.”

The recipe for success

”I think you need to be a person who is open minded but understands exactly what psilocybin does. No part of me did this for recreational or hallucinogenic experiences. This was work and it was medicine. It’s almost like undergoing physical therapy for an injury you’ve had your whole life.”

”I endured a lifetime’s worth of emotions and crying in a 4-5 hour period. I felt like I released 10 years of mucus. I honestly felt like an exorcism had been done and my head rotated 360 degrees and I threw up on the ceiling. You need to be willing to go through that and willing to experience it while another person is in the room.”

”Lastly, you need to talk it out the entire time. Part of the whole process of helping yourself is talking it out and having it transcribed. Post-therapy integration is critical and you need to have a good record of everything you experienced and said. I have multiple uses for the transcript. I’m actually working on a book and a chapter is going to be my experience with psychedelic therapy.”

Namé has experience with traditional therapy (outlined in Part 1) and suggested that it was integral to the positive outcomes of his psilocybin therapy. The support and direction he received before his psilocybin experience, and the re-integration therapy he undertook afterwards, produced profound results. ”...Psilocybin is only a tool, it’s not a cure. The cure is the work you put into preparation and intention setting. The journey is completely defined by you.”

The lasting effects

Over a month after Namé’s first experience with psilocybin mushrooms and guided psychedelic therapy, I spoke with him about the lasting impact on his outlook, personality and relationships. He felt that while it has only been three months since learning of his wife’s affair and commencing his divorce, he felt “fantastic” given the circumstances.

”I feel like ridding my consciousness of anxiety has unlocked my potential as a human being. I’m eager to move on with my life and overflowing with love and happiness in general. Everyone I talk to tells me they can see such a profound change in me. Not just related to feeling better about my divorce situation but that I’m a totally different person for the better.”

”What I’ve come to realize is that this fear and anxiety that I always carried with me suppressed my personality and my ability to experience unconditional happiness. Now that those handcuffs are off I walk around with a different expression on my face, one of peace and care.”

”And everyone responds to it, friends and strangers alike. I talk to random people in the street and feel like I’m charming them into liking me. I feel like I am one of those people I’ve been jealous of my whole life who can just instantly befriend someone instead of judge them.”

”I’m also truly at peace with my wife and the situation. I don’t feel anywhere near the degree of anger and resentment that I did. If I do feel any of that it’s so small that I don’t even think about it. I’m excited to move on and date and live my life. I’m especially excited to give my children a life of happiness with their father that wasn’t possible before.”

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