Alright, so it’s time to get real regarding my struggles with depression.
When was the first time that I can remember experiencing this sinking hopelessness that currently sits on my chest? Are there catalysts or triggers? What has been most helpful in recovering from these dark times? These questions I ask myself as I look back on this aspect of my relationship with self.
First, I tend to believe that experiencing depression is a normal part of life, and possibly is ‘more normal’ for highly creative or motivated people. I am certainly on guard when it comes to this mental state that feels like dank, stagnant water. At the same time though I recognize that without its presence, the pristine clarity of purpose and contentment that I experience in flow states and periods of success have little to no value.
Right now, whilst in the midst of the struggle seems like the best time to communicate and evaluate the role that this emotional state plays in my life and my work.
There is quite a bit of publicity currently around psychedelics, particularly psilocybin to treat depression, addiction, anxiety and the like. I can personally attest to the mushroom’s effectiveness in providing relief for these conditions. Yet as one of the most vocal advocates for the therapeutic use of psilocybin, I will also be one of the first to say that it is NOT a cure all or a silver bullet. Our culture has tended to look for panaceas, a single pill that can fix all of the problems. We teeter dangerously close to producing something like the Soma depicted in Huxley’s ‘Brave New World”. A concoction that I hope we never discover.
I have considered suicide. I have considered voluntary homelessness, I have considered hermitude. I have had marriages fail, projects dissolve at the brink of success, lived through personal and familial tragedies. I have been abandoned and betrayed by friends, witnessed and felt the pain shared by my children as they have had met their own struggles and felt the repercussions of mine. I have felt like a hopeless and helpless father, husband and entrepreneur.
I have chased women, success, money, materials, highs, and various forms of validation to try and quench the sensations of hopelessness that occasionally makes its way into my mind and more painfully, my heart.
I have questioned whether or not my consumption of mushrooms was a way out or a way through, and have found that it is neither. While my mushroom experiences have reminded me of my sense of purpose, most importantly they have reminded me that all states and life itself are temporary. Mushrooms have assisted greatly in helping me to sit calmly and patiently through the challenges.
Claiming that psilocybin can wipe depression away is in my experience and belief false. Yes, after a powerful experience there is certainly the potential for renewed joy and awe at the small beauties in life. There is the comfort that comes with the stillness in the wake of a full blown mushroom trip. But if mushrooms are a fix for depression then I should be one of the happiest men on the planet.
The truth is, that mushrooms don’t ‘fix’ the problem. They do however offer a perspective shift. In my hundreds of psilocybin experiences one of, if not the most important lesson has been to sit patiently, observing the mental states rather than engaging in them. This same lesson can be incorporated into daily life, and it is my belief that therein lies the true benefit of psilocybin.
Within a single mushroom trip the voyager can experience the full gamut of human emotions. Laughing while crying is not unusual. Early in the work it was easy to get swept away by the power of these emotions. Successive excursions into the psychedelic realm eventually have helped me to understand the value of observing these emotional states rather than giving myself over to them. This does not mean that I resist the experience, rather it means that I release myself to the experience without value judgement placed on the emotional or energetic encounter itself. Integrating this into daily life has proven the most challenging and most rewarding aspect of working with the mushroom.
Sitting here today writing this, I certainly feel the pain that is pouring over my shoulders, settling deep withing my chest, radiating down into my abdomen. I am observing it, experiencing it, knowing that it will pass. Quite possibly the most valuable lesson that I have learned working with the mushroom is this: The sooner I can submit to the experience, the sooner I can give myself over to the experience, the sooner it will equalize. Just like the psilocybin experience itself, like sound, like gravity, our lives seem to be a pattern of waves. Emotions, successes, trials, joys, sadness, they all come in waves and every wave has a peak and valley.
Recognizing that there is a equilibrium, that there is a balance facilitates the endurance required in allowing these states to pass. This is the same skill that I have learned to apply to my consumption of alcohol, cannabis, tobacco, coffee, sex, you name it. Temperance. Temperance in the face of debilitating depression, unhealthy cravings, negative mental loops. Stand by, stay calm, observe as it moves through, and it will move through.
While I appreciate the research being done with psychedelics and what it does to help the average citizen understand that not only are psychedelics over all safe but helpful, some of the results are potentially misleading.
The majority of the studies are illustrating long term benefits of a single psychedelic experience, which I completely agree there is, but there are not studies being conducted with psilocybin or other psychedelics for long term therapeutic applications. In my life, psilocybin has been a part of the processes. It has initiated enormous healing and positive personality change but healing is a process.
Clients whom I work with at MycoMeditations will surely recognize this phrase. Healing is a process. We can expect dramatic changes to come from our psilocybin experiences, but they are still gradual and must be integrated into our daily lives to be of any benefit. We can and do make dramatic leaps forward. We can expect to improve and heal but we must not expect that any substance or experience can end the pain that is part and parcel of existence.
With that being said, I allow myself to compassionately observe the pain that is in my heart today, the loneliness that I feel in a crowd of people, at home with my family. I allow myself to feel the desperation and fear that comes with any entrepreneurial endeavor. I will sit in the moment, witnessing and accepting my lack of control. In this acceptance, the pain is already passing. The temporal nature of suffering and joy are shared and are a beautiful dance in and of themselves. I am neither happy nor sad. I am. I am. I am the wave.