My Psychedelic Therapy using Psilocybin
In this blog I want to describe and document my psychedelic therapy (magic mushroom therapy) telling you why I wanted it, what it involved, what I went through and what I got from it. If anyone is interested in it or thinking about it for themselves or loved one; I hope this blog post will help to you.
Why do Psychedelic Therapy?
Once I started seriously looking into using psilocybin (the 'magic' ingredient in magic mushrooms) therapy the answer was 'why the hell wouldn't you want to do it'. Every single one of us carries mental and emotional baggage and it seems to get heavier and more cumbersome as you get older. We have all had moments in childhood that have left an impact on us, some childhood traumas are worse than others and in these moments our young minds find it hard to deal with the experience and that ends up impacting on our everyday lives usually unconsciously, which weights us down in adult life. They can cause mood swings, anger, resentment, sadness and negativity. It is well known that we all develop habits in our lives that end up repeating and dictating our current behaviour. I have been reliably informed that the way adults behave and react is 95% habit, some are good habits but some are bad, outdated and no longer required.
As I looked into psilocybin psychedelic therapy I saw this as a way of breaking the habits and the influence of childhood traumas in my life; being free of the mistakes and errors in my past that I no longer wanted that were impacting my adult life. I hoped it would make me a better human, a more considerate person and better to be around for the people I loved the most.
I must add here I have a great life. I love my life. My wife is wonderful, my family is great and my business, Hippy Motors, a great way to earn money to live. I can't complain and I don't. That's not saying my life is perfect, I am not as good as I want to be. I do get moody, I do get angry and that impacts on the people around me. I do recognise that I overreact and I wish I did not, but there was just something about that behaviour I was finding hard to change and stop. I could see it was my default response when faced with a stressful situation, when I felt emotionally 'wronged'' it was a habit to get angry and I wanted it gone. I was sick of it.
I always had a temper. Some of my earliest memories are of me getting angry at being 'bullied' by my older siblings or school children. In my mind I was defending myself but really, what I was doing was just building a habit for later. I always justified my anger because I was standing up for myself. I could see that behaviour replicated in my adult life. It was a habit I wanted to break free from.
Could psilocybin psychedelic therapy help me deal with breaking this negative habit? It can do wonders for soldiers with PTSD so could it help me? I was going to find out and I want to tell you all about it.
Psychedelic Therapy, how to choose a retreat?
A quick Google search will find a host of potential therapists using psilocybin therapeutically. So think about what you actually want first. Many are group sessions but I wanted something one to one and I wanted it safe as I was nervous about doing it, not having much experience with psychedelics myself.
I found Lighthouse Retreat Netherlands led by Stijn and Su. They offered one to one as I wanted or couples therapy for the same cost so Angela could join me as well if she wanted. I had a quick 'Zoom' session with them both chatting about what I was wanting and they agreed to help me.
Knowing they were right for me was easy as they already knew about us, well they already knew Hippy Motors. They had been on our site once because they were thinking of buying a camper van and would decorate it with our decals. That was funny and I knew if they were the type of people that could be our customers then we would love them.
What is the Psychedelic Therapy Process?
First you should set your 'intent' for the 'journey' that will be your therapy, what do you want to get out of this so you need to be clear on what you want from it. We were encouraged to give those intents a symbol which could help bring us back to the intent during our psychedelic 'journey' (a trip was never mentioned).
A month or so prior to the session I was sent a questionnaire to complete. It was extremely challenging and time consuming but I found it rather enjoyable. It asked many questions that really got me thinking about me. The hardest thing for me was understanding what it is to be entirely honest with ones self. I realised that when we talk or write to people we change what we want to say depending on who we talk to and I was conscious not to write something because I thought a therapist would like me more, agree with me more and I would look better. I decided my first challenge was to be as honest as possible and ignore who I was writing to, I was writing to myself, like maybe writing to a diary as, in the end, this was for me and I can't hide or pretend things from myself although we always do.
Angela and I had our first Zoom session afterwards and Stijn would pick on some points that interested him to discuss. It all actually felt very natural and normal with no pressure.
We got a second questionnaire after that. Not as big as the first but just as challenging and enjoyable. It was great really pondering some very big questions that I had never thought about.
Then we had a second Zoom session and a week later we were on our way to The Netherlands for our psychedelic therapy where, thankfully, it is legal to do.
We had to abstain from all stimulants for a week leading up the the session. Everything was banned to make sure we got the most from the magic mushroom so no tea, coffee, alcohol or chocolate to maximise our journey to better ourselves. If I was on any form of antidepressants then I'd have had to stop I think it's 6 weeks prior.
I could set up to three intentions for the therapy. My intentions were to get rid of my anger and as I could not put my finger on the next bit I just thought I would get rid of emotional baggage. To represent the intentions I visualised a dove for my anger and a suitcase for my baggage. The suitcase would be quite an important addition during my 'journey' as it happens.
The Psychedelic Therapy – arrival.
Firstly Stijn and Su made us extremely welcome and comfortable. They picked us up from the airport and we got on well instantly. We got there on the Friday and the accommodation was extremely comfortable. In the evening they fed us (Su's cooking was just exquisite) and we'd get to know each other very well, very quickly in the following hours. The next morning we were to have no breakfast and they would come, make the magic truffles, perform a ceremony before we ingest the truffle. Three to six hours later we would be out of our psychedelic journey and we would have confronted ourselves, our demons and hope to be better people.
Us with Su and Stijn
Su, originally from India, performed the ceremony that would start our 'journey'. The ceremony (pictured) was dedicated to Ganesh, the elements and called on the protection of our guardian spirits. It set the scene perfectly prior to eating the magic truffles (on the right and left in the glasses) and it gave it all a real sense of reverence.
The truffles contain the psilocybin, the active ingredient to expend our consciousness, dissolve the ego to help us to confront ourselves so we can see our issues. It would mean no bullshit, just a raw naked self reflected back at me, seeing insecurities, regrets, demons and no secrets as you gaze deep within yourself.
We went for a walk and I could feel them work rather quickly as my ego, my sense of self, dissolved with the truffle. As we walked with Stijn through the trees close by Stijn talked about himself as we did not want to say much. He had a vast experience as a therapist and has worked/studied with psychedelics therapeutically around the world. I was very reassured knowing I had his guidance as I could feel my sense of self ebb away as the truffle released the magic molecule into my blood slowly unwrapping my mind.
We were put onto our beds in separate rooms, blindfolded and noise cancelling headphones placed over our ears playing carefully selected music to isolate ourselves from the outside would. Our journey was going to be internal and the music quickly helped the process.
I was feeling isolated and nervous as I was now heading towards my true self.
My Psychedelic Journey – Part One – Feeling Loved
The music was stunningly wonderful. You pick out every vibration, every layer of the sound and the emotion in the music is overpowering. Stars in the darkness shone and moved and like points in a 3D scan and they formed a Greenman face. That made me go 'Wow, thank you, that was impressive' but I guessed it was just a start.
Oddly, I started to feel I was getting smaller. I wanted to leave the bed and curl up on the floor and shrink but I chose to stay where I was on my bed as I felt myself get smaller and smaller.
In the darkness I saw a foot to my side, a huge elephants foot. It moved very gently and I climbed onto it. I could see the scratches in the nails and the fine creases in the skin. I was walking over the wrinkled skin and I guess I was bodily picked up as I was now walking up the elephants trunk. I knew then I was with Ganesh as I was following a line of beads, paint and flowers on his trunk. I saw his eyes and I loved those small, wise and beautiful eyes and I nestled down between them in Ganesh's third eye and felt cosy, warm and loved. I heard a voice saying, “Ganesh loves you, you are my mouse”.
I could have stayed there cosy and comfortable curled up in the forehead of a deity but as the music changed I had a journey to go on and I was just starting out.
I reminded myself of my purpose so I said to myself “I need to revisit myself, I need to look into my anger, my temper” and with that I was outside my childhood home, a large redbrick Victorian house in Birkenhead. I was about to go into the house called 'Reedville' and I was a child again to see what was inside there for me.
The journey – Part Two – Feeling uncomfortable.
I was born in Reedville (pictured below) and except for a few years in Egypt I lived there until I was 19. I had a great deal of memories there and some if which I was uncomfortable about.
I was now outside the living room, the house's old servants quarters, where most of the 'living' and social interaction took place when I was very young and everything looked like it did when I was a small kid. I walked inside.
I was looking at the details I had forgotten. The texture of fabric on the sofa, the thick peeling paint on the woodwork and I spent some time and went through most of the house like this. In the kitchen, hall, up the stairs into what was my grandma's bedroom (I was born in that room) and there I was looking at the old bookcase that was hers. I loved that bookcase and I inherited it when it became my bedroom many years later. The wood was beautiful, the leaded glass doors and the words 'Never Judge A Book By The Cover' along the top. Then I heard a voice saying “You are that book”. I knew I was being put down as it was repeated. I was the rubbish book that looks good. It was quickly reinforced by the following “You are just a peacock, you are all just for show”. I should add here that I like to dress colourfully, I don't like to conform to the bland 'male' look. I love colour and if I can add colour and style I will. I suppose it's a reason I started Hippy Motors because I thought cars and vans just looked dull so I took the criticism as a fair comment. Yes, I'm a bit of a peacock, I like to look good and yes if I was a book I'm sure I'd make a crap one with a fancy cover. It did make me quietly chuckle to myself.
The bookcase, however, did remind me of my Grandma. I have been told she watches over me now she is gone and I liked the idea of that so I've embraced the thought. I recalled, as I was standing in her old bedroom, that Su had asked our guardian spirits to guide us on our journey so I thought she must be here with me. So I addressed her “Grandma, as you are with me, I'd like to go over something I've always regretted, I want to relive it with you”.
Instantly I was back outside the living room door. I was eight years old. I'd just been thrown out by my big brother and sister as we had had some sort of a fight. My Grandma was also in there, she was lying on the sofa recovering from an operation with her leg in plaster. Unknown to me, at that time, very soon afterwards she'd be dead. I would soon came home to find she'd gone and I never saw her again and what was to happen in a few moments will stick with me because I thought her death has something to do with me and what is about to happen would be my last memory I had of her. I wanted to go through it again.
I was really angry with my brother and sister and I wanted to get back at them, I wanted to hurt them as they hurt me. I saw a cricket bat leaning up against the wall under the stairs. I picked it up, opened the door and went in there swinging the bat around my head heading towards my brother and sister. As they over powered me again (I was a lot smaller than they were) I could hear my Grandma crying and shouting. I looked over to her as I was being dragged back out and her look was one that haunted me for decades afterwards. She looked shocked and really upset.
I was crying hard, crying like a child, the way children can't catch their breath and I said what I've never been able to say to her, “I'm sorry Grandma, please forgive me, I was just a child”.
Instantly I felt love wave over me and she said “Of course I forgive you my dear”.
I was still crying when I felt someone hold my hand for real. It was Su letting me know she was there with me as well.
The guilt of that moment I have felt for 48 years. Now I had the forgiveness of my Grandma and I knew she loved me.
I was crying and tears soaking into my blindfold but I was feeling a release from that incident. As the music changed I was calming down. I was about to go in deeper into my journey into myself. I had already gotten so much out of this but I had only actually just started. I had more to be shown. The incident with my Grandma was only one embarrassing example of many of my anger, my temper and I was here to address that and how it was impacting my adult life.
The Journey – Part 3 – The Jaguar Has It
I had left Reedville and I remember thinking 'Why has that place had such a hold over me, it's just a fucking house, fuck it'. With that thought I felt a release, I realised it's just nothing but a big brick building and I didn't need to have any emotional ties to it.
Now I was watching a light show. A classic psychedelic experience. Symbols and artwork morphed throbbed and shone in a vast darkness. I could not possibly describe what I was watching, maybe a cosmos of meaning is close. Celtic knotwork, Azetc imagery, mazes, so many things I recognized and loved and they are in my own artwork, my website my own library of beloved symbolism. Was I seeing what the ancients saw on their own shamanic journeying that helped humans form religion, temples, art and social structure?
Then a face formed of a big cat. It was pulsating, illuminated and rather like a Maori moko tattoo of swirls and lines but made from energy. I watched it for a while and this face was not going away like all the other objects. This face was staying just looking at me.
I loved it but I had a job to do. I had to address my temper. I had to refocus onto my intent so I said to myself, “What about my anger, what can I do about my anger?”
Then a voice came to me, I think it was Ganesh, “The jaguar has it”.
I was rather dumbstruck, “Sorry, what was that?” I asked.
“The jaguar has your anger. If you feel you are getting angry then ask the jaguar to take it away”. With that the jaguar turned around and walked into the darkness and was gone.
Wow, I thought, that was great, really easy, so simple, the image of that beautiful cat will stay with me, it will take my anger away. What a great solution and it took me totally by surprise. Ganesh has given me a jaguar to stop me getting angry to help me control myself in future.
As I was reeling from this the music changed, the jaguar had gone, my journey was continuing, I was still going deep into myself, more tears soaked into my blindfold where was I to go now, maybe I need to address some of my 'baggage'.
It is usual in psychedelic therapy to be taken by surprise. I had already seen that but this journey was about to take a direction I could not have possibly foreseen.
The Journey – Part 4 – Things are about to get difficult
Before I go on I want to say I have only held back on minor details so far in this blog post. For this next part it involves other people that I have not been able to discuss this with. For that reason I will hold back on some explanation that I still consider important. I do, however, hope you will get the gist of what happened although it is an abridged version. I will only give detail of what effected me but I will not go into the background to events as I do not want to use this post to cause any embarrassment to others.
I had a second intent for my journey and I now wanted to focus and change my journey to deal with that; my emotional baggage (whatever that was).
In the swirling cosmos of illuminated galaxies of symbolism I conjured up a suitcase. A suitcase as I would draw one, I put it down and I said to myself, “There you are now, here is my baggage, let us deal with this”.
Boy, things were about to go bad for me.
I became aware of time; my timescale or span of my life. I saw the proportion of time I was with my ex-wife within that. I was told, “It's not insignificant and you treat it like it is insignificant”. I had to agree, it was ten years of my life. We had two beautiful children in that time and I was made aware that I do hide that from people or, at least, I don't easily tell people. I am embarrassed that I have a daughter that does not want to communicate with me so I tend not to mention her. I have a son that I hardly see and don't talk enough to. I feel bad about all of that and when people meet me now they usually don't find out about that for a while and that is a source of shame for me. I was made to feel that and face it and I had to agree it is not good.
I was already crying but it was going to get far worse for me.
I started feeling the pain of my ex-wife that I caused her when I left her for Angela. I was going through the emotions I had caused her and I have never hurt so much.
I was making excuses in my journey, the kind of excuses I give others when I discuss how Angela and I got back together again after being childhood sweethearts. I was saying that I did it for love but I was firmly put in my place, “No, it was selfish, you did it for you, not for love”. I suppose it was what my ex-wife would say to me if I'd had been saying those excuses to her.
I saw the face of our daughter as a young girl looking so beautiful and innocent to me. “You left her” I was told. I tried to give the same old reasons I give others, “No I did not, I never wanted to break up with the children”. The answer was not as agreeable as friends of mine would tell me, “But you did! You were selfish, you did it for you”.
I was reminded also of my son but strangely it was his sister and mother that I was facing more. I have a better relationship with my son but recently I am aware that he is also unhappy with me.
I could see the logic of what I was being bombarded with. I was seeing their point of view and I have never done that, probably to protect myself from these kinds of feelings. Maybe because throughout our separation I saw my ex-wife as the 'enemy' who was trying to stop me seeing my children so I couldn't feel the pain I had caused her. I was creased up in a knot of bitter sadness. My face was hurting with crying so hard. This pain was real and it was down to me, my action, my own will that I imposed on others. I have a great life at the moment and it was clear to me that it was only great because I caused all this pain.
I could see I left them for someone I continued to love throughout the marriage and that hurts them and it was wrong of me; fullstop, end of argument, no more discussion or defending myself.
I was waiting for a solution to present itself to me; something like the jaguar but my plea's for forgiveness didn't come with a 'Of cause you are my dear' from my ex-wife and children.
I waited. Nothing. Not even a nice psychedelic light show. Nothing just raw emotion felt in a dark empty void.
A remedy could only be down to one thing, “It's up to me then isn't it?”
“Yes it is”.
“Shall I write to them?”
“Yes you should” came the monotone reply from the void.
As I was trying to work out what to write and what I could possibly tell them I just wept harder. I removed my tear soaked blindfold but kept my eyes shut.
I knew writing could only ever be a gesture to them but they needed to know how I felt, how I understand and take responsibility for what I caused. I needed to let go of that 'baggage' as it was clearly not going away. If I carry on ignoring it it would only get bigger and worse.
The Journey – Part 5 – Coming back with gratitude.
The music took a more upbeat tone and with that so did my emotions. I was moving on from the feelings of utter dreadfulness that I was being shown.
I had very little idea of time, it felt like it was a very long time. The visions had gone but feelings, emotions and enjoyment from the music were still high. At some point I was told, can't recall exactly, that I was Ganesh's mouse as well as being Angela's mouse.
That made me smile although I did wonder if I should feel upset that I am Angela's mouse but it was amusing.
I started to give thanks as I felt enormous gratitude to what I had been shown during my journey. It was such a privilege to have been shown so much; I experienced the love of a Hindu Deity, got forgiveness from my Grandma, given a jaguar for my anger and made to realise I should not try to wallpaper over the cracks in my life regarding my previous marriage and the full implications of it are my responsibility and not at all romantic.
With all this I felt I could defiantly move forward in a far better way and I was starting to feel like I need to talk it over with Stijn and Su but was also wondered if more was still going to come.
Then the music changed again and the next track on the playlist was more downbeat and it set my emotions off again. I started to think once more about my ex-wife and our children and I'm afraid I had to give up and stop the journey and talk it over with Stijn and Su. I opened my eyes and Su was sitting there smiling.
“Welcome back Matt, you seem to have had an interesting time”.
Stijn joined us and gave me a bowl of mango to get my blood sugars up as it is an exhausting experience.
We talked for an hour together as Angela was still journeying around in her mind in the adjacent room.
My first question to Su was “What's the significance of the mouse?” and it was explained that the mouse is very important to Ganesh, the mouse allows him to travel to areas he cannot normally get to. The mouse is also clever and keeps out of harms way. So If I'm also Angela's mouse that makes me feel good.
It was great to talk it over with them and hear their take on my journey but what I realised is it was my journey, my feelings and, it seemed, I knew what answers, actions and opportunities I had been given. I had to admit and face my own transgressions. I faced myself and it was raw and emotions naked.
I felt blessed and privileged to have been able to have gone through that emotional roller-coaster. Not many do or can do this treatment and many more need it far more that I did. I felt spoilt.
I did know I still had hard work ahead of me. If I want to be a better human I need to summon my jaguar when I feel I've been hurt and not get angry. I need to write to my other family and let them know I love them and deeply regret what I did. I had the forgiveness of my Grandma that I was never able to have when she was alive after I did something I have always regretted. I was told I was a lousy book, a peacock and Angela's mouse but that all works for me.
In my opinion this is a therapy for all.
Talking to Stijn and Su they have problems with people that have been on antidepressants for a long time and are very hesitant to take on such clients. In their mind it seems these powerful drugs may block the effectiveness of psilocybin to do it's magic even if they have abstained for weeks prior to the treatment. These people are the ones that need this treatment the most. For me the law is an ass and people need to be offered this treatment before they are prescribed such antidepressants. Psilocybin is known to be a lot safer to humans than any pharmacological drug and the evidence for it's application as an effective therapy is growing but it needs to happen sooner. Why we need to head to other countries for this treatment is just wrong.
Thank you for reading my journey. Namaste. See my Jaguar, as a decal, here...
For more information (just for starters)
The Psychedelic Drug Trial BBC Fantastic Fungi Netflix
Most by the following people: Michael Pollan, Dennis McKenna, Paul Stamets, Andrew Weil
Useful Links to get you started