Citation: Aldous Winters. "Gender Swap and Raynaud's Remission: An Experience with LSD (exp113063)". Erowid.org. Apr 13, 2019. erowid.org/exp/113063
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For seven of the last nine months, I've experimented off and on with LSD. It was not my first psychedelic, nor do I think it should be anyone's based on its risk profile: I've heard stories of people who did a lot of acid and never came back, or read case reports of people who have had persistent visual effects or other unintended sequelae. (Rather, I think ketamine and MDMA are better first psychedelic experiences. Ketamine because its after-effects are the most uniformly positive; see its treatment of depression, PTSD, and chronic pain. And because its high is similar to alcohol's effects, and is short-lasting. And MDMA because its high is so warm and fuzzy, it's hard to imagine someone having a bad trip on it.)
But, in spite of my trepidation, I've also looked forward to trying acid based on the literature on its uses in assisting psychotherapy—increasing empathy, trust, and expressivity like MDMA—as well as creative and sexual processes. Ok, and it also sounds fun. So when the set and setting were finally right, I gave it a go.
At the time I felt both happy and safe, and conflicted. I have a wonderful partnership and we had even recently gotten married. We have a beautiful home, a wonderful life, and want to stay together. But I've always wanted kids, and my partner is done. He's older. He had his kids in his first marriage, decades ago. He didn't enjoy the process of being a parent and doesn't want to do it again. I think it would be different this time around for lots of reasons, but have been unable to convince him.
We were honest about this disconnect when we first got together. Falling in love was an accident. The happiest accident of my life. So I went on the pill for him, even though I wanted nothing more than to get pregnant on my wedding night when we met. Happy years have gone by, and I needed them. We needed them. But my need for a family only grows. So I have also felt increasingly conflicted about taking the pill. I don't feel in control of my life and body. I don't feel I'm being true to myself, and that hurts me in lots of ways. And yet I feel I have to do what my love needs first, to take care of him. And sometimes, although it's not his fault, I simply feel powerless to assert my own needs as well. We have a conflict and I put him first; that's a wound to my integrity of being. It's hard to find another way.
The first time we tried acid, we planned to micro-dose and go to the park. It was a beautiful summer day, so our favorite park was going to be crowded with people playing music, children running around, couples walking… I had read online that you don't get hungry on acid and the high lasts 12 hours, so you must eat beforehand. I made myself eat four eggs even though I wasn't that hungry, they didn't taste very good, and two eggs would normally be a lot for me. (Obviously: Mistake.) Then, at the last minute, I was very excited about the adventure and wanted to try a full dose (around 120 mcg) instead of a tiny one (10 mcg is a commonly reported microdose where people report cognitive, emotional, and creative benefits).
My then-brand new husband wisely curbed my enthusiasm. Instead, I tried 40 mcg and he tried 20. We slipped pieces of paper, cut to lessen the dosage, under our tongues and held them there for 10 minutes before swallowing. Then off we walked in the summer sunshine.
After about 45 minutes, in the crowded park, I started to get nauseated. Then faces (which I already love looking at, like most people) got more beautiful and interesting. Noises, which can sometimes be difficult for me to deal with, and crowds, might have actually been easier—like on a glass of wine. And yet, there was also a growing edge to the faces. Some of them began to look twisted, strange, and frightening. My nausea also grew, and we headed home.
On the walk home, the world was swimming. You could call it dizziness, but it wasn't quite that. It was, rather, a flowy, swirling, falling visual effect I recognize now in psychedelic movie scenes as a distinctive LSD visual effect. The feeling of falling in it was the most pronounced this first time, probably compounded by the newness of the experience, the edge of fear that goes along with that, and my nausea from force-feeding myself a big plate of eggs in advance. I was really afraid the world would slip out from under me and swirl around—or at the very least that I would fall over and not be able to finish walking home.
Walking together, me leaning on my steady man, we made it home without me throwing up or a stranger deciding that I was behaving too strangely to let pass. Even though I had only taken 1/3 of a normal dose, there was nothing micro about this experience. I also think that this was the strongest reaction I've ever had to acid in some ways; maybe my brain needed to get acquainted with it in some way.
I love looking at myself on psychedelics, because I used to be dysmorphic and find that psychedelics fix this.
I love looking at myself on psychedelics, because I used to be dysmorphic and find that psychedelics fix this.
What used to look ugly, fat, too awful to go outside (and more specifically, as dysmorphia usually goes: the angles of the eyebrows far too harsh so as to make me look evil, small skin imperfections so huge I can't see anything else, small things too hideously big and big things too hideously small, and nothing special, graceful, right). The effect is not permanent, but can last weeks before I start to hate my body and feel I need to hide it again.
Previously, on MDMA, I'd seen my whole face and body as they actually are, during and after. And on mushrooms, I'd seen even more how those perceived imperfections were horrible distortions. You might think it's sad to realize you've tortured yourself and lost a lot of life doing so, but I know what I saw. The dysmorphia was a problem in my brain, not something I chose. And the psychedelics fixed it. It's such a huge, unqualified relief and joy to be freer and feel beautiful. But I had hoped for that, having read case reports of such things in medical journals and online. I'm not the first person to notice psychedelics can treat dysmorphia, and I'm glad to think I won't be the last.
When I looked in the bathroom mirror my first time on acid, however, I looked like a man. I found myself attractive; I looked fit, horny, and friendly. But there was no creative control in the hallucination, no reading into the image something that wasn't (to me at the time), there. I had become a man, and was happy to see it. I thought of Bill Hicks describing the walls bleeding on shrooms, not as a horrifying experience but rather as a hilarious and fascinating one. This was my feeling also about being a man, except I was also incredibly turned-on and felt very powerful.
Then I went to bed with my husband. Although we had our normal sex as far as the mechanics go, it still seemed to me that this time, I was really the man. When we came, it was as if we were one, something I've experienced on other subsequent acid trips. Someone told me before I tried acid that being on MDMA is like a party where you're very one with your body and your friends, but being on acid is like a party where you're one with the universe. But I have found the experiences more similar, though distinct. It seems, though, that mileage varies greatly with drugs and sex, and I am a person who tends to have more sexualized reactions to a wide range of substances and experiences than others.
Subsequent acid trips have deepened the intimacy in my marriage, helped us talk, been inspiring visually, been mind-blowing sexually, and not resulted in nausea. It was dumb to eat four eggs before trying acid, and I never did anything like that again. If I'm hungry before, I eat. If I'm not, I don't. Once I developed ravenous hunger on acid and ate the best Indian food of my life. Eating it literally felt like coming. In general, I guess relaxing and doing what your body needs at the time is a pretty good rule of thumb for self-care off and on special substances.
I've tried micro-dosing and found around 20 mcg is great for plowing through demanding creative and intellectual work, especially when I am afraid or having a block, or a deadline. I've been diagnosed with ADHD by three doctors but don't really believe it exists, and the medications I've tried for it don't do good stuff to me in the days after. So this is my favorite ADHD medication, and I could see adapting Ayelet Waldman's (former, experimental) every three days protocol to deal with the dose tolerance issue. But I prefer to trust my brain and not do it all the time.
I've still not tried a full dose, preferring instead to exercise a lot of caution around set and setting when it comes to acid. I still want to, someday. I find that a partial dose of 70 mcg or so, especially with a small amount of MDMA, helps me deal with crowds—loud noises, bright lights, and big groups can otherwise be too much for me, and alcohol is not my friend. This seems significantly healthier for my brain, and I'm angry that alcohol is widely available instead… because used wisely, psychedelics seem so much healthier. But I have been lucky to have only really had good set and setting psychedelic experiences, because I have experimented with someone who loves and takes care of me.
I've also experienced feeling whole and healed on MDMA combined with this larger mezzo-dose of acid. I'm surprised this isn't yet in the literature on PTSD, which I had read for many years before trying MDMA. There is so much great research and advocacy going on to get people better care for mental health problems, but ultimately I think demanding that people heal their most intimate wounds with strangers in a clinical setting is insane. So I hope psychedelics like MDMA and LSD, especially combined, will be available to people to try with intimates at home for self-exploration, communication, and even healing. There are people who shy away from the idea that you can self-treat serious mental health problems like PTSD and depression, but I have tried lots of therapies and found everything else incredibly painful and counter-productive. Some people just need love to heal. I did. And drugs enhanced my ability to communicate, trust, feel connected, empathize, and see things differently to take that healing process further. So it surprises me to realize that my healing experiences on acid have echoes in Stanislav Grof's work using LSD in psychotherapy—but that the people doing research now on MDMA haven't tried incorporating LSD as well. Maybe that will come. I'm sorry I don't want to say more about this. It shouldn't be an aside like this, but… I honestly think it's so intimate that it's wrong to pathologize and fully document things of this nature. Some things are actually sacred. Part of me wants to inspire researchers to push that envelope and part of me wants to tell them they're hubristic assholes for pretending that they can standardize caring for the soul.
So I've worked, socialized, and healed on subsequent acid trips. But since that first time, I've never been a man again. When I was a man, though, it was very clear to me that I had a right to bear children. This is an insight that I've also had as a woman, but as a man it felt different. As a woman it felt less like I was in control, like I would have to bicycle through life and see what happened on the way, like a flower hoping for a bee. And as a man it felt like I could shoot my arrow and make life happen. I know it's cliched. But the gender-bend on that first, mezzo acid trip really helped me learn a feeling of control over my own life that I still remember and cherish today
the gender-bend on that first, mezzo acid trip really helped me learn a feeling of control over my own life that I still remember and cherish today
. Even though I don't see how to apply it necessarily. Nothing has changed; but I have.
There was also another completely unintended side effect that makes sense in the context of the medical literature on LSD, but I haven't seen reported anywhere else yet. For many years I suffered from Raynaud's, a vasoconstrictive disorder where you lose circulation in your fingers, toes, ears, and nose in response to cold. They turn white and creepy, and it hurts like hell. If it gets worse, you can have finger ulcerations, and I've had cracking and bleeding from it before. I've had it confirmed on ultrasound after seeing a specialist about it. But since taking acid, my Raynaud's hasn't bothered me at all.
I didn't even trigger it after a recent sprain left me holding frozen vegetables on the affected appendage. Normally handling frozen stuff has been the most fool-proof way to tick it off. It wasn't comfortable, but my fingers didn't go into painful vasospasms and turn different colors, requiring defrosting under lukewarm to warm water to recover, either.
Raynaud's is a really painful and life-limiting medical problem that kept me from doing some things I love but hasn't bothered me since I tried acid, and this might make some sense as an effect.
Regardless of whether my Raynaud’s comes back, my beloved husband comes around to having kids, or any other outcome down the line goes this way or that, I feel empowered by my acid experiences. After all, I'm the man. I have a life to live, arrows to shoot—and stronger, healthier, happier hands with which to shoot them.
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