Mushrooms - P. cubensis
Citation: Frog. "Rescued from Hell: An Experience with Mushrooms - P. cubensis (exp113069)". Erowid.org. Apr 18, 2019. erowid.org/exp/113069
The mushrooms were supposed to rescue me from hell. That's why I took them.
Some background about me might help make sense of this. To begin with, I'd noticed my own consciousness when I was about 8 years old. I remember asking, "Why am I me?" and feeling surprised and uncomfortable when I realized that my older brother, from whom I expected an answer, couldn't even understand the question. I concluded that I was the only conscious being in the universe. The universe was a single player game, and I was the player. Direct experience told me that the most real thing, in fact the only real thing, was my own experience, and logic told me that therefore, without me, nothing was real.
That landed me with a kind of responsibility that isn't healthy for a little kid. My way of reassuring myself on that level --- a level that I seldom talk about, and it feels extremely strange to be typing about it for strangers --- was to ask myself whether I wanted to be playing the universe game. I always did. (The "I" I'm talking about here was neither my human bodymind nor my ego, though my ego soon latched on to the idea that I was basically god and no one else was, and built itself around that.) On the deepest level that I had access to, I was a being who chose being over non-being, even in the darkest moments, and there were some very dark ones. It was both a choice and not a choice, because if I chose non-being, the whole universe could reasonably be expected to disappear. That looks absurd when I type it. Just try to suspend disbelief, okay? That was my reality for several years. As I start typing about the loneliness of having no other conscious being to describe my experience to, the possibility that some conscious being out there will get what I'm writing about makes the writing not make sense.
Years later, I was birthing a baby. Birthing hormones changed my sense of time. Only one moment at a time was accessible, and that was great, because it meant that the baby would be born the next moment. I was doing well until the midwife, not understanding psychedelic time, made a reference to me potentially being in labour for hours to come. To me, that meant literally forever. Desperately, I reached into my own awareness to connect with that one who always said yes, who would choose suffering over numbness ... and it said no. To feel scared, abandoned and in pain forever was not acceptable on any level. I did not want to play the universe game. I was seriously traumatized afterwards, despite having a mostly natural birth.
After about a year of feeling anxious, depressed, hopeless, and constantly scared of the next fit of rage or panic, trying many kinds of therapy and only getting worse, I had the thought that I should try magic mushrooms. I'm not sure where that thought came from initially, it sort of appeared in my mind one day while I was gardening. It took me several more months to figure out what kind of mushrooms were safe, how to use them, and where to get them, and to arrange for a sitter for me and a babysitter for my kid at the same time.
In the meanwhile, I had a completely unplanned psychedelic experience, probably caused by a very large dose of edible cannabis oil, but exactly what it was or how I took in so much without knowing it is a mystery. Anyway, that's a story for another day. I resolved more birthing trauma on that unexpected trip than in all my other efforts. After that, I read the Psychedelic Explorer's Guide by James Fadiman, and this passage, about his LSD trip, made a strong impression:
"I went to a place of total aloneness, the You've-got-to-walk-this-valley-by-yourself sense of deep separation from the universe, and the realization that there really was nothing at all you could hold on to. Fortunately, this place is only a hair's-breadth away from the place next to it, where everything was connected, and I was part of it."
I was hoping, desperately, courageously, that Psilocybe mushrooms would take me from the lonely space that I'd been in for 20 years to the place of total connection. If they did, I was confident that that would help resolve my trauma, or even make it sort of irrelevant. On another note, a whitewater kayaking instructor had once told me, "If you get stuck in a whirlpool, take off your life jacket, and swim down. You'll pop up somewhere. That's what the water does." I took that idea into my session. I didn't know exactly where I was going, but I'd had enough of feeling stuck.
The day before the session, I had serious second thoughts about my choice of guide, and phoned two different friends to talk about that. One, who had never done mushrooms themself, said it sounded like I was taking a reasonable calculated risk. We joked that the worst that might happen was that I would become permanently convinced that I was a frog. I asked them to call and debrief with me the next day, and if I was still a frog, I'd answer and only say, "Grrribbit!"
The other had some experience with high doses of mushrooms. They said they wouldn't want to trip with a sitter they weren't totally comfortable with. They recommended calling off this trip and planning for a different time and place, when they would be able to sit with me.
I chose to trip in my bedroom, and decorated it with objects representing people I cared about, including my child self before coming out as queer. At the last minute, my friends set up a speaker to play music, and I'm very glad they did.
What I refer to below as "the medicine" was 3.1g of Psilocybe cubensis prepared as a drink with cacao and honey. I drank about 90% of it, got a strong intuition that that was the right amount, and stopped. I watered down the rest and took it as several microdoses over the next few days. (See "Coming home to waking life" below.)
I had a cold and a runny nose. Other than that, I was physically very healthy, despite my trauma and depression. I'd fasted for four or five hours, which is a very long fast for me because I'm lactating. I'd been taking small doses of CBD oil more days than not, but I don't think I'd taken it that day.
We had some logistical difficulties. My guide said my concerns about our interpersonal dynamic were relevant and serious and I'd better not trip with them.
My guide said my concerns about our interpersonal dynamic were relevant and serious and I'd better not trip with them.
The babysitter showed up late. Several hours later than I had expected to start the session, I was frustrated, probably hypoglycemic, and seriously scared that my sitter would back out and I'd be stuck with my trauma indefinitely. Finally the guide handed me the jar of medicine, picked up the toddler, and left. The babysitter-turned-trip-sitter absolved themself of all responsibility for my experience or outcome, and suggested that I taste the medicine and decide for myself how much I wanted to take.
I remember wanting to taste and honour each sip as I drank it. Finally I took sort of a double sip and then handed the rest to my sitter, saying, "I feel like that's a good amount."
"Yeah. That's a good amount."
I felt it almost immediately, within a few minutes of starting to drink it. The first thing I noticed was relaxation, followed by a sense that anything and everything was funny. Those could've come from relief at finally getting the session started, but I think it was the medicine itself. The first clearly psychedelic effect was a shift in my sense of space and my own body. I lay down and held my sitter's hand. The guide came back into the room briefly to put on some kind of classical music. The music turned things into dragons. My hand and the hand I was holding both looked and felt like dragon's claws, not in an unpleasant way at all, just definitely dragon and not human. The friend who'd told the frog joke showed up in frog form a few times during the session, though I myself was thoroughly not a frog. I laughed a lot about my non-frogness.
I remember a series of kaleidoscope-type visuals. By then I couldn't keep track of my physical body at all. I tried to blow my nose, and gave up because I couldn't relate the position of my hand to the position of the handkerchief that was within easy reach a moment before. I felt thirsty and said so, but I couldn't sit up to drink. It felt like very few minutes had passed since I took the medicine. I noticed that I needed to pee, and decided there was no point trying to get to the bathroom. I couldn't even tell whether I was already peeing or not, and I remember thinking, "Oh, well, I'm glad all movements of fluid are just normal, healthy life processes of the Gaia organism." I got a beautiful visual of a living, breathing Earth with water flowing around and through it, and at that point I fully let go of my physical body. I remember thinking that I might drown because I was so congested and so helpless in the physical realm, and deciding that even that was okay because I trusted the medicine.
My sitter changed the music to a solo flute lullaby, and I felt myself becoming part of a vast network of dancing pale green branches. There was no up or down, and no edges, my limbs merged seamlessly into the network and it was all dancing in time with the music. Sunlight shining into water with ripples makes a similar pattern, visually. I was experiencing it more kinesthetically.
My sense of hearing didn't seem to change at all during the whole session. My vision shifted back and forth between fairly clear perceptions of my surroundings in waking life and abstract visual interpretations of the music. When I saw my sitter, my bedroom wall, etc., they were familiar but distorted in space, as if my brain simply refused to do geometry right then. My sitter asked later whether the shifts had been correlated with opening or closing my eyes, and I don't know. My kinesthetic sense, even in relation to my eyelids, became confused early on and didn't come back until right at the end.
My kinesthetic sense, even in relation to my eyelids, became confused early on and didn't come back until right at the end.
My sense of time was cyclical, rather than linear, throughout. That is, each moment felt connected to the one before it, but I couldn't organize a series of moments into a timeline.
The emotional effect of the medicine was an energy release, like laughter. It was impossible to control, easy to trust, not exactly relaxing, but not at all frightening. I was surprised to find that I could still talk. It didn't feel the same as talking when I'm sober or when I'm stoned. On mushrooms, I found I could take a deep breath and then send a thought to my sitter, and somehow my voice would say it in English words.
At some point before my sense of my physical body completely disappeared, I seemed to be feeling only my fascia, and it seemed to be spread out in a network several metres wide. I remember thinking that the medicine was untangling it for me. That was a pleasant sensation.
There was a phase when the universe felt chaotic. I'm not sure whether that was before or right after my sitter changed the music again. I remember concluding that there was no point worrying about anything, since everything, possible or impossible, was already happening. I assumed that that was what the session was all about and that it was therefore probably coming to an end.
Thinking back, that was more like the middle of the session. I spent the rest of it in a beautiful fractal rainbow spiral world that had a sense of order to it as well as a sense of freedom. The words "cosmic consciousness" appeared visually, exactly the way I'd written them when I was writing down intentions for the session. The two friends I'd talked to on the phone showed up in that space. One was just being a frog. The other was dancing in almost the same way as I was, and I remember appreciating that. Some simple word-thoughts floated through my awareness: "Love," "Trust," "Healing," "Grateful," "Working together," "Dancing," "Growing," "We're all on the same team." It was obvious to me that "all" really meant all, that there was no being or pattern of any kind that was not involved in the same healing work as me.
My own consciousness lit up --- manifested -- created --- a loosely defined part of the fractal, like a candle whose light fades imperceptibly into the distance. I had a vague centre, but no edges. I had a sense that the space was infinite, that I was experiencing only one perspective on one bit of an infinite fractal universe. It was the same universe as waking life, perceiving it as a dancing fractal rainbow was simply a different perspective from waking life. I remember noticing a paradox, my perspective being the only one that was real in that moment, and that moment containing an awareness that all other moments and perspectives were also real. Other consciousness was both less real and no less real than my own. I was also aware of consciousness as the living, growing, healing, learning edge of the pattern.
I had an intuition that the whole fractal was generated by some extremely simple principle that was contained in every part of it. There was no master creator of the universe; the substrate, the hardware that the universe was running on, was consciousness, and the only program it ran was a very simple one that was all about healing and love.
I remember seeing normal human waking life as one small, dark loop in the pattern, off the one side from where I was, and knowing that it was what I was about to do next. The prospect was neither pleasant nor unpleasant, it was a minor chore that I didn't mind, like washing my hands or tying my shoe.
A moment later, I was back in my human body, in my bedroom, and my sitter was asleep beside me, and the music was coming from an electronic device rather than from everywhere at once. I found that I was able to blow my nose. I noticed that I needed to pee again, and was surprised to find myself crawling to the bathroom. I watched my hands placing themselves on the floor, one after the other, and wondered how they learned to do that, because they certainly didn't get it from me.
Coming back to waking life:
The music stopped. I guess the battery ran out. I missed it, and was glad it had lasted until I was at least somewhat functional again. I think my sense of linear time was the last thing to come back.
Settling back into waking life was challenging. Everyone was asleep and I felt unused to my human body and wanted someone to talk to. At first I scribbled notes on whatever paper I could find, feeling surprised that my hand remembered how to write. Here's one:
"It's kind of hard coming
P.S. I was not a frog, but we had a dragon dance party, which was fun."
Microdoses helped. About 5% of the original medicine was too much, I felt calm and grounded but a bit out of touch with linear spacetime, and thought that I might not be alert enough to take good care of my toddler. A tiny sip, way less than 1% of what I'd started with, made me feel slightly more grounded and trusting than usual, with no other effects. There was a dose in between that made me feel connected with the mushroom medicine but not at all out of touch with normal waking life, and I wish I'd measured it more precisely because that was the most helpful for integrating the session. When I say "connected," I mean I literally felt that my hands and feet joined my arms and legs into the network that I'd experienced during the session, when the flute music was playing. This sense was totally compatible with my usual way of relating to my body in waking life.
I'd planned to pump and discard breastmilk that next day, so I wouldn't be feeding magic mushrooms to my baby, but she was the first person to wake when I wandered around the house looking for someone to talk to, and I nursed her without thinking about it.
I found it helpful to debrief several times over the next few days, first with friends who knew I was planning to trip that night, then with others. Each spoken debrief feels like a few random snapshots that can't possibly do justice to the whole journey. This written debrief is more thorough, though what I'm sharing with you is far from the whole story, and the longer, less organized handwritten version is only slightly closer.
I was startled to realize that Psilocybe is still illegal here, so technically my friends were breaking a law by giving me that medicine. It left me feeling super weird about the government. Now that I trust the medicine, I can't trust the law. I can trust myself and my friends and the universe and the mycelium and so on, but not the law. Phooey.
Three weeks later:
I'm doing really well. I mean really, really well.
I keep saying this, especially to people who know I had a year and a half of mostly feeling awful.
All the thoughts I remember from the fractal rainbow space still make sense to me. They're thoughts I'd formed or collected gradually in the 12 years since I first heard someone else talking about what I now call consciousness. They feel more intuitive now. I really do feel like I'm on the same team as everyone and everything, even when we seem to be working at cross purposes for a few thousand years at a time. I can imagine a level of zooming out where it's all part of the same dance. I'm surprisingly content to think of waking life as one of many little dark loopholes in psychedelic space. The dimensions of space, time and person feel interchangeable, such that the distinction between self and other is the same as the distinctions between here and there and between past, present and future.
My lower back and abdomen feel far more relaxed since the session. I associate this with having been "untangled," and/or with my third chakra feeling better now that I'm not holding myself solely responsible for the entire universe through all of space and time and so on.
For about a week after the session, I had a feeling of energy moving up and down my back, like a stream of water that ran up as well as down.
The next time I saw the friend who'd told the frog joke, they were wearing a shirt in exactly the same shade of green as their frog form. I found that extremely funny and a bit... disorienting? Not quite disorienting. It was trippy. My mind refused to write it off as a coincidence. That was almost two weeks after the session, and more than a week after the last microdose.
My baby's speech suddenly became clearer and more assertive right after my session. Maybe she got some medicine through my milk, or maybe she feels more secure now that I'm so much calmer, or maybe it's just a developmental shift that was going to happen around 20 months of age anyway.
It's such a relief to know that there is medicine on this planet that can take me from a really horrible emotional pattern to a happy, functional one. I feel lucky to have friends who have access to it and know how to use it for healing. I want to be such a friend to my other friends.
I feel lucky to have friends who have access to it and know how to use it for healing. I want to be such a friend to my other friends.
Knowing it's illegal has gotten harder rather than easier over weeks of thinking about it.
It now makes sense to me that talk therapy hadn't helped much. My trauma was on a level that I could barely talk about with my siblings and my closest friends, and not at all with my therapist. The English language just doesn't deal with that stuff.
I wrote this out by hand and any time my left hand took a turn with the pencil, it would scribble short notes like,
"I'm okay. Yay. I got home. Welcome home."
Then my right hand would go back to trying to be all scientific.
Gender labels are much less important to me than they were before. It used to really, really bug me when people referred to me as "she," "Mom," etc., and the female name that I was given as a baby had to be secret for years because the sound of it could make me panic. Since the mushroom trip, I hardly care about any of that.
I'm happier. I feel connected, safe, able to engage with my kid and really enjoy playing with her.
I feel rescued from hell.
Four weeks later:
I got over-confident and exposed myself to some triggers that I'd avoided for months before the session. Then I had a panic attack, not the worst I've had, but scary enough to make me worry that I might be slipping back into old patterns already. I think I'm going to be okay. I'm still actively integrating the session. Writing this report, especially the section on set, has been a lot more emotionally intense than I anticipated. I'm going back to microdosing, and thinking about calling that other friend who offered to sit with me. Maybe another session, a similar dose of the same medicine, and a more intentional welcome home to waking life afterwards, will help.
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