My Psilocybin Trip
A few years ago, I read an article about a depressed and anxious psychotherapist who took a guided psilocybin trip. He emerged from the experience considerably calmer and more capable of functioning, with the insight: Show up and be open. His experience made a deep impression on me, and I took on that phrase as my own mantra which has since eased me through a number of potentially anxiety-producing situations.
More recently, I read Michael Pollan’s book How to Change Your Mind, a comprehensive narrative about mind-altering drugs that includes a history of their development and use, as well as narratives of various people’s personal experiences, including his own.
Pollan reports that a high percentage of the people who have taken psilocybin trips count them as among the most significant and transformative experiences of their lives, akin to the birth of a baby. Some talked about encountering people they knew — dead relatives, or their children, or even other versions of themselves — and working out new understandings about those relationships. Some talked about losing their egos and becoming part of the universe. People facing death emerged feeling stripped of their anxieties and their fear of death, and almost everyone felt they had come to a deeper realization about the importance of love. After a single trip, many of them — most of them — felt significantly different for months and even years.
Eager to experience such insight and transformation as I travel the path to death, I decided I wanted to take a trip myself.
Despite having come of age in the later 1960s and 70s, I have never been an avid drug taker. I smoked a little marijuana back in college, but never have liked it much. I enjoyed some cocaine while working in film in New York in the 1980s. But unlike many in my generation, I have never tried a psychedelic drug. I was afraid that LSD or mushrooms would damage my brain irrevocably, and I was scared of having a “bad trip.” But now, with a terminal disease, I felt — feel — bolder. What do I have to lose? I ran the idea by my doctors who gave me the go ahead, and I found myself a guide who was willing to come to my house with the proper dosages, guide me through a trip, and spend the night for a debriefing the next day. I…