If mainstream media is to be believed, psychedelics might just be the answer to... everything.
And I’m a believer, but we need to be having a much more nuanced conversation about them.
As a society we don’t tend to have much time for that, but if we don’t get this right we could see our progress with the legalization and decriminalization of psychedelic medicines cut short once again. Allow my story to shine a light on the healing potential of mushrooms, and how unlike most psychiatric interventions, they require our active participation.
After not having experimented with psychedelics since my teens, I felt called to engage with mushrooms about 4 and a half years ago. I was at a major crossroads in my life, and the gradual hearing loss that I’d been dealing with for the last 15 years had taken a much sharper downward turn. I was in the depths of a crushing depression. This was not new to me—I’d been dealing with depression since adolescence. But at the age of 44, just coming out of the trenches of baby rearing and toddlerhood, I felt cut down at the knees. At a time in my life when women are supposed to be “coming into our own,” I didn’t see a path forward. I wasn’t able to engage with the world in the ways I always had, and I was having a major identity crisis.
Desperate, I got some mushrooms from an acquaintance and my husband and I headed to the Oregon Coast. My intention? To feel something other than what I was feeling. To spend a few hours not meditating on the idea that the world would be better off without me. This was before we were being bombarded with headlines about how mushrooms were a cure for depression (and the human condition itself, it seems). I felt a glimmer of hope, though, for some shifts in perspective and maybe even a thread to pull on to help me up and out of this darkness.
And that happened. I had an incredible, life-changing, transformative experience.
The mushrooms were kind to me that day and for that I am eternally grateful—it doesn’t always go that way. I am absolutely no longer defining my life and sense of self-worth by my ability to hear. But this is what I want you to understand:
Before that mushroom experience saved my life and set me on a new path, it ushered in what can only be described as a dark night of the soul.
The mushrooms didn’t show me the path forward—they showed me that I was living a life of illusions. Namely, that I thought my pain around my hearing loss was about the dinner parties I couldn’t host, the field trips I couldn’t chaperone, or the career I couldn’t have. Though all of those things matter very much, that wasn’t it. My ability to hear and pick up on the subtle nuances around me was central to my ability to track my sense of safety in the world—and that had everything to do with my ability to manage people’s perceptions of me and generally stay on top of curating reality. This was a Pandora’s box that got opened and couldn’t be closed again.
Inside that box was a much younger me, and I was scared, lonely, and hurt. As much as I was aware that my childhood circumstances were a very bad match for my temperament and high levels of sensitivity, I didn’t understand that I had significant developmental PTSD. I didn’t even know what that was. I thought my depression, fear, and inability to thrive in the world were symptoms of my oversensitivity, not normal manifestations of a nervous system that got stuck in survival mode before I even had words to describe what I was feeling.
This deeper understanding changed everything.
And I mean absolutely everything about my relationships, sense of worthiness, need for healthy boundaries... everything about the way I saw myself in the world and how I was showing up in life had to change. It has been devastatingly hard and deeply rewarding and an experience of loving myself beyond my wildest dreams.
What I’m hoping to convey is that the mushrooms pulled back the veil, and I have been working my ass off integrating and making meaning out of that experience ever since.
Talk therapy to get clarity on what I needed and didn’t get, cranial sacral therapy to soothe my nervous system and address the pre-verbal trauma, psychedelic integration circles to connect with others on this path and build community, and somatic intuitive healing to re-parent the injured parts. Karaoke! This is not a complete list.
It’s been in this excavating, striving, and commitment to my own healing that I’ve begun to lift the fog of depression from my life. I still get triggered, but I have more of a process for understanding what got triggered and what needs healing. Don’t get it twisted—the mushrooms didn’t do that for me.
When I get stuck, or am ready for more, deeper access to myself, I return to the medicine. Mushrooms and MDMA have been incredible allies on my healing journey. The mushrooms, especially, want to help by increasing neuroplasticity and repairing wiring that has shorted out from years of depression. So yes, I absolutely believe in mushroom therapy. When the time is right. When people have the scaffolding in place to deal with whatever is revealed to them. But if we’re centering the mushrooms and not the integration process—the process of making meaning out of our experiences and integrating that new knowledge into our lives—we’re setting people up to feel betrayed by overpromises.
I believe there’s reason to be hopeful, but let’s go slowly.
Before asking your doctor if mushrooms are right for you, get very clear about what your intentions are. If they’re about symptom relief, know that the mushrooms might ask you to go much deeper, and they might not ask nicely. Find your community first. Seek out others who are deeply engaged in their own healing processes—with or without psychedelics. The American healthcare system can’t and won’t create the cultural container needed for this work as long as it continues to silo us and the focus remains on alleviating symptoms.
Find your community. Be ready to dig deep. The mushrooms will be there to help.
Carolyn Fine is living, healing, and getting liberated in Portland, OR. She works with people who are integrating psychedelics into their healing journeys. She is the founder of the Psychedelic Equity Project (PEP) and has been doing anti-oppression and equity work in the psychedelic community since 2018.
Follow her on socials @the.iridescent.mind and find PEP @psychedelic.equity.project
If you have a story to tell about your healing journey, please contact us at email@example.com for submissions.
Check out www.moonvibesanctuary.com for transformational healing and holistic wellness.