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 manag