I suffered with a chronic, debilitating depression from as early as I could remember until 2004. Depression isn’t “sadness” or “unhappiness”; it’s an oozy dark goopy feeling that clings to you, muddying your thoughts and feelings, pushing you toward hopelessness and despair.
While there are certainly people who have worse symptoms than I had, mine were pretty severe: waves of fatigue, inexplicable feelings of loss and isolation, occasional catatonia, bouts of uncontrollable crying, random uncontrollable acts of self-sabotage, and near-constant suicidal thoughts. Even as a small child, I had suicidal thoughts all day and all night, every day. An hour didn’t go by where I didn’t contemplate my own death. I’m a natural lucid dreamer; the suicidal thoughts haunted my dreams, too.
On more than one occasion, I was set to take my own life and was stopped by odd coincidences.
As a teenager, I had a shotgun in my mouth and was all set to go out Kurt Cobain-style when someone knocked on the door. I didn’t want to stick whoever it was with having to deal with the mess, so I put the gun away and answered it. I had a “feel free to drop by” policy and an acquaintance decided to come by to hang out.
Another time, I was drinking whisky on a high bridge, determined to jump off. A plainclothes cop stopped me and told me that I shouldn’t be drinking in public. We had a long, friendly conversation and that was that. Another time, I was crushing up sleeping pills and my cat knocked the plate to the floor, sending the powder into the carpet. Shortly afterward, I got word that one of my few friends had had a failed suicide attempt and that (my own misplaced guilt about it) put an end to me actually trying — but I couldn’t stop fantasizing about it.
In my life, I had tried various medications, counseling/therapy, exercise, diet, meditation, and a few other things and nothing worked. Some of the medications eased the symptoms, but the side effects were actually worse. Counseling seemed pointless, but it did show me how to listen to myself and how to ask penetrating questions and dig into my subconscious. Diet and exercise made the symptoms less intense, but didn’t stem them entirely. Meditation also helped with symptoms and gave me another avenue for digging into my subconscious. I learned how to make better use of my lucid dreaming in order to dig deeper still.
I got in a lot of reps when it came to dealing with my subconscious and became comfortable doing so, but none of these things solved the problem.
They did, however, give me the mental fortitude to continue trying.
My life was a wreck, but I did manage to hold down a crappy part-time job and had a girlfriend and a band.
The internet started to become a bigger part of people’s lives and I used it to research far and wide for solutions to my illness.
Some people recommended cannabis and made claims that it was an effective treatment for their depression, so I tried it. The last time I had smoked pot was shortly after high school and I didn’t recall it helping, but I figured I’d try anyway.
Cannabis did partially relieve the symptoms and also made it easier for me to explore my subconscious a bit more. It wasn’t a cure, but it was a great first step. I figured that, if this worked a little, there must be something else out there that could also do the trick.
Despite never having done anything more powerful than cannabis, alcohol, and depression meds, I decided to give psychedelics a try.
I then ordered some legal entheogens from the internet: various seeds and barks and roots and tried them out. Nothing heavy duty and I had some success relieving my symptoms for a short while, but nothing miraculous happened.
Then, a miracle fell from the sky: one of my girlfriend’s friends at the time brought some Salvia Divinorum over and gifted me with a hookah to smoke it from. I had read about salvia before and knew that it required a higher heat than cannabis to evaporate the active compounds. I studied the “correct” way to do it and one night the three of us sat down to try it out.
I read somewhere that melons and alcohol actually go well with salvia and that people often experience a feeling of “rebirth”, so I painted my face and chest with red clay, drank a bottle of melon wine, and concentrated on the idea of dying and being reborn. It took me a good hour before I felt ready.
I primed the bowl with cannabis and added salvia on top. I held the flame to the herb and took a few puffs. Immediately, I felt dizzy and strange and forced myself to take a few more puffs.
Suddenly, I felt that some invisible force grabbed me and held me down and “unzipped” me. I started speaking in tongues and felt the whole world expand outward from my mouth. I heard wind chimes making strange music and the room faded away. At first, I panicked and cried for help. The young women in the room were going to call 911, but I suddenly felt a warm, nurturing “presence” engulf me and assure me that I would be okay. I couldn’t see my companions, but I begged them not to call 911 and assured them that I would be okay.
Then I started speaking in tongues again. The room became a forest and a weirdly proportioned school bus zoomed past, oddly in time with the music. I felt waves of energy coursing through me and a female entity appeared and started talking to me about my life. She instructed me to let go of everything that wasn’t nourishing me or serving my higher purpose. She told me that the old me was truly dead and the new me had a mission and I had to figure out what it was. She told me that the urge to die was natural, but that I needed to experience it this way, not with my actual body. She instructed me to start embracing everything that I liked and made me happy and to never stop searching for more — curiosity was something I had to adopt as a personality trait and as a conscious lifestyle choice.
As short as the trip was (15 minutes or so), she spoke to me for what felt like a long time and shared with me a lot of information about myself. Things I hadn’t considered. Things I didn’t remember or didn’t know at all. Deeply personal things I don’t feel like sharing on a public forum. This was the textbook “mystical psychedelic experience” and it permeated my entire being. The idea of having a mission and a purpose lingered deep inside of me.
After the room faded back in, I noticed that I no longer had that familiar oozy darkness clinging to me. It was gone. I felt lighter than air, like an unfathomable burden was lifted from my shoulders. I felt like I was glowing.
But it wasn’t a magic pill fixing everything. I still had all kinds of other problems — intense anxieties of many stripes, confusion and uncertainty about the direction I was going in and how I spent my time, lingering childhood issues, low self-esteem, and a whole bunch of stuff I needed to change (and trepidation about that, too).
The oozy feeling and suicidal thoughts never returned. But after a few weeks, the sadness and loneliness started to creep back in. I needed another trip.
Next in line was magic mushrooms. Again, I had read that people were curing their anxiety through mushroom trips and a friend of a friend (all people I met after the salvia experience) gave me some.
The mushroom trip wasn’t mystical so much as it was like 10 years of intense and effective (and surprisingly fun) therapy chunked up into a single night. I felt happy and excited to dig into my subconscious and I found that tripping was very much like lucid dreaming, but considerably more therapeutic.
After the mushroom trip, I started the slow climb (over several years) of changing the music I listened to, the clothes I wore, the people I spent time with, how I approached work, and how I think about everything. And I pushed myself to go into nature more, to write more, to make better music (and much more often), and spend as much time as I could creating, etc.
I experimented with LSD and had a few more mushroom trips before I decided to stop (which was a mistake) and go back to a “sober” life.
My depression was completely gone and would never return, though I did learn about the normal highs and lows that come with a normal life and had a few dark stretches yet to come.
I was still a pretty broken, messed-up person and I had to later hit a real rock bottom (and tackle my other problems) before I could dig my way out, but that’s the stuff of another post. Needless to say, I made a lot of mistakes and had to do a ton of work to turn my life into something I could be proud of.
Legally, I cannot recommend illegal substances and I’m not a doctor, so I shouldn’t give medical advice. I can only share what worked for me. And, as you’ll see in my follow-up posts, psychedelics are great tools for a lot more than merely curing depression. See Safe Psychedelic Use if you decide to take the plunge.
I’ll share “How I cured my Sleep Apnea” soon. If you suffer with depression, chronic procrastination, or self-esteem issues (etc.), check out How to Turn Your Life Around.