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Isaac is a 48-year-old American who manages multiple businesses in a big city. For the first time in his life, he participated in a retreat in the Netherlands after going through several episodes of stress and depression.
“Psychedelics has become a passion”
How long have you been interested in psychedelics?
It’s very recent, but my first experience was so intense that it feels like I’ve known about psychedelics for many years. Now it has become a passion, I read everything I can about the subject and listen to numerous podcasts. I’m like a kid who just saw a pirate movie and can’t stop thinking about it: boats, treasure, mysterious island, etc. I feel like I’ve regained that childlike ability to fully immerse myself in a new subject without reservation.
To be honest, I’ve even thought about organizing my own retreat with friends!
Have you ever been treated for anxiety or depression symptoms?
I’ve had two episodes of depression in my life, one was treated with an antidepressant and the other with EMDR therapy. Each period of depression was isolated. It manifested after a shocking and painful event and then subsided before disappearing. On the other hand, I’ve been anxious for most of my life but I’ve never been treated for it, except in therapy.
By the way, therapy works well to cope with daily anxiety, but so far it hasn’t been able to resolve it. So I’ve always lived with it.
“People must have thought I was crazy”
Why did you use psilocybin for the first time?
I read Michael Pollan’s book and watched his documentary series on Netflix, and it immediately caught my attention and interest.
I regularly had overwhelming moments, a cocktail of despair and helplessness, which led to endless questioning until exhaustion. When I saw the documentary on psilocybin, I immediately knew that I wanted to experience the compound to see if it could improve my daily life.
Eight weeks after watching the film, I took time off to spend six days in Europe. Quite frankly, I didn’t hesitate for a second, people must have thought I was crazy!
What was your experience with psilocybin like?
My experience was simply incredible! It’s hard to put into words, as it’s an ineffable moment, but I’ll try to explain what happened:
For a few long minutes after taking the truffles, nothing happened. I started to feel disappointed when I began to see beautiful colors moving and dancing in front of me. It was very close to the kaleidoscopic images typically associated with psychedelics in videos or movies.
The music played during the ceremony was intense and dramatic. At that moment, all my senses were connected. With the musical atmosphere, the images quickly transformed into feelings, like emotional bursts filled with shapes and moving colors. What you feel is hard to explain because there is no equivalent, it’s absolutely unique.
Then I felt very tired, which is something I often experience in my life. I grabbed my pillow to go to sleep and escape from this feeling (as I would in real life, where I tend to sleep on my problems).
In fact, it was the afternoon and I was fully awake, so it was impossible to sleep. The fatigue and pain became so intense that it was unbearable. I thought I would be better off dead than suffering like this… This phase wasn’t long, maybe 20 minutes, but it felt like an eternity.
During this very difficult moment, something cracked and emotions burst out of me, I asked for help, a facilitator took my hand, and I cried like a baby while feeling deep love surrounding me. I had no shame, no filter, no apprehension anymore: it was a moment of bliss!
Did you figure out where the pain was coming from?
Yes, but not until later. I was able to connect my experience to a moment from my childhood. I had asked my mother for help when I was feeling really bad, and she rejected my request. From that moment on, I never asked for help again in my life, and sometimes I felt very lonely as a result. The pain was repressed and became unconscious, creating anxiety and sometimes depression. Thanks to this experience, I had the opportunity to confront my pain.
The process happened in three stages: I identified the origin of my distress, I understood it, and I overcame it by dissolving the limiting belief that I had to face all difficulties alone.
Since then, it has become much easier for me to ask for help, and my anxiety has disappeared.
Why turn to an illegal substance?
Actually, it wasn’t illegal because I tried it during a legal retreat in the Netherlands, where the use and consumption of psilocybin truffles are unrestricted. There is apprehension towards psychedelic substances, but it mostly stems from political restrictions rather than actual negative testimonials about them. After my first ceremony, I simply wondered why this substance is prohibited in most countries around the world. I thought that everyone should have the right to have such an experience, and that it could change the world!
There is a sense of injustice in the fact that a natural product is available to help people who are suffering, and yet a handful of people decide to prohibit it. I don’t find it surprising that psychedelics are regulated, but I don’t understand why there isn’t more questioning of current policies. There is enough research and testimonials to raise questions about it.
When I started talking about psychedelics with people around me, I realized that there were actually quite a few people in my circle in the United States who had already tried them.
“I no longer have this roller coaster of emotional ups and downs”
Have you experienced a decrease in your anxiety or depression ?
Yes, actually my mood is now very stable. I no longer have this roller coaster of emotional ups and downs. It’s been a few months now… I tolerate myself better, and I think my loved ones do too!
I feel much more open now. As I mentioned, I trust more easily and I don’t hesitate to ask for help when I need it. I even smile at people on the street. They are surprised, but most of the time, they smile back!
People say that the psychedelic retreat is one of the defining moments of their life. What do you think?
I completely agree, it’s the most extreme and transformative experience of my life! Beyond the retreat, psychedelics have entered my life as a very stimulating area of interest and I continue to read a lot about it.
When addressing mental health issues, you learn a lot about people. It’s fascinating because everyone has their own techniques for coping.
Do you think you’ll need to do it again?
Absolutely, yes. Not now because I don’t feel the need – no more anxiety or depression. But I will try it again for the spiritual experience and the incredible inner journey. Then, I would like to be able to use it occasionally, every 12 months, or even 18 months, if it benefits me. It’s like a big emotional cleanse.