In hindsight, I was stupid to take mushrooms. I mean, I’ve always had an ingrained fear of developing a mental illness such as schizophrenia, so it was foolish of me to even contemplate consuming mushrooms. Maybe deep down I wanted to confront my fears. I also wanted to explore my consciousness and I liked the idea of having regular adventures within my mind, aided by taking a completely natural substance that has been consumed by humans for thousands of years. It all seemed very appealing.
The first two times I took mushrooms didn’t result in the typical effects that are to be expected, such as visuals or hallucinations. The doses were relatively low to be fair, although they were home-grown mushrooms so they were probably quite strong. For me, the effects were all in my head. Wonderful flows of thoughts, incredible abstract thinking and a generally psychedelic way of viewing life and memories. They provided me with a different perspective on things. It was incredible.
The third time however was a shock that’s still rippling to this day. I wasn’t ready for it. I was alone. It was traumatizing. The dose was moderately increased and the mushrooms were from a different batch, a stronger batch, so there was probably a marked increase in strength from the previous two times I took mushrooms. Again, there were no visuals, well not from what I can remember. I honestly find it difficult trying to reminisce about the experience, because it takes me back to that point and I get flashbacks of the horror; the detachment from my sanity.
It was like having your mind ripped from apart, leaving you bear and alone in the universe, whilst also being confronted with totally random concepts and horrors. I couldn’t think. I thought I was gone forever. It felt like I would never return to normality. At one point, I was lying on the floor clutching the legs of my computer chair, trying to hold back the tears, clinging desperately, wishing the horror away. I felt totally helpless. The terror seemed to last a lifetime. For a period during the experience, I somehow managed to claw my way to look at my laptop and sought advice in a live chat room on a forum about psychedelics. It was a minor help; being consoled by experienced users of psychedelic substances. Their help was comforting, but ultimately the intensity of the experience re-emerged and I was back down clasping a blanket on the floor, hugging it and rocking back and forth like a baby. That moment will be ingrained my mind forever.
Eventually I regained a small amount of control over my thoughts, and I finally had this euphoric realization that my body was metabolizing the drug in my bloodstream. The return back to sobriety however only reached so far, and halted at a point far from normal functioning. I was confused. I didn’t understand what was happening, because six hours had passed since ingestion and I should have returned back to normality. I was far from normal. Reality seemed like it was distant from me, as if I was walking in a dream. Nothing felt real. It was like I was separated from the world by some kind of ineffable haze or veil. It was terrifying. One of the worst moments was when my parents got home because communicating with them was incomprehensibly difficult; it was like I was still mildly under the influence of mushrooms.
These symptoms lasted for a solid eight days; it was the truest psychological turmoil I ever thought humanly possible. I had to travel back to university as well during that time, go back to lectures and complete some coursework. The experience was mentally taxing, but the worst part was the fear that I would have to spend my entire life like it. At some points, my hands and parts of my body didn’t feel real or like they really existed. It’s a symptom I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Those were the worst eight days of my life.
It was quite late in the evening on a Sunday. I was cooking some food and took a momentary sit down to contemplate how I was going to get through what was happening to me. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the veil was lifted. The clarity of life returned and my senses at last felt real again. I actually cried that night. I felt so thankful it was over. I promised to live a more meaningful life and to not get het up about the small things from that moment on.
Unfortunately, the return to normality only lasted a couple of days. I was walking to university when suddenly I felt disorientated again. One of the traits of suffering with derealisation/dissociation is that you become obsessed with monitoring your perception, to feel how closely you’re connected with the world. This obsessive thinking and the intense stress I was under (I was studying for a GCSE as well as my degree) ultimately resulted in continued problems with dissociation; I’ve suffered with it on and off ever since.
Since then, I have suffered with emotional instability, severe depression, panic attacks, and anxiety on top of the dissociation. At the minute it’s the anxiety I find most difficult to live with. Getting through each day is a struggle; it’s like living with a chain around my soul. By most evenings I’m so exhausted by the mental stress that I can barely function past 9pm.
It would seem that the mushrooms were a catalyst for a deep spell of mental health issues, and I wouldn’t disagree entirely, but I don’t look upon mushrooms in a negative way at all, or any drug for that matter. I made a choice to consume mushrooms, after much research and much deliberation. I wanted to do it. I had wanted to do it for a long time. I didn’t rush into it, I was respectful and took them when I thought the time was right. I started with low doses to test the waters, and I incrementally increased the dose each time. I partook in what I believe to be the responsible use of drugs. And the result of that is that I’m now back on my feet.
Despite the slew of mental health issues that I’ve suffered with, and the fact that even at this exact point in time I am suffering with anxiety, I would say that overall I’m definitely on the up. I’ve made major lifestyle changes. I eat healthy, I exercise regularly, I do hobbies I enjoy, I don’t take any drugs and I take pride in looking after myself. All of these positive life changes have helped me to slowly get back on track and to cope with what I’m going through. I would say that although my experience has been very up and down, the bigger picture is that I’m happy, content and actively pursuing my aims in spite of my struggles. Everyday I’m coping better and better.
Dare I say it, I’m tempted to even say that in the long run, my experience with mushrooms has ended up being immensely positive, because I have finally made the changes that I always longed for and I appreciate every day of living more than ever. I strongly believe that my experience is an example that even if people are predisposed to mental health issues, that if drugs (mainly psychedelics) are approached with respect and in an educated way, then any serious or permanent ramifications can be minimized and dare I say it even strong lessons can be learnt. It’s the irresponsible and uneducated approach to drugs that leads to problems. In a world where the issues of substance use are brushed under the carpet, it’s no surprise that the majority of young people taking drugs do so in an ill-informed way, which unfortunately increases the risks involved.
I’m lucky that my life experiences and encounters led me on a path that channelled my curiosity for psychedelics into a responsible and controlled venture. I’m not advocating the use of psychedelics in any way, or any drug for that matter. I would profoundly not encourage anyone to take drugs, nor would I encourage them not to. In my opinion, it’s a personal choice and people should make their own decisions. I just believe that society desperately needs to accept that these decisions do exist and it’s best to give young people the best chance possible to avoid harm’s way. I find it a crying shame that my endeavours are rare and that the circumstances that led to my knowledge and responsible approach were fate alone and not that of the society in which I live.