A Journey Unlike Any Other
Jessica del Rosso, MSW, RSW
I first learned about psychedelics in high school when I was offered acid in the hallway as I was heading to class. I declined, despite the book Pure Sunshine by Brian James piquing my interest. When in university, I learned about ayahuasca and psychedelic treatments for trauma and depression. I knew I wanted to try a natural psychedelic – the idea of chemical psychedelics made me nervous. Mushrooms felt like the natural, safer and logical choice. I began reading about psilocybin and its effects on depression and trauma. I watched documentaries and began listening to podcasts such as Adventures Through the Mind by James Jesso. I put it out to the universe that I wanted to be gifted with the experience of psilocybin. Two years later, I met my guide who gifted me with this experience. After the death of my uncle and a period of time I describe as the “worst year since going into foster care”, I decided that I wanted to end the decade of my twenties with an unintellectual form of healing.
I prepared myself mentally for my first psilocybin trip. I spent the days prior at my friend’s cottage in reflection. I journaled and spoke with friends about what I was hoping to gain from the experience. I was in a good headspace, scared, but excited for the journey.
My guide and I had met prior to the trip. They showed me the room where we would trip, they showed me around their house and had a room prepared for me where I could go if I needed time with myself while on the trip. I felt safe and felt as though I would be cared for throughout the experience. They asked me questions about the reasons I was looking to psilocybin. They asked me what my worries were, what medications I was on and walked me through some of what I could expect from the magic mushrooms.
The day of the trip, my guide made a tea with the mushrooms. We drank it together as we watched sea creatures on the television to aid with any anxiety that may arise as I waited for the effects of the hallucinogens. I was worried my SSRI’s would block the effect of psilocybin. I sat there on the couch with my guide waiting for the effects. “I don’t feel anything yet”, I said sadly. I began to feel nauseous as the tea began to find its way into my digestive track.
Then, I began to laugh. I did not know why I was laughing, but it felt so joyous. I laughed with pure happiness. Colours and sounds began to mesh together, creating unique and visually beautiful patterns and movements. Sound was beautiful, color was beautiful, texture was beautiful. Love was everywhere. Joy was everywhere. I laughed like I hadn’t laughed since I was a child. I laughed with freedom. I laughed with feeling like no one could rob me of anything anymore. I basked in laughter and pure sunshine joy. The ceiling created different shapes. I made movements with my hands that seemed to become hypnotizing. Everywhere I looked, gold flickers glistened.
“Everything is so beautiful! It’s all so beautiful!” I said, over and over. “Why are we so sad? We are surrounded by beauty”.
The music became slow and melodic. Deepening the trance. I felt a heavy feeling in my chest, feeling like I could not deepen my breath. I began to want to cry. “Then cry. Do you not like that you cry?”, my guide asked. “But I cry so much, all the time” I said between tears. “In theater school, it’s an amazing day when you can cry. People want to be able to cry. We label crying as bad or unwanted, when it is an emotion like any other. It is us who labels one feeling better than another”. I cried. I realized that things were so simple. How did I not see how simple life truly was?
Why did I complicate simple things? Why did I make learning into another to-do? Why did I feel like I was not enough? Why did I not feel I held enough wisdom?
I began to cry again. “I keep reading books, thinking I will find answers. But there are no answers. The answers don’t exist in books”.
Then, I laughed. Laughing at the freedom that I can read and learn for pleasure rather than because I feel not good enough. Laughing at the freedom of knowledge that does not come from intellect. That we are all born with innate knowledge.
There was a childlike innocence and curiosity that began to come forward. I giggled and laughed and asked questions about everything we know to be true. Questions like, “Why do we tell ourselves we are not beautiful? Who determines beauty? Beauty can’t be measured or quantified. Love can’t be quantified. It is all around us and exists everywhere.
I became immensely thankful for being able to turn on a light, when I needed light. The fact that I had access to food, electricity, love, friends and art made it so that I returned to the same question, “We have everything we would need, everything is accessible to us should we want it, why are we so sad?”.
I looked at myself in the mirror – my guide had said he usually doesn’t recommend that for first timers, but that I should do it, I was ready. I went to the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. That childlike smile and giggle. For the first time in a long time, I saw happiness in me. I looked at myself and said “Why would you ever think you are not beautiful? That is so silly. We are all beautiful”. Societal expectations felt unimportant.
“Why do I feel like I need to earn happiness? Why do any of us?”. This new founded idea of everything being accessible whenever we need it. That there is enough of everything for everyone.
I began to laugh. Realizing out loud to my guide “Oh my goodness. We do it to ourselves – it is all a lie – it is all a lie that we need to compete with one another, that we are inherently sad and need something first, in order to make us happy. I just realized it. None of it matters!”.
None of it matters. I kept saying it over and over. It wasn’t a sad realization – it was a freeing one. A realization that we can choose to be happy and access the joy and beauty around us. That there is enough of all of it for everyone. The realization that if something was bringing me feelings of unhappiness, I had the power to walk away. That we all have that power. We are not inherently sad beings. We are not inherently depressed. We simply live in a world where our natural beauty, gifts and expression are supressed, and we are told they are not good enough. That is the real problem. The real problem is we believe this to be true, instead of recognizing the beauty within ourselves and others. We spend time judging the expression of others, as opposed to recognizing the beauty in everyone’s form of expression.
I realized I postpone my own happiness. I realized that I make myself work for my happiness, when in actuality, happiness and joy are always present and I can access it at any time if I am open to it. I can find happiness in everything I do.
Love was continually present throughout the six-hour trip. The idea that love cannot be limited or labeled. That it just is. It just exists, as we do. Growing up in foster care no longer mattered. Being abandoned by my biological family no longer mattered. Experiencing immense trauma, no longer mattered. They no longer mattered because I realized they did not define being unloved. There is no such thing as being unloved, because love doesn’t come from one person or thing. Love exists in everything – nature, other humans and in ourselves. I did not need to reach a certain answer or healing before I felt love. I just needed to be open to it and be afraid of it no longer. Being afraid of love no longer made any sense. How could I be afraid of something so beautiful?
I wandered throughout the house, finding beauty in everything. Music echoing throughout the walls and floors. Every time I felt I needed to do something else in order to have the best experience, as I did often in my life, I reminded myself that beauty was everywhere and that anything I did could be filled with happiness if I let it be and if I accepted nothing less into my life.
“I want to create! I want color!” I said to my guide. He took me to his partner’s art room where there was paint and paper. I sat on the floor and stared at the colors. “They are all so beautiful. How amazing is it that we can take color, and put it in a bottle”? I painted on the paper with my hands, feeling the texture of the paint. I didn’t judge my art – I just simply created what made me happy, using colors that brought me joy. Judgement left my mind because judgement didn’t exist anymore. Everything was beautiful.
I sat on the floor talking to myself about beauty and social constructs. Meeting my own thoughts with a simple giggle and “Hmm…Hmm…”. When I felt finished with my art, I wandered back downstairs and lay on the floor on a shag blanket. I felt the softness under my hands. I began to feel the trip soften and the alternate visuals decreasing.
I then had a fear of losing the experience. I began to feel fear of losing the joy that had come over me and the realizations that I had. I did not want to return back to the mundane. I sat with that fear and sadness and then remembered; joy is accessible to me. Love is accessible to me. Happiness is accessible to me. That is all I need to remember.
And when I forget, I can go back to the teacher of psilocybin to remind me. Everything I need, is accessible to me.
*Disclaimer* Each individual’s experience with psilocybin is unique, this reflection is on my own personal experience. If you are on SSRIs or any form of medication, please do research prior to experimenting with psychedelics. This was not an overnight process. This journey was something I mentally and physically prepared for. I had a knowledgeable guide and left all expectations behind. I have awareness of my trauma and mental health. I would suggest that trauma healing and awareness is a safety factor for survivors of trauma who are interested in psychedelics. The total trip was approximately 6-7 hours and total consumption of mushrooms was approximately 6-7 grams.