I’ve dealt with depression my entire life. Even since childhood before anything “bad” happened to me, it was just in me. Like it lived in my bones or something.
By the time I was a teenager, and had experienced my first big T trauma experience- depression became a part of my life in a way that little me couldn’t handle.
Without going into my whole life story, I’ll just say that I’ve gotten to know my depression really well over the last three and half decades. From surviving an abusive relationship, to disordered eating, and sexual assault- depression is often the side effect of dealing with hard shit. In my life, at least.
But then there’s those other times, when nothing even happens, but the world is just looking kind of gray. It’s in those moments that I wonder if it’s just the mental illness at play. Or if it’s something like an imbalance of hormones, or nutrient deficiencies, instead.
I’ve gotten used to knowing the different kinds of depression by understanding myself and my body more. It’s taken years…decades even…of work, and a lot of time spent alone, getting to know myself.
From traveling the world on my own for most of my twenties, to loads of therapy, retreats, and self-study- I can confidently say that I know myself pretty well at this point in my life. But that doesn’t mean, even with all those tools, that I can move through the world without depression. It just means that I’m able to work with it more easily than little Kayla was.
Mushrooms & Depression
The start of my fertility process really put me into a headspin starting in May of this year. By June, I’d had my first miscarriage, and I never really felt the same again. I was glad that we took a few months off between tries, due to travel and retreat plans, because I felt like it helped me feel more whole again before trying again.
Although I felt like I’d landed back in my body again after two months of numbness, I still didn’t feel like me. I just felt enough like myself to be able to try this equally terrifying and miraculous part of life…motherhood.
When we went to Africa, I felt a little piece of me wake up again.
You know, kind of like that feeling when you smell your mom’s home cooked meal for the first time after being away at college. It’s like your body recognizes when it’s home. That’s how I feel in Africa, and that’s how I feel when I travel.
With just that tiny dormant piece waking up again, I realized just how depressed I’d been since the first miscarriage all of those months before. Little did I know, as I was having those realizations, a new life was forming inside of me.
The next positive pregnancy test gave me hope again, even though I was afraid to let myself actually feel it. My fears were proven right when the pregnancy was lost soon after it was found.
In that moment of seeing the blood- and knowing the baby was never really a baby, but just a clump of cells was gone- I felt like a piece of me died alongside of that little being. Any of the progress I’d made over the last few months of putting one foot in front of the other. And doing all the things that I knew would at least take the edge off my depression- all of those things were suddenly meaningless.
All of that progress was lost.
I don’t know how to explain the feeling of knowing when I need to participate in a psychedelic ceremony other than just knowing. It’s different than wanting to, it’s different than thinking this will be helpful. The knowing is more than the mind can conjure up, and even more than the heart can desire. It just is.
Let me be clear in saying psychedelics are not the only answer. But they can show you a whole lot if you do them with intention. And psychedelics have proven to be an instrumental tool in my healing toolkit for years now.
How To Do Psychedelics With Intention
When I talk about the way in which I use psychedelics now, it’s a lot different than the way I used them in my younger years. It’s hard to say if they still had the same positive effects when I was using them to party. Because I was usually drinking at the time. And I didn’t go into the experience with any sort of clarity on what I wanted to get out of it. Other than getting as fucked up as possible, of course.
Sure, you can use psychedelics in a social setting and perhaps still have a really profound experience. I personally cannot, because I get wayyyyy too overwhelmed and overstimulated.
I don’t use mushrooms (psilocybin) often. But when I do, I have to do it alone. I finally learned this after multiple times of thinking I could handle it in a group setting. And then ended up in a dark room talking to a painting all night alone. Yeah, not ideal.
Nowadays, it looks like me sitting alone with an eye mask for hours on end with headphones in, and tears streaming down my face. Definitely different from my rave days, that’s for sure.
Set An Intention
If you’re new to setting an intention, whether it’s for a psychedelic ceremony, or even for your yoga practice, I’d like to offer a helpful tip. Try to feel more into your intention, rather than think too much about it.
Sometimes what you need is different from what you want. And oftentimes when we sit there and think for too long, then we let our mind get in the way of the truth.
Create A Playlist
I’m a big sound girlie. Not too big on light (hence the eye mask). But definitely like my experience to be supported through the right kind of tunes.
Don’t worry, I have a playlist that’s a few hours long that will definitely support you on your next trip. But if you’d rather make your own, then by all means. The key here is to make sure you have music that drops you into a certain state of being, rather than a state of thinking or doing. Think less party, and more meditation in terms of the vibe.
While there’s definitely something to be said for spontaneous psychedelic trips, I’d much rather have some time to prepare on a mental and physical level. For me, this helps me to feel safe. And the safer I feel, the deeper I can drop into the experience. The deeper I can drop in, the more benefit I get out of it.
Plus, when you’re adulting hard and life is moving fast around you, chances are you’ll need to plan ahead of time to make sure all loose ends are taken care of.
This might mean getting a babysitter if you have kids. Or blocking your calendar to make sure you have the full day off.
For me, I like to use the time leading up to the ceremony to meditate on what I want my intention to be, and to try to ground myself as much as possible. I also like to make sure that my wife is home, but not taking anything herself or participating in my experience.
Have A Dedicated Space
I’m pretty psycho about the space when I do any sort of psychedelic ceremony. Whether I’m inside or outside, I like the space to feel safe and contained.
If I’m inside, then I like it to be clean and clear with a lot of natural light (which doesn’t make sense because I have an eye mask on, but this is just the way I am, okay). I don’t want to be surrounded by clutter, and I want to make sure the ground is clean, because I spend most of my time down there.
I also want a yoga mat to be nearby, and to make sure that’s clean as well. Ideally I have a big bottle of water handy (with LMNT in there ofc), and a comfy outfit on, that I can move around in.
What My Recent Mushroom Experience Gave Me
I’ve had this knowing for a while. Since the first miscarriage, really. I knew that after a two year hiatus, it was time to sit with mushrooms again. But I was avoiding it.
Here’s the thing, I don’t find mushroom experiences to be particularly enjoyable. Even when I do all the things and tick all the boxes, it’s still usually intense, and even painful for me. Yes, the aftermath and the clarity once I’m out of the darkness is certainly worth it, but the trip itself is usually quite hard for me.
This is why I tend to avoid it.
It’s a big undertaking for me when I take mushrooms. I really can’t take them lightly, because they’ve proven to be a heavy substance for me when I take a full dose.
When the knowing started to stir in my gut, I acknowledged it.
I even told Alix about it, and planned (on a few occasions) to make it happen.
The thing is that half of the month I’m waiting to find out if I’m pregnant, and the other half of the month I’m either recovering from a pregnancy loss, or the disappointment of another failed cycle. So it doesn’t leave a lot of room to want to blast off into outer space with mushies, ya know?
After the last pregnancy loss, I knew that I wouldn’t try again until I’d finally followed the knowing and just sat with the damn mushrooms.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the reason none of the pregnancies worked before was because I didn’t do mushrooms. That’s just dumb. What I am saying is that I knew my mental health needed this in order to feel ready to try again.
I could feel this thing stuck inside of me that felt like it was blocking me from joy, from hope, from living again. I didn’t know exactly what the thing was, but I know it was linked to my depression. And I know it was linked to loss.
In addition to losing two pregnancies, I also lost my best friend. Not by death, but by a heart crushing friend breakup that’s left me pretty broken. It’s been strange grieving both, in that usually you want to lean on your best friend in these moments, right? But in this case, she’s gone.
I’ve felt it all, anger, sadness, hurt, and pain.
But it feels like some of it gets stuck along the way, and it’s accumulated into this mass of emotion that’s blocking me from moving forward. Like a lump in your throat that you just can’t swallow, or an itch you can’t quite scratch. The sensation is there, but I haven’t been able to treat it on my own over the months.
I tried it all: therapy, energy work, yoga, meditation, writing letters, talking to my wife, and so on and so forth. And yes, these things help- but I knew that mushrooms could help me to blast through that blockage in a way that traditional therapy might take months or years to work through.
So, I committed to the ceremony.
I marked the day on the calendar. I went through my own preparation process. And I did my best to enter into the experience as open as possible.
I was fragile at the time.
Since the miscarriage, I’ve felt physically more tender than usual. So I was worried that the ceremony might be more painful than ever before. As someone with a high pain tolerance, and who can even see pain as a sign of growth- I knew I didn’t need an ass kicking. I needed a hug.
In the meditation I did before taking the mushrooms, I asked them (yes, the mushrooms) to be gentle with me. I also asked for them to give me what I need. It’s important to trust the intelligence of the plant, rather than trying to power your way through your experience. I learned this the hard way with one too many ceremonies gone wrong.
The trip was exactly what I asked for: gentle and sweet. I didn’t get the bitch slap that I usually do when I take a full dose. And honestly….I was grateful.
I got what I needed in that it shook things up inside of me. I felt like I could breathe in my own body again.
I’m not kidding when I say I’ve been in a haze for 5 months now. Sure, I’ve taught retreats, I’ve created content, and filmed classes for my app, but I can tell you that it’s felt more like a shadow of me doing those things, rather than me ME doing them.
I’ve been going through the motions. I’ve been doing what I need to do in order to do my job, in order to take care of myself, and in order to take the edge off.
Nothing more, nothing less.
I’ve showed up to my mat every day, but I haven’t had any motivation. I haven’t had creativity. I haven’t even been in my body to be able to explore it. But I did show up, and that’s what really counts.
After the ceremony, I felt like I landed back in my body again. I felt like I could take a full breath. I felt like myself again. Not fully, but almost all the way there.
For the first time in months, I moved intuitively on my mat. For the first time in months, I filmed myself flowing. And for the first time in months, I was seeing in color again.
My mushroom experience helped to move some of the sadness through me that was stuck. It helped to work through some of the anger that was hurting me the most. And it helped to heal some of the hurt, through understanding myself and others better.
I’m not coming out of this experience being like, “I’m healed! I’m whole again!” Because the real work is in the integration of all that came up from the trip itself.
While I’m still grieving the loss of these pregnancies and friendship, alike, I now feel more equipped to take them both on. And I feel an overwhelming feeling of just being okay in all the emotions that come up and out along the way.
That okayness, I’ve realized, is enough.