The Trip of a Lifetime
This post is all about the first mushroom trip that I did, as part of therapy, almost two and a half years ago. You may find that what you’re reading is hard to believe, or may not fit in with your world view, but try to read it with the same mantra I used: be open. The things I learned and saw during this experience changed my life, and definitely changed my life with cancer. I one-hundred percent believe that I'm still alive today because I found some relief to the anxiety cancer causes, and also some hope and perspective. I’m still learning from it today, so here goes…
I had no idea what to expect when I arrived for my mushroom trip, other than what I had heard from other people, because I had never done any kind of psychedelics before. So I arrived for my session feeling a little nervous, but also expecting it to be something amazing and profound. I was in such a state of mental and emotional distress that I barely knew which way was up.
When I arrived we had a little ceremony, giving thanks for the mushroom and we smudged ourselves with sage. Then I ground up the mushrooms in a bowl, mixed them with some honey, and down the hatch they went. I was warned that it may be an hour or so before I started to feel anything, and so I opened a book on Monet and started to page through, enjoying his paintings, and ten minutes later I started to feel a little weird, and the shapes on the page were starting to shift.
Once I put the eye shades and headphones on I was off, holding on to my friend’s hand who was there to hold space for me. Thank God she was there, because I felt like her hand was the only thing anchoring me there, and if I let go I might just float away like a balloon and never come back. I saw a few of the people or things that I had been thinking about that morning fly away, like my brain was sweeping out that space to make room for what was coming.
At first I saw a lot of kaleidoscope colours and images, and it felt like I was seeing a bunch of those inflatable guys that you see in front of car dealerships or washes - the ones that dance around as they fill with air and then empty again. After a few minutes I started to feel a little annoyed and impatient - I just wanted to get on with it.
Suddenly I was back down on earth, feeling cold, scared and alone as I walked through the darkness, trying to figure out where I was. I remember saying out loud how cold I was and pulling the blanket up and around me, wondering if this was what it was like to die. I was scared and felt so alone, but as soon as I said that out loud I was surrounded by warmth and knowledge that someone was there with me. I saw an old native woman walking with me and holding my right arm, with long gray braids that had feathers woven into them. She had a warm blanket around her shoulders, and even though I was still in the darkness she began to guide me along a path through the middle of the woods. It felt like there were scary creatures in the thick forest that were watching me, but I felt safe with her. At one point I looked at her and she was my Grandma, holding my hand and smiling at me, reassuring me that everything was ok. Then the native woman was back again and soon I started to see light around the edges of my eye mask. I thought it had gotten twisted around and reached up to adjust it, but it was fine. I realized that the light was part of my vision. Soon it was totally light and beautiful. I don’t actually remember any images, just a blue, peaceful warmth surrounding me.
I was hit with massive waves of sadness, grief and pain and I remember hearing someone wailing and crying and then realizing that it was me. I wasn’t able to stop, I had to let it all out. It felt like all the pain, sadness and grief that I had been pushing down deep inside for the past year was finally coming up, almost like I was vomitting it out. I saw each of my kids and wept, feeling like I was saying goodbye to them. It was so painful and I felt like I was drowning for a while, then I remembered to breath through it and it eventually subsided. The waves hit me again when I thought about Glenn and my friends, but I was able to breathe and get through it. Through my whole journey I kept circling back and visiting each one, and each time I did it seemed less painful and more joyful, just appreciating what each person meant to me.
I felt a deep connection to my friends who were there in the room with me, guiding me through my experience, holding me while I wailed and cried and let go. Dave was Understanding - my friend who has such a deep understanding and has been a huge help to me in my own journey. Adele was my friend who was there feeling and understanding my pain, and I could feel hers as well because we both feel so much loss.
And then I saw Sean, their son, and he was pulling me along a path in the middle of a beautiful park, telling me that I was going to love everything he was showing me. I circled around from Sean back to Adele and Dave at least three times, and every time I did he told me to say hi to his Mom and let her know how much he loved her. The crazy part is that I didn’t really know Sean - he died in a car accident about ten years previously. But Adele knew it was him when I described to her what he was like and how he was so excited to show me the beauty of that park. He had done that exact thing with her when he was a young boy.
I started to ask where my kids were and then I saw them one by one. Maxx was in front of me, trying to be strong and making sure I was alright. Cole was laying beside me on my right side, holding my hand and crying with me. Bailey was on my left side, and every time I saw her I felt a huge rush of affection and the need to hug her, hold her close, and tell her how precious she is. I didn’t see our youngest daughter, Noa, a lot, but when she popped in I would hold her in my lap and hug her close, a pose we've often sat in over the last few years. I saw Iris, Cole’s fiance, standing behind him and holding hime up, giving him strength. I saw Maxx’s girlfriend Sabrina, and her love was all swirling all around Maxx. I saw Chino, Noa’s boyfriend, as Noa’s warrior fighting for her. I felt an especially strong loss for my boys, who I just wanted to grab and hold close.
Then I would see Glenn. I saw him as a lion pacing around outside our tent, making sure we were safe and had enough to eat. I saw him as a knight on horseback, riding ahead of us to make sure the road ahead was safe, then coming back to get us. I felt such deep love and affection, and appreciation for everything he’s done for our family and for me. He’s been tireless and is the real hero of this story.
I also saw my three girlfriends that I’m closest to and have become my inner circle, the ones that know all the gory details and are in it with me anyway. Adele was holding my left hand, feeling and understanding my pain, my friend Val was on my right side, holding my hand and giving me strength, holding me up and just wanting to know what she could do - she’s the one who just gets shit done. My other friend Val was standing in front of me, and every time I saw her I just wanted to give her a big hug because she was always fussing and making sure the three of us were ok, and she kept making me giggle. Then the circle expanded to include their husbands and a few other couples, all of whom we were going to see the next night at an Oktoberfest party, and all of whom have been the people who have been there for us through this whole ordeal. My friend Lorraine was Wisdom, with a deep connection to the universe. Others were providing support or just some comic relief.
Through the rest of my journey I either had Val and Adele with me holding my hands, or my kids.
I saw myself inside a prison cell and saw the shackles fall off my wrists, the chains around my ankles fell away, the bars slid open and I was free. I suddenly realized that I was free and didn’t need to live in that prison of guilt and shame anymore and I was free just to be me.
At one point I was surrounded by a whole bunch of my female friends and acquaintances. I wondered why I was seeing all of them together, but as I started to look around the room I realized that we are all women who have felt pain in one way or another. I realized that the pain we shared as women and mothers was what made us stronger, so I love this picture of women's hands working together to make a better world. Imagine what we could accomplish if we support each other and work together instead of judging each others failures and weaknesses.
I don’t remember many exact images after that, but I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of contentment and joy coming over me and feeling so much love, both in me and all around me. Ahhhhh, this is what heaven must be like. I felt another huge rush of contentment and a sense of a job well done, knowing that the humans I gave birth to and raised are my greatest work, and that nothing else I’ve ever done or will do in the future matters more than that. Through it all I kept feeling huge love for Glenn and the life we’ve built together.
The waves of sadness and grief kept coming at me throughout, but each one was less intense than the last. I realize now, two and a half years later, that those waves weren’t just a metaphor for the pain I was feeling, but also a pretty accurate picture of my cancer. Every time that I think I'm safely back on the beach catching my breath it would come back again and drag me out to sea. I keep getting back up again though, because what else can I do?
Eventually, the waves subsided and I saw myself on a beautiful lake, laying in the bottom of a canoe and being rocked by gentle waves. I felt exhausted but at peace.
That’s exactly where I am now, two and a half years later. That’s the thing about the mushroom - it continues its work long after its left your body. I see how it’s been at work in me, unravelling what needed to be unravelled, so that I could embrace life more fully and authentically, wholeheartedly. The mushroom trip was the beginning of that work, not the end. I am at peace, even though I still have cancer. But this journey HAS been a gift, because I am a different person. I see that now. I belong. I’m happy. Content. Ready to embrace life, whether it’s a long one or a short one doesn’t really matter. I’m strong and I’m no longer afraid, and like Sean says, “It’s awesome there, I’m going to love it.”©