10 Nov Before You Kill Yourself, Do Some Drugs in the Jungle
How plant medicine healed my depression.
Never, never, never give up. Winston Churchill
I’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts half of my life. Not that I’ve been planning a suicide for fifteen years, but on and off, I’ve thought that I’d rather be dead. Because being alive has from time to time been so painful that I didn’t want to do deal with it.
I’ve tried lots of different methods to get rid of these thoughts. Some have helped a bit. I’ve been a lot more stable since starting the Bulletproof Diet a couple of years ago (before that, I was misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder because of my terrible mood swings). I’ve often thought to myself: “NOW! I’m finally fine!” only to fall into darkness a while later and drowning in disappointment and despair.
As the years have gone by, it’s been harder to pick myself up to keep going and keep trying for a solution. I just couldn’t be sure if there were one for me. This year, I started to feel that I was running out of time.
As often has been the case for me, it’s been looking good on the outside: I’ve traveled the world, everywhere from New York to Cape Town, Buenos Aires, and Dubai. Sure, I’ve had some great times and met amazing people. I’ve been productive with my work, and I’ve been pleasant and smiling when in public.
But in between, on my own with no one around, I’ve also had times when I really wanted to die. It’s almost made it worse to be depressed in these beautiful locations: why couldn’t I be happy and grateful for these incredible opportunities? What was wrong with me? The thought that kept coming into my head was: I can’t do this for another year.
During my Cape Town stay, I saw an excellent therapist for treatment of my PTSD. Aside from her impressive accreditations, she was sympathetic, and I liked her straight away. I’m not sure if the therapy helped my PTSD, but most importantly, the therapist suggested that I’d try plant medicine to heal the trauma that was causing my PTSD and recurring depressions.
Plant medicine, such as magic mushrooms and ayahuasca, was something that I’d always written off as drugs for junkies. I was scared, too: I’ve got an addictive personality, and my nine-year-long alcohol sobriety is the most precious thing for me.
But this woman was not a junkie but a highly educated psychologist and a lovely, caring person. I trusted her judgment and the stories she told me about other patients who’d been helped by the plant medicine. She explained that plant medicine is not addictive. I’d also read my idol Tim Ferriss’ book Tools of Titans, which includes research of positive results from plant medicine on mental issues such as PTSD and depression.
I contacted a person holding plant medicine ceremonies in Cape Town, who my therapist recommended – but didn’t get a response. (Why can’t drug dealers be better at admin?) I did some research about where else in the world I could do this but quickly felt like I couldn’t be bothered. I didn’t feel keen on going out on a jungle mission with strangers without a recommendation. It felt too inconvenient and risky. I decided that if it was meant to be, it would fall into place eventually.
A few months later, I was in Dubai and having a rough time. I got a message from my dear friend from Australia, someone whose opinion I trust and hold highly. He was traveling and told me that he’d just had the best week of his life at a place called Rythmia in Costa Rica, where he’d done ayahuasca ceremonies. There it was: the opportunity that I’d been waiting for! I think I signed up for Rythmia just a few days later. At this stage, I hardly had any hope left for myself – but I was willing to try one last thing.
Rythmia Life Advancement Center in Costa Rica is the world’s first and only legal medical facility for plant medicine. The safety aspect is what appealed to me: as with everything in life, there are risks involved. If anything would happen, I’d prefer to have help at hand. However, my biggest fear was not losing my mind but shitting myself, which can be a side effect of ayahuasca. I reckoned that it would make the situation slightly better to be in the comfort of a nice resort.
Rythmia turned out to be just as beautiful and comfortable as I had imagined. The week was structured as a program with personal development workshops during the day, and ayahuasca ceremonies in the evenings Monday to Thursday. The goal of the program was for us to experience a life-changing “miracle” – and according to surveys filled out by participants after their week at Rythmia, 94% of people do have a miracle.
After having been halfway around the world for more than a decade trying to fix myself, I was more than skeptical of the idea of a miracle. Nevertheless, I was excited about trying ayahuasca. It was something entirely different from everything else that I’d ever tried – so inevitably, I should get a different result!
Every ceremony was a new experience. My first one was, I suppose, a “classic” hallucinogenic trip with images. A couple made me giggle, but mainly, it was a horrific and utterly painful experience. I vomited like crazy. I felt connected to the pain of the whole world.
The plant medicine told me that I needed to re-connect with people whom I’ve fallen out with, such as my parents. It made me realize that all of the things in life that had upset or hurt me in the past didn’t really matter. The resentments that had weighed me down for so many years disappeared, and everything felt like water under the bridge. All I wanted to do was to see my parents again and hug and kiss them! I cried so much that a blood vessel in my eye burst and my eyelids were so puffy that I could hardly open my eyes the next day. I looked like a freak.
I was terrified to do more ceremonies, but I hadn’t come all the way to Costa Rica to not make the most out of it. So I continued the following nights. Wednesday night was when my miracle happened.
I thought that no experience could ever be worse than being suicidal. But that was before I was on a hallucinogenic trip to a different dimension in the middle of a Costa Rican hurricane, trying my best not to shit my pants while shaman music sounding like “OMPI LOMPI, OMPI LOMPI!!!” was screaming in my ears.
No words can describe the utter horror I felt during that ceremony. But on the other side of that was liberation. When the effects of the medicine subsided, and I somewhat came to my senses again, a über-strength out of this world filled me.
I was beyond grateful for having survived the trip from hell and for having this amazing opportunity to have a life. I felt like a force of nature! I was in awe of myself for my bravery of having gone through that hell. (Not there is exactly a “STOP” button when you start a hallucinogenic trip.)
The low self-esteem that had always haunted me was gone, as in magic. I was strong and brave, how could I ever feel shit about myself again? I was awesome! And those insecurities that used to plague me, like “Will I ever be good enough for a guy?!” seemed so ridiculous now. The only thing that mattered was that I was alive and I just couldn’t wait to start my life 2.0 and make the most out of it. This was my miracle!
People say that plant medicine is like ten years of therapy in one session. After many years of trying different types of therapies myself, I can only agree. In my experience, talking and intellectualizing with a therapist can only get me so far. There are many things that I’ve known in my head, without being able to feel it in my heart.
For example, my on-and-off relationship with my parents. I’ve understood logically that they’ve loved and cared for me based on their words and actions. But it was not until my first ayahuasca ceremony that I could feel their love for me – and love them back.
Another thing is that emptiness in myself that I’ve had as long as I can remember. The feelings of unworthiness that I was desperately trying to cover up by distracting myself with alcohol, emotional eating, men, shopping – you name it.
Of course I “knew” logically that I deserved better than ruining myself. Of course, I’d much prefer to be nice to myself. But still, I somehow couldn’t manage to be kind and respectful to myself. That was probably the greatest gift that ayahuasca gave me: it finally filled my void and made me love and respect myself.
I find it so ironic that anti-depressants are legal while plant medicine, in so many countries, is not. I’ve taken prescription drugs for my depressions and mood swings, and in hindsight, I think they made my situation even worse.
They made me lose my hair, gave me an insatiable appetite so that I gained weight, ruined my sex drive and made me lose my orgasm, turned me into a Zombie and the icing on the cake was when they made me shit my pants. What a recipe for happiness! I wonder if I’d been so keen on taking the medication if I’d known this? (I never researched the side effects since I didn’t have much energy to read fine print while being suicidal.)
Plant medicine, on the other hand, has worked. It has healed me. It hasn’t turned me into a perfect human being – which is not my ambition, either – but it’s filled the hollowness that caused me to self-destruct and want to die for so many years.
My experience is hardly unique, either, since research proves that plant medicine can be effective against depression. This great documentary gives an overview of the benefits of plant medicine. The founder of Rythmia also shares his inspiring story of how the medicine cured his hardcore addiction and gave him the passion for helping others through opening Rythmia.
So why is plant medicine forbidden and condemned in most of the world? Why not allow people this opportunity to heal? Why keep paying pharmaceutical companies billions and billions of dollars for drugs with horrendous side effects, which are only masking the underlying problems? (Oh, the pharmaceutical industry – maybe that has something to do with it…)
I’m not proposing that everyone should run into the jungle and do plant medicine (actually, it doesn’t sound like a terrible idea, come to think of it…). But I want people to be aware of the option, especially if they are considering taking their lives.
I’ve seen so many people suffer, and I think that a lot of the suffering is unnecessary. Yes, there is a risk with plant medicine. But I think the most significant risk to a person with depression is not to treat it at all. Or go year after year trying methods that don’t work. How long can a person go on like that without giving up?
A large part of my life, I’ve spent in darkness, pain, and shame. The shame has perhaps been the worst. I’ve felt so disgusted by myself and for not being able to do better: for being self-destructive, for ruining relationships, for losing jobs and for not being able to get a boyfriend at age thirty. Now I’m just so grateful that I finally found something that works!
It’s only been a few weeks ago since I left Costa Rica and Rythmia. After fifteen years of shaky mental health, is my newfound stability really here to stay? Of course, I can’t look into the future and know that for sure. But what I can say is this: the void that I’ve felt for as long as I can remember is gone. I feel whole for the first time. I don’t jump out of bed with a sparkly smile on my face every morning, but I’m stable. I feel worthy. Right now, I can’t imagine ever wanting to kill myself again.
Straight after the ayahuasca ceremonies, I felt the strongest desire to spend every remaining day of my life doing good. All I wanted was to reunite with my parents in Sweden and be holy like a saint. I think I did alright for a few days, but I’m afraid that I’m now back to intermittently acting like a moody teenager with my parents. I still get pissed off at people, I feel insecure, and I’m back to my old habit of reading gossip blogs. My conviction that my body is my temple has faded a bit since I’ve fallen for the temptation of Swedish chocolate a couple of times during my visit to Sweden.
My imperfections aside, I have changed. Although I do have my bouts of unnecessary anger, it passes instead of becoming deep-seated resentments. I used to dedicate so much of my energy on a daily basis to compulsive thoughts about things that had hurt me ages ago and fears about what could go wrong in the future. No wonder I got depressed! I don’t think or feel that way anymore.
And the most important thing is: I’m fine. I want to live. I really do! I’m so excited about my life and finally being able to make the most out of it, hopefully without screwing it up too much this time. I can’t wait to continue my traveling, and this time being able to enjoy the beautiful views and be present in conversations with the people I meet. I’m looking forward to going on a date with a nice man and not writing him off because I feel unworthy and can’t handle someone being good to me. I hope that I will be lucky enough to live a long life so that I can do all of the things that I want to do.
I’m so grateful to finally have found a solution and for having this incredible opportunity to a life! I will continue my explorations with plant medicine for more personal development work. This is just the beginning. Worth the risk of shitting myself in the jungle? Totally.
DISCLAIMER: DO NOT USE ANY DRUGS OR SUBSTANCES WITHOUT CONSULTING A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL. THIS IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.