By Antanika Holton
This article is republished here with full permissions.
I sit, tightly wound for a moment, I’ve waited for this day for about a year.
I’m having my mental health assessed for the trauma I endured as a child. So I can be signed off as being mentally healthy for the first time in my life.
I hear my name called and I cross the room to greet the Psychiatrist. I like to think I’m a little open minded but she was exactly what you’d expect; Mid 50’s, with smart clothes and sensible shoes. She leads me down a long hall, the doors off to the sides have other therapists practicing from them. All of them in the Psychology field.
The woman across from me smiles warmly as I take a seat, the room is older than I was expecting, with 8ft decorated ceilings with all the trimmings.
It was also…pretty….ugly.
Mrs. Psych (not her real name) is a Psychiatrist who practices Psychotherapy in a fancier part of town that I rarely visit.
“I’m Mrs. Psych-” she shakes her head to the side, moving her fringe out her eyes, her once blonde bob, is heavily scattered with grey.
Her eyes are kind and quite small as she squints over at me.
I’m a little nervous and my arm pits are soggy but I find myself behaving bright, bubbly and conversational with her. Her warm manner makes me feel as though I’ve met her before, perfect.
My thoughts wonder and I imagine sitting in an actual therapy session with her.
She bursts into my day dream with “So, you’re here for an mental health assessment…-”
She pauses and looks up “…and- he was not convicted due to a lack of evidence…is that correct?”
“Yes” I smile.
My mind races through my memories and I realise how much everything scatters under pressure. I realise that I can’t recall a thing for a moment; 6 years of sexual abuse at the hands of a step-father, need I say more.
Ya know, the norm.
She crosses her leg across her other, corrects her posture and jots a note on her notepad. I reach for my water bottle beside me and take a sip.
“I am sorry you had to endure that…” she offers, “…So, tell me what happened, from the beginning, I understand this might be difficult for you so take as long as you need, we can take breaks if you need to.”
She searches my face sympathetically for any strike of pain she might find in my eyes.
I don’t flinch.
I run her by the first main instances but I strain to recall the smaller details, making me worry that I come off as insincere, I apologise, “it’s been a while since I’ve had to recall them”.
So, she asks me specifics, “how old were you, how old were you when it ended and why”, I answered as best as I could.
I have told my story so many times and it was so fresh once but the less I live in it, the less and less I have it sitting in the front of my thoughts.
These days, it feels as though who I am now, and who I was then, are worlds apart. I barely recognise myself although I feel that’s a good thing.
For anyone who like me has suffered from the grips of C-PTSD, you’d understand just how great it is to be able to see a future past a few days.
I look forward to so much that I rarely look back anymore.
“How do you feel it affected your life as a child, at school, in friendships, relationships, etc?”, she asks carefully.
I find her overly apologetic for a psychiatrist.
I tell her; how normal anxiety was for me, of how my childhood involved family violence, financial struggles, addiction and sexual abuse, over all it was unstable. I told her how I always felt out of place within my family and within any social groups, I felt isolated and alone. We moved a lot which meant I struggled to make and keep friendships, resulting in both my brother and I being at the ass end of bulling at times. I was a painfully shy and introverted child, whom also happened to be hiding an awful secret, it was a shitty mix.
In short, it was a bit shit.
“How do you feel it affected you in high school and the years following?”
I spoke of my promiscuous attention seeking behaviours, my inability to make friends, my excessive drinking, my risky behaviours, teen pregnancy. I tell her of my struggles with anxiety and depression, which at times made It difficult to parent my young son, or work.
It hindered my ability to judge what a good relationship should be.
I told her “My idea of what I was, had been over the years painfully skewed.”
“Okay, So, how do you feel it influences your life now?”
I light up, I smile and I lean forward in my chair and I tell her as my heartbeats fast in my chest because I know I am about to disclose something to her that maybe I shouldn’t.
I take a breath and continue, “The last 10 months have been some of the best months of my life, I rarely experience anxiety, unless its PMS related, my depression is gone, my C-PTSD is gone and my belief in myself has improved tenfold.”
She smiles brightly, “Can I ask, this is the second time you’ve mentioned the improvement over the last 10 or so months, why now, why so dramatically? What changed?”.
Her brow furrows with curiosity.
My heart skips a beat as the words fall from my mouth before I can catch them, “I took LSD and magic mushrooms to treat myself… I’d tried everything else…”
I watch her face, waiting for a glimpse of disapproval.
But I see none.
The drugs Lysergic acid diethylamide(LSD) and Psilocybin (Magic Mushrooms) are both a schedule 1 narcotic meaning they are highly illegal despite the benefits they’ve been seen to have on treatment resistant mental health conditions such as mine.
To have those drugs was a big risk some might say.
But when you’re desperate, and the other choice is death, it’s a risk that I found was absolutely worth taking.
I squirm in my seat slightly, ‘might I regret this later? Despite the research and personal outcome?’
Imagine that, having a new mental health assessment because you were abused as a kid, but end up in jail for treating said abuse with highly illegal yet beneficial substances whilst, your abuser walks free, forever.
It felt unlikely to me that i’d end up in trouble, so I let it go. And anyway, she asked and, so, I gave my honest answer. I am not a dishonest person and I pride myself on that.
“Oh-” she exclaims “-I’ve been reading some of the research recently, it is quite interesting and looks promising, I’ look forward to seeing the studies”.
I beam at her and my shoulders relax, excited to be discussing this with a mental health professional in a position I respect, “The benefits are quite incredible…Especially when integrated with therapy.”
“I am very interested to see what else it can do” she says.
“I feel kind of like I am wasting my time here-” I tell her boldly, “-I believe that I am pretty good now, that I won’t go back to how I was, and that the drugs helped me find a new path, both with healing, within my body, and within my mind…”
I shrug, some what surprised at my clear articulation under her slight pressure. She smiles and continues chatting with me as she tells me she has to make notes on my appearance, checking my clothing over as part of her physical assessment.
“You really should be proud of that-” She pauses,
“- it takes many people many years to get to the stage you’re at, but I can understand why you might feel that way now, but you did everything right, you got the help, and I am glad to hear about it.”
I don’t believe that without my experiences with psychedelics in my early 30s that my C-PSTD, and depression or anxiety would have subsided as soon as they did.
These experiences allowed me to ask questions only I knew the answers to but hadn’t found yet.
I also don’t believe that I would have even considered I was intelligent enough if it were not for one experience where I felt as though the walls that enslaved my intelligence were finally broken down. I felt them fall as I made new revelations about myself and the world around me and where my own trauma had been holding me back. I made connections in those few experiences that I can’t imagine I would ever have been able to have made in my regular state of mind.
It is these experiences that allowed me to see myself exactly as I was.
I could finally see through certain areas that were once so foggy and dense that I deemed myself as ‘naive or slow, dumb, and my no means intelligent.’
But it was merely trauma and my own ‘ego’ getting in the way.
The integration of psychedelics in my personal life has had significant benefits.
Not only on my personal life but also on the way I function within society.
I am friendlier, helpful, cleaner, I feel vastly more amounts of empathy for strangers. I have found myself on pathways that lead me to functioning better as a person, to always wanting to be better.
These drugs allowed me to see my potential for a moment, and then allowed me to make the changes I needed to make that transition easier, it allowed me to be more conscious of my behaviours leading to better choices for long term.
Mrs.Psych sits back in her chair and writes a few more notes, briefly pausing to apologise for the silence and when she’s done our session draws to a close.
She thanks me for my honesty, and commends my progress, she places her pen and paper down beside her chair.
She smiles warmly, “And what’s next for you she asks?”.
“All the things”.
And then we laugh.
I am not saying that everyone should use this method nor that I continue to do so. This is merely my own experience.
Always take precautions; Educate yourself, read the research thoroughly and ensure you are safe.
I do not encourage or recommend anyone take part in “illegal activities” if they don’t want to.
Before taking any approach to healing that is alternative to the social norms, be sure to look into the legalities of such things depending on where you live. Also, it is incredibly important to be aware that not all substances will help everyone, and some substances can have effects that are not desired.
Be sure to do all your research before partaking in anything different that alters your usual waking state.
And of course, like all things, if you or someone you know is having issues with drugs of any kind, reach out and get support.
By Antanika Holton
What did you do on the weekend?” my friend asks, her soft English accent lingers in my head. I look around the school yard, the yard I find myself in every afternoon at 3. It’s not my school but the school that my 3 children attend. I toss up quickly in my head, do I tell her what I really did out of excitement, or do I pretend I did something completely different out of fear?
Despite the fear, why do I feel this undying urge to yell it from the tree tops to anyone that’ll listen. My heart races, my stomach hits the floor as the words tumble from my mouth and my voice shakes “I took LSD with my husband”.
I watch her face, she looks confused…“What’s that? Is that like Meth?” she quizzes me.
I instantly regret my decision to tell her.
I forget, not everyone has researched drugs as intently as I have, and that says something, as I am quite the novice.
She doesn’t get it. And I can’t blame her for that, but I feel frustrated knowing that from here on out, some people might cast some pretty shitty judgments, even if my friend wasn’t.
I take a breath and attempt to explain what it is and what it does within the 3 minutes I know it takes the other mums to reach us from the front gate.
But I give up…because I know, that’s just not enough time to break such a stigma.
I make a mental note to remind myself not to talk to people about it until I have articulated a better response for this exact situation, because I realise it’ll come up a lot and I despise the idea that I’ll be judged for something that helped me save myself, from myself. Especially knowing, it hurt no one else and that my use of this drug has since only bettered my human experience in our society, therefore, bettering society.
The Trauma and Drugs:
I grew up in a home that used drugs. Mostly, recreationally, and when I say recreationally, I mean; my family home was spotless because my mum found that at that time in her life cleaning the house on speed really helps get the house sparkling fast so she can spend time arts and crafting with us kids.
I was no stranger to hearing the stories at the age of 10 of my mum and her friends tripping in the bush with elephants or cleaning my ponies in the bath with glittering-fractal waters.
I was also no stranger to the bottles of booze or sneaky weed tins and pipes lying around the house. At one point, I’m told my 18-month-old brother ate a tin of cannabis, it must have been a sad day for mum that day.
This might paint a horrid picture but I promise, there was a lot of love and fun in there too. And while I could start my own war on drugs for their involvement in the trauma I endured during childhood, I don’t, I owe much of my progress to them; specifically, to the schedule 1, illicit drugs LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide) and ‘Magic’ Mushrooms (Psilocybin) that would later change the trajectory of my life for the better.
About 4 years ago I was diagnosed with C-PTSD (Complex- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder). I’d been suffering from depression and anxiety for most of my life, untreated of course.
But when this came on, it was something else…
The flashbacks began in 2015, and that was it, I spiralled from there on, into the ever-consuming darkness that many childhood sexual abuse survivors do.
I had to then try to fight my way out the trauma that the 6 years of sexual abuse (at the hands of my then step-father) had caused me. It was then that I discovered it was a process, a long painful, agonising process and because of it, sometimes people die.
Eventually, I ended up wanting to end it all not because I hated my life, but because I needed to escape the pain.
I was tired.
I was tiring of the anxiety, the fear I had of my own thoughts; ones that would change so fast and erratically that I was scared that I’d snap one day, and then I’d be the mum in the papers who did something really stupid.
I was tiring of fantasising about leaving my family, and how simple that would be for my husband.
The saddest part of this was that I considered myself lucky, I had a supportive family, lovely children, a wonderful husband and a beautiful life. But I had this Trauma. It was there with me, following me around, reminding me it was there. Every. SINGLE. Day.
I was attending therapy, trying the anti-depressants and the over prescribed anti-psychotics. But I was still in this silent torment, I was also self-medicating with over the counter pain medications, wine, and sugar.
After my diagnosis and despite already knowing I had PTSD and depression. I began to read a lot about what to expect and how to work through it, but to me…the prognosis, it didn’t look good. Some heal, many don’t, some even wrote to me to tell me how they still suffered from their trauma well into their senior years.
One of the first articles I read about living with C-PTSD from sexual abuse was about a young woman in Belgium, who had been granted the right to end her life in her 20’s. The Doctors deemed her mental conditions untreatable, stating that she would have no quality of life from then on out. I would see women on the news in their 70’s or 80’s talking of how their childhood trauma consumed them. It was from these stories I came to fear that I’d be stuck in this endless depression loop for years or even decades to come.
In time, I came to accept that my children would become unconcerned that ‘mum’s crying in the shower again, that mums hiding in bed” and “dad is always worried about mum’.
In the darker days while I was waiting to snap, I’d imagine that their only memories would be that; “My mum died from her depression.”
This was my life now.
I had not only succumbed to this idea but I had accepted this as my fate.
It will be this hard forever, at least until I died.
In time I began to see a transpersonal counsellor who recommended that I take up writing about my experience. So, for once I listened and slowly with the flow of my words, the pain sometimes felt lessened. I realised how cathartic writing could be so I started a public blog, then a Facebook page, it was there that found myself a community of support, a place where I could curl up and hang out with others who like me, assumed our diagnoses of ‘sexual abuse victims’ was essentially… terminal.
I had been attending Psychotherapy sessions with a Psychoanalyst every fortnight for about a year when the opportunity to take part in a study to treat PTSD with Cognitive Processing therapy came long.
The week prior to taking part in the study I had also had my first ever LSD induced experience.
The months prior to that, I’d spent about a bunch of my life on reddit and a further 100 hours on websites dedicated to the use of Psychedelics in the therapeutic sense; desperate for an answer I never thought I’d get.
During this LSD experience, I had no choice but to face my trauma as I sat across from my husband out the front of our house on that balmy summers night. We talked and we cried so hard that I couldn’t breathe, and then we laughed until we cried some more.
It was during those hours that I made peace with the anger I had carried for my abuser for the past 20 something years.
I forgave him after I pulled apart every aspect of my abuse, and then I asked “Whos’ fault it was? And even if we knew exactly the what/how/why and who of it all, if we can place blame on that? And then what?
What do I do with that.
Despite my years of searching it became clear to me that the answer was simple.
It was on me. I was waiting for something or someone to do the work for me. I also placed too much of my own progress in my healing on having some kind of justice for what he did to me. I had to make peace with myself. I had to forgive myself, I had to let go, because I had done all I can.
I had to stop doing the same thing I always had.
And I finally had done that on this night by altering my state of mind and really looking inside.
“Forgiving him, is forgiving me. Letting it go.”
It all made sense now.
“Forgiveness often brings out heated arguments and conversations because many people think forgiveness is saying that what someone did was okay, or that; that person is okay.
But that’s not what it means at all.
Forgiving is being kind to myself.
Forgiving means letting go of the anger and the pain.
Forgiveness is about me, not the man who did this.
I am the only one who has the power to change this.”
Hours later exhausted and slightly terrified after watching mother!, I lie beside my husband as something is triggered and a new traumatic memory rushes through me, I cry for a moment for the hurt and then the emotion, the pain, slides quietly from me.
“Are you alright?” my husband asks.
“Yeah” I smile. Somehow, feeling completely at ease with the memory that appeared before me, I lie my head on my pillow to sleep, completely unaware that tomorrow would be the beginning of a very passionate relationship, between me, myself and LSD.
I spent the next 15 weeks in the CPT therapy study.
Little did I know, integrating my experience with therapy was one of the best things I could have done right after an experience like I’d had, as psychedelics tend to enhance Neuroplasticity in the brain (it enhances our brains ability to change and adapt throughout life). I’d read about these drugs helping with depression, anxiety and OCD but I had not yet understood how; later I would learn that “LSD can enhance self-awareness and facilitate the recollection of, and release from, emotionally loaded memories.”
This allowed me to do much of the work I needed to do in therapy much easier, I was able to integrate things I’d learnt during these sessions with a rational ease.
I realised how much responsibility I had for my own healing. It was freeing.
At first, I thought I was being emotionally void during my sessions, that I was disassociating again, because I wasn’t crying, I wasn’t shaking, I wasn’t thinking the way I usually did.
I was talking boldly and bluntly about it, I was almost confident, with an air of nonchalance.
I no longer wanted to sit in my pain, but to explore it.
I wanted to see what I could do next. It became clear to me that something was different.
I’d signed up to that study believing I needed help with dealing with what had happened to me. What the LSD combined with therapy helped me realise was that most of that work was done during that psychedelic experience a few weeks earlier and what I really needed to do was to work on me now. I’d worked on the trauma for so long, that I’d neglected myself.
Eventually, I was signed off by the Psychologist because I no longer suffered from C-PTSD.
And I’ve never been back to that life.
Back at my old psychoanalyst in our bi- monthly briefings, the conversation quickly changed from one about my trauma, to my every-day life issues that now took a welcomed dominance in my life- like my parenting or what to do with myself, I was lost, because I didn’t know who I was without the trauma.
I began making small changes, ones I’d been meaning to make but never had the desire or need to put into action, because who needs plans when you’re a stupid waste of space?
I started to actively change my mind about how I saw my body and my mind; I took part in a nude photo shoot with other survivors of sexual abuse, I unfollowed all the ‘inspo’ pages on Instagram, I stopped doubting my intelligence. Then I started onto bigger things such as University at 32, something I never dreamed was an option for me (I may have cried like a baby and had to be chaperoned by my husband on the first day, but hey baby steps.) I even started meditating daily, eating well, exercising, reading and being nicer to my kids…
It was almost as though my whole personality and potential had been held hostage by my own trauma, and now I was finally the person I would have been if I’d never been through that. The dark cloud that sat on me for my whole life had dissipated, and I had this new empathetic self-perspective. Before LSD my trauma felt like another baby I had to take care of, a big slow baby sloth in the room that cried when she threw the bowl at the wall expecting something different to happen each time.
Psychedelics helped me move through the distractions and patterns of my past and allowed me to consider that I have a future. As I look forward truly hopeful for the first time, my life is clear before me, a world of real and clichéd opportunity, a world I created with the assistance of a drug that I was not allowed to have.
And while, I do not miss my darkness…and who would? I think of it as an old friend, one who I never really liked anyway but still remembered fondly for the lessons she’d taught me.
My old friend trauma and my new friend LSD had lead me here to explore other things to aid me in finding purpose again. I can only hope that one day that the stigma related to such incredible experiences is lessened by voices such as mine.
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