How Magic Mushrooms Helped Me Move Past a Traumatic Relationship
When I was 21 I visited my then-girlfriend in Amsterdam. We’d been together for 3 years during university and we pretty much lived out of each-others pockets. During term-time we were always together and if we were apart it was never for more than a day, but as some of us will know, that kind of relationship is rarely sustainable.
When university finished though I knew our relationship would never be the same again. She was moving to the Netherlands for a year-long masters and I was staying in London. Safe to say, I was right. She became close to someone else while she was there but was still maintaining our relationship.
As my first ever girlfriend, I was having a very difficult time processing the way our dynamic had changed and how we seemed more and more like strangers to each other. I went through periods of anger, sadness, longing and everything in between. My psyche wouldn’t allow me to let go so easily though, so I made the effort to visit her a few times.
As we all know, Amsterdam is a liberal place. I’d heard magic mushrooms were legal there, just like weed was but I knew absolutely nothing about them. Like any good English tourist I smoked my share of green but I kept noticing the ‘smart shops’ everywhere which sold all manner of other substance-related paraphernalia.
I’ve always a been a curious type. My mind pushes me to obtain greater and greater knowledge otherwise I feel like I’m stagnating, especially if the knowledge is applicable to my own psychology or that of others.
Growing up though I was always taught that drugs were bad (Mr Mackey, anyone?), I was a good kid and never wanted to do anything which would disappoint others. I’d been taught that anyone who took drugs ended up brain damaged and destitute, laying in a gutter somewhere. The heading ‘drugs’ was used as an all-encompassing term which included all illegal substances, and we were taught getting involved with any of them would ruin your life.
As I grew up there was something I couldn’t figure out though; if they were so bad, why were marijuana and magic mushrooms legal in the Netherlands? How bad could they be if the government trusted the public’s discretion? It made me question what was drilled into me as a kid, especially after the realisation of how dangerous legal drugs like alcohol and nicotine are. Maybe all illegal substances don’t come under one heading.
So I did my research. I searched every article, journal and user-account that I could find (this was in 2008, so quite a bit before the internet was teeming with information on anything and everything). I researched what magic mushrooms were, how you feel on them, what they do in the brain and their legal status globally.
My research yielded a few keys points. First of all, mushrooms are completely natural, they just grow out of the ground and you eat them. Secondly, the active compound, psilocybin, is less toxic than aspirin, there’s no evidence that it’s damaging to the brain. Thirdly, the reason it’s outlawed in most countries is because the effects are quite powerful and users often don’t realise what they’re getting themselves into. There have been cases of people eating too many and tripping out so hard they think they can fly and then jumping off buildings. I also discovered they were legally sold in the UK until 2005 where they were then classified as class-A drugs; the same category as cocaine, ecstasy and heroin.
I’d read enough. I was in a country where they were legal and I’m smart enough to control the variables of my own experience. I looked up best practices and what to do in case of a bad trip — the first time you try them have the weakest variety, stay inside and if you don’t like it, drink some orange juice and something sugary and you’ll come down.
Easy, I thought, I’m going for it. I bought the weakest variety (mexican, in case you’re curious), known as the ‘laughing mushroom’. Just as a note, back then they could legally be sold fresh, not dried, but the law’s now changed in Holland. Selling magic mushrooms in their consumable form is now illegal, but selling truffles (mushroom buds before they’ve sprouted out of the ground) is legal and they’re about half strength.
I stayed with my then-girlfriend during my visit. I explained my curiosity and my findings and wanted to share the experience with her. She flat-out refused, I couldn’t blame her. Perhaps I could’ve persuaded her a bit more but she was the cautious type, and being my first time I didn’t want to drag her into it, in case it didn’t go well.
The pack was enough for 2 people, so I ate the first half and sat down watching TV with her, waiting. It takes 30–45 minutes to start feeling something. I felt nothing at all for 25–30 minutes, so I thought they weren’t working and ate the rest of the pack, enough for 2 people.
After 15 more minutes they started kicking in. Colours were jumping out at me, bright, vivid and sumptuous. Every sound became impossibly crisp, like I was listening to everything on Bang and Olufsen surround. My skin felt unbelievably soft, like velvet. Everything around me became so beautiful, even though I was sitting in a pretty average student apartment. I could barely comprehend the level of beauty.
Time seemed to lengthen, I felt like I was watching Hugh Grant on TV for at least 2 hours. I asked my girlfriend how long it had been and she told me I’d last asked 10 minutes before.
I felt like I was on a plane of existence so beautiful, so positive and my companion in the same space was on a defensive, negative plane. I felt more open than I’ve ever felt but I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I wanted to connect with her but her defensive aura had become so obvious to me.
I wanted to get up and really feel it. I walked around the flat and onto the balcony. The breeze on my face was the most satisfying I’d ever felt. Like when you’re on a balcony in front of the sea at sunset, the sky bathed in deep red as a cool ocean breeze gently caresses your face. This felt better than even that, but I was in the middle of a city in April, I just felt so happy and in the moment.
I had many unresolved emotions which stemmed from our relationship which I’d repressed, not knowing how to deal with them as I’d never felt such sadness or anguish before. Being on magic mushrooms allowed them to come to the surface, something which I must admit I was not expecting. Being with my girlfriend at the time, who was the other party in all of my unresolved emotions, was more useful than I ever could’ve anticipated.
Despite her not being on the same plane as me — I could still feel her negativity, I couldn’t help but to express my emotions to her. One of the things magic mushrooms do is make you very aware of outside stimulus. Other’s moods become very apparent and they can become overwhelming. This is why it’s not a good idea to do them outside, especially somewhere busy. Our brains ignore most of the stimulus in ‘normal’ life because most of it is deemed irrelevant by our brains. On mushrooms your brain absorbs and feels every little bit of stimulus.
I could feel her negativity toward me but regardless my emotions had risen to the surface. They came out without anger, sadness or any other feeling which could’ve biased them. I asked her things which I didn’t even realise I needed the answers to, expressed my emotions to her in a way I thought I could never have done - calmly and neutrally.
My mind went through every emotion I’d been feeling for months previously. Sadness, anger, longing, melancholy, happiness, playfulness. They all seemed to come to the surface, one by one. I felt each one in its entirety and then it would subside and make way for the next one to come up. I didn’t express them physically, I didn’t become angry or especially playful. I just felt them one by one and felt once they’d had the chance to express themselves fully, they had been satisfied. All of this while my ex was staring at me wondering what the hell was going through my mind.
After this, I felt light as a feather. I literally felt like I was floating around the room in a cloud of happiness. Every little thing was even more beautiful; every colour, sound, everything I thought, felt, even my ex. Everything was beautiful.
The experience lasted about 5 hours and I began to come down. I felt my ‘normal’ senses beginning to return and felt a sensation I will never, ever forget, and that was one of specific disappointment. It wasn’t because the mushroom experience had been bad (far from it, in fact, it was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life). It also wasn’t because of all the emotions I’d experienced, or anything to do with the place I was in or the person I was with.
It was because everything was so beautiful and suddenly it was all becoming ‘normal’ again. The tedium and monotony of normal life seemed to pale in comparison to the beauty and profoundness of what I had just experienced.
Being my first trip I wasn’t sure what to expect on the comedown. The only point of reference I had was alcohol and weed. On both I felt slow and sluggish afterwards so I thought the same would apply here. I was wrong.
I definitely felt a longing, immediately afterwards, to go back to the beauty of everything I’d just experienced, but I didn’t feel slow at all. I remembered every little detail of the trip and better still, I remembered everything I had felt. I felt so much lighter emotionally and so much better in myself. It was like a form of crash course therapy which I never knew I was in for.
I felt like my eyes had been opened. All substances definitely are not the same, some have real merit.
This experience really helped me to move past a lot of repressed emotions by making them so stark and obvious to me. Afterwards I had such a better idea of what I was feeling and why I was feeling it, which really helped me to eventually do what was best for both of us and end the relationship, which I did properly a couple of months later. I have no doubt this experience fast-forwarded my emotional processing by months.
It also taught me, without a shadow of a doubt, that reality exists within the perception of your own mind. Our brains are machines, composed of different areas which control different things and communicate via chemicals. Slightly change the way in which it communicates within itself or the level of a particular chemical and your entire perception of reality changes. I’ve done much, much research since then into how psilocybin works but I’ll detail that in another piece.
Everytime I have an experience with them I have the same thought; ‘everyone should try this’. But, these are still drugs, powerful ones, they need to be treated with respect. Safety protocols and best practices must be observed, not to mention their legal status. If safety isn’t observed, you could very well have a bad trip, like someone I knew once did. She told me she’d gotten drunk, smoked weed and then ate mushrooms all in one go and her nightmares came to life in front of her eyes. Unfortunately, this was entirely her own fault, but at least she learnt never to do it again (as a general rule, don’t mix any substances).
A magic mushroom experience can be life-changing. They helped me, rather inadvertently, to process my negative emotions in a way I never thought possible. They literally opened my mind (they work by allowing connections to form between parts of the brain that don’t normally ‘talk’). Psychedelics cannot be blanketly labelled just as ‘bad, illegal substances’ and there is much research happening into their therapeutic potential, most notably by MAPS.
They have undiscovered merit and really are out of this world. They showed me a deeper side of myself and helped me process emotions I had no idea how to process. They showed me more about myself than I could ever have hoped to discover.