With the desert before me, the night sky above and psilocybin dancing within, for the first time I understood true unconditional love. Little did I know that this experience would later save my life.
When I gave birth at 38 years old, I assumed that having children later in life would ensure my capability as a new mother. I was also trained as a psychotherapist with years of personal therapy, alternative healing and seeking under my belt.
When I finally copped to the fact that I was impacted by a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD), it was with a mixture of resignation and a strange relief. Living within the craggy landscape of PMAD warrants its own article (or two or 10, which in time I’ll write). It really is a complex, layered land deserving of proper exploration.
In a vain attempt to package the two years I struggled with postpartum depression, I offer you this: it’s like bearing the ferocity of a hurricane with only the myopic lens of tunnel vision to guide you to calmer waters.
As the responsibilities of parenting often feel relentless, so does postpartum depression. It’s a persistent, stubborn beast that grinds a person down. It ameliorates whatever protective husk you think you can find comfort in.
My emotional state became so worn that my mind travelled to secret places. On most days, I thought of taking my own life. I researched suicide. If the day were to come, I knew where and how to do it.
Please know, this was an impossible place. I loved my baby. I knew this would burden him for the rest of his life. My family would be irreparably devastated.
And still, something terrifying was happening within me. Something that was so dark — so out of my control — that I at times couldn’t see a way out. Postpartum depression dredged up my deepest pain. My most loathed parts.
This underworld journey wasn’t without its magic. Magic was witnessing the wonder of my baby. Magic was laughter fueled by the sometimes absurd nature of mothering.
But there was another layer of magic that I believe new mothers channel. I intuited things more acutely. I’d think of someone I hadn’t seen in years and run into them minutes later. I knew things out of the corner of my mind, saw things out of the corner of my eye.
My dream life split open: out-of-body experiences, lucid dreaming, sensing non-corporeal beings as I hung in a hypnogogic state. In that first year of motherhood, I mastered the sleep paralysis that had tormented me since childhood, transforming it into astral experiments.
These strange happenings reignited the teachings of a psilocybin trip (also known as “shrooms” or “magic mushrooms”) I had two years prior. It wasn’t my first psychedelic experience. As a young adult, I fell into the rave scene of the mid to late 90’s where altered-state inducing substances abounded.
During my 30’s, I dove into a deep study of shamanic practice and worlds unseen. By the time I reached my 36th year, I had grown into something of an animist. I regarded all forms as holding their own imprint of intelligence and consciousness. I also understood the importance of “set and setting” when traveling into altered states, be they substance-assisted or not.
So, in the middle of the California desert five miles from the Nevada border, my future husband, his friend and I embarked on a psilocybin trip. I held the dry, pungent mushrooms in my hands, acknowledged their wisdom and set out to receive the healing I most needed.
Then I was off.
The details of my psilocybin trip are safely preserved in a journal. To describe the cosmic awe beyond the edge of consensual reality — that’s its own writing endeavor for another day.
What was most instrumental in resurrecting me from the underworld of postpartum depression — of essentially saving my life — was what I learned about unconditional love.
During this psilocybin trip, I perceived the infinite nature of existence. I couldn’t hold a cognitive understanding of it, but I knew it — Love, Source, God, All. That which is everything.
Tears streamed as I understood this consciousness, which is absolute love, as the substrate of everything. It’s everywhere in every moment, in every reality, within every being, every atom.
This consciousness is so vast and omnipresent that it meets even the most wretched beings with unconditional love. It is the most wretched beings in the darkest corners of the Universe and our psyches.
It is the glue that binds and the crucible that holds.
Like an archaic Rolodex, my mind spit out images of my most shunned, shamed aspects.
The loving consciousness was unflappable and met all of me with complete acceptance. It modeled an unconditional love I had never encountered. It showed me that self-love and acceptance, which had been elusive to me, was indeed possible.
Like an outside thought placed into my brain, it reassured me, “I’m always here, even when it’s darkest.”
Two years later, motherhood held my feet to the fire. It called forth what was disowned, what needed to be reclaimed.
As I floundered in the maelstrom of postpartum depression, these memories — this medicine — of unconditional love and acceptance flooded back into my awareness.
It had rested in the alcove of my psyche, waiting for the moment when it knew I’d be most ready — and most needing — to integrate the powerful lessons I encountered that night in the desert.
For me, psilocybin gifted an intelligent elixir of unconditional love, self-acceptance and rebirth — and it took a plight through the underworld (along with the support of an open and skilled therapist) to fully receive it.
And in those lonely moments when I questioned my ability to continue on, the words of that absolute loving consciousness lifted me.
“I’m always here, even when it’s darkest.”
So I stayed.
Disclaimer: Though there is much research and education underway about the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics, an emerging field of psychedelic-assisted therapy and a movement to decriminalize psilocybin, it’s still classified as a Schedule 1 substance. This writer does not suggest the use of illegal substances (especially while pregnant, nursing, or in the presence of a child), nor can can she assist you in procuring such substances. Please do your own research and use your discernment when making personal decisions about your healing and wellness.