“Men ruin everything.”
The second of three facilitated psilocybin trips
Who goes to Jamaica in July? Apparently twelve other people like me searching for relief. Relief from psychic and/or physical pain. Desperate enough to attend three facilitated ingestions of psilocybin.* The first of my three trips can be read at: Human Parts. Apologies in advance to men of good will.
On my second of three trips, I took 5 grams of encapsulated psilocybin, one gram more than the first time. This session we dosed earlier; 1 p.m. instead of 2:30 p.m. For me, this earlier start sliced off a full hour-and-a-half of fear and worry.
The behavior of an anxious person like me often looks like impatience to others when, in fact, it’s anticipatory anxiety. Once we make up our minds to do something requiring the tiniest bit of gumption, we want to do it right away. The longer we wait, the more likely it is we’ll find an excuse not to do it.
For this second trip I chose a space away from the beach … and the male participants who tended to be rambunctious and noisy. For reasons I wasn’t aware of, their behavior was a trigger; they pissed me off.
I removed a small desk and chair nestled between a wall and the staircase of our New Orleans French-style house called Coquina. All its louvered doors and windows were open wide, allowing strong ocean breezes to flow in.
I hoped this space would give me some degree of privacy while still allowing me to experience the group dynamic. My understanding was that it’s one thing to trip privately with a facilitator, but the experience is enhanced when surrounded by others.
I borrowed a full-length cushion from an outdoor chaise lounge and slipped it on the floor inside the alcove. I added several pillows from my room and placed them at the back so I could semi-sit.
Fairly soon after dosing I put on my blinders. Within these three walls it felt womblike; the sound of the crashing ocean waves sloshing around like a washing machine. Despite the watery sounds, the space wasn’t pulling in the breeze as much as I had hoped. To get cooler and more comfortable, I removed my bra and stuck it behind the pillows.
Lying down again, shapes formed in front of my closed eyes. This time, though, they were not fluorescent. In fact, their colors were muted and they moved in slow motion on a light-gray background. These duller colors and slower movements relaxed me, and I think I dozed on and off for an indeterminate amount of time. While under the influence, time is difficult to gauge. Being surrounded by housemate Gail** and the female facilitator Ruthie,** I felt safe. The atmosphere was mellow, like a hot afternoon sitting on a porch, not talking.
Numbness crept around my edges as if outlining my form. My hands and arms felt as though they’d fallen asleep. I guessed my body was preparing itself against feeling. Not sure, I knew I didn’t want to be numb to what was going on, so I shook them out and moved my legs a bit. The numbness dissipated.
I heard someone coughing and wondered if the sound was part of my trip or if it was real. My late father, a habitual smoker, had coughed a lot so I thought this trip might be about him. He was a large man with a short temper and I readied myself to stand up to him. Then the coughing sounds emanated from every direction, probably amplified by my placement within three walls. Keeping the blinders on, I called for Ruthie. She came to me instantly. “Yes, Nancy,” her voice came soft and smooth. I asked, “Is the coughing I’m hearing real or is it part of my trip?” “It is real,” she said. Turned out, participants were in the beginning stages of purging (throwing up).
We had been told earlier that it’s not the mushrooms that cause regurgitation but rather a suppressed emotion that’s stuck inside and needs to be released. Getting it out helps emotional healing. For many people, purging is an important part of the process. I prayed it wouldn’t be part of mine. For heaven’s sake, it embarrassed me to cry in front of others. How could I possibly regurgitate in front of them? Mortifying!
The noisy men who had triggered my anger on the first trip were at it again. Only this time they didn’t stay down at the seashore. They’d moved more than halfway up the lawn toward the house. They were on the house side of the clay pot in the middle of the lawn. Foiled again, I thought.
Two distinctive smells hit my nostrils. All senses are heightened while under the influence of the mushroom and mine are acute to begin with. I’m as vigilant as a Meerkat, always on alert for trouble.
A lot of people laugh or roll their eyes at jittery Jacks and Jills like me. Instead, they should be thanking the anxious people of the world for keeping humanity alive. We’re the ones who smell the first wisp of smoke, hear the lock being picked, spy the bushes shaking, and feel the tremors of an earthquake before anyone else. Since the beginning of time, while the relaxed people strolled about our earth oblivious to danger, the nervous Nellies, the sentinels of threat, have been saving their sorry asses. Add that innate acuity to the mushroom’s enhancement and you’ve got yourself one hypersensitive human Meerkat.
The first smell to hit me were the trails of marijuana smoke. I’d rather smell dirty socks than weed. Since weed is said to enhance the psilocybin experience, I let that smell slide.
But then came the second smell: tobacco! As a former smoker, so addicted I lit up while laboring to push out my firstborn, my nose received the smell as a cruel hoax. Having quit smoking 17 years ago (following 35 pack-a-day years), all I wanted now was a cigarette. Damn whoever it was triggering my craving.
We’d been cautioned against drinking alcohol and/or using nicotine on dosing day — that using these substances would inhibit the effects of the mushroom. This I couldn’t let slide.
What the hell? I wondered. Who was smoking? Who was it that couldn’t follow directions? Or more likely, who was it that didn’t want to face their demons?
I sat up and lifted my eyeshades. There was a guy from our group smoking a cigarette. Oh, and a beer can sat on the lawn near him. What popped into my mind was, “Men ruin everything,” and while shaking my head, I said it again, out loud.
A moment later I watched this same shirtless, hatless man prancing back and forth under the steaming-hot sun across my field of vision, sullying the view of the ocean, invading my air space with odors, and assaulting my ears with hooting and hollering. The man in question had told me earlier that he had PTSD from a war he’d fought in. Perhaps that was causing his behavior. Despite my compassion for him and his condition, my agitation increased.
I put my eyeshades back on and laid down. Ruthie, the facilitator, came over and sat on the stairs next to me. Gently and almost in a whisper, she said, “It’s all right. Go on. Let it out.”
I figured she meant my anger. That it was okay to feel it. Knowing I was safe with her, I gasped out a soliloquy rant.
“Men ruin everything,” I repeated just loud enough for her to hear. “Men ruined the earth by manufacturing poisons for profit. MEN have killed our children by starting wars, stupid wars, unwarranted wars. They love their perfect lawns, they love their shit-hole pesticide-herbicide-infested golf courses. They invent atomic energy and immediately set about finding a way to annihilate people with it. They invent drugs to ease pain then push them on us, and charge exorbitant prices for them.”
I continued. “Why do men do this? Maybe they wreak this malevolence on others because all the other guys are going along with it. They will risk poisoning their own children to save their jobs. Every good thing they invent they ruin with abuse and misuse. Some even pretend to be men of God then molest our children. Oh, and this is for you, Timothy Leary! You ruined the safe use of mushrooms by leading others to abuse and misuse them. And you were a Harvard professor no less! Doesn’t matter how smart or stupid a man is, you can be sure he’ll ruin it.”
As I continued, Ruthie moved to my feet. I felt her hand gently rest on my leg, encouraging me to go on.
Right now the men on the lawn in front of me were destroying my trip with their shenanigans. Wait! “Destroying?” Is that the right word? No, it’s something else. They were activating something. They were activating something that is “unbecoming to a lady.” They were activating my fury.
I’m furious that once again MEN have invaded my space.
My blinders were up now, and I’ve scooted to the edge of my cushion, sitting up, ready to spring out onto the lawn and tell them to get the hell out of the way. But as usual, I chicken out. I fear confrontation. Instead of doing it myself, I look to the female facilitators, thinking it’s their job to do that, not mine. Ruthie has left me and she is standing at the front of the porch watching the men. When Gail, the other guest in Coquina, agrees that they’re ruining our mellow mood, Ruthie shouts toward the men, “Knock it off!” They move to another part of the property. There’s a lot of property for God’s sake.
And now I’m mad at myself. Why couldn’t I have stood up to them. Why couldn’t I demonstrate my anger?
It is wise to direct your anger towards problems — not people; to focus your energies on answers — not excuses. — William Arthur Ward
Back on my mat, with the men out of earshot, I heard dogs barking in the distance. At this moment I noted a switch going off in my brain. Anger dissolving, replaced by a resolving. I wondered why the dogs always barked at the same time of day. Were they hungry?
“I resolve,” I said out loud, continuing, “to do everything in my power to help elect a female president. I resent that a woman has never been president. I resent that a woman cannot be a Catholic priest. I resent all the men who have taken credit for the accomplishments of so many women — from Tiffany designs to decoding messages during WWII. I resent all the years — nay, centuries — of women being oppressed, subjugated and dismissed as if they were less than.”
I continued my rant, through gritted teeth, “I RESOLVE to push back against anyone, man or women, who does not realize that everyone has the right to clean air, clean water and nutritious food.” My body heaved with anger now. It was as if I were trying to push it out of me. Ruthie softly encouraged, “Go on, you’re doing great.” I continued to deep breathe, to focus on the fury within.
I continued, “There IS enough! Why do people get upset when simply considering a possible tweaking of a redistribution? Why not at least provide a level playing field?” Ruthie, said, “That’s it. Keep breathing.” I exaggerated my inhales and exhales, blowing out hard.
Then snark rose in me, my inner voice pretending to confront some generalized no-faced baby-man, “Whatcha so scared of? Huh? You ‘fraid you gonna give food to someone who didn’t WORK for it? You ‘fraid to give kids an education ’cause their parents are on drugs? You ‘fraid you’ll have nothing if you pay for your sins and the sins of your fathers? The institutional racism, the total disregard of nearly half of the citizens of YOUR country being well fed but undernourished? Why not make healthy food as cheap as fast food? Why does that scare you?
“I’ll tell you why it scares you! It scares you because your mind dwells in a state of lack. Look around you, for chrissakes! There is abundance everywhere! So many of us have MORE than enough. You will not starve, you will not go without a roof over your head, you will not be uncomfortable if you share a bit. Think about how you’re thinking. It’s not a world of lack we live in; it’s a world of abundance! And YOU ARE hoarding it!”
My anger did not abate. “There is enough space. Men need not ‘man-spread’ their arms or legs, they need not wear colognes so strong they invade everyone’s air space, they need not blare loud music at the beach or roar their loud cars down narrow streets when people are sleeping. Have an ounce of consideration for others for God’s sake!”
Exhausted and wrung out, I needed a bathroom break. Accompanied by Ruthie, she waited outside the door for me and escorted me back to my mat.
Before sitting down I stopped. With hands on hips I stared down at the mat all pushed back in the alcove. Suddenly I realized the irony of having chosen that spot — how I chose it for privacy. It occurred to me how seldom I allowed myself the space I am entitled to. How I’ll sit in the middle seat in an airplane or in an auditorium and wrap myself into a little ball, not daring to permit myself even one armrest. I have a right to my space. Larger, taller people of course need more space, but not to the detriment of mine.
I stopped staring at my cushion in the alcove. Bending at the waist, I pulled it out into the open. I pulled it out to the front of Coquina, out toward its veranda near its steps, on the periphery of the living room. I laid down and replaced the eye shades. And then, with the resounding anger of all the women before me, with me and for future women everywhere, in a strength as strong as the sea water crashing on the shore, I thought:
“OH, and speaking of space. I HAVE A MESSAGE TO MEN ALL OVER THE WORLD: You are allowed — are you listening? — you are allowed into our private, most sacred, space BY INVITATION ONLY! GOT THAT?”
My brain and body went silent for a while. Then a lever was pulled:
“And to all you good men, and I know there are millions of you out there, for heaven’s sake, stand up and say something when a committee of male nincompoops think they can legislate a woman’s body. And stand up when a cohort objectifies a woman. And stand up when the Bernie Madoffs and his ilk aren’t held accountable for lying, stealing, exploiting and preying upon the middle class and poor. Stand up and make them pay it back! AND make them go to jail. I mean PRISON. No spa-like jail. Do not allow cheats like them to get away with oppressing those whose backbreaking work they take advantage of! STAND UP!”
I took one last ragged breath and slowed down my breathing. My body collapsed into itself.
I took off the eyeshades but kept my eyes closed, allowing the bright sun to seep through my eyelids. There, as I was coming down, I enjoyed the beautiful yellow sand castles moving across my mind’s eye. I remained in that state an hour or so, just being. Hadn’t been a “Being being” in a long time.
At the group discussion, I prefaced my description of my trip: “I had a genuine ‘I hate men’ trip today and I don’t want any of you to take it personally. In fact, I want to thank you for being a catalyst to my anger. Yes, I was very angry, and in this trip I pointed my finger at men.”
In retrospect, I wished I had added that I was also angry at myself for fearing conflict, for regretting all the times I had not stood up to injustices against me and others, for allowing myself to feel invisible and less than.
In the group session, I wished I had added that even in the throes of the trip I knew that all men do not ruin everything. But one of the miracles of mushrooms is that they loosen what’s buried inside you, the things you want to hide or avoid because they’re embarrassing, shameful or culturally frowned upon. The mushrooms cause one to temporarily cross a line to a place that is normally unacceptable. But you know what? That’s okay. It’s fleeting, transient, short-term. When the trip is over you can put things back into perspective. But meanwhile, you’ve brought up the disagreeable, the disgusting, and the disdain you harbor, and now that you know it’s there, you can deal with it.
In this trip, I hoped to have shed my resentment of what men have done and resolved instead to work with men and women in the future to overturn injustices.
The next day, Eric Osborne, the head facilitator and founder of MycoMeditations, said in his Kentucky accent, “I want to apologize for not checking in on you ladies yesterday. But,” he continued with his crooked half-smile, “I felt the vibes coming out of that house and …,” as he held up his palms, “and…well…I decided it best for menfolk to stay away.”
Boy, was he right! He has a sixth sense as to people’s feelings.
Usually when people are sad, they don’t do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change. — Malcolm X
I understand that when I point at someone, there are three fingers pointing back at me. I need to explore the destructive parts that reside in me as well. Men both build things and destroy things, as do women. It takes decades to build a city. It takes a day to turn it into rubble. This trip helped me acknowledge the anger I hadn’t acknowledged before. We all can do better.
*psilocybin: noun psi·lo·cy·bin | \ ˌsī-lə-ˈsī-bən \
: a hallucinogenic indole C12H17N2O4P obtained from a fungus (such as Psilocybe mexicana or P. cubensis synonymStropharia cubensis), first use of word in 1958 Merriam-Webster
**Names changed to protect privacy