Ego-death is described as the “complete loss of subjective self-identity”, and can be brought on by a large dose of any psychedelic drug. It’s a state of being where a person is ripped from their “reality tunnel”. Ego death is essentially an experience of embodying your True Nature completely (or returning back to who you really are), temporarily.
This is my experience:
Setting the Stage
I had no idea of what spirituality, faith, or religion meant, to be truthful. I liked the idea of Buddhism, but only had an interest in learning about the philosophy because I thought that it might heal me. I knew I was broken, but I wasn’t sure how to fix myself. I wasn’t ready. I consumed drugs and alcohol to numb the pain of a troubled home life. Familial sexual abuse, emotional trauma, and a mental breakdown plagued my young life. These I know now to be ancestral traumas that I still must “de-program” in my psyche.
Perhaps my trauma led me to experiment with psychedelics, but I understand now that psychedelics helped me deal with my psychological self-mutilation, alcoholism, anger management and depression.
This was not my first time with LSD.
I don’t recall feeling cocky, but I was with a girl, Amy* who had taken more drugs in her lifetime than the majority of my friends combined. I didn’t consider our tolerance level differences. Did she intentionally overdose me? Maybe..… I knew that this “friend” had purposefully drugged a man in Vegas with Ambian and LSD, then stole from him and laughed as he was returned to the hotel room in handcuffs. (I’m embarrassed to say that I knew this person, to be frank. I don’t condone this behavior, and in hindsight I wonder what it says about me as a person for associating myself with her despite knowing that she was indeed, malicious.)
It’s not overdramatic to assume that she could have intentionally gave me a larger dose “to see what would happen”. It could also be that she had consumed this drug so often that she didn’t realize I would have such a drastically different tolerance level than her. Regardless, I’m glad she did. My subsequent trip resulted in a the beginning of a life-changing mentality that altered the course of my life.
LSD in Japan
Amy had come to visit me in Japan, where I was wrapping up an English-teaching contract. I planned to show her Kamakura, a small traditional village in the countryside, with a giant statue of Buddha called a daibutsu. Amy wanted to consume LSD, and though I was initially nervous to partake in illicit drugs abroad, it was my idea to ‘drop’ at the temple. We embarked on the two hour journey by train, with 2 small piece of paper tucked into Amy’s makeup compact that was probably lifted from the local mall. Looking back, I should have known that tripping in a public place, so far from “safety” was a bad idea. Hindsight is 20-20, right?
Just before the disembarking the train, she produced the blot-paper.
I placed a slice under my tongue. I recall thinking that the paper size was a bit large, but she assured me it was no more than “1.5 drops, max”. Cool.
Fast forward 30 minutes. Amy and I are sitting on a bench across from the daibutsu. A familiar numbing and tingling sensation spread across my lips, indicative of my experience of a psychedelic come-up. Suddenly, a small trickle of paranoia began to leak into my mind.
I was faced with all of my fears, my demons, and every uncertainty in my life was fluttering around me as I fly through this space, this tunnel.
I felt eyes on me.
I needed to leave the temple immediately.
Little did I know the acid wasn’t going to stop there. We walked to a nearby beach, and relaxed in the sand as I tried fruitlessly to regain control. It was here that I began to enter into a state of “void”. My mind started to unravel. I left what some psychonauts* term “the reality tunnel”. Nothing made sense anymore.
[*The term psychonaut refers to someone who experiments with altered states of consciousness, particularly as brought on by hallucinogenic drugs like ayahuasca, for the sake of spiritual or intra-personal exploration.]
During this period, time slowed down drastically. I began to have a panic attack. My vision blurred, and the world channeled in towards me, like bad graphics from an old 90’s space film. At this point, I’m extremely frightened. I felt as if I was falling backwards into the recesses of a dark, endless nothing. For anyone that’s ever watched “Black Mirror”, I felt like the woman watching life pass by from the inside of the teddy bear.
In my minds’ eye, “I” was a danger to myself.
“I” was also a danger to others.
“I” was dying.
Depending on the feeling of my thoughts, I was either teleporting to a place to pain or pleasure. My thoughts were somehow determining where we would ditch “Cassy” (my ego, my identity): heaven or hell. I started to tell my loved ones goodbye and that I would miss them. When I thought about the concept of “love”, the outer corners of my vision swirled with pink tendrils. When I considered the possibility of my soul’s destination when I died, the pink transformed into thick black wisps: I was plunging into hell.
Amy told me later that I was screaming “love” and “death” as she followed me pacing up and down the street.
I was faced with all of my fears, my demons, and every uncertainty in my life was fluttering around me as I fly through this space, this tunnel. I felt things leaving my body. Anxiety, Hope, Fear, Shame, Wonder, Awe, and Guilt took shape like a paisley patterned rain drop created from each pore of my skin. These memories altered form and became energy and vibrational patterns, rising from every wound my body has ever repaired. A suicide scar on my forearm glowed and hummed with electricity, allowing the rising energy liberation.
I’m sure two foreigners creating a lot of ruckus down a relatively quiet street in otherwise orderly Japan was frightening for many. My Japanese friends used the term “scary” for a lot of adrenaline-inducing activities that I would deem “mildly excitable”. Witnessing my descent into madness must have been nerve-wracking for a lot of bystanders. It embarrasses me to think about how many people I must have panicked. It’s no surprise to me that the police were called.
(During this time, I don’t recall Amy trying to calm me down, but I assume she must have tried.)
At some point, my frenzied pacing was disturbed, and I was confronted with a uniformed officer. My fear spiked. The hallucinations were unreal. I saw beams of light flying at me, wrapping around my arms and legs. These pink “vines” were electrical. They were flying in every direction, and if I allowed them to attach themselves to my body, I would be “imploded” because I was a danger to myself and others. So I did what any normal human or loose convict would do: I booked it.
I don’t know if I thought it was a fence, or if I knew I was jumping off a bridge, but I vaguely remember the feeling of cold metal beneath my fingers, of swinging my body over a waist-high guard, and of the tingling sensation that fills my toes whenever there is nothing beneath them.
I don’t recall seeing or feeling reality- but I do remember the fall.
A sudden euphoria came over my entire body. I sailed, weightless, through the air, for an indeterminable length of time. I’m suspended in time. My body is slowly disintegrating into energy and vibrations. My boyfriends face appears in my mind's eye, with a finger over his lips, telling me to be quiet. “Will I reincarnate soon?” I think.
Abruptly, the ethereal float was replaced with pain.
I landed, hard, somewhere between 12–15 feet below. To my great luck, I had landed on the sandy beach. With throbbing limbs, I charged away across the sand, moving as fast away from the source of panic as I could. I can feel the blood pumping in my eardrums, and sense the caress of the electrical whips just behind me.
It was a short chase…I’m pretty slow.
The officers tackled me into the sand and restrained me. I screamed and resisted. Embarrassingly enough…I spat on an officer. Amy convinced them I was having a panic attack, and I was restrained on a gurney and taken by ambulance to the hospital.
The next few hours were quite a blur. I knew I was on my way towards death and accepted the consequences of my behavior. I recall the face of an EMT leaning over the gurney, but his eyes were completely black and I assumed he was the devil. I shut my eyes tight and accepted my punishment- a needle into my arm.
“I hope it doesn’t hurt. I’m sorry, Mom”, I thought.
I opened my eyes to fluorescent lights, and a young man peering over me with no facial expression. He — a doctor — asked me how I was doing, but his all-black eyes frightened me, so I refused to respond. Turning to Amy, he mentioned something about discharge, but I can’t hear over the ping-ping sounds of her cellphone and the crinkling bag of snacks.
I’m sitting in the hospital discharge office, dazed. I hear a nurse ask me for paperwork and $12 for the ambulance ride (Can you imagine my luck that this happened in Japan and not the USA?). It’s been a solid 14 hours since I dropped an overdose of LSD beneath my tongue. Everything feels fake. I look at my cell phone and text my very concerned boyfriend, but in my head, I can’t believe he’s real…. I watched him die… He watched me die…It’s actually a robot messaging me. I refused to believe that he was real until I saw him in the flesh.
For weeks, I questioned everything: Was I really the same person that entered that trip? Did a part of me die? Is it possible to be happy? Why do I look for happiness in things and other people? Why do I hate myself? Who do I really want to be? Can I reinvent myself?
I didn’t understand the profound change that I had gone through. I didn’t know it was a temporary ego-death.
It took me a long time to process what happened. And an even longer time to let go of false friendships with people like Amy. I don’t hate her. I wish her the best. But I will never allow myself to associate with someone that intentionally harms another…because as I began to digest my experience, I discovered that my identity was shattered, and all that remained was love. Love for myself and love for others. I can’t associate myself with anything that isn’t in alignment with an appreciation for life. I call that “ALV” or “avoiding low vibrations”.
I have seen beyond the veil of identity. I’ve experienced ego-death. I admit this could have gone terribly wrong for me. I could have died if the bridge were higher. I could have been institutionalized. I could have been jailed or fined or deported. I’m very lucky, and I consider myself lucky to have experienced this ‘death’.
In the aftermath, I noticed a decreased need for alcohol and substance use. I couldn’t hide from my fear and anxiety anymore: It was laid in front of me, completely unavoidable. In order to start my day, I had to step over a pile of trash this experience had gathered in the forefront of my mind. I slowly began to tackle my problems. I’m still doing that today…3 years later.
To this day, I still have no idea how I got out of the hospital so easy. I know Japan purposefully under-reports criminal activity, so perhaps they didn’t want to deal with the paperwork? I wish I could tell the officer how sorry I am for assaulting him. In the USA…spitting on an officer has resulted in life behind bars!! (source here) For the record: Amy thought this entire ordeal was funny. I wish I could say that I ended our friendship right there, but it took quite a few more life-lessons with this girl to realize that her reality was continent on drugs and she didn’t reciprocate my love.
This LSD overdose has led me to discover my true nature. To this day, I have great respect for psychedelics as medicine, but I also know they are not to be abused and used as party drugs. I believe my LSD overdose paved a path towards discovering meditation (which saved my life) and has opened my mind to the possibility of a higher power and to spirituality as a whole.
This was my ego-death.
*Names have been changed.
This was one of the most profound experiences of my life. I do not believe it is all positive. I don’t believe I’m better than anyone for experiencing it. I also don’t think everyone should have an experience like this. I do, however, think that it was good for me. It allowed me to see what issues I was avoiding and put me on track to be a person I’m proud to become in the future. It helped me see myself as a lovable person. I am not a doctor or an expert. Psychedelics are very strong substances. Please be aware of your physical and mental safety if you so choose to take these substances.