Monday, 28 September 2015

Session Music

I've lost a lot of memory of the time in "psychedelic space" as it's embedded so much with the music so it will be useful to see if it jolts me, through re-listening to some of it. There was one key piece (Greg Haines - 183 Times) that just moved me to a state of, what I'd call, subdued ecstasy. It was so beautiful and so entwined with the experience. I just completely let go and drifted away with it - with a feeling of absolute surrender, peace and joy; like the music had suspended me in air. It's hard to describe it in a way that does justice to the feelings of serenity, peace and calmness.

I also felt like I had a vibrational thirst that a lot of the music seemed to quench but I had a feeling that the vibration needed to be stronger, although this could have been related to the dose. If the dose had been slightly higher the vibration would have felt slightly stronger; like putting enough salt on chips, you just know when it feels/tastes right. I hope my language isn't too abstract or dramatic here but it's the only way I can describe the sensation. Some of the tracks had materials attributed to them. Towards the end of the session, one track had unvarnished wood characteristics and I could also see glass marbles with rainbow colour centres; almost is if I was in an old Victorian nursery, in a large house but I felt aware of everything. I know it may sound strange but I had the same images/location sensations in each 10mg/25mg session with the same track.

Classical music sounded amazing. I love violin music normally but I could "see" the bow being pulled and feel the vibration of the strings, I could hear the tiny knocks of the bow against the wooden base. The sound system may have played a part in that as sounds were so rich. The Indian instruments on some tracks really satisfied this new vibrational thirst, they sounded and felt native to the psychedelic space. It was as if the instruments were created "there" and pulled into our domain for visitors to transition back over to the psychedelic world. I know that sounds a bit off-the-wall but it's how I felt at the time. The curation of the playlist was outstanding and I'm guessing it was based on some kind of instinctive or intuitive feelings of what was  needed. There was only one piece out of the whole playlist that I didn't like at all because it started off in a very inharmonious way, like a trumpet being played by an absolute novice. I disliked the track in the 10mg session but found this track almost unbearable at 25mg. At some points there were periods of silence before a new block of music started and I didn't like the feeling of empty space. It was like all the fluidic presence of music had drained out of the room and left a stark, cold and airless space behind.

I managed to find a few of the key tracks that I felt were especially moving and memorable from both sessions (the music playlist was the same for both high-dose and low-dose sessions). These are in no particular order. I found this amazing site. I really loved the sound and bass (and "needed" it) the sounds of the Tibetan monks throat singing and chanting. It generates it to your liking. Great!

Here are details regarding the sound system, kindly provided by the Imperial College London Psilodep team:

Monday, 14 September 2015

Follow up / Back to life

It's now almost 2 weeks since the 25mg psilocybin  session. I've just had my final follow up with Robin, Mark and David. I met Robin first and we talked for a while - going through some of the things that came up during and after the session, changes and how to move forward. Robin suggested meditation from this point might be healthy as well as facilitating being around more positive people. David joined us after a while and then I had about 30 mins alone with Mark, discussing the sessions just going back over the original, pre-dose questionnaire. I said my goodbyes and was given a small book by the team with short quotes from the Dalai Lama. A very thoughtful touch. I then handed over my gift, a bottle of champagne.

I spent a really nice weekend with some friends. Sunday morning, as I walked through Lakeside shopping centre after breakfast with a friend, I realised how good I felt; as if there seemed to be more space around me. I was more optimistic. I hadn't felt like this since before my mother had died. That really made me feel good to notice and enjoy the sensation.

Monday, I had some news from work about a site change which I didn't think was handled very well and was just broken to staff via email rather than in person. I'll be moving to a good site I enjoy so it's not the worst news. I'll also be working with people who may more stimulating and interesting to be around. It was a bit of a shock and I didn't enjoy the feeling of jumping from feeling great on Sunday and now feeling shocked and dislocated on Monday.

I've filled in and sent back the final questionnaire and again I can see a difference in my responses. There must be around 800 questions to go through. Robin followed up later with an invite for a get together for all staff and volunteers of the psilocybin trial. Dinner and drinks in December. That will be really interesting for all of us, a good way to see how we are all doing, some time after, and to swap stories about how our own sessions went.

Just before I started the trial - during and now, definitely, afterwards changes began to occur; almost like life moved with me on this trip. Some old friends got in touch out of the blue and some new friends were made. I've also just had the best news today (as I type) but I can't share it here. All I can say is it's totally unblocking.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

2nd MRI scan and post dose follow-up.

I felt a bit rough this morning but had to be up early for the MRI scan and I was also slightly worried about getting nervous again, as I was the first time I had the scan. I arrived a little late due to slow District Line trains this morning. I met Nienke again, who took me round for the scan and was just as friendly, warm and professional as everyone else I had interacted with on this project. I apologised for being a bit blank the first time we met (coming down from the 2nd dose the day before). I was introduced to Matt and his colleague before getting changed and being taken through to the scanner. Again I was shown images and listened to music while the 45 minute scans were taking place. I was asked to complete a questionnaire on the music and scan sessions using a special button device as these scans were proceeding. I had another mild anxiety but as always the staff got me through it with no problems and all the scans were completed.

Mark and David came to meet me in the scanning waiting room and we went back to the session room that was still set-up as it was for my inward journey the day before. We talked through a lot of what happened and they reflected back to me some of the things that I'd said and done during the session. I think it did help frame and clarify a lot of the positive changes in my outlook and perceptions of situations that came up. It was helpful talking to them and going though what had happened. I will miss it. So after we finished we confirmed the next follow-up and I left to meet a friend for lunch, then came home to relax. I was so very tired but decided to sleep at night rather than nap during the day to keep a normal sleep pattern going. I've added a very short video below of the MRI scanner. It was taken behind the glass screen outside the room for obvious reasons!

Kirk going into the MRI for the 2nd time.

Friday, 4 September 2015

High Dose / 25mg session.

I had some good sleep and got ready to start the session. I felt very nervous again and was worried that the higher dose would be too overpowering for me. But anxiety has been the theme throughout this trial and I've got though it most of the time by just "turning up anyway". Once again I was greeted warmly and taken around to the session room. It looked great and we sat down. I managed to bring my own breakfast (porridge) and avoided the sick-nervousness feeling that I had last time. I made myself comfortable on the bed and we spent about 45 minutes talking and then Robin pointed out that it was 10:30am and time for the dose. I hoped that it would be only 2 capsules like last time but it was 5 and that made it seem a lot more serious! I took them one-at-a-time and said "there's no going back now"! It took longer to start this time, around 35 minutes but again it was a gentle start. The feeling of being cold returned, as well as changing frequency but I felt colder and started to shiver uncontrollably for about 10 minutes. Then as I started to move "out" my breathing felt weird and heavy like I had to concentrate to breath and the automatic process had gone offline but this was most likely down to anxiety. Mark and David assisted and supported me though this period; David measured my oxygen levels assuring me that they were OK. Once the transition anxiety had passed I started to let go into the turbulent inward psychedelic space.

The colours (wavelengths) felt correct this time, as I expected them to be. It just felt "right". The 10mg dose felt weaker in hue colour-wise. The vibration was stronger too and the journey to the peak effects felt more visual and turbulent with the sound taking on the beautiful physicality. When I opened my eyes the first time, at the peak, I was amazed at how gorgeous the room and lighting looked and I noticed the ceiling was moving and bowing slightly, but it was really interesting and I enjoyed watching it for a while. I looked at Robin and David and they had a strong visual effect over them and looked almost like a subtle version of this example. Robin seemed to be completely on my wavelength and understood what I was seeing and seemed to find it as funny I as did, which was really nice and he felt like an ally. I started laughing at how huge my arms suddenly looked and paid attention to them before David gently suggested I put the eye-shades back on and to go back in with the music. I was worried at this point that the psilocybin effects started to wane but the music kicked it back up again and I was off. One track suspended me in a state of subdued ecstasy as the beautiful violin music vibrated through me. I surrendered to the music and vibrational sensation and felt awe at it. I noticed a few tracks were different this time. One of the last tracks being a really unusual version of "Love lift us up where we belong" that felt profoundly meaningful, truthful and almost sad. Music was so very important and in this trial the playlist was superbly crafted; as I may have said already, I even liked the stuff I didn't like. At another point I wanted to know the origin on the word relent and Robin looked it up. That seemed so enjoyable discussing the nature of the word and as Robin described the meaning and background I could almost see the images of 15th century England and windmills coming out of his laptop-screen light.

I would have been okay to had gone a bit deeper, for the vibration to be a touch stronger. As I said the wavelength was perfect but the vibration needed to be stronger and I know that may not make sense to someone reading this that hasn't been there.

So apart from being mostly astonished and amazed at the journey through the psychedelic space and the change of sensory input experience, I was also able to look at my life, my outlook, my past and how I deal with things. A kind of life or situation review where I could see the best way to deal with things or to behave once all the pettiness and trivialities had been stripped away. I also saw friendships at their core - the loving parts rather than the outer crust of resentment or daily frustrations that I may have let grow around/over some of them. A realisation that I get too frustrated about silly things and I should let go of small things is another way to say it. The whole experience has also been a lesson in anxiety management even before I took the first low-dose. The MRI, 10mg, 25mg before and during each dose all caused strong anxiety.

I talked with David and Robin, went back inwards, talked again and eventually the session ended and I wished it could have been longer. It was wonderful. I had something to eat and took the cab home. I asked the cab driver to play whatever his favourite music was which turned out to be Nigerian drumming music and he seemed surprised when I asked him to turn it up a bit. :)

As the cab arrived home Chris pulled into my road; we had tea, a talk and then made our way to Anthea's where I talked more in detail about the day and Anthea cooked a lovely dinner. We were laughing a lot and I wondered if I was being a bit rowdy as I was still a tiny bit dazed. Anthea commented (unprompted) about how calm and happy I seemed. I went to bed slightly nervous about being back in the MRI machine in the morning. Below is a video pre-dose and post-dose, combined. I managed to include a clip from the film I mention in the video but here is a link to it. Contact, staring Jodie Foster, which was released in 1997. My spine and legs were tingling (in a good way) when I watched it again. There are so many parallels from the film with the psilocybin experience. The colourful-turbulent transitioning, the letting go, surrendering, the beauty, peace and gentle return.

 Video of before and after the 25mg session


A fairly sedate weekend following the low dose session. My sleeping pattern also got thrown out by getting too much sleep during the day and my neighbours being loud and banging doors again until 4am. I took Anthea to a "wildlife park" thinking it would be a good uplifting thing to do and then remembered why I have not been to a zoo in a long time. I felt sorry for the animals and they all looked very bored. Well, apart from a younger tiger pacing up and down by an electric fence, who was wondering how to get at the child who was taunting it. We went back to Anthea's and cooked a roast dinner.

It's the day before again and I'm worrying again. I know it's going to be more powerful this time and it's making me a little nervous. Mark had kindly arranged for me to stay on site at ICL again so it was easy to get to the session in the morning.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

The 2 days following 10mg.

Friday, I had a nice trip to the coast with Sam where we took a long walk along the seafront - getting off a station early so that we could enjoy the sun. We met my mum's old friends for lunch in town and I told them about taking "magic mushrooms". They are both in their 70's and didn't bat an eyelid, I thought they wouldn't. I went home again and slept a some more.

Today (Saturday) I went to Borough Market with my brother Jack. I met him there. We never do stuff like that really, just being sociable for the hell of it. I suggested it and was slightly surprised when he agreed. I bought some lovely organic apples and a Naga curry paste then headed home via the river boat for another sleep. I also saw a tuba player, playing a tune and blowing fireballs in time to the tune from his instrument. That's a first for me! I cooked the curry (it was lovely) and am now just finishing this evening's blog. The next session is constantly on my mind, I'm not really worried - just thinking about how it's going to be much stronger and more intense. Even so I'm going ahead and kind of looking forward to it; the music and the vibrational cleansing and whatever else comes.

Going back to the 10mg session and being "checked in on" by the Indian deity, I decided to Google it. What I thought was Shiva turned out to be Ganesh after I checked, as I have no idea about these gods or stories. At a glance, Ganesh is the "remover of obstacles" and according to Wikipedia "God of wisdom, knowledge and new beginnings". He sounds like a good totem to have through the 25mg experience! I also came across this Ganesh mantra, this more modern version and this version. I think it's beautiful. I also found these two obstacle blocker chants. I'm using it for the 25mg trip next week if I get stuck or scared. 

Some of the normal negativity and grief has crept back a little, maybe because it's been in focus more than it usually is.

Friday, 28 August 2015

10mg dose, 1st session.

So I've been fairly nervous but not as bad as I thought I would be. The video above shows some of how I was feeling that morning. I'm glad I decided to stay at the hospital rather than schlep across London during rush-hour. I really do trust the study team. The dry run really helped and the room was very nice. The video above shows some of the setting but it's a little dark. I met Robin at 9am, had a banana, did a small questionnaire then went into the room. It was beautifully laid out with a few little extras. I felt some gratitude as Robin showed me the laser ambient lights (I was thinking how nice something like that would be when I saw the room the last time) and the aroma machine for the essential oils.

At 10:30am I was given the small bowl to take the two capsules from. I took these with water and started to relax. The music was lovely and it seemed to start working really quickly. I noticed small lights when I closed my eyes, like little rips in the blackness. They seemed like Sanskrit text. The light would be bright then dim to the point where I could see the symbol before fading out and repeating. Over and over, gently. I didn't feel any change in myself at this point but knew it had started. For some reason I gave a running commentary on what was happening as it happened for a while before being encouraged to go within. Mark and David anchored me. The music was amazing. It was all about vibrational change, I felt the room get colder and then the space opened up. Even though I couldn't see the room as I was lying down with eye-shades. It felt as if my body temperature was dropping and the room or the space in the room had expanded.

I felt like I was moving slightly out of my body as I changed frequency. I know that sounds weird but it really fits to how it felt. I started to see the geometrics I'd heard about but in a subdued darkness, like it was organising itself before revealing the full colour. Slowly it emerged and got brighter, quicker and more turbulent. At its most colourful I saw an Indian god "look in on me" like a parent looking over a baby's crib. It was very brief but it was very clear. There was only one time when I didn't like the music at all. I felt it would be more trouble to move around. I did need to use the loo at one point but went back "in" with no problem. Even though this was the lower dose quite a lot happened. I felt fine and I had a few little previews of the power and simplicity that this state/place has to reduce problems or issues down to an very simple "knowing" and understanding.

As it wore off I talked to Robin, David and Mark and then went back "in" and then would take out the earphones and talk some more. Eventually around 4pm I had started to feel OK again and we talked some more about what had happened and the effects as well as preparing to leave. I answered some more questionnaires relating to the experience, had something to eat and a cab was ordered to take me home. From the cab I spotted a mural by Spitalfields market that really spoke to me and seemed significant to the experience I just had with Psilocybin and the eyes that "checked in on me".

I felt very grateful for the care and all the obvious work that had gone into making me comfortable and creating a warm and beautiful setting with amazing music. I went out for dinner that evening with Chris and spoke to Anthea on the phone. Anthea said I sounded very calm and Chris mentioned that I seemed calmer and more positive over dinner. Robin gave me some of the cut flowers to take home which has helped keep me centred on this as I think of the "trip" each time I see them. They still looked amazingly vibrant and alive later that evening.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015


I went to bed just before 1am last night; I feel very tired again today. A pretty restless night's sleep. Waking up and then back to sleep. My shoulder/neck muscles are locking up again, I think from being tense about tomorrow morning. I've also got pretty bad indigestion / heartburn.

I took the tube and bus into work today to avoid driving. I didn't pick up a newspaper to avoid all the negative stories then made the mistake of glancing over at the guy sitting next to me while he read a newspaper. I saw headlines about being buried alive and a bigamist putting his ex in a care home so he could marry the new girlfriend. Lovely! I've arranged to go out with a friend for dinner after the session tomorrow evening. I'm going out for the day with another friend on Friday to the coast. Then I'll have a nice long weekend to relax and I'll get a good long cycle done along the Thames and do some processing from the session if I need to. I've avoided watching any more psilocybin related videos or reading the book I bought. I'll wait until I've been "there" myself, so to speak.

I'm pretty sure I'm over-worrying it all as I sometimes do. I'll have a go at adding a short video from the hospital accommodation tonight. My pocket phone tripod has just been delivered.

I just came across this beautiful video today with music from Max Richter.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015


I managed to have a good sleep last night. I went to bed about 1am and think I slept soon after that. Dreamt quite deeply. Past relationships all merging into one continuous timeline. Also all locations were seamlessly attached to one another. I felt much better today. Pre-dose butterflies are still there. The tube strike has been called off, which would have just caused a complete nightmare for me getting to the hospital. Robin has kindly arranged that I can stay at the hospital accommodation overnight to avoid the toxic soul-death of rush-hour tube travel. I'm not looking at any more videos now related to Psilocybin.

I keep thinking of how nice the setting and music were. It really did help doing a "dry run" of the set and setting. I think I would have been more nervous if we hadn't done that. I'm going to take my own earphones as the ones there kept falling out when I tried them. I'm still quite tired today.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Pre-session nerves

A stressful morning trying to locate my undelivered (replacement) mobile phone displaced my creeping anxiety around the upcoming low dose session. I needed my phone as the one I'm using is about 6 years old and no good for what I want to do. I'm also projecting about the following higher dose session and worrying about that too.

I've got a slight ear infection and have had trouble sleeping again. Last night I managed to get to bed about 3am but slept much later than I expected and kept waking up. Today I feel exhausted. I'm sure it's going to be a good experience but I'm just worried about the psychedelic interface and how difficult and disorientating that will be. Even though all the testimonials from the study run by John Hopkins (using the same model) were positive. I'm not going to watch any more videos relating to this now. I couldn't possibly learn anything else useful without having the experience myself. I keep thinking how nice the setting is going to be and how much support I will have in the form of Robin, David and Mark being fully present to guide me. I'm worried the anxiety is going to increase the closer Thursday comes. I know how silly that sounds really as I volunteered after all!

Friday, 21 August 2015

MRI Brain scan and Session Preparation

A week before today's date, while having dinner with Sam I had the email from Robin telling me that I had been accepted onto the trial. I was really happy briefly, followed by a feeling of nervousness.

So the first stage was a brain scan using an MRI. Robin talked me through the whole process and what I could expect, and what I would be expected to do. How to use the call button and I that would be expected to use a hand button device to answer small questionnaires from inside the MRI unit.

If my anxiety levels were being rated on a scale of 1 - 10 it would have been a 12. I'd been worrying about my dental work (implants and crowns) being affected and had nearly emailed Robin to say I could not attend. After about 2 hours sleep I decided I had to attend and see what their thoughts were. I'd almost let my anxiety get the better of me. The staff were very reassuring and the scan was fine. The MRI lasted almost an hour but once I'd calmed down I started to feel sleepy inside the unit. With the scan over with we had a short break for lunch.

I met David again (Mark was on holiday) and we started to talk again about emotional issues which centered (again) mostly around my mother's death. I became emotional again but felt more comfortable showing my feelings as we'd started to build up trust through talking through these issues. David and I discussed various aspects of different religions, relating to possible after-life and re-incarnation beliefs. I realised how raw it still the grief feels even after nearly 3 years and that I may have deflected or talked around these feelings and this event during my 1 year counselling session.

Robin suggested we relocate from the office to a room that had been created already for the session setting. To change it from a default hospital room into a sedate and calming environment with art, throws, candles and a lot of the hospital equipment removed. The set, as well as the setting are very important. I tried the bed and relaxed. I also tried the eye-shades and the headphones. I relaxed for a while more and the music felt quite sad. This may have been from all the talking we had done around difficult subjects. We practised grounding by holding each others wrists so I was holding Robin one side and David on the other. This made me very emotional for some reason; I think because it was quite nurturing and compassionate.

That was the screening day over. Next week will be the first low-dose session. In a way I can't wait because the setting and the music were so nice. This orientation setting was very helpful I think and will make it easier I hope, if I get pre-session nerves. On the tube, going home I still felt very emotional and this lasted most of the day into the early hours. It was quite a heavy day for me in terms of having the MRI, dealing with almost overpowering anxiety, as well as the orientation and continued talking therapy around emotional subjects.

Thursday, 13 August 2015


I was invited to attend a screening session at Imperial College London, White City, London, UK. I was scheduled to meet Mark, David and Robin to discuss my background, life events and depression. I took the central line tube to White City station and then the 72 bus (5 mins) to drop me almost outside the hospital. Google map with bus route.

I was greeted in the reception area by Mark and taken through to be introduced to Robin and David.  I'd already answered some pre-screening questions via email and this was an interview of sorts to make sure I was suitable for the study and also to learn more about it and the procedures and requirements. I felt a little apprehensive at first, sitting with 3 people who were mostly strangers and attempting to be as open and honest as I could about my level of depression, my life events, how I deal with life and where I am.

We talked in-depth. Going through some of the major events still evokes a strong emotional response in me and this was not particularly easy to go through all these issues again. It was explained that the main focus of the study was to improve the participants depression levels. This was reassuring and I felt more relaxed with the realisation  that these three relative strangers were very used to seeing people in distressed states. I felt less self-conscious about being upset and could be more open and honest with them about my grief and how it had affected me and my life.

Later that day I was sent an email containing a large questionnaire relating to depression and my feelings which took about 2 hours to fill out and return.

Saturday, 1 August 2015


My name is Kirk and I am taking part in the psilocybin trials taking place at Imperial College London under Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris. This research is looking specifically at the impact of psilocybin on depression and its positive effects at alleviating it with 2 doses (1 low, 1 higher). These sessions are mediated and controlled within a supportive framework. Data is collected via questionnaires, Brain imaging using fMRI (before and after dosing) and discussion sessions, before, between and after the dosing sessions.

I had been very involved in supporting both my parents. My Father was the full-time carer for my Mother who suffered with COPD and Epilepsy. I worried about the stress/health effects on both my parents and assisted were I could and provided cover for my Father, alongside his state provided (limited) assistance. I was also working full time and studying part-time for my Teaching PGCertEd qualification. Following the death of my mother almost 3 years ago I'd arranged a year of  grief counselling. There was a period of improvement but as other significant life changes occurred I started to slip back into a negative frame of mind and the grief I felt started to impact my life.

I'd heard about the research of Prof. David Nutt around this area. I searched for a contact email and offered myself as a volunteer in June 2011. The months from April 2011 leading up to my mothers death In October 2011 were very intense, demanding and emotional. In December 2014 I was invited to apply to as a volunteer for this research project, following up from my original email.

If you haven't seen it yet, you may want to watch this: Drugs Live - Drugs Live: The Ecstasy Trial. Professor Nutt managed to get funding from CH4, a UK TV company and a second show was created this year around Cannabis. If you live outside the UK try this link.