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.