Can a Psychedelic Trip Reboot Your Brain and Cure Depression?
A Midlife, Menopausal Mom Seeks Medicine in Magic Mushrooms
There was a moment at the airport as I waited for my flight to Jamaica that I wondered — have I lost my freaking mind?
I was riding solo this trip, reeling from an unholy midlife trinity: menopause, empty nest, and marital separation. As I looked around at my fellow travelers, feelings of isolation and unease grew. I was surrounded by joyful honey-mooners, intact vacationing families, and Christian missionaries in matching pink T-shirts. One of these things didn’t belong, and that thing felt like me.
I wasn’t embarking on a fun-filled vacation in the sun. I was flying to Jamaica, where I would take part in a psilocybin-assisted retreat.
That’s right — I was going to Jamaica to get high.
Only a couple of people (including my children) were fully aware of my plans. I didn’t want to worry anyone or endure their judgment or misgivings and told most people I was going on a wellness retreat (which wasn’t a lie). The decision to attend a psychedelic retreat was not an impulsive one. I had thought this through for close to a year, listened to Michael Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind audiobook, and studied the research coming out of the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic & Consciousness Research.
Menopause and a major depressive episode a year earlier had created turmoil in my life. I was desperate for relief, and I was ready to travel fifteen hundred miles to trip with nine strangers to see if I could get it.
Psilocybin is a hallucinogenic substance often lovingly referred to as magic mushrooms. Along with LSD, it was popular with hippies in the 1960s, but I came of age in Ronald Reagan’s conservative America. Unlike the Baby Boomers or Millennials, us GenXers got the raw deal. Forget about sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll. Our first association with sex was AIDS (and death), and we were hammered with anti-drug JUST SAY NO messaging. On top of that, my normal adolescence was derailed by my father’s death. Instead of partying on Friday and Saturday nights, I babysat and saved up money for college. And I became depressed.