Ayahuasca (B. caapi & P. viridis)
Citation: RQuetzali. "Serious Mental Trauma: An Experience with Ayahuasca (B. caapi & P. viridis) (exp111018)". Erowid.org. Sep 14, 2017. erowid.org/exp/111018
Almost a year ago in November 2016, I was invited to partake in the ceremonial drinking of ayahuasca where I reside in Canada. It was two ceremonies, both conducted under an ayahuascero who had trained with a well known Peruvian Shipibo shaman. I had researched ayahuasca for several years and had read many positive reviews of people healing or moving through blocks in life. I had not read or even seen anything regarding the risks of negative outcomes or the development of psychological disorders post use. I had a fairly healthy life, didn't do any other drugs besides the occasional marijuana edible. I wasn't on any medications. I had some anxiety and depression over the course of my life, but never needing to be medicated.
I was very curious about this “medicine” and took the offer when invited. And I made sure to ask if ONLY there were two plants being used (chacruna and caapi) which they said yes.
The day came and there were about eight of us attending. The other attendees were doctors, counsellors and other health professionals, which added to my sense that there weren't any major risks associated with it. I followed the diet regimen and preparatory guidelines, which needed to be followed 1 month before ceremony.
The first ceremony was interesting, I was happy, I had many visuals that were interesting. Most I didn't understand like alien creatures that all seemed to be in a hurry to get somewhere. I saw a snake, it was distant from me and seemed to be checking me out but never coming near. Then towards the end of the ceremony something shifted, I started to feel a heaviness come over me, and then a primal fear. Was I dying? I began to feel grotesque and my surroundings took on a darker tone, death and rot. I began to panic and ask for help. The shaman came over and sung an Icaro and I let out a deep rooted purge that seemed to come from the very depth of my bowels. Instantly the panic and grotesque sensations disappeared. More relaxed, I lay there and drifted off to sleep.
The next day I felt okay, but there was a slight anxiety that had surfaced. I let the shaman know I was feeling different, a little off with anxiety. She said it was okay to proceed with the next ceremony and that I needed more work.
The evening came and the second ceremony began. I drank the brew and lay on my mat and waited. Within 25 minutes, I began to feel an intense surge of anxiety. I had not been thinking about anything, just calmly waiting for the effects to take place. The anxiety grew in magnitude and became so intense I was having a hard time being still. Then I went into flight or fight response. My heart was racing, I could feel the adrenaline rushing through me. I was panicking. I felt like I needed to leave.
I jumped up from my mat and ran out of the room. I felt like I was going insane, I couldn't calm myself. I went outside to the porch, hoping the air would do me some good, but it didn't. I wanted to jump off the porch, to flee. I have never felt this intense of anxiety in my life. Someone from the group came out and checked on me. They saw the distress I was in and coaxed me back into the ceremonial space. The shaman did some work on me and after some time, I was beginning to settle down and laid back on my mat. Then some visuals started, they all had a dark tone. I began to have auditory hallucinations. I heard someone speaking to me. The voice was saying things like “ You don't even believe yourself”. Paranoia set in. I tried to surround myself with love, but everything good seemed to melt away. I started to feel distant from everything, lonely, and hopeless. Then the grotesque rot/death feelings started to surface again. I was feeling like I was dying. My body was heavy and limp. My hands and arms looked pale and ghastly. I was in a state of freeze, and felt a fear that no human should ever feel. My surroundings looked like I was in some kind of death lodge with suffering all around me. The visuals turned to static and I started to feel like I had lost my mind. I kept getting up and going outside in attempt to ground myself and breathe in the air while wishing the night was over.
And finally it was. The next morning I woke up feeling disoriented. I was pretty shaken up by the experience but was glad it was over. I spoke to the shaman about what I had experienced. They said I would start to feel better and that I had been releasing traumas.
Three days after ceremony is when I became psychologically unwell. It started with panic attacks, body tremoring, nightmares, and surges of intense anxiety. I also had an intense ear ringing with noise sensitivity. I couldn't sleep or eat. Then the flashbacks started. I was re-experiencing that grotesque feeling and primal fear. I became more and more unwell. Unable to cope, I was admitted for a few days at emergency psychological services, in an acute stress response. They put me on benzodiazepines and sent me home.
As the days went on, I did not recover. I had to take a leave from my job as I could no longer work. I continued to experience flashbacks, panic attacks, insomnia, extreme startle response and noise sensitivity. I couldn't go into crowds or drive, and had a hard time talking with people. I started to see a psychiatrist who had experience with psychedelic drugs and research. After 4 months of dealing with these symptoms, I was diagnosed with Psychedelic-induced PTSD.
It has been a year and I have not gotten much better. In fact some days I feel worse than my initial reaction. I continue to suffer on a daily base with panic attacks, hallucinations, severe anxiety and agitation. I have tried a number of therapies and medicaments, but so far have not recovered. I just pray to recover from this. It had truly been a harrowing experience.
November 2017 Update
I was placed on an antipsychotic and my symptoms have gone away. I do have to continue to take the meds daily or symptoms return. I do have a better functioning life now, will be hopefully returning to work.
PTSD vs psychosis? It is hard to know what has incurred from my ayahuasca experience.
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