Citation: MujoLila. "Worse Off With a Trip Sitter: An Experience with Mushrooms (exp111375)". Erowid.org. Dec 20, 2017. erowid.org/exp/111375
Through a well connected friend, I was given an opportunity to work with an experienced trip sitter. The idea was to take a variety of substances therapeutically, mostly MDMA and DMT. I had been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, and had been experiencing an intense lack of motivation regarding work and friendships. I still am. Working with my sitter did not go well at all. This is the story of the worst of our sessions, a lesson in how NOT to tripsit.
My sitter was an old guard hippie from LA named J. He went by Dr. J, but I feel he is unworthy of the title, even as a joke. The perpetually exhausted J was one of those old guys who'd seen and done it all, and ate up a lot of our therapy sessions talking about it. Not that I was much better. MDMA can make me pretty scatter-brained and evasive, not really an ideal therapy tool. I had been smoking a metric ton of cannabis at the time (I have since quit), which further encouraged my scatter-braininess (luckily, this particular symptom cleared up when I stopped smoking weed, and began a more regular meditation and qi gong practice). However, I never toked before our sessions. This particular experience occurred about 4-6 weeks into our work together.
The morning of the experience in question, I woke up feeling extremely anxious, tense and nihilistic. I was disinclined to alter my consciousness at all that day, except for my usual cannabis dose. Nevertheless, I made my way to my sitter's home (we lived in adjacent neighborhoods, so I could get there on foot), and figured J and I would discuss things once I got there.
We did not. J had guests, an elderly couple. The woman, who I was later told was terminally ill, was sitting on the couch in a tightly wound knot of suspicion. When I walked in the front door, she looked at me like I was about to steal her purse. J hustled me upstairs and put a mug of psilocybin tea (approx 2 grams mushrooms in tea) in my hands. This was not something I expected, although he had mentioned that he worked with substances other than MDMA and DMT and that we would eventually graduate to those when he felt comfortable doing so. Well, I wanted to object, but he was back downstairs and negotiating the suspicious old lady before I could say anything. Well, what the hell. I began slowly sipping the tea, and attempting to do some yoga stretches in the cramped bedroom I was waiting in.
It took J about half an hour to get the old couple to leave. As I rejoined him in the living room, the psilocybin tea began to come on very slowly (as I had consumed it very slowly, which is generally the way I like to take psilocybin - btw, I had had 25-30 psilocybin experiences on my own by this point, and at least 150 trips on various psychedelics under my belt). I noticed slight open eye visuals, creeping wallpaper, etc, but that was about it. I didn't feel my consciousness had shifted much at all, so I suggested to J we increase the dose. He started brewing a little more tea, but I never drank any of it.
We were just sitting around talking about nothing, when all of a sudden, something snapped internally. I was caught in a ferociously anxious loop, feeling a desperate need to escape my body and the situation and life in general. I began turning left and right on the couch, like some kind of human windshield wiper. I had been doing it for at least five minutes before I even noticed I was doing it. I felt caught in a stream of negative energy, and all I could do was watch myself twist back and forth and babble on and on about how terrible and pointless life as a human was. I was convinced I had no future. I was convinced life would never get better. I was convinced it was all downhill from here, so why not just throw in the towel. I just wanted the pain and the fear to end, by any means necessary. At one point, I kicked an ottoman, like a frustrated little kid. I wanted to vent, I wanted to break something.
J attempted to show some empathy and failed. His exasperated sighs and rolling eyes were hard to miss.
J attempted to show some empathy and failed. His exasperated sighs and rolling eyes were hard to miss.
He didn't seem even remotely interested in what was going on with me psychologically, and insisted I just drop it. Just walk away from it. Just stop. I couldn't. At one point, he put his hand on mine. It felt cold and scaly, like a reptile's. I screamed and pulled back.
Somewhere in there, I asked him to kill me. 'Okay, if you really want, you can die,' he said, with obvious frustration in his voice. 'But you'll just be reborn as someone with fewer resources available to him.' I looked at him in horror. 'Why don't we go upstairs, and you can smoke some 5-MeO-DMT? 5-MeO-DMT on psilocybin is a full body spiritual orgasm.'
'No!' I screamed. At that point, I'd only had 5-MeO-DMT once before, at a non-breakthrough dose. Its power was obvious. No fucking way was I diving into that shit now. He seemed genuinely disappointed in me. Like this was a test of my spiritual mettle and I was failing. But seriously? Are you fucking serious? 5-MeO-DMT in the middle of a bad trip? Who in their right mind would suggest something like that?
'Okay,' he said. 'How about some cannabis?'
'Ugh, fuck no!' I replied. Cannabis has a way of dramatically ramping up the intensity of my trips. On mild to moderate doses of LSD that can be a lot of fun. But I've never felt that cannabis and psilocybin went well together. Honestly, I didn't even want to be tripping at all that day.
At some point, I closed my eyes, and saw ominous figures, like demonic Hindu deities, looming out of some Clive Barker-esque hellscape of pink flesh and meathooks. 'I see evil spirits,' I said.
'There are no spirits,' he said. 'It's all in your head. Just put them down. Walk away from them.'
'Whatever.' I opened my eyes, and took a minute to calm my breathing. Finally, in the silence, I found a moment of peace. I looked out the window and saw green plants and sunshine, and just breathed into that moment.
Thirty seconds later, he opened his big fat mouth. 'Okay, let's go upstairs now and smoke some 5-MeO-DMT.'
'JESUS CHRIST!' Honestly, it's kind of funny in retrospect. It seems like J was just totally refusing to acknowledge the situation that was unfolding in front of him. He had absolutely no interest in letting my experience be what it was. My bad trip was an aberration, and we had a schedule to keep to.
A schedule? Apparently, J's kids would be home from school in an hour or two. Jesus, already? It had been three hours, but it felt like thirty minutes. Okay, I can see why J might be a little tired, but still.
'Alright, man, we're well past the peak, let's try that joint,' I said. I had stopped with the windshield wiper thing, so maybe things were improving. I toked up, but it didn't do shit for me. I sat there being arrogant and snotty and angry and waving the joint around like the world owed me something. I smoked almost the whole thing, about a gram, and there was hardly any effect. My thoughts continued to spiral unabated. But hey, still not rotating back and forth in my seat.
Finally, I got tired of J's disappointment and resignation. I got up to piss, and then put my shoes on.
'You sure you want to leave?' he asked.
'Oh yeah,' I said.
I walked home, and sat on my bed in a ball of tension. After about 30 minutes, (by now, about four and a half, maybe five hours into the trip) I popped 100 mg of MDMA I had stashed in my closet. As soon as it hit, the anxiety began to loosen its grip. I learned a valuable lesson then, one every meditator already knows, one I already knew in theory but not in practice: the best way for me to deal with my feelings of overwhelming anxiety and hopelessness is to focus on something. Anything at all. At first, I focused on just breathing in time with some music, and then, feeling better, I got up and channeled some energy into a little art piece, emblazoning it with the words Don't Lose Focus, Choose Focus.
Then, idiot that I am, I pressured J into scheduling another session. We put up with each other for a while longer, but my trainwreck of a life kept getting more and more out of control. The shittier my situation, the harder I leaned on him for support. Finally, he just stopped returning my texts. Not the first time I'd been ghosted because of my mood disorder, but man, every time it hurts.
So, in this, as with all situations, there were plenty of opportunities for me to take responsibility for my actions (or lack of action). I really should've walked away from J entirely after that session, but I didn't. I really should've known how to meditate and focus my attention to avoid that kind of downward spiral, I'd gotten the training. But that said, I had been having issues with that particular destructive thought pattern for MY WHOLE LIFE, and being unable to deal with it was one of the two MAIN REASONS FOR UNDERGOING PSYCHEDELIC THERAPY IN THE FIRST PLACE.
I'm willing to bet that the anxiety loop chose that moment to surface because on a subconscious level I was hoping to get an opportunity to heal it. While I experience it sober, far too often, I had never experienced it while on a psychedelic. In the past, LSD had even shut it off mid-spiral. Honestly, it was the first time in nine years of tripping that anything like that happened to me. Three years and another couple dozen trips later, still nothing like that has happened to me. I've had a few other bad trips, but they were all catalyzed by a combination of high dose, unpredictable setting, and weed. This was unique in that none of those factors were present.
I had been sitting in the same seat as the suspicious old woman, and as an empath, I wonder if I picked up some of her fear junk. On the other hand, I walked in the door a hot mess, and probably should have asserted myself and not tripped, or at least grounded myself before tripping. Then again, I did attempt a yoga session.
I think J (who had no training as a therapist, by the way, just a dude who had tripped hundreds of times with trendy California people most of his life) really dropped the ball. A therapeutic opportunity presented itself, and he missed it completely because he was hung up on his own expectations, a mistake he had been coaching me for weeks to stop making. I didn't get at all the help I wanted to get from him, for which he blamed me, but I did learn a lot. For example, I learned not to trust arrogant hippies who think they know how to heal people with powerful psychedelics. I hope this experience can serve as an example for all the other trip sitters in training, sort of a textbook example of how to fight your client and turn what could've been a small hiccup or a potential growth experience into a prolonged anxiety attack.
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