First of all I would like to say I am sharing this personal experience because I think this insight can help others suffering from anxiety. This post does not represent in any way the opinion of AnxietySocialNet as an institution. It is purely my subjective account of my experience on my first Ayahuasca experience. Even though I am the founder of Anxiety Social Net I am also a user like any other and as such I want to share this personal experience with the community. There are certainly some risks especially for people taking medications or with a history of mental illness; you should consult your physician before trying any type of new therapeutic approach.
Out of the closet
I've been meaning to talk about my experiences with psychedelics for a while, since they've been of great help for my own anxiety. For the last 2 years I’ve been seeing the general unconformity from ASN users with traditional approaches (especially with the psychiatric approach) and I really feel that I cannot withhold anymore the information I've been gathering in regards to anxiety and psychedelics. It is my brief that responsible use of psychedelics in the right setting may hold the key for real long term results in the treatment of anxiety, several new studies are confirming what I know from my own experience and it is time for me to take action and share this information with this community which I love and respect.
The set (me)
As some of you may know I've been suffering from anxiety pretty much since I can recall. In the last 4 years I had a few breakthroughs and things have been much better for me in many ways. Today I can function and perform most daily tasks than once were for me the most unthinkable nightmares. This is manly related to other psychedelic experiences I had and plan to also share them here in the future. But the truth is I am far from being a stranger to anxiety. Over the years my severe social anxiety which I mostly overcome has transformed itself into a manageable generalized anxiety with a very strong phobia of public speaking and the occasional anxiety attack. I am currently traveling in Uruguay with my girlfriend and very happy. I had experience with sacred plants in the past mostly recreational use, but have never been to a ceremony and had never taken Ayahuasca before. It also worth mention that I am not affiliated to any church, I do believe in God but not in organized religion.
About Ayahuasca and DMT
Ayahuasca also known as yagé is a traditional South American psychedelic brew. Preparation ingredients may differ depending on the area and the shaman involved. The active compound on Ayahuasca is DMT and the brew usually contains also a MAOI inhibitor that has the purpose of making DMT active when ingested orally. Ayahuasca is also used sometimes as a purgative medicine for its cleansing properties. While consuming Ayahuasca people have spiritual awakenings it is common also for them to learn new ways to interpret everyday events and past traumatic experiences. Vomiting (the purge) is very common while using Ayahuasca and it’s considered as an integral part of the healing process by many shamans.
This is just a very basic introduction to very extensive subject if you are interested you should do your own research especially if you are planning to partake in a ceremony or take Ayahuasca. A good place to start would be MAPS Here you can read about the latest scientific studies done on Ayahuasca and other sacred plants.
The setting (Place, People and Situation)
I first heard about Ayahuasca thanks to my childhood friend Rafael, He had been a member of Nueva Aurora and experienced many ceremonies over the years and he told me I can get a lot out of it. Since I hold him on the highest regards and trust his criteria I started taking some serious interest in the matter. The whole idea of a ritual with strangers around and the possibility of vomiting in front of them really terrorized me. I was also afraid that I might need to do public speaking, but after a few weeks thinking about the issue (and doing heavy research) my curiosity got the better of me and I decided I wanted to do it and see what I can learn from the experience.
I prepared for the ceremony 4 days before hand by changing to a vegetarian diet and avoiding coffee sugar and any type of medicine that can interact with DMT, (I stopped using Citalopram over two years ago, so that was not an issue read Warnings here) I also had very little food in the morning of the day of the ceremony.
At around 8 o clock my friend and I got to the place where the ceremony was being held, everybody was dress in white and made me feel most welcome. After working myself up all week about the taste of the brew and vomiting issue I was pretty weary of what the ceremony have install for me and extremely anxious, I remember thinking it may not be such a good idea to participate in those conditions, but I told myself “that’s why you are here for, right?”.
Everybody was already in place; the room had a very nice ambience with candles and a few dream catchers hanging onn the walls. Participants were sitting in a cycle, woman and man at opposite sides. Bags for vomiting where given to each person. The shaman Santos Victorino came and started explaining the basics on Ayahuasca and giving some advice for the preparation. I don’t recall exactly all what he said but the words were much appropriate, particularly he talked to us about owning our feelings and emotions and take responsibility for them. He also told us that once the bad energies and conflicts come out (in the form of regurgitations, sweating and crying) you will need a “weapon” to cast the “demons” away and that weapon was 3 words: love, strength and light. I am ashamed to admit the cynic in me smiled at those new age statements, little I knew I was going to really need those three.
Right after the instructions everybody got their cup filled, and we proceed to drink the brew. To my surprise the brew was not nearly as disgusting as I was expecting it to be. Immediately after that the music started, it was very positive and beautiful.
Around 20 minutes later I started feeling strange and realized I was starting to feel the effects, those who wanted a second cup were standing in line and so I joined, since my friend told me before that 2 cups were required to feel the full effects of the Ayahuasca. I got back to my chair and sat, a few moments later started feeling more relaxed.
Comfort and bliss
It is very hard to explain this experience with words. I’d probably need a much wider article, but I really want to focus on the parts that are most relevant. By the moment the brew took effect I was not anxious no more and I was feeling pretty good, enough is to say that at some point I almost cried from happiness and this is an experience that certainly never happened to me before. The music was amazing and I was really experiencing love in its purest form. I am pretty aware of how that sounds, and all I can say is that the cynic in me was open mouthed and in complete owe. The feelings of comfort continue to grow and that lasted for around 30 minutes more or less. I was pretty sure I was one of the fortunate souls that never vomit while taking Ayahuasca.
Catharsis, anxiety and release
Much to my surprise things changed and in the space of a few seconds my inner world got real dark really fast. Probably it was because of the change in music; from a very happy tune in Portuguese, I was suddenly immersed into some kind of monk chants that scared the heck out of me. The feeling of sudden anxiety and despair was unbearable, I was trying to calm myself to no avail and I repeated to myself the three magic words many times to no avail. In the space of a few seconds I realized I was going to puke. I will never know how I succeeded to grab the bag in time, but thank god I did. I have to admit that for a second there I thought I was going to lose it and it really felt like I was going to die right there. I remember being mad at the shaman for putting this unbearable music and I remember thinking also “two cups was too much”.
Ironically the 3 magic words proposed by the shaman got me through this moment of profound despair. Right after it I started thinking about the metaphoric meaning of it all; I’ve been working myself up all week (as I always do in front of anxiety situations) about how this ritual is going to be and how I am going to deal with the purge. I was so horrified with the idea of vomiting and feeling vulnerable around other people and the truth is that it was a horrible experience, but the thing is, it passed, like any other horrible anxiety causing situation I ever dealt with, and bizarre as it may sound, 20 minutes after, I was wondering if I was going to vomit again and really wishing to do so. It was such an amazing experience because it really felt as if all the anxiety accumulated inside my body just expulsed from my insides.
These ideas are not new to me, I understood them before, but to live this whole episode in the space of 5 minutes it was such an experiential way to learn how anxiety works and how pointless it is. Let’s face it - horrible things are going to happen in life and you will have to deal with them, either you like it or not. The point I am trying to make here is that like anything else in life, these things are going to occur to us but ultimately they will be a part of our past. The one thing I am sure of is that there is nothing more empowering than conquering our fears and asking for seconds.
I really hope this experience helps others. I cannot stress enough how important it is to do research before assisting this type of ceremony and consult your physician in case you are using any type of medication. If you are planning to partake in this kind of ceremony (which I do not recommend nor indorse here) it is critical to know where you are going to do it and who are the people responsible for the ceremony. I have heard some real horror stories about unprofessional and unmoral shamans and practitioners and you really don’t want to make things worse for yourself.
Since this experience I been into a 3 day ayauaska retreat also with great results, I will post soon my other experiences, stay tunned!
Some Interesting Links and Resouces
I am open for discussions, sugestions, corrections or anything you want to share :)