Life is made of many stories, so I'll do my best to isolate one or two that might matter to you - someone who is looking to learn about personal transformation.
I was born and raised near Toronto, Canada. As a kid I wanted to be a zoologist and nature documentary filmmaker. I was reasonably smart and loved to learn, but didn't really like school. In middle school and high school, like many young people, I struggled to fit in, and suffered from pretty bad social anxiety, depression, and self esteem issues. "Luckily" I found the panacea that many teens discover to alleviate those issues: drugs and alcohol.
I went through a full spectrum of experiences with these substances, from the most base partying and bingeing, to the most profound healing and spiritually awakening. Through reading, experiment, and obsession, I found that psychedelic substances like LSD and Magic Mushrooms could take me to deep layers of wisdom beyond my years. I began to obsess over Buddhism and eastern philosophy, although I didn't begin any serious personal practice like meditation until much later, and instead used chemical substances to achieve the states of mind described by these teachings. Some of these substances could profoundly transform me, heal me, guide me, and, contrary to popular belief, would actually tend to "set me straight", rather than make me more rebellious or undisciplined. They gave me access to an inner mentor I seemed to be missing in my outer life.
The problem with these specific drugs didn't seem to be their effect, but the fact that the effect didn't last. I kept going back, obsessing, looking for that new experience that would show me the way. In that obsession, I took some wrong turns.
Near the end of 11th grade I managed to get prescribed an anti-depressant. Not knowing the potential for serious side effects, I took several times the recommended dose, thinking it would get me high (and thus quell my ever nagging social anxiety). I did this every day for at least a couple weeks, during which time I also had a one week ketamine binge. I hadn't had much experience with ketamine, and was amazed with how it absolutely numbed my sense of fear and anxiety. I felt INVINCIBLE. Nowadays, researchers and doctors are working with ketamine as a cure for phobias, which makes sense for me since it seemed to cure my social phobias (I was using it and going to school).
Something more was going on though. Perhaps it was the daily ketamine. Perhaps it was the anti-depressant and its potential side effect of paranoid psychosis, which I was unaware of at the time. Perhaps it was the stress of watching too much news about climate apocalypse and reading too many conspiracy theories online about the Illuminati planning World War 3 to thin the human population. But I started to have a strange, yet voluntary delusion...
I had recently become obsessed with The Doors, an uncharacteristically dark 1960s rock band (thought not dark at all compared to the Metal I was used to listening to). I was wearing a shirt with images of the band members one day while skipping school to do "K" at a friend's house. While peaking, I found myself staring in the mirror in the bathroom (its true what they say - don't look in the mirror on drugs!). The feeling of invincibility, and unwavering self respect and self confidence had come over me. I had been doing K every day for a few days now, and started to wonder what I could do to hang on to this feeling when the drug wore off this time. Looking at my face in the mirror, and Jim Morrison (the front man of The Doors) on my shirt, I started to notice similarities between my face and his. Thanks to how high I was, the similarity became completely uncanny, and I started to think, "What if I was this guys reincarnation?".
I had been reading about Buddhism at the time, as the teachings seemed to match a lot of my psychedelic experiences, and so I was up to date on how reincarnation was supposed to work. I started to piece together all the things I had in common with Jim, such as the fact he was nick-named the Lizard King because as a kid growing up in the desert he was obsessed with catching lizards, and during my childhood my hero was Steve Irwin and I obsessed with catching snakes. Either way, I realized it didn't matter whether I actually was Jim's next life, all that mattered was that I could make myself believe it. If I believed I was reincarnated from this incredible person, then I could continue to feel this sense of confidence and social invincibility, whether or not it was actually true.
So I convinced myself. Or, rather, I started a constant mental effort of trying to convince myself of this all the time, simultaneously believing and not believing it. But it wasn't just my anxiety on the line - It was the world!
I am writing this in the year 2020 - the year everyone was telling me the world was going to go past the point of no return with climate change. Back in 2007, at 16, I was so frustrated with the adults I was inheriting the world from. How could they just watch this happen? At home I educated myself online, finding that obviously this apathy was because of the secret societies running the world who wanted to lower the global population through war and natural disasters.
At school I was taught about communism in China and Russia - everything except the part where over 100 million people were killed or starved to death in prison camps and genocides, and that it resulted in totalitarianism in every place it was tried. I thought it sounded like a great idea at the time, and like many young, idealistic North American communists, I decided what those countries did wasn't "real communism".
Essentially, in order to see a possibility of there being a world left to grow up into, I thought that I myself had to personally save it, and I was going to do this by starting a communist revolution. (It's pretty weird now to see my friends in their 30s still living this fantasy - like, can we accept it didn't work and move on? LOL). If someone else could have ended poverty, war, and climate change, it would have happened by now right? In order to avoid my fear of the apocalypse, I decided to delude myself into think I was "the chosen one", sent by God, or Gods, or Aliens, or interdimentional spider-machine-elves (check out public magic mushroom experience forums for that one - a strangely common experience!). That was the only way I was going to be crazy enough to try to do whatever it took to save the world - Theoretically by leading a revolution by becoming a famous musician/speaker/poet/artist of course.
And that was just the mild start of my psychosis. Fast forward a few months, and I am on LSD, learning to telepathically communicate with my friends. I managed to do this with crisp detail, on two separate trips. There is every reason for skeptics to disbelieve this, since I was already in the beginning of psychosis, and on top of that I was on a hallucinogen, but anyone who has taken higher doses of these substances could tell you that these types of experiences are not all that rare. Also, the people I was with could verify the experiences afterwards.
This seemed pretty cool at first. It fit very well into the narrative I was trying to create for myself - obviously it would make sense for the chosen one to have super powers. I started trying to use telepathy in day to day life, without the help of psychedelics. It didn't seem to work then, but on day something shifted.
I had skipped school one day in the fall of 2007, to do ecstacy in the woods. I managed to get my hands on a pack of cigarettes, which I was not overly accustomed to smoking, and proceeded to smoke all 20 in the space. of about 2 or 3 hours. I followed that up with a rip on a bong, consisting of half cannabis and half tobacco, and immediately fell off the log I was sitting on and had a seizure in the thorn bush behind me.
When I came to, it was dark out. I had no idea who or where I was, and my shoulder had been dislocated. Paramedics were making their way through the woods with flashlights, and I was taken to the hospital where their tests showed nothing unusual with my brain. I was let out with a sling and a referral to a physical therapist for my shoulder, and things went on as usual.
I can't remember how long it took, maybe it was the next day, maybe a week, or a month. But soon after, my psychosis went from manageable to total hell. I believe the paranoia started when I was high on cannabis. I started to wonder, "Is telepathy something that one can control, or is it like one's heartbeat where it happens automatically?".
I started to hear my thoughts as though they were suddenly very loud, like they were no longer music playing in earbuds, but were coming from a speaker system mounted on my head. I became vigilantly paranoid, monitoring every thought that passed through this speaker system for content that would be embarrassing for myself, or hurtful for others - which really only made me think of more and more things like that (like the old mind trick: don't think of a purple elephant).
Now, if I had bad social anxiety before, this took it to a level where, at times, I thought if my heart beat any faster from anxiety I was going to literally die (as in actually literally, not millennial literally). At some point, the anxiety didn't go away when I stopped taking drugs, and this delusion became a feature of every waking moment of my life. I started hearing the voices of friends and family in my head, usually doing live commentary on my thoughts they were sick and tired of hearing. When I was around people, I would vigilantly watch them from the corner of my eye, reading every subtle social cue as something that fed into this delusion that they were hearing my thoughts. Even when I was home alone, I assumed my immediate neighbors were being broadcast to, and that some of them were planning to kill me because no matter what I did, I couldn't turn off this broadcast - which included everything: my sexual thoughts, my bowel movements, secrets I knew about other people - everything (and more as my brain was churning out some very creative negative self imagery like never before).
Eventually I stopped going to school, and my parents found out. My mom took me to a mental hospital, where I was diagnosed with Drug Induced Psychosis, and put on a regimen of anti-psychotic medication and tranquilizers. I stayed in that hospital for two weeks, and on anti-psychotics for two years (a very short time, compared to the average). While in that hospital, I came face to face with a very stark reality - Psychiatrists did not, or perhaps could not admit to, believe in telepathy as a possible experience. This actually surprised me at the time. Didn't these guys study the mind for a living?
Me, a dumb teenager, and several of my friends, and dozens of "trip reporters" we had read in forums online, all had experienced telepathy - extremely vividly. For instance, I was at home once on LSD, and sent my friend a telepathic image of a lion cub with a mane made of sunflower petals, portrayed in an ancient Chinese art aesthetic. I made no communication with this friend via technology, and he was at his house on the other side of town when I did this. A few hours later, after what was a mild dose of LSD had worn off, I logged on to MSN messenger (which was a thing at the time), and he had changed his profile status to "Dropped by for a visit with the China Cat Sunflower".
This experience, and my first experience with telepathy with a group of friends where we all sent each other thoughts and images, were quite unique compared to my later deluded paranoid experiences. Those first experiences were incredibly vivid, involved my being on psychedelic drugs, and were all reported as true and mutually experienced by friends. My later experiences were not on psychedelics, were more auditory than visual, and were only confirmed by my paranoid reading of people's body language (although I had one strange confirmatory experience where a young-ish man drove past me in his car when I was walking home from school, and yelled out the window at me something about killing me - I can't remember his exact words, but they sure fit well into the narrative I had going. Upon later reflection, I realized this was probably the older boyfriend of the girl I was in love with, who was pissed at me for writing her love poems a few weeks earlier when I still had some wits about me. He actually turned out to live on the street he drove past me on too).
Either way, these psychiatrists, and every psychiatrist, psychologist, and counsellor afterwards (until I moved to California) were having none of it. Telepathy wasn't real. Even my first experiences were just paranoid delusions, just like my present ones. I just needed to take meds until my brain was better, or, more likely, for the rest of my life.
This was my first experience losing faith in an "official" doctor or medical narrative. These guys had to be fools to not be aware of telepathy. All you have to do is take a couple hits of LSD and then just "intend" to send a thought to someone. The other person doesn't even have to be on a drug to receive it, as it turned out! The question in my mind wasn't "Is telepathy real?". The questions were "Have I done so many psychedelics that my brain is permanently in a psychedelic chemical state, which now allows me access to telepathic abilities all the time?", and, "If I have access to telepathic abilities, am I able to choose when and if I use them, or do they just happen involuntarily?". Obviously these doctors weren't interested in pursuing that question. But I tried anyways. I asked them to try to guess the shape, or the number I had drawn on a piece of paper, hidden fro their view. I tried to direct the image from my mind to theirs. An obvious test to try. However, no psychiatrist I met was willing to even TRY this experiment. I was bewildered by this. Certainly, if I wasn't psychic, this would be an easy way to disprove it, and thus help overcome my delusion. I hadn't done this experiment with friends or family because those personal relationships were too scary for me to try such a thing with, as my mind had become riven with negative thoughts about my self and others. But why wouldn't these professionals engage me? Why were they determined to just medicate me, without investigating anything about me as a person? They didn't know anything about my social anxieties from before, or my fears about environmental collapse. They knew nothing about the story of how I got to that paranoid place. And they wouldn't even do a simple test to prove my delusion wrong? Were they afraid I was right? Was it policy to not engage the lunatics in their fantasies? I still really don't know the answer to this. But it broke my faith in them, and the whole system they were representing. Later I recovered a deep respect and fascination with neuroscience and neurochemistry, which turned out to be quite helpful in my healing, but at the time, I wanted to get as far away from their way of doing things as I could.
I was too scared to go completely out on my own, so I kept taking the meds and going to my monthly check ups once out of the hospital. The week I got out of that hospital, I received two gifts from a friend that would change my life forever.
The first gift was that he encouraged me to try the experiment with him. I tried to send him a particular thought, with no help from a psychedelic, and he would try to guess it. Then we would switch. I trusted this friend a lot, and it was the first time I had conducted this experiment. I was actually really surprised to find I couldn't send him anything, no matter how hard I tried to amplify my inner voice. This was the first step in my receiving the healing panacea of empirical evidence. Now, can someone who is truly psychotic really be brought around to reality by having their delusions disproven by evidence? It seems like a truly paranoid person would simply find explanations to support their delusion, like, "Oh he lied about not hearing the number I was thinking". So, it is actually to this day still unclear to me whether I was ever really psychotic, or was just a young sensitive person with a whole lot of unusual experiences and no one wise to talk to about them. In hunter gatherer cultures around the world, there aren't "psychotics" so much as "shamans", who actually look the same on an MRI brain scan according to the work of Corine Sombrun, a brilliant French music researcher turned-shaman who's been living with and studying the bear shamans of Mongolia for over a decade. It is looking like she has managed to prove right the late Joseph Campbell, who said "The psychotic drowns in the same waters as the shaman swims".
Besides some help with empirical evidence, my friend gave me one other gift: A book on meditation.
I had been reading about meditation, buddhism, and Yoga already in the mental hospital. My mom was into yoga, and recognized that these things might help me and that I had an interest in them. She brought me a pile of library books, which I poured over while I was there. The book my friend gave me though just seemed to have such a beautifully simple technique, that aligned with something I was going to do anyways: spend time alone in nature.
The book was called "Siddhartha", and the technique it rested on was simply sitting next to a river and listening to its sound. I had a river running through a small forest near my parents house, so I started going every day. For hours.
It was painful sitting on the rocks, and I can't honestly say I ever felt better after a session. It was mostly me trying to make my mind pay attention to the river sound, while my mind harassed me not only with my own thoughts, but with everyone else's! Or at least voices that sounded like them. So you could say I had to work twice as hard to get focused.
After months of this arduous process, I finally started to see it happen. My mind would start to get totally absorbed in the river, and I would actually have no thoughts at all - mine or otherwise. At first I had a hard time staying there. I would get paranoid that the meditative state would be like the psychedelic state, and open back up my telepathic abilities. Nonetheless, after a week or so on the edge, I finally did it. All that hard work paid off, and for what felt like maybe a minute I had no mental content except the sound of that river. Apparently the was long enough. With my conscious mind subdued, my subconscious came up. With a vengeance.
An intense and sudden vision rushed up from what felt like both my deepest hidden depths and my most obvious surface awareness. It was a mask - an archetype. It was "The Mutant". The person who didn't belong. Who lived one the edge of society, like a sickly beggar, or an outcast. His skin was green and blotched like a toad. His hair was matted, long, oily, and dark green. His eyes were yellow, and slitted like a cat's. He represented everything I hated about myself, and everything I didn't want other people to see - my insecurity, my shame, my cowardice, my selfishness, and so much more was summed up in his image. But when he came to the surface, he wasn't him, he was me. I identified, for one split, horrifying second, with everything about this image. And then, like a mask being pulled off an actor, the face was suddenly win front of me, and not "on or in" me. In a flash I saw that this was just a distorted perception of myself I had been carrying like a heavy weight, and behind that perception was something much more true: I was worthy of love. I was worthy of acceptance and forgiveness. I was a good person. I saw my own worth and innocence, the child within myself who was so deserving of love. I saw under this mask this divine child within me, glowing with golden light, and I burst into tears. Tears I had not been able to cry for this whole damn crazy year and a half of insanity. I must have sobbed, loudly and with much mucous secretion, for at least 5 minutes straight. I couldn't believe I had been carrying around that sense of unworthiness and self hatred, and allowed myself a hefty dose of compassion and self love.