Dear Mom and Dad,
You’ve no doubt seen a great deal of changes in my life over the last three years. Despite never being a risk taker, I quit my job and traveled the world. Despite being shy and anti-social, I met a few of my celebrity heroes and hung out with them in their actual homes. Despite never dating, I fell in love and got married. All of these were possible because after fifteen years of struggling, I finally curbed my depression. And I did it without ever using antidepressants.
You’ve asked me how I accomplished this, but until now, I’ve kept the secret to myself. The reason? I love you both very much. As a son, loving you is great. As a writer, it’s a problem. I’ve joked that the biggest thing holding me back from being a successful artist is that I love my parents. Any sincere artist/musician/writer should be willing to stand naked before the masses, honest and vulnerable. That would be a lot easier for me if you had done a shitty job.
But you didn’t. You did an amazing job, and because of that, the last thing I want to do is ruin the shining “golden boy” image you might have of me. I’ve tried to keep that image polished for you my whole life, and part of me thinks it’s pointless to sully it while you’re in your twilight years. But, I feel an increasing weight on my shoulders. I don’t want to disappoint you, but I’m saddened by the prospect of never allowing myself to be honest. Whether I’m judged for it or not, I have to tell the truth.
The truth is that I made one simple decision that profoundly impacted my life more than any other, and this one decision was the seed from which so many great things sprouted:
I decided to eat some magic mushrooms.
Please stay calm. Take a breath. Nothing bad happened. As far as I can tell, the only long-term consequence is that I now look at the world with greater empathy, understanding, self-awareness, acceptance, and unconditional love. You know, nothing major.
Before you pass judgment, I need to ask: have you ever tried magic mushrooms? Based on your extremely conservative worldview, I’m going to assume no. (If I’m wrong, please call me now, because I want to hear that story immediately!) If I’m correct, then I should explain a few things.
First, almost everything we’ve been taught by schools, the media, and yes, even our parents, is a lie. It turns out there is no Santa Claus; Christopher Columbus was a genocidal asshole; and psychedelics might be the best way to treat clinical depression. I forgave society for lying about Santa; I decided Columbus Day can go fuck itself; and I decided to try everything within my power to rid myself of depression, even if it included psychedelics.
Depression is embarrassing as hell to talk about, because I know have a lot to be thankful for. I was born a white male in the American suburbs with loving parents. That’s an amazing stroke of luck that I did absolutely nothing to earn. In a world filled with racism, sexism, violence, and hunger — a world where millions of people don’t even have access to drinking water — being upset about my petty first-world problems made me feel like a selfish, ungrateful asshole. But, as anyone struggling with depression knows, there’s very little logic that factors into the equation. However, I made the decision that I was going to get better, and I was going to do so without using antidepressants.
I tried meditation, gratitude journals, exercise, and altruism — all great things — but depression would always creep back and cling to me like the sneaky, miserable little prick that it is. Then, one beautiful summer night while I was camping with friends, I had the opportunity to try psilocybin mushrooms.
Don’t look at me like that. Hear me out! Your baby boy cured his depression. Smile! If you still feel like I let you down, let me remind you:
I’m a square son of a bitch. I didn’t drink alcohol until I was 21. Until I tried shrooms (age 27), I had never tried any illegal drug, including weed. I’m a safe, overly responsible nerd who is so calcified in his own awkwardness that he’s immune to the chisel of peer-pressure. Believe me, this had nothing to do with peer pressure. This was about healing my brain, and maybe even my soul.
I’ll be honest — I have no idea how you’ll react to this news. Maybe you’ll feel disappointed. Maybe you’ll judge me. Maybe you won’t give half a shit (I’m hoping for this one). But ultimately, I know all good parents want their children to be happy, and if there was even a small chance that eating magic mushrooms could cure my depression, you should support my decision to give it a shot.
So, camping that night, I gave a friend $10 for a palmful of mushrooms, and I decided to take control of my own life.
I ate the mushrooms, and I can describe the experience in one word:
They’re called magic for a reason. I don’t want you to take the following statement lightly: that night on the beach was the single most spiritual experience I’ve ever had. In one night I achieved what most people search for their entire lives: peace, love, and forgiveness. If you’ve never taken shrooms, it’s nothing like the bullshit you see in Hollywood. There are no fairies. No cartoon characters. The actual experience is far more sublime.
The first thing I noticed was a warmth that spread throughout my body. It felt like Mother Nature herself wove together a blanket using bliss, relaxation, and euphoria, then swaddled me up in it like a happy, newborn babe.
Then came the urge to laugh. Nothing funny happened. I was just joyful. I laughed for no reason, other than the fact I was shocked by how good this felt. I looked around me and saw nothing but perfection. I never loved anything as much as I did that night, but I’d also never felt as loved as I did that night. Love was reflected back at me from everything — the trees, the sand, the ocean.
Above me, birds flew overhead and split the sky like ripples in a pond. Stars twinkled and changed colors, exploding like tiny fireworks.
I laughed some more, convinced that the universe was trying to communicate to me in a language I didn’t speak. It didn’t matter if it wasn’t using words; I got the message, and it was something I needed to hear my whole life. It was a message that was too simple and perfect to be translated into a flawed, clunky language. It was something I needed to feel.
I’d never been happier to be exactly where I was, fully immersed within the Now.
“If you’re happy with yourself now, you should never regret anything in the past, because everything in the past has led up to who you are now.”
I used to tell people that, but for once in my life, I finally felt it.
I started thinking about my past. The good experiences. The bad. Especially the bad. But here’s the thing — they were no longer “bad.” In fact, they seemed to be the most necessary and important experiences I ever had. I finally recognized how each “negative” experience was absolutely crucial for me to become the person I am today, and I forgave everyone that I thought mistreated me. More importantly, I forgave myself. I literally felt lighter as the weight of blame and resentment melted off of me and dissipated into the ether.
Then I thought about both of you, back home in the Midwest, and I started to cry. Not because I was sad, but because never in my life did I feel more grateful for everything you’ve done for me. You kept me safe, well fed, clothed, and sheltered. You encouraged me to learn, and always kept me humble. Even though we weren’t the type of family that said, “I love you,” I wanted to call you then and say the words.
But I didn’t, because I was afraid. I was afraid that if you knew I was on drugs, you’d judge me. And I didn’t want to feel judged. Not from the two most important people in my life. That’s why I needed to write this letter. I want you to understand.
People who try psychedelics aren’t necessarily hippies, druggies, or burnouts. Many of us are just trying to find our own piece of happiness. For me, it worked.
After that night, the physical side effects wore off, but the psychological benefits remained. I felt less alone. I felt healthier. I felt more connected to others. And to my amazement, I no longer felt depressed. To describe the experience succinctly:
Ingesting psilocybin mushrooms was akin to floating into heaven, kissing the face of God, then drifting back down to earth with the knowledge that I always have been and always will be loved.
Don’t worry, I’m not an addict (and they’re not addictive). I haven’t done them in over two years. I decided to tell the truth because if I’m not willing to be honest with you, I’ll never be honest with the public, and the public needs more clear-minded individuals to speak out about the benefits of psychedelics so they can finally drop all of that “hippie” baggage.
With marijuana becoming decriminalized in many states, hopefully psychedelics will follow the same path as cannabis. First comes scientific research. This will lead to the discovery of proven health benefits. Next, people need to be educated on safe, responsible use.
When this happens, we can finally evolve as a society and legalize psychedelics. Or rather, relegalize them (Fuck you, Nixon!). Who knows? In a few years, maybe sons and daughters will be able to talk to their parents about psychedelics as comfortably as they talk to them about prescription medication. In the future, maybe writing a 1,700-word diatribe to shield against their parents’ potential disappointment will be completely unnecessary.
I certainly hope so.
I love you both, and I trust you still love me too.
Your Loving Son
Further Study: Food of the Gods: A Radical History of Plants, Drugs, and Human Evolution by Terence McKenna
A Final Note on Safety
As we repeatedly stress on HighExistence, psychedelics must be approached with reverence and caution. We believe that in a loving context, psychedelics are powerful medicines with tremendous potential, but there are a number of physical and psychological safety concerns that one should consider before journeying with psychedelics. Please, please do plenty of research, and do not take psychedelics if you have reason to believe that they will not jibe with your personality or particular mental baggage. The Essential Psychedelic Guide on Erowid is an exceptional free resource, and we recommend reading it, especially the section on ‘Psychedelic Safety,’ before ever dabbling in these substances. It’s also imperative that you buy a test kit if you aren’t absolutely certain that the substances you’ve procured are what you believe them to be. Take care, and happy tripping. : )