THAT TIME I TRIED MUSHROOMS
It doesn’t take a lot of scrolling on social media before you hear someone talking about their “trauma”. It’s a psychiatric word that has worked its way into pop culture and everyday language much like Freud’s “ego”. In fact, there are 5,500 podcasts with the word “trauma” in the title!
But if you know me, you know that I believe language matters. The way in which we talk about ourselves and our lives literally helps shape our reality.
So let’s take a sec and talk about what trauma IS and ISN’T, what it really means, and how we can start to heal from it.
What Is Trauma?
“Trauma is about what happens INSIDE US and how those effects persist, not what happens TO us.” Dr. Gabor Maté
If you’re not familiar with Dr. Maté’s work he is a physician who has written 4 best-selling books on topics like addiction, trauma, and ADHD. His latest book (listed below in the PS) looks at the link between our culture, trauma, and illness. He brings such a compassionate view to the work he does and is also a renowned speaker who has been awarded the Order of Canada for his work.
Okay, back to that insightful quote. Trauma is what happens inside us, not to us…and that’s actually really good news!
Let me explain.
Let’s pretend you’re in a bad car accident. Most people would agree that’s a traumatic event and it falls under the category of what psychologists call “big-T trauma”.
If the trauma was the event itself (the car accident) then there would be nothing we could do to change it. It happened, and we can’t take it back so we’d have to live with that trauma and the pain it caused forever.
What if the trauma is our reaction to the car accident? The meaning we make based on the event – well, that’s something we can change. There’s a possibility for healing. I’m not saying that healing is an easy or comfortable process (it’s not) but there is HOPE that we can free ourselves from the fear, pain, and suffering we attach to that event – and THAT is powerful.
There’s also something psychologists refer to as “little-t trauma”, events that typically don’t involve violence or disaster. For example, a bad breakup, getting bullied, divorce, birth, moving, etc. Again, it’s not the event itself but how it impacts us and the meaning we assign to it that makes it traumatic (or not).
When we understand this, it’s easy to see how two people can experience the same event but only one ends up traumatized.
What Trauma Is Not
“Every traumatic event is stressful, not every stressful event is traumatic.” Dr. Gabor Maté
Read that again – every traumatic event is stressful, not every stressful event is traumatic.
I wanted to emphasize that as this is where pop culture gets a little carried away. You had a difficult conversation with a loved one and say how you’re “traumatized” as a result. You watched a scary movie and now you’re “traumatized”. While it’s possible, because each of us is unique, it’s also unlikely.
What’s more apt to be the case is that you found it stressful. Or you were “emotionally activated” (a phrase I like to say instead of traumatized). It affected you and brought up uncomfortable emotions but it’s not likely something that will cause you continued pain and suffering and something you’ll need to heal from.
The Billion-Dollar Question
How do we heal from trauma?
I wish I had a billion-dollar answer for you. One sure-fire method that works for ALL humans and ALL kinds of trauma. But maybe I have something better…????
There are many paths to healing.
Which might at first glance seem hella frustrating – after all, we’d happily give just about anything for a quick fix that actually works (and works every time!) But it also means if what you’ve tried so far hasn’t worked there’s still hope! And maybe, it’s a combination of things that helps you find that peace and acceptance you’re looking for.
Ways that we can find healing…
- Traditional talk therapy (perhaps CBT or DBT)
- Prescription medicine (like antidepressants or antianxiety medication)
- The Grief Recovery Method (and other evidence-based approaches)
- Body-based methods like somatic experiencing, bodywork, osteopathy, chiropractic, massage
- Energy Healing methods like Reiki, acupuncture, and others
- Art therapy
- And more…
And there’s more and more research suggesting that the therapeutic use of psychedelics can have a lasting positive effect. We’re not talking about recreational use and tripping in your basement or doing E at a rave. There’s a huge difference when psychedelics are done in an environment that is safe and welcoming with a trained professional who can monitor you and hold space for your experience.
Prince Harry recently shared his experience with therapeutic psychedelics in his new book Spare and in the interviews he’s done surrounding it. He discusses how it helped him to cope with the grief over the tragic death of his mother, Princess Diana. I appreciate his candor as it will open up many more conversations about it.
Studies have shown that psilocybin (the active ingredient in mushrooms) can help with depression. And that MDMA can be beneficial for PTSD (again, don’t try this at home). The 4-part docuseries on Netflix ‘How To Change Your Mind‘ explores these studies and explains the therapeutic effects brilliantly…I’d highly suggest you check it out if you’re intrigued by this work.
That time I did mushrooms…
Speaking of, I recently went WAY out of my comfort zone and participated in a mushroom ceremony with a trusted friend and trained facilitator of plant medicines. And lemme tell you, it was profound. ???? Words can barely describe what I experienced but what I can tell you is that a DEEP healing occurred.
It started with a sense that my ancestral grandmothers were all there to help me heal the lingering trauma I experienced from my sexual assault back in 2001. They worked together to heal not only my own trauma but the trauma I had been unknowingly carrying in my 2nd chakra from my ancestors. They said to me ‘did you know you’re not the only one in your family to have experienced sexual trauma?’ I didn’t. My body SHOOK for what felt like an hour and the message I kept receiving was that my body needed to shake because it was literally releasing hundreds of years of trauma. Shaking my foundation so to speak so I could rebuild anew.
It was a very emotional experience and I wept to the point of soaking the back of my hair and the pillow underneath. It was intense at times but not scary … I always felt safe and supported. I was immensely grateful that my friends who were leading the ceremony were there to literally hold my hand through a portion of it. The way they held space for me and created a safe, sacred, and caring environment allowed this to be a beautiful experience. I released a lot and I’m looking forward to seeing how my thoughts and interactions shift in the weeks and months ahead as a result of this experience.
And if the sound of that intrigues you or totally freaks you out – that’s okay because we all have our own path to healing.
Life is teaching us in every moment.
That anxiety, grief, sadness, anger – it all has a message for us. The imprint(s) left on our hearts and bodies by trauma has a message for us. The moments that trigger us (another word we talk about over here) have a message for us.
And every time we’re willing to listen (instead of avoiding, numbing, escaping) and to show up for the parts of ourselves that are hurting we have a chance to heal and to free ourselves. It’s a wild ride for sure! But it’s also a worthwhile one.
p.s. If you want to dive more into this topic here’s what I’ve been watching/ reading lately…
How to Change Your Mind (Netflix)
The Myth of Normal by Dr. Gabor Maté