Content note: As you may have guessed from the title, this essay will discuss psychedelic drugs and their effects on the human psyche.
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I think a lot of people with depression and anxiety would agree that when you have those conditions (and even when you don’t), sometimes the scariest place to be is inside your own mind.
This is largely why I’ve been wary of solo psychedelic trips for years. My first (and prior to the experience in this essay, only) magic mushrooms trip took place in February 2020, right before a whole lot of geopolitical shit hit the fan – so I just didn’t have as many horribly haunting thoughts knocking around inside my brain as I do now. That trip also, notably, involved the supervision of a “trip-sitter”: my friend Brent, who is experienced with shrooms and is also experienced with me in intoxicated states.
Brent said to me at the time that he was curious how I’d react to doing shrooms by myself. He offered, a few times during my trip, to step out of the room incase I wanted to do a deep dive into my own psyche, through journaling or making art or just sitting there thinking. But his presence felt like my only tether to reality, and I was too nervous to let him go. So he stayed.
However, recently we were chatting via text about the latest entry in Brent’s long history of solo tripping, and it kickstarted my curiosity about getting shroomy alone in my room(y). I dug out the name of an online intoxicants shop that someone had mentioned to me at some point, ordered some shrooms of the Golden Teacher and Penis Envy #6 varieties, and started planning.
First and foremost, when preparing for a solo shrooms trip, I would advise you to think about how your own brain tends to work, and approach your preparations with that in mind. I knew, for example, that I do best with scary experiences when I’m overprepared for all eventualities. I thought about this trip the way I think about international vacations: I spent hours reading about the preparations other people suggested, and made many notes over several days, to ensure I wouldn’t forget anything important.
The next thing I did was enlist my tech-savvy spouse to help me create a shrooms-specific focus mode on my phone. The iPhone allows you to set it to certain modes, such as “sleep” or “do not disturb,” which each have their own settings that you can customize. I knew I wanted to have my phone nearby because, while taking analog notes with pen and paper was always an option, I recalled from my last trip that sometimes my shroomy thoughts flew too quickly and abstractly to be written down longhand – so I wanted a way I could either type a note quickly or make voice memos easily. My spouse helped me configure a focus mode called Shrooms in which:
all notifications were silenced except for those that might be legitimately time-sensitive and needed at some point (such as those from a meal delivery app)
the only people who were able to call me were those in my “favorites” list (only immediate family and my spouse)
my home screen was set to a colorful, simple layout which included shortcut buttons to play my Shrooms Tunes playlist (more on that in a sec), start a voice memo recording, or create a new note; we also included little text widgets that say “This Too Shall Pass” and “Breathe & Water,” the two main pieces of wisdom I needed to hear repeatedly during my last trip
Next I worked on my Shrooms Tunes playlist. Music had been a huge guiding force for me during my last trip so I wanted to have some available again. I put songs in it that were calming and beautiful, as well as songs that had thought-provoking lyrics that I thought might inspire epiphanies or at least deep thoughts. However, I think I need to edit this playlist before my next trip, because there were times during the experience where rhythm-driven music felt too “agitating” and I longed for slower, calmer sounds.
It helped a lot with trip preparations that I have a HomePod mini, i.e. a little speaker that can execute voice commands via Siri. This meant I could control the lights and the music without lifting a finger, just by saying, “Hey Siri, play my Shrooms Tunes playlist,” or “Hey Siri, make the lights purple,” or whatever.
On the day of the actual trip, I tidied my room so it would be as neat and un-distracting as possible. I have a supportive, chair-shaped “reading pillow” on my bed which I set up facing my window. I surrounded myself with a slew of items I thought I might need or want during my trip:
a little stuffed husky dog who I got on a vacation in Portland in 2015; he’s comfy and nice to cuddle
a notebook and several pens I had tested knew were working well (my thoughts flow so quickly on shrooms that a malfunctioning pen could be a serious roadblock)
a big box of colored pencils (or “pencil crayons” as some Canadians call them?)
a copy of each of the books I’ve written, incase I wanted to have an emotional experience marveling at my own achievements
a small weed vape pen, because cannabis can help with the nausea and anxiety that sometimes occur on shrooms (I find that it’s the worst while I’m “coming up” at the beginning of the trip and then resolves after that for the most part)
my iPad and its stand, incase I wanted to watch Netflix, YouTube, Disney+, etc.
a ukulele, incase musical inspiration struck
my Magic Wand Plus, incase I felt like masturbating
a large bottle of lemon-flavored Perrier sparkling water (hydration is important)
a blindfold and headphones incase I wanted to do any kind of sensory deprivation
a box of granola bars incase I got hungry and wanted a snack
I programmed the Fireside Project psychedelic peer support hotline’s number into my phone incase I needed it. I ate a light meal about 2 hours before I planned on tripping. I let some friends know what I was doing, for safety.
I took a shower, shaved the parts of my body that I like to keep shaved, brushed my teeth, moisturized. I chose my outfit carefully, knowing it could affect my mood during the trip: I wore a comfy pink ribbed sleeveless crop top, dark grey lounge pants, cozy socks, and a bright pink cardigan with red hearts all over it so I’d feel swaddled in love.
I went through the ritualistic process of brewing shrooms tea: weighed out 1.27g of Penis Envy shrooms onto a digital scale (I would’ve used more but Penis Envy is said to be about 2-3x as potent as regular strains), ground it up in a coffee grinder I’d bought specifically for shrooms, brought some water to a boil on the stovetop, and tossed the shroom powder into it along with several chunks of chopped ginger, for flavor and nausea relief. I covered the pot and let it simmer for 10 minutes, then added a generous scoop of looseleaf Cinnaberry tea and let it steep for another 5 minutes or so. Then I poured it through a tea strainer into a mug (so as to remove the mushroom solids, which can cause nausea), and squeezed the leftover shrooms by pressing them against the tea filter with a spoon to really wring all the juices out of ‘em. I discarded what was in the strainer and added some lemon juice (said to increase potency/absorption) and honey to the mug, then stirred it all up.
I drank my tea in bed over the course of about 10 minutes, while journaling about my intentions for the trip and some questions I hoped to receive insight on. I kept making notes throughout the entire trip, occasionally asking Siri what time it was and noting it so as to create a clear timeline.
I don’t know how exciting or useful it would be to go into the actual “content” of the trip at this point, given that it was extremely emotional and very personal, and is still kind of too fresh for me to have fully processed yet. I will probably write about it in detail at some point in the future. But I can tell you that these preparations helped enormously. I had everything I needed in order to do what I’ve learned is the most basic and most important thing to do during a shrooms trip (for me, anyway): to listen to your body and your innermost impulses and follow them where they are leading you.
For example, after a couple hours of making art, playing music, and listening to my Shrooms Tunes playlist, I became transfixed on a song that came up on shuffle which was from the movie-musical God Help the Girl. I had not planned to watch a movie during my trip, but I was overcome by a strong sensation of needing to re-watch this particular movie at this particular time. So I ploughed through my shroomy brain fog to figure out how to buy the movie on iTunes and then AirPlay it to my TV. I then proceeded to take eighteen pages of longhand notes during the 2-hour movie. The story of the film felt like it was speaking to me about specific themes I’d been pondering in my life lately, even though the story itself often had nothing to do with those themes (shrooms’ll do that to ya). I felt like I was receiving insights and lessons directly from the global superconscious somehow.
My phone focus mode proved very helpful – I made several voice notes throughout the trip, meandering monologues about life, love, gender, and art, and they expressed ideas I probably wouldn’t have arrived at if I’d been writing instead, because speaking aloud is just different than writing, psychologically speaking. Having both these modes of expression available to me was really helpful as I thought through all the revelations and considerations the trip was bringing up for me.
My preparations also made my “comedown” much easier and better. I had weed to ease the headachey fatigue that sets in toward the end of a shrooms trip; I had water to make sure I was adequately hydrated; I had the ability to order a meal on my phone or snack on a granola bar. I sat on my bed listening to music, journaling, and processing the events of the day. It was a beautiful way to spend a Saturday alone.
If you’re thinking about doing a solo psychedelic trip for the first time, I would urge you to consider what you – specifically you – would need to make that experience feel safe, comfortable, and joyful. You can’t always prevent a “bad trip” from occurring, but you can do a lot to pave the way for a good one – and a good one can change your entire life if you let it.