From People on Psychedelics
Amber Lyon is an American investigative journalist and photographer. She is known for her work reporting human rights abuses against pro-democracy protesters in Bahrain, and police brutality against protesters in the United States.
- "If I had any reservations, doubts, or disbeliefs, they were quickly expelled shortly after my first ayahuasca experience. The foul-tasting tea vibrated through my veins and into my brain as the medicine scanned my body. My field of vision became engulfed with fierce colors and geometric patterns. Almost instantly, I saw a vision of a brick wall. The word ‘anxiety’ was spray painted in large letters on the wall. “You must heal your anxiety,” the medicine whispered. I entered a dream-like state where traumatic memories were finally dislodged from my subconscious."
- "It was as if I was viewing a film of my entire life, not as the emotional me, but as an objective observer. The vividly introspective movie played in my mind as I relived my most painful scenes- my parents divorce when I was just 4 years-old, past relationships, being shot at by police while photographing a protest in Anaheim and crushed underneath a crowd while photographing a protest in Chicago. The ayahuasca enabled me to reprocess these events, detaching the fear and emotion from the memories. The experience was akin to ten years of therapy in one eight-hour ayahuasca session."
- "But the experience, and many psychedelic experiences for that matter, was terrifying at times. Ayahuasca is not for everyone- you have to be willing to revisit some very dark places and surrender to the uncontrollable, fierce flow of the medicine. Ayahuasca also causes violent vomiting and diarrhea, which shamans call “getting well” because you are purging trauma from your body."
- "After seven ayahuasca sessions in the jungles of Peru, the fog that engulfed my mind lifted. I was able to sleep again and noticed improvements in my memory and less anxiety. I yearned to absorb as much knowledge as possible about these medicines and spent the next year travelling the world in search of more healers, teachers and experiences through submersion journalism."
- "I was drawn to try psilocybin mushrooms after reading how they reduced anxiety in terminal cancer patients. The ayahuasca showed me my main ailment was anxiety, and I knew I still had work to do to fix it. Psilocybin mushrooms are not neurotoxic, nonaddictive, and studies show they reduce anxiety, depression, and even lead to neurogenesis, or the regrowth of brain cells. Why would governments worldwide keep such a profound fungi out of the reach of their people?"
- "After Peru, I visited curanderas, or healers, in Oaxaca, Mexico. The Mazatecs have used psilocybin mushrooms as a sacrament and medicinally for hundreds of years. Curandera Dona Augustine served me a leaf full of mushrooms during a beautiful ceremony before a Catholic alter. As she sang thousand year-old songs, I watched the sunset over the mountainous landscape in Oaxaca and a deep sense of connectivity washed over my whole being. The innate beauty had me at a loss for words; a sudden outpouring of emotion had me in tears. I cried through the night and with each tear a small part of my trauma trickled down my cheek and dissolved onto the forest floor, freeing me from its toxic energy."
- "Perhaps most astounding, the mushrooms silenced the self-critical part of my mind long enough for me to reprocess memories without fear or emotion. The mushrooms enabled me to remember one of the most terrifying moments of my career: when I was detained at gunpoint in Bahrain while filming a documentary for CNN. I had lost any detailed recollection of that day when masked men pointed guns at our heads and forced my crew and I onto the ground. For a good half an hour, I did not know whether we were going to survive."
- "I spent many sleepless nights desperately searching for memories of that day, but they were locked in my subconscious. I knew the memories still haunted me because anytime I would see PTSD ‘triggers’, such as loud noises, helicopters, soldiers, or guns, a rush of anxiety and panic would flood my body."
- "The psilocybin was the key to unlock the trauma, enabling me to relive the detainment moment to moment, from outside of my body, as an emotionless, objective observer. I peered into the CNN van and saw my former self sitting in the backseat, loud helicopters overhead. My producer Taryn was sitting to the right of me frantically trying to close the van door as we tried to make an escape. I heard Taryn scream “guns!” as armed masked men jumped out of the security vehicles surrounding the van. I watched as I frantically dug through a backpack on the floor, grabbing my CNN ID card and jumping out of the van. I saw myself land on the ground in child’s pose, dust covering my body and face. I watched as I threw my hand with the CNN badge in the air above my head yelling “CNN, CNN, don’t shoot!!”
- "I saw the pain in my face as the security forces threw human rights activist and dear friend Nabeel Rajab against a security car and began to harass him. I saw the terror in my face as I glanced down at my shirt, arms in the air, praying the video cards concealed on my body wouldn’t fall onto the ground."
- "As I relived each moment of the detainment, I reprocessed each memory moving it from the “fear” folder to its new permanent home in the “safe” folder in my brain’s hard drive."
- "Five ceremonies with psilocybin mushrooms cured my anxiety and PTSD symptoms. The butterflies that had a constant home in my stomach have flown away."
- "Psychedelics are not the be-all and end-all. For me, they were the key that opened the door to healing. I still have to work to maintain the healing with the use of floatation tanks, meditation, and yoga. For psychedelics to be effective, it’s essential they are taken with the right mindset in a quiet, relaxed setting conducive to healing, and that all potential prescription drug interactions are carefully researched. It can be fatal if Ayahuasca is mixed with prescription antidepressants."
- "I was blessed with an inquisitive nature and a stubbornness to always question authority. Had I opted for a doctor’s script and resigned myself in the hope that things would just get better, I never would have discovered the outer reaches of my mind and heart. Had I drunk the Kool-Aid and believed that all ‘drugs’ are evil and have no healing value, I may still be in the midst of a battle with PTSD."