FINDING WONDERLAND - A SERIES OF WOMEN'S PERSONAL STORIES
TO DESTIGMATIZE AND NORMALIZE THE USE OF PSYCHEDELICS
Wonderland #2 Melissa Vrouvides
I am a writer, social media manager, a student of psychology and life, advocating for the responsible use of psychedelics and plant medicines.
Looking back at my upbringing, if there is a detail that stands out, it was my love affair with books and music. My childhood was quite difficult and to escape from the chaos, I would sink into my book and music collection, allowing my imagination to usher me as far away as I could visualize.
My love for the arts quickly transformed into a passion for writing, and my diary entries evolved into fantasy stories. When I turned 12 years old, my escapes became literal and I ran from home at any chance I got, until a final stint at 16 had me thrown out the door for good. In fact, for a year I had no permanent address and couch surfed, shamelessly begging anyone I encountered for a place to crash.
Once in my twenties, I entered the bar and nightlife industry, detaching from my truth and the childhood dreams that once flooded my mind. I was swimming in money but still always ended up strapped for cash. I struggled deeply, at times appearing to be doing well but never genuinely so. A vision of one day writing a memoir would float in and out of my consciousness but I was so out of integrity in nearly all aspects of my life that it seemed impossibly far from my reach.
I possessed limiting beliefs that my childhood wounding would always be the stick in my wheel impeding me from overcoming my toxic behaviors. Every time it seemed that I might be conquering myself, those ingrained habits would get the better of me.
And inevitably, like attracts like. When you are toxic, you attract toxic people, relationships and situations. Thus, my life had manifested into one dramatic shitstorm.
Despite my shaky sense of self, my love for reading endured and a deep interest in the complexities of the brain and behavior was flourishing. I immersed myself in books on psychology, spirituality and personal growth. There was an underlying awareness that existed and was growing. Looking back, now that I have a few psychedelic journeys under my belt, it is astonishingly clear that everything in my life has been leading me up to that night in April. Psychedelics have always been destined to find me. Or I, them.
Autumn 2017, I could no longer escape myself and fell headfirst into a severe depression. I was anchored by my shame and haunted by the memories of my past. I spent the next 9 months unemployed, glued to my couch, rehashing every detail of my childhood and how it had shaped me. I researched the effects of trauma day in and day out, further fueling the fire of hatred and blame toward my parents. My loved ones could no longer stand to see me so imprisoned by my victimhood, and neither could I. So, I met with a doctor who, upon a 10-minute discussion, readily wrote me up a prescription for an antipsychotic and sent me on my way. At which point, my search for alternative methods of healing resumed.
That is until the day I stumbled upon a documentary on Ayahuasca, and without a hitch, the fascination was set in motion. I began studying plant medicine and psychedelic substances, uncovering story upon story of other people like me; seeking natural healing and repulsed by our mental healthcare system. These individuals were claiming that psychedelics had helped them cease life-long opiate addictions, overcome chronic anxiety and depression, healed from the scars of sexual and physical trauma, and the list went on.
Fast forward to April of 2020, after what felt like my entire life was in preparation for that moment, I was ready to embark on my first therapeutic psilocybin journey. My friend and I went into it with the most respect for the mushroom, wanting to honor the Indigenous practices and treat it as a sacred medicine.
We set up different zones; one with coloring books and crayons, another with yoga mats and blocks, blankets and pillows in case we were cold or needed comfort, a writing station, a space for plants and flowers, photographs, and music. Absolutely any which way we felt inspired to go was at our fingertips. We blended the mushrooms with some OJ, drank the concoction, lit candles, and set our intentions.
Blast off...Hands down the most incredible, magical experience of my entire life and changed the course of everything as I knew it. All of that preparation, yet all I really ended up needing was a pen and paper. Layers of the onion peeled back to reveal my essence and I was confronted with the writer who had been dormant for so long, only now she was stripped of the inner-critic on the sidelines whispering “Nobody will take you seriously...You can’t run from the past...You’re never going to change…”
The greatest and most tragic element of all? I felt pure, unconditional love for myself for the very first time in my 36 years. All-consuming feelings of compassion and forgiveness enveloped me, for those of my past who had wronged me, and for my own misdeeds.