I knew from the first or second session that even if this feeling didn't last, just the novel experience of being able to have especially kind of the whiplash of going from feeling really depressed one moment to like later that day feeling like full of awe and wonder. It's like a really amazing kind of eye opener, like, oh yeah, it's possible to feel another way. It's actually... it is possible for me to feel something other than despair and apathy like I can feel joy and wonder and also like sadness and and grief. And but I can sort of re engage with like these emotions that I hadn't I guess allowed myself to experience.
Hello, everyone, and welcome to Field Tripping. Today we are talking with Julian Uzielli. Julian is one of our very own field trip health clients. Our conversation touches on his journey toward finding psychedelic assisted therapy. His experience with us taking the story to the media and how he's doing now before we get started.
Here's your reminder to subscribe to our podcast so that you never miss an episode. Towards the end of the episode, we'll go into our How-To segment, where listeners call in and ask a question for me to answer. If you have a question about mental health, psychedelics or anything we've chatted about, drop us a note at field tripping at KastMedia.com or leave us a voice recording at speakpipe.com/fieldtripping. And as always, if you love the show, leave us your thoughts in a review on Apple Podcasts. It's much appreciated and helps us reach new people to help educate them on psychedelics. Your thoughts help a lot. Now it's time for some news to trip over. The Canadian government has given dozens of people the opportunity to legally consume psilocybin mushrooms in conjunction with psychotherapy. Previously, all of the individuals who had been granted this legal exemption had been diagnosed with a terminal illness such as cancer. Recently, though, the government gave the same exemption to three patients struggling with depression, anxiety and PTSD. These people can now legally participate in psilocybin assisted psychotherapy. The government's decision has set an important precedent. You don't have to be dying to get permission to use psilocybin.This is a big step. The group Decriminalize Nature has its eyes set on the state of Virginia, hoping to pass legislation that will decriminalize a host of psychedelic plants and fungi. At least two lawmakers in the states are helping to push the movement forward by discussing the benefits that psychedelic therapy holds for conditions like PTSD, depression and anxiety. Similar legislation has passed in cities throughout the country, signifying a growing awareness of the power and promise of these substances.
Now, one person whom I think is supremely qualified to opine on whether ketamine is a psychedelic or not, is today's guest: Julian Uzielli. Julian is a writer and producer for the CBC here in Canada and is also the first Field Trip client to join us on this podcast. Julian, who visited our clinic in Toronto this year and went through our ketamine assisted therapy with an open mind and open heart, and turned his experience into a documentary that's aired on the CBC's The Doc project. Julian, thank you for joining us today and welcome to field tripping.
Thanks for having me.
Thank you for being here. So first question, how are you doing today?
That's really great to hear. All right. So the first question, as we alluded to, is in your mind is ketamine a psychedelic?
Um yeah. I mean, it is to me. I mean, I have to say that my answer is yes, but I have to say that's colored by my experience with fieldtrip. Obviously, like the whole thing is, so when I first, I don't know if you still do this with patients, but when I started the program this past January, I was given a copy of How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan. And so I was reading through it as I was doing the Therapy. And it's obviously that sort of psychedelic model has had a big influence on the way you do things at Field Trip. And so it's maybe not a classic psychedelic ride. It doesn't occur naturally in nature, but it's got a very similar. You can use it in a really similar way to the traditional psychedelics, to psilocybin, LSD or whatever. And it seems to me that you can get a similar result, at least therapeutically speaking.
For sure. Take us back and go back as far as is necessary because I'd love to dig into it a little bit more. What was going through your head and yeah, what? Yeah, what was going on? Take us through like the decision to go from. I think you've said that you didn't have much awareness about what was going on with psychedelics and or ketamine at the time. And then you saw that. So take us to that moment above to learn more.
Yeah, I don't know the exact date, but it's been almost exactly a year since I started the whole thing and had my first online, you know, intake sessions and all that. So before that, in the fall of 2020, I was having a very bad time. I was pretty much at an all time low and here's my mental health. I've had depression for basically as long as I can remember, certainly since puberty, possibly earlier. It's kind of hard to say, though. I didn't get a diagnosis until I was out of university, but...an official one that is...I kind of always thought of myself as being depressed for quite a while before I was officially diagnosed. But so what that actually meant for me is that I always had a pretty cynical world view. I would usually take the pessimistic view on things I was. Particularly hopeful about the future in general or my own future. And I things would, you know, it would come and go and sometimes it would be better than others. I would have good months and bad months or whatever. But during the pandemic, like a lot of people, that made a bad situation worse for me, for my mental health. And it was just obviously for obvious reasons, a very stressful time for everybody.
And in addition, just all that on top of the sort of preexisting depression that I already had kind of sent me over the edge. I was just by the fall of 2020, I had been sort of on this decline over the course of the summer, I would say. And by the time I got to fall, I was sort of approaching like not I wasn't really functional.I was calling in sick a lot more often than usual because I couldn't find the motivation to get out of bed or I was so...I couldn't focus on my work because I was so distracted with with like depression and depressive thought loops and a lot of the time. On the worst days, it would be like I couldn't help but think of anything but suicide. I just had these really persistent, intense suicidal thoughts, and I'd had suicidal thoughts before since I was a kid. But these were different, like most of the time... It was sort of like these fleeting thoughts that would sort of come to me, like I wasn't actively thinking about them, they were just sort of pop into my mind and I could like let them go and continue on with my day and kind of just felt normal to me, but at this time, it got worse. It wasn't just sort of fleeting thoughts anymore. It was like actively considering planning. Not even because it's hard to describe, because when I say that, it makes it sound like I wanted to and you know, part of me did, but I didn't want to be having those thoughts. But I see at the same time, I couldn't help it.
Sorry, can I ask a question? Because I'm really curious. I don't know if that's the right word, but. You know what, what like, what did it feel like, was it like a voice in your head? Like, I just had coffee with a friend of mine named Paul, and he talks about how he talks to his soul sometimes and believe that or not doesn't really matter. But he says, You know, when my soul wants to tell me something, I will usually verbally say, why did I do that? And then, like a voice in my head will say, blah blah blah blah blah. And you know, that was kind of like. So he actually has a voice in his head that he very clearly knows is just kind of himself talking to himself or his soul, if you want to believe in that but that's how it actually comes out in a very verbal conversation with them. Is that kind of like what happened for you with these thoughts popping into your head?
Yeah, sometimes it depends, but sometimes for sure. Like for me, yeah, a lot of the time, it would be sort of in the form of an internal monologue, and it would be at sort of the the end of this sort of increasingly negative sort of spiral of thoughts and it might start with like I read an article about how we have eight years to save the world from climate change, and it looks like that's, you know, my my pessimistic nature would be like, Well, that's not going to happen. And then I would start thinking about how well, there's no future like why? Why, why should I even bother? I should just kill myself. Or so it might happen that way. Like, in an intellectual way. Or then other times it was more of like an image. I used to live near the Don Valley in Toronto, and I would go ride my bike in the valley and there's...If you go down those trails, there's like bridges going over them all the time. And every time I would ride my bike under a bridge, there would be like a voice in my head looking up to be like you could jump from there or the worst one of the worst ones was in my house at the time we had these sort of like resistance straps for exercising there, like those T-Rex type straps where you can, like attach them to an anchor point and do like pull ups. Or whatever. And we had them attached to an anchor point on the ceiling and where my desk happened to be. When I was working from home, I could see the straps like hanging behind me in online video calls. And it just I had this image of like a noose hanging over my head and I started having these like uncontrollable sort of this is like impulse, you know? And so. And this was happening more and more and more. And it was becoming harder and harder to ignore. And so I was having at the time regular conversations with my doctor because I was on anti-depressants and we had been talking about increasing my dose. And so I told them what was going on. And he basically said, OK, you need to stop working right now, and we know we're going to focus on this because you can't sort of be an afterthought anymore. So I went off work. I was lucky to have a job where I could take disability leave, and so I was on disability leave for a few months. And once that happened, I kind of thought like, OK, this is serious. Now I need to maybe try something different than what I've been trying so far, which up until then was just medication and therapy. And, you know, which helped a bit sometimes. But at that time, I'm pretty sure, yeah, I was on the highest dose of anti-depressants I'd ever been on. It was also the most suicidal I'd ever felt. So obviously I needed something else. And so I had read articles here and there over the past few years about, like psychedelic therapy. I knew I was vaguely aware of the concept of it. I had no idea if anybody was doing it in Canada, if it was legal at all in Canada. So I just did a Google search and that's how I found Field Trip. And yeah, so that's that's the long answer.
No, it's great. Can I ask a question about how did it feel to go off work at the time? And I'm asking because...when things get difficult for me, work wise, it's one of the things I struggle with and I think a lot of men, not exclusively, but I think a lot of men struggle with this is that we're known as providers and we see ourselves as providers and I could see that...If I was going through a challenging time like you were at the time, going off work would actually almost, I think, make me feel worse because it would kind of validate that...Like not only am I depressed and I'm whatever a loser, but also now I can't provide to some degree. How did that happen at all to you or is this just something runs through my head?
No, totally. I felt for the first several weeks, probably months, at least. I definitely had this nagging sort of shame that I like. I didn't actually want to go on leave. I kind of my doctor had to really convinced me to do it. And actually, I technically was on two different lives because the first time he was like, OK, you need to stop working. And I said, OK, how long? And he goes, well, at least a month, and then we're going to check in after that. So I took that to mean I'm off work for the next four weeks. I'm just going to treat it like a nice long vacation and then I'll be better and then I'll go back. And so I just tried to relax and not really do anything different. And then I actually did go back to work after four weeks and then three weeks later, I was right back where I started. And so that was when it was sort of clear to me like, Oh, it's actually more serious than I thought. And so I, yeah, I felt kind of ashamed that I couldn't do my job and I felt bad for like I was letting my team down at work and and. It was difficult, but I will say after the fact, once I kind of was able to get past that feeling. It was being off work, being able to be off work for for a few months is really one of the things that helped me kind of rediscover that, like the joy in living because, you know, it's but for me, when I was like I was working from home and my desk was like right next to my bed, and it just kind of felt like wake up work, go watch TV, go to bed, wake up. And I just kind of felt like I was trapped. And so, yeah, being able to put that sort of distance between working and home again was a big help.
I can imagine. I ask that because it... It just shows the complexity to some degree of care in this regard, right? And I think it's easy for a doctor to be like, this is going to take work off. It's like it's not like an infection, you know, where it's like, take work off or cover. He'll get some sleep. You'll be fine. It's like, Oh, I can actually make things a lot worse in some ways because of the complexity of what's going on in someone's head at these times, that taking people off work may actually make things worse for those reasons. And so unless you're kind of attuned to that, it can be considered quite carefully. And I have a feeling like a lot of doctors may not necessarily be attuned to the implications of that anyway. So what did you do during that time off that? And how did you keep yourself busy?
Made a lot of sourdough bread like everyone else. I picked up the guitar again. I had played when I was a kid, a teenager, and I was really into guitar. And then it kind of stopped basically as an adult and I, I started practicing again and took a few online lessons. And that was fun, you know, to sort of discover a new, rediscover it old hobby. I played a lot of video games, watched a lot of TV, did a lot of chores, actually just basically did all the housework that before I was like too burned out to do. And it was like, Okay, now that I don't have a full time job, it's actually I kind of like taking care of the house and like making dinner and doing the cleaning and the cooking, but. So that was kind of nice too. Yeah.
Cool. All right. So you take time off and then what happens?
Um, so like I said, I found Field Trip and I was kind of intrigued. Up until that moment. I had no idea that ketamine could be used in this way. I didn't really know anything about ketamine, but it seems basically my mindset was like, What do I have to lose? I may as well try this. And so I was kind of nervous about having to sort of pitch it to like my therapist and my doctor and my wife and my parents and everybody. And sort of I didn't know how anybody was going to react. But so I started off, I suggested it to my therapist and she was like, Yeah, that sounds great, which I was pleasantly surprised at her positive reaction. And so then I talked to my doctor and my wife was onboard and my parents seemed like they're on board.
And so I signed up and I did a video, my first online like intake session, like I said about a year ago and then I did. I started the treatment itself right after New Year's in January.
And everyone was just totally on board? No one was like, "What the hell are you talking about, Julian?" Everyone was just kind of supportive, like, did they know or were they just...
To my face? Everyone was fully supportive, but I later learned that my mom in particular, was quite nervous about the whole thing. It all sounded really kind of woo woo to her, and it made her kind of alarm bells go off and she started doing all kinds of research. But she also knew what my mental state was like at that time, and she didn't want to worry me by worrying in front of me. I guess so. My parents were outwardly really supportive, which helped a lot.
So in the time off, you were generally like, were things heading in the right direction? Or was it kind of a roller coaster? Like what? Because like, if I was getting better at, I might be like, my things seem to be getting better I'm unsure of, I'm going to do this thing that seems now pretty outlandish.
Not, I mean, they're OK. They were less bad, things were less bad, but not good. So the suicidal thoughts did subside, which was like priority number one, so that was good, but I wasn't really happy. I was just a little less depressed than I was before. I still kind of felt trapped because even though I wasn't at work, I was still at the height of the second wave of COVID and we were still stuck at home and it still seemed pretty depressing in like the world outside my house seemed pretty depressing in general. And I was still sort of prone to the same negative thought patterns and all that. Basically, the only difference was that I was not I was not actively contemplating suicide anymore, but I did still feel pretty hopeless for the future and pretty unmotivated to do anything really outside of my house, so.
And actually the night before my first ketamine session, at Field Trip, my wife suggested like I was kind of a little nervous about it and didn't really know what to do with myself that night. And she said, Well, why don't we do like a guided meditation or we can try and relax? And maybe that will help. I didn't really like meditation. I wasn't really...I had...We had done some of these together before and I didn't get it, and I thought it was kind of weird and I felt self-conscious, but I said, OK, well, humor. And so he did, and I just actually got more angry because I was the whole time I kept thinking, like, This is stupid, you're stupid, you're doing it wrong and I ended up just getting really frustrated and upset with myself, not with her, but like, it was sort of that inner voice in my head saying, You know, this is supposed to help, but it's not making you feel better. You must be doing it wrong. There's something wrong with you, and so then I was in a bad mood for the rest of the night and I still in a bad mood the next morning when I showed up at the clinic, which was why it was so much more, I guess, remarkable that when I came home that day after the first session, I was in like a pretty good mood. And I stayed in a pretty good mood for several days after that, which was kind of a big deal at that time for me.
So, OK, you come to the clinic. Tell us about the experience. And I'm asking some genuinely curious because I listened to your podcast, but you're the first person I get to speak to at length about what the experience was like, both what it's like to interact with Field Trip. But I'm also deeply curious about what it was like for your first ketamine experience. So take us through the rest of the first day.
Yeah, sure. So when you walk into the office, it's I think I said in the dark that it feels a lot less like a clinic and more like a spa, which I'm sure is the point, right? It feels really...there's a lot of nice furniture and it feels very sort of welcoming and it was pretty empty because it was like I said, it was January 2021, so everybody's at home. That was actually the first day that I had taken the subway since the pandemic started, and so I was kind of anxious about that to end, but so I came in and everybody is really friendly and...I sit in the waiting room and then after a few minutes, I talked to one of the nurse practitioners that's working there and she came and sat down, introduced herself and basically walked me through like, what's going to happen?
You know, we're going to go into the room and we're going to connect the blood pressure and the heart rate things and asked me sort of standard medical history questions, which is nice and sort of reassuring, right? Because... because I wasn't really sure what to expect. And so then after that, I met my therapist, Robyn. We had met on a video call once before that, but that was our first time meeting in person. So we go into the the dosing room and take a seat in the chair and it's like, those are great chairs, the regulations on finding the most comfortable recliner I've ever sat in. Yeah, these big, huge comfy chairs. And take a seat down in them. And the staff covered me in a weighted blanket, which was nice, but also kind of weird because I couldn't cover myself. They had to do it like and they put a sheet over the blanket because I couldn't touch it because of COVID and it was all very weird because I had had very few like I had really not been out in public aside from like the grocery store. And that kind of thing at all up until that point. So this is one of my first experiences just interacting with other people for this much time in like for almost a year at that point. Yeah. But so you go into the room and after the medical stuff is all hooked up to the the nurse will leave the room and it's just you and the therapist in the room and they're monitoring you from outside. So. So then before the actual dosing, I sat down and talked to Robyn for 15 or 20 minutes about what was on my mind that day and, you know, if there's anything I wanted to focus on. And then it's time for the medicine. And so they give it to you and this little paper cup. For me, it was the oral tablets. So you put them in your mouth, you let them dissolve, then you sweat for 1012 minutes. And while I'm doing that, Robyn was reading a guided meditation, which I thought was kind of funny because what happened the night before with the meditation thing? Yes. But I was like, OK, I'm here, you know, I'm paying all this money, I'm going to get my money's worth, basically. And I'm just going to go along with it. We'll see what happens.
Before we get into the actual ketamine experience like when you walked in besides the anxiety of being somewhere again besides the grocery store in the time of COVID. But it was a sensation where you like, What the fuck am I doing?
Or were you like, oh, this is pretty cool. Actually, I wasn't expecting this. Like, what was it like at that moment walking in the door?
A little bit. Both, honestly, like I'm. Typically, I think of myself as a pretty like, rational minded person, I don't really have any, I don't have any religious beliefs, I have no likes. I didn't think of myself as being a spiritual person or anything. And I've always been very skeptical of anything like alternative medicine. And this to me, kind of was like somewhere on the line between like, quote unquote real medicine and alternative medicine. And then when I came in I smelled the essential oil machine in the air, and I was like, OK, here we go...And then in the welcome bag that I got, they gave me a little gift bag. And one of the things and there was this racy mushroom tincture, which is another thing that made me kind of go like, OK, what am I getting into here? But again, I was like, look, nothing else has worked. I have nothing to lose. I'm just going to do it and see what happens. So, you know, I figured the worst thing that happens is I get to try some weird drugs and it's legal and we'll just see how it goes basically.
So two questions, I'm just going to spin them out before I forget them. One is, like growing up had you tried other drugs, like were you exploratory with drugs? That's my first question and the second question before I forget it is, you know, when you sat down with Robin and kind of talked about what you hope to get from the day and like what your intention was? Can you share what that was in the moment?
Yeah. I had a fair bit of experience with cannabis. And I had tried once or twice before this. I had tried mushrooms and once, like ten years ago, MDMA. But so not a ton of drug use, but also not inexperienced. So I wasn't afraid of the drugs. I was more curious than anything, really. I never tried ketamine. I'd never. I think I only knew of one person that I knew that had ever tried ketamine, and I didn't really know much about it. I was pretty open minded at that point. Like my intention was on the first day was really just to sort of see what happens. I had...You know, my issues at that time were like I said, a lot of it was around just feeling kind of hopeless about the future and trapped and that kind of stuff. And I had also been having some, some family issues, and there's just a lot of stuff on my mind. So we tried, I didn't know what was going to happen when I took the medicine and what we were going to talk about and how the whole thing was going to work. But so I just sort of gave an overview like these are the things that I'm depressed about today. But, then again, like if I wasn't depressed about those things, it probably would have been something else because back when I was a depressed teenager, I wasn't so much worried about climate change as I was about being like rejected by girls or whatever, but it was still the same feeling of being depressed all the time. So I think my brain just will naturally, like, pick a reason, be depressed and then justify it by, like choosing some reason. I'm not sure if it's the other way around. Maybe it is. Maybe it depends. It's hard to say.
OK, I'll come back to that. OK, so you're switching around the ketamine and the experience. What happened?
Yeah. So by the end of the ten minutes, Robin's reading this guided meditation, and I'm feeling super relaxed because it starts to work after that time and so spit it out. And I had a surprise. I had a little bit of difficulty with the coordination. So like they have to hold the cup like up to your mouth, so you spread it out. And I kind of felt a little weird, but also I was too inebriated, I guess, to be self-conscious about it. So I just...You know, spit out the medicine and he put on the eye mask and the headphones and listen to this playlist of these specially curated ketamine music and lay back in the recliner and just sort of go where it takes you. And so that first time it was, I was told, a relatively low dose. So and that's sort of what it felt like for me the first time, I felt really relaxed. I felt really calm. I wasn't angry or frustrated like I was or anxious like I was when I walked in. I just felt really like pleasant and content. It kind of, and I felt kind of loopy. The way I described it to my wife when I got in the car afterwards was like, If you ever had general anesthetic before surgery or something, it's like, then that sort of moment when you've started inhaling the laughing gas or whatever and you haven't lost consciousness yet, but you feel kind of weird. It’s just kind of... It was like being in that state for an hour or two without ever losing consciousness, but there was no hallucination or like epiphanies or anything. The first time I just felt really relaxed.
OK. Mm-Hmm. And then after your first one and we won't go through each one dose by dose, but after the first one, Robyn is still there with you... anything come up or you just kind of like came to and...
I can't remember if we talked about it. I don't think we spent much time talking about any specific issues afterwards. But yeah, so after the hour, it kind of wears off after or starts to wear off after about an hour. And so you take off the headphones and the eye shades and you talk with therapists about if anything came up. And so for me, I was just sort of listening to the music and like, vibing, I wasn't really working through anything that time. So yeah. So I, you know, I had my snacks and my drink and I got my right home and then my next appointment was, I think, five days later or four days later. And I was in a consistently good mood up until like until I came back for the next appointment. And that was pretty remarkable to me for that time so to be in a good mood for four straight days was really impressive. And because at first I thought I was a little bit underwhelmed, honestly, I was like, Oh, is that it? I kind of expected it to be more psychedelic. But I was really by the time I got back for the second session, I was like, Well, there must be something to this because I'm still feeling good. And then each session we went up in dose and after a few, we sort of hit the sweet spot. And, you know, once you hit it, you know, it's very different. Yeah. So when I hit the sweet spot dose, it was like a totally different experience. It was I felt like kind of a disembodied consciousness, like sort of with...Not so much like it wasn't like I was floating outside my body. It was like I wasn't aware of my body at all. I was just sort of consciousness experiencing like the universe, and it was really, really closely tied to the music that I was hearing. So if it was sort of a dreamy type of track, I would kind of feel like I was floating in this dreamscape or if it was really if it was a track that had like a sort of building crescendo feel to it, I felt like I was like blasting off into space like it was very much it's so hard to put into words instead of it's not like you're just listening to the music. You've become the music, you're like one with the music. And so when you're in that state? You have this totally different perspective on everything, so it like on you, you break out of any like repetitive thought patterns, which is a big for me, which is big is a big part of depression is like having these sort of rumination loops that I'll get stuck in about, like climate change is bad and getting worse, and nobody's doing anything about it and yelling and I can't get out of that and that's all I can think about. But yeah, being in that kind of state. It allows you to sort of have totally approached things and concepts and ideas as if for the first time, it gives you this feeling, this sort of feeling of like childlike wonder. And during one session, for example, I had this sort of vision in my mind's eye that I was off, like whipping around the world on this like tour of all the most beautiful places in the world, like mountains and waterfalls and jungles and.
And I was just like overcome with it. I had all this natural beauty. And these are things that like, you can go on YouTube and watch videos of or watch a David Attenborough documentary or whatever. And see the pretty pictures. But it's not the same as this feeling of like it's like you're discovering the existence of these things for the first time and it's like blowing your mind. And I was like, at the same time, had this sort of intimate awareness that, like every one of these places that I'm seeing, is all teeming with life and ike, I'm an organism and we're all the Earth is one big organism and we're all in one and everything is love and, you know. So it started to feel kind of cliche in that way. But I guess I sort of discovered like, there's a reason why there's the cliché about hippies talking about like, love is all you need, because that sort of is the overriding message that you get from this kind of experience.
Yeah, it's interesting. It's like using the example of seeing a mountain. It's like nothing has changed from the first time you see the mountain to the one that you see in the mountain, the mountains, exactly the same, you know? So there's only one thing that's changing in that circumstance, and that's the individual watching it. And I think that's a really powerful insight.
And the session that was the most impactful for me was actually the hardest one too. So five of the six sessions I would say were positive, like I had a good time or like interesting insights, but like not difficult insights but the fourth or fifth one was kind of funny because I actually took a higher dose than the one I had before, but it felt less impactful for some reason, and I kind of was feeling a little frustrated and disappointed. But you know, I'm trying to just relax and do my thing and let the medicine do its thing but right towards the end I started. I started thinking about this sort of difficult experience I had had a couple of years earlier that I guess it stuck with me and I started talking about it with Robin after I came out and we're sort of like talking through it. And then before I knew it, I was like sobbing and I couldn't stop, and just everything just comes pouring out. And the funny thing was that like, I talked about all of these things before in normal therapy, like I wasn't having any revelations or at least like in the sense of like, it's not like I'm uncovering repressed memories or anything like that. It's just again like seeing things in a different perspective, like being able to look at a past experience where in my previous narrative of the experience, I was a failure or I had done something wrong and being able to see that from a different perspective and actually say to myself, No, you just told yourself you were a failure and actually you were in these really awful circumstances and like that could have happened to anybody and being able to change that narrative in your mind that up until that moment just sort of seemed like the objective truth. And realizing, no, it's not, it's incredibly powerful.
It's certainly something that, like I've had to experience and work through, which is and I'm curious to know if this is what you felt, but it's like it's one thing to say. Like someone did something to me and I was really angry. And so I was right to be angry, right? But unless you like, feel the anger or feel the love or feel whatever the emotion is, it doesn't move so like going to a therapist. And then I can really pissed me off and that's what someone did that it's like, OK, yeah, I know it pissed me off. I feel right, but like the emotion is still kind of held inside and like. And I think that's one of the things that's super powerful and certainly I experience with psychedelics and I think what some other people have is like, now you get to let go of the emotion that you've been holding on to rage and actually feel the anger or the sadness or the hurt or whatever it is. And you start to see that some limitations of talk therapy because talk is still fundamentally, you know, from your ears up. But there seems to be, you know, and it's somewhat unscientific still...not entirely, but it's like you start to see that like, there's a lot more that goes from the shoulders down, you know, in this region here.
You know, if somebody had said that to me before I went into this session, I would have been like, whatever. But then it happened, and I had to sort of put my skepticism at the door a little bit. And yeah, and by the end of it, I felt like a totally different person. And it was wild. It was totally beyond my expectations. But, you know, for the first week, for a week, I say after that the hard session it was...I was kind of struggling with integrating this new narrative because it takes some time to kind of. Overwrite the old false memories or whatever or reinterpret everything else, it sort of has this cascade effect on how you think about all these other things and ultimately it was really, really helpful.
So that's awesome. So it's been 89 months since your last session. How what's stuck with you, like how are you feeling and like what's stuck with you? How's it been since?
So it's mostly been really good. I'd say for the first six months after I finished the program, I was in like a consistently good mood, like not only not depressed but happy, and like having plans for the future and reengaging with life and feeling great. And I went back to work about... It was a gradual return, but I started about, I'd say, about six weeks, I think, after I finished the program. And so I've been back at work since then and I was feeling so good, in fact, that I said to my doctor after about six months, you know, like I've been feeling really good. I'm still on these same medications that I've been on this whole time. Should I maybe try and go off of them now? Like I don't want to be on anti-depressants the rest of my life, and I kind of feel like I'm better now, so maybe we should try that. So we tried. And oh man, getting off of psychiatric medication is incredibly difficult. And so this was my third third time trying to get off this one particular-I'm on two. And I got… so I tapered off my dose for six weeks. And then I stopped and, you know, every time I would reduce my dose. I had some side effects, and I expected that, you know, I was a little moody, had maybe some headaches or like trouble sleeping, and I was prepared for that and was like, I can deal with that. This is only going to be for a few weeks, but I was really surprised when I went from the like small dose to no dose. How much worse it got. I felt pretty soon, like I was, like fully just depressed again. I was, you know, having trouble focusing and not sleeping and not motivated, and like all of the… The only difference was I wasn't having suicidal thoughts anymore, but I was still pretty much everything. It was like I was right before doing the program. And I kept thinking like, OK, I know this. I'm still having physical side effects that whole time for two months. Having like this nausea and headaches and insomnia. And I was like, How long is this going to last? And eventually I just sort of said, you know, I can't live like this, like, I don't want to put my life on hold while I wait for who knows how long. So I'm back on the medication and I am feeling much better now. That was...I've been back on for maybe a month and feeling good again, so. I mean, that's maybe a long term goal to eventually get off the meds, but I have to, you know, admit that they do still help me. So the other big thing, though, that's different now is coming out of the Field Trip program. I actually started a daily meditation practice, which is something I never would have expected would happen and I don't think it would have happened without this experience, like being so open to new ideas and willing to try anything like that sort of feeling of the whole world is not like before me. And there's all these possibilities because like I said, I've been reading how to change your mind and one of the really...I thought the most fascinating parts of the book was where he writes about the similarities between meditation and psychedelics in terms of the effects on experienced meditators. And that was all new information to me, and I was like, Wow, that's crazy. Maybe I should give us another try. And so I've been keeping that up mostly...for mostly daily, not quite every day. I actually haven't done it today, but most days since then, and I found it's been really helpful.
That's awesome. The experience of feeling like you're doing it wrong, especially when it comes to meditation, is not unique to you. I still experience it, and I'll give a shout out to a guy who's been a friend of Field Trip and Europe trip East Forest Krishna. You know he released an album called In, which is music for ketamine assisted therapy at the beginning of it. He kind of leads a guided meditation and is like, "Your mind's probably telling you you're doing it wrong, you're not." And like, every time I hear that it is such a powerful reminder of like, Oh yeah, oh yeah, that's right, you can't do it truthfully. But I totally hear that.
Yeah, that's actually… that was one thing I forgot to mention about my first session. That was like one of the main thoughts that I kept having in the first ketamine session was like, Am I doing this right? I feel like I am. I was supposed to be doing something special thinking about something in particular in a special way. And I actually kept thinking a lot of that time I was spending thinking, like, How am I going to describe this experience to other people because I told them which people are going to do it? And they're all like, Oh wow, you got to tell us what it's like. And so I kept thinking like, what are the words describe this experience instead of just having it? So yeah, it's something that I am familiar with for sure. And I still feel that sometimes with meditation.
But yeah, absolutely. Have you become more effective at communicating (I like to say) at effing the uneffable?
I try to be, yeah, it's still hard because I really… it still feels like you. Unless you've had this kind of experience, it's really hard to properly understand it or even having had the experience, like it's difficult to find the words to describe it. Like I said, I'm not really a spiritual person, but I still think of this as having been like a spiritual experience because I kind of felt like I rediscovered love for life and love for myself and like the capacity for hope and optimism and...
Have you become less of a rationalist and less? When I started on my journey not with psychedelics, but just all this work. The first session I had with Irwin. He is like, Here's the thing Ronan is like, You're all in your head. And the thing is, is that when it comes to emotions, when it comes to call it emotions, but call it spirituality, but emotions, it's like you can't think your way out of emotions, emotions and logic. Don't interact, they don't transcend. So if you're like, you're angry about something and trying to think your way out of being angry about it or hurt and trying to think your way out of it's not going to work. They're just very different things. So it's been almost a 20 year process to try and get out of being a hyper rationalist to open myself up to...whatever you want to call it, spirituality and wondering where you've landed on that right now?
Yeah, it's funny. There's been a little bit of a pendulum effect. Like for the first couple of months, I had this real sort of afterglow about me, and I was definitely feeling like maybe we're all part of a universal consciousness. Maybe we're like, maybe whatever. I don't know. I have no idea anything could, could be possible. But that sort of faded a little bit as the experience was further behind me. But I definitely think of myself as more open minded today in terms of like spirituality. I have a much greater, I would say, understanding and much greater understanding and respect for for people that do have a strong spiritual practice or religious practice because I had never been able to really understand that before because I wasn't raised with one, I didn't really have an example for one, but sort of having gotten a glimpse of like what it feels like to have a spiritual awakening, I was like, Oh, this is why all these people all over the world are, have these really strongly held religious beliefs like, I can understand that now? So, yeah, I'm definitely a lot more open to other possibilities and to the idea that like… There may not…like science has the answers to a lot of things, and I'm not a person who distrusts science. I was like racing to try and get my vaccine as soon as I could when they came out. But like, I also am much more open to the possibility, like, well, maybe there's a lot of questions that science can't answer, like metaphysical questions or spiritual questions or like science is not the only way of knowing things, which I wouldn't have maybe felt before.
That's a beautiful thought. Thank you. I think you described your parents as being gobsmacked by how you were different afterwards, if I was going to ask your wife or your mom, how would they describe you as being different now?
They would probably describe me as being a lot more engaged in the present moment, so when I'm feeling depressed, I'll be I kind of tend to push people away and that'll be like, you know, if somebody wants to talk to me, I'll not really give very long answers or I'll just kind of not really put any effort into perpetuating the conversation. Or when I do talk, I'll sort of naturally gravitate towards, like offering up my very pessimistic opinions about the state of the world or whatever. Or I would have like a lot of people, me and my parents have some differing beliefs when it comes to politics, and so I would be much more liable to like...to just sort of get really frustrated or lose my temper when we're having those kinds of conversations. And now I just feel like I want to engage with the world more, I want to have interesting conversations with people. I want to. I mean, they've told me like they can. They can tell them I can tell these days, like when I was having a hard time, like a month or two ago. And I would talk to them on the phone. They would say like, Oh, you're feeling better today, aren't you? We could tell you were in a bad mood the other day, and even though they couldn't see me that just just from the the tone of my voice is more animated. My face and facial features are more animated. My therapist said the same thing that like, I just appear to be more full of life, basically in every way. And I feel like that, too.
How much do you think...just having that sensation of knowing you can feel different has had a huge impact on the trajectory you've gone on?
That's a huge part of it because going into it, I had sort of convinced myself that I was incurable. I thought I had. Created this narrative in my head like, OK, I've been on medication for five years, I'm in therapy. I am stuck in this like rat race and this is the way things are and I am just going to be like this forever and that's the way I am. I've always felt this way. I'm always going to feel this way, so I may as well stop trying. Basically, that was kind of my feeling before going into it. But so, yeah, even just. I knew from the first or second session that even if this feeling didn't last, just the novel experience of being able to have especially kind of the whiplash of going from feeling really depressed one moment to like later that day feeling like full of awe and wonder. It's like a really amazing kind of eye opener, like, oh yeah, it's possible to feel another way. It's actually possible for me to feel something other than despair and apathy like I can feel joy and wonder and also like sadness and grief but I can sort of re-engage with like these emotions that I had, I guess, allowed myself to experience. So yeah, being being aware of that possibility was a big thing, and I think that probably kept me going, you know, for those two months when I was trying to get off the medication. The last time... I tried it two times before and I had only been able to make it like a couple of weeks at most. And it was just that feeling that like. I know that it's possible to be better. And I have the tools of like meditation and mindfulness that I didn't have before, and I have this different worldview. And I was really hoping like those things are going to carry me through this rough patch. And unfortunately, they didn't this time. But I still think it made a difference to know that that another way of feeling is possible because if I was able to experience that, then even if I'm feeling shitty today, I know at least that there is something that works for me where I hadn't really found that before. So I know that, you know, if I do find myself in that kind of hole again, it's actually not hopeless. There is something that can sort of drag me out of.
At the beginning of this conversation, you spent a lot of time, a lot of time, some time talking about, you know, actively contemplating suicide. How does it feel to talk about that now? Like you talk to it so matter of factly now?
Yeah, it feels really distant now. It's been a long time since I've had those kinds of feelings, like almost a year now. And but I guess the reason I'm able to speak, I haven't. I've always spoken about it matter of factly and it wasn't wasn't just because of this treatment, it was just because it did. And I guess to a certain extent, it still does kind of just feel normal to me because I have been having those thoughts literally as long as I can remember. And so it didn't feel like now I haven't been talking about them for as long as I can remember. I mostly kept it to myself, but I didn't like talking about it. Is the thing that's changed since then, so both before the program. I, you know, I could talk frankly about it to really close friends and family. And that was it. But I would still talk pretty matter of factly about it. Now I'm talking to you about it on a podcast. I made my own podcast about it. I talked on panels about it, like, I just don't like that feeling of like shame that I had before wanting to hide. It is gone. I want to talk about it now because. Like, oh my God, this is affecting so many people, I know it is, so many people have reached out to me since my story came out to just say, like, you know, thank you for making this or can you help me find like resources or whatever? Like, so many people are feeling some degree of this, and I know it's been shown many times that, like a lot of people, they won't reach out for help unless they see someone else do it first that they can identify with or they can relate to. And so I kind of figured like I, I almost feel like I had a responsibility to do it afterwards because I like before I was even finished the program, I was starting to think with my like, my radio producer brain. Like, This is crazy. Like, I need to start recording myself talking about this now. In case I didn't know if I was going to do anything, I was like, just in case like, I can help people by recording how this feels now like I felt like. Because I've been able to go through this and because I have the privilege of being able to access the treatment as well, like I want to be able to use that to to spread the word basically that hope exists for people like me. So but I guess to answer your question more directly like it feels weird, it in a sense talking about suicidal thoughts now. And part of that is like, I know it kind of makes other people a lot more uncomfortable than it makes me to talk about. And that's probably the weirdest part still is how people feel. You know, it's funny, like I've been seeing people in person more lately as restrictions have been lifting here. And so I'm seeing even though my podcast came out like six months ago, I'm just seeing people for the first time since then now, and a lot of people have been wanting to say, like, I just want to say, like, I listen to your story and. Like it was, they feel awkward. They feel like I don't know how to talk about it, but I want to know that they can still feel the gratitude. So that just shows me that, you know, there's more work to do, like talking, talking about it is the way to make more people talk about it. So that's what I'm trying to do.
One final question: what advice would you give to a person who's just starting psychedelic assisted therapy or maybe just looking into it for the first time? What advice would you give? Well, what would you tell them about how to set an intention? What music would you suggest they listen to - anything along those lines?
A couple of things. one, I think it's really important to understand that this is not. A magic pill that you take and then you get better, it requires you to do work as well. So the medicine isn't what fixes you per se. The medicine is what shows you the things that you need to fix and then it's up to you to do that. So that could be different for different people. It might be like changing negative behavior patterns or like removing toxic people from your life or whatever like changing your circumstances, if you can. The point is that don't expect it to just make you better and without you having to put any effort on your part. So like and so to that end, basically, you need to fully commit yourself to it if you're going to do it. You need to really be committed to the whole process and just give it an honest try until the end. Like if you're like, you know, engage with your therapist, do the journaling, try meditation. Like whatever your therapist is telling you that you need to do or encouraging you to do, you really have to make an effort to do it, you know, journaling. All of it. I think that that's something - that's sort of the approach that I took. Was just like, Look, I'm just going to I'm going to do the whole thing the way they tell me to do it and I'm going to completely like, basically surrender myself to this process and treat it like it's my full time job for the next three weeks because kind of was like I, it wasn't working. And so I was able I had the privilege again to be able to dedicate myself solely to to this thing for the three weeks of the program and for the time afterwards, it doesn't end at the end of the program, you know, it takes work, it takes...And again, that can be different for different people. For me, it involves, you know, meditation, journaling, whatever self-care looks like to you, exercise, you know? But it's important to know to be prepared to do the work and to be prepared, maybe to confront some uncomfortable truths. It's not necessarily always an easy experience. It's...you can be...Confronted with some...perspective on your life or on a situation that's really different or difficult for you to accept, but it might be something that you need to accept in order to get better. Yeah, just commit yourself, throw yourself into it and do the work, be ready to do the work.
One final question. We're recording this podcast on December 16th and it'll come out early in 2022. So what are the hopes and ambitions for Julian for 2022?
I'm not really a New Year's resolution person, so I don't have any… I haven't really thought about any like specific, like 2022 goals for myself, but I guess I would say I just want to keep. Keep on this path that I've been on for the past year and so trying to keep doing that work, you know, keep up with meditation and mindfulness and being aware of when I'm putting myself into triggering situations and how to avoid them, and because that's that's really been one of the long term benefits is like the way I explain it to people is ketamine gave me kind of kick start. But then it's up to you to kind of sustain the long term benefits. So I was able to learn that like I had been putting myself in really difficult, stressful situations that I wasn't equipped to handle. And maybe I need to, like, take a step back for some of my responsibilities. Maybe I need to focus more on doing things that are good for me before I do things that are good for others. And so I want to continue focusing on getting better, staying better. And I want to keep talking about it, and I want to keep, I want, I want to keep telling people, you know, that there are other options out there, and that it's possible to get better.
Awesome. Sounds like a great ambition for the coming year. So with that, Julian, thank you so much for many things. The first is for putting yourself out there and going through that Field Trip experience. second is for doing your own podcast on it and doing such a remarkable job of telling the story, which I thought was a very
honest and thoughtful and introspective. And finally for coming on today and sharing your story once again and being honest and vulnerable with me and all the people who will listen to this in the future. So thank you.
Thank you. Thanks for having me. It's great.
It always starts with the same question. It doesn't matter if you're having your first psychedelic assisted therapy experience or you're an experienced psychedelic guide. At some point you ask yourself, What is this going to kick in? Now let me stop there for a second. These were the words I wrote trying to document my own first experience with ketamine. If you think it's a pretty weak start, don't worry, it gets worse. I continued, It didn't take long to get the answer within about 30 seconds of the injection into my right arm, which was remarkably unnoticeable. I don't usually like needles. That's worth noting. I could feel the effects starting to kick in. I noticed the effects of the ketamine starting in my lower legs. It felt like warmth spreading through my body. The warmth then shifted to feeling like a letting go of my body. If you've ever been aware enough to feel yourself falling asleep when you can feel your conscious mind letting go of a weakness and drifting into sleep, it was kind of like that. But spreading over my whole body a bit different. Though the best way I can describe it is that to me, it felt kind of like what I'd imagine being teleported on. The Starship Enterprise must feel like your body being disassembled, only to be reassembled shortly thereafter. Yep, there you have it. I just compared a magical, transcendent and transformative experience on ketamine to being beamed up on the Starship Enterprise. I warn you it would get worse, but truthfully, no one should be surprised or ashamed at how hard it is to describe such an experience. Tom Robbins once said using words to describe magic is like using a screwdriver to cut roast beef. But isn't that kind of the point? And speaking with Julianne, I couldn't help but get the sense that the most important aspect of his experience with field trip was that it opened him up to new possibilities and recognizing maybe, just maybe the universe isn't quite, as he imagined, isn't quite as predictable as he thought he gave himself permission to breathe. It's been said that when we accept small wonders, we qualify ourselves to imagine great wonders through this experience at Field Trip.
I believe Julianne accepted the small wonder of possibility that the world isn't quite as dire as he thought, and as a result, he opened himself up to starting to imagine great wonders like maybe, just maybe things are going to be OK.
Don't get me wrong, there's work to be done, and the possibility that things are going to be OK also implies that things might not be OK, but at least to give some space to start moving in the right direction. And there's no greater privilege in my life than opening people like Julian to that possibility.
Hi, I was wondering how psychedelics can be used for addiction recovery like Lamar Odom does. To me, it sounds counterintuitive. I've been sober from drugs for about six years now. I have a family and so I just cannot or don't want to relapse and cannot afford to relapse. And I don't feel like I'm going to. But I'm interested in how that would be used for recovery, and I want to take every precaution, every precautionary measure to keep healthy. So yeah, I would like to know a little bit more about that.
Thank you. Thank you for the question. And yes, it does seem kind of counterintuitive to take one drug to help break an addiction or support recovery from another drug or a set of drugs. But it's been the nature of research into psychedelics since the very earliest days to explore the use of psychedelics to help with addiction. In fact, Alcoholics Anonymous was actually inspired by an LST experience. It seems that the reasons psychedelic assisted psychotherapy can be effective in helping with addiction and addiction recovery are twofold. One is, there's actually a neuro biological impact and consideration. At least it seems so. The evidence, particularly around iboga and ibogaine, is that it can actually alter the receptors in your brain that get triggered by, in that case, opioids, and by adjusting the receptors in your brains. It can actually help stop the addiction on a neurochemical level. But when it comes to addiction, very often we find addictions are the results of emotional trauma and emotional pain. And if there's one thing that psychedelics seem to be particularly good at as well is helping people break or heal the emotional pain or trauma that they've suffered from. And so these two factors seem to have an impact in helping people get through addictions. It's also nice that when it comes to Chicoutimi mind psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin, these drugs are inherently non addictive. So even though people may have some concerns about taking one drug to try and break an addiction with another one with at least a trip means that is something that should not be of concern. If you are interested in exploring using psychedelic assisted therapies to maintain sobriety, the same rules apply, which is find a good therapist or if you can't find a therapist doing legal, psychedelic assisted therapy like we do at Field Trip, find a good and qualified guide who can help you through the experience and really focus on set setting an intention. These are the things that matter with any psychedelic experience. If you do that properly, you will probably have a very good outcome. And by doing so, I think it can really help support you on your journey to healing and recovery by both changing your neurochemistry and by helping to address the emotional pain that probably played a role in the addiction in the first place.
As a quick reminder, you can record your “how to” question for us and we will play it on the show. Just go to speakpipe.com/fieldtripping, or you can email us your questions at email@example.com. That's Kast with a K. Also, please follow, rate, and review our podcast and sign up for our newsletter at Field Tripping.FM or wherever you get your podcasts. Thank you for listening to Field Tripping, a podcast that's dedicated to exploring psychedelic experiences and their ability to affect our lives. I'm your host, Ronan Levy. Until next time, stay curious, breathe properly and remember, every day is a field trip if you let it be one. Field Trip is created by Ronan Levy, our producers are Conrad Page and Harley Roman and associate producers are Sharon Bella, Alex Sherman, Macy Baker and Tyler Newbold. Special thanks to Kast Media and of course, many thanks to Julian for joining me today. To check out Julian's story, visit cbc.ca/radio/thedocproject.