Physical Activity Jolts Brain Into Action in the Event of Depression | Neuroscience News

The study team ascertained the severity of the depressive symptoms, such as a loss of drive and interest, lack of motivation and negative feelings, both before and after the programme. Image is in the public domain

Exercise has a two-fold effect on those with depression. Physical activity reduces symptoms of depression and increases the brain’s ability to change, researchers report.

Source: Physical Activity Jolts Brain Into Action in the Event of Depression – Neuroscience News

So, keep it up with daily walks and whatnot! Original research paper here.

“Ticker” Reframed | The Hire, BMW Promotional Short Movies 2007 ff.

At 0:29 into it: “What is the life of one man worth? Millions more?” Taken from the dialog in “Ticker”, a BMW sponsored series of short films that were released around 2007 introducing new models like the Z4 roadster in this one. The short films were directed by renowned directors like e.g. Ridley Scott – not this one, though – and filmed like a movie for the theaters.

[Action scene, a car speeding down a winding cliff road, helicopter overhead releasing large caliber machine gun fire at the car]

Presidential consultant: “The forces arrayed against you are significant. To be chosen for such a thing…”

Covert deliveryman: “As long as the case is delivered. It’s worth the risk.”

Consultant: “Death?”

Deliveryman: “Yes.”

We see the action scene unfolding some more, the speeding car under fire, the driver and passenger heavily arguing over a briefcase on the passenger’s lap, which seems utterly important to the latter. The passenger appears to have gotten hit by a bullet, we see a blood like fluid on his hand and leaking from the briefcase, which seems to have caught a grazing shot.

Consultant: “Some might say it was nothing more than suicide.”

Deliveryman: “What would you fall on your sword for? If not this, then what?”

The rest is in the video, if you’d like to watch these highly suspenseful 10 mins. of action drama with a (fictitious) political situation’s backstory underneath it.


What has this movie in common with me, if anything? Well, it seemed at least partially reminiscent of some of the downward pull and dramatic dynamic of my own situation that I slithered into that year and more so the following two going on three years. And there was a “reprise” of sorts in 2016 and until only about a year ago, which saw me fighting to keep a roof over my head, not get convicted for fraud that someone else committed in my name and using my personal data and apart from that trying not to go crazy while keeping utilities on. (I probably won’t ever forget the winter of 2010 when that fraud situation must have epitomized without my being aware and only when the the proverbial shit hit the fan and collapsed on me I quickly realized what mess I was in. Mind you: I had two hands full of angry lawyers as well as two D.A.’s offices on my behind whilst fervently seeking to convince all parties involved that I was a victim of a bad situation myself. And all this at a time when I depended on state benefits and any fraud whatsoever would have not only made me homeless immediately, but seen me confronted with additional criminal charges, penalties and whatnot; not to mention direct threats against me issued from the camp of defrauded individuals). “The forces arrayed against you are signficant.” Don’t I know it!

“Some might say it was nothing more than suicide”. Well, I will admit that thought crept up on me more than once. From one day to another it felt as if the entire world had decided to gang up on me. Prior to that and nonewithstanding the everlasting severe PTSD I had been living with all along and never had a word for what was different with me until 2013, prior to all that dare I say that I had my act together in not too shabby a way: (Largely) Self–taught professional musician touring year round right after my release from the military, making a very convenient living, then “reinventing” myself for a more conventional lifestyle, studying for a Master’s degree in Linguistics while holding demanding (temp) jobs with Apple, Inc., Microsoft, in both cases initially for nothing else than data entry and then quickly proceeding to becoming their first contact for input to their engineers while learning everything there was to learn about databases and database design so that I’d start teaching vocational courses with private entities not much later. As if this wasn’t enough, I was also moonlighting as hired translator hand for one of my professors whilst playing a steady gig at a bar on weekends and starting to see a lady whom I’d eventually marry (and get divorced from in 2003). Again, dare I say that I haven’t exactly been a slacker to end all slackers without singing my own praises too loudly…?

And then for some reason… all this dedication and commitment, all this steadfast belief in my talents and my confidence into having prevailed somehow and persevered and my faith into continually coming out on top of whatever life would throw at me… from one day to another it seems, all this gumption evaporated, collapsed, dissolved and vanished like a draft of autumnal air though the open window. The rest is this downward slide I briefly illustrate above. And hence the dramatic intro by way of that movie reference as I’d often feel like your proverbial David pitched against Goliath and his armies of super heroes, all out to get and annihilate me. While some of the more acute situations have not ended in a catastrophe – by a hair, so! –, it still feels as if every day had nothing else in store for me than fighting, fighting, fighting without getting much support from elsewhere. Let me rephrase that: I do get some support now. But it often leaves me feeling like a defeat as the options range from bland to bleak and implicate I stay relegated to the side lines of life, far removed from where “the action” is. Or was, with me right in the middle, PTSD or not. To hell with it! I had found my verve by pondering: So long as I’m not telling, I won’t give them a chance to ever see it in the first place! Seems to have worked fairly nicely for so long. Until it didn’t. That was in 2007.

“As long as the case is delivered. It’s worth the risk.” And that case being… me, succeeding at life. Or something like that. And no, even during those decades that looked like “easy sailing” on the outside, being your happy camper and all, things were hardly ever anywhere near easy, in part because I’d prefer to seek a challenge over too much routine and nine–to–five–boredom. Rather immerse myself in something that has me gag with panic attacks than risk a coma for being underchallenged, you see. That kind of thing. And boy, was I proud over every little accomplishment I reeled in, every little episode of mastering heavy territory with quite your share of bullying blended into it all. I guess, I’m speaking of a really conventional life as it happens for most people in the so-called 1st world nations (prior to the 2008 near-collapse of the world’s financial marketplaces and the havoc it has wreaked, until today, mind you.)

No, I don’t think I have been a total failure, mildly put. And I still employ every resource that I find and breed ideas like others exercise outbreaths. But… the forces aligned against me…

Anyway, yada, yada. It is, what it is, right? Right. I’d say so. That’s why after another decade plus of really getting to the bottom of things and why for the life of me I can’t seem to ever get on a smoother road, I think I have zeroed in on understanding this: At the end of the day, it’s each and everyone for themselves. Really. When you take a hard look at things… we all seem to be living in our own world and the relationships we build and maintain seem contingent with … an often volatile foundation. At least that’s what I’ve been experiencing largely over this last decade plus and during all the years growing up. Sure, there is your “filter bubble” of people that at least keep checking whether you still had a pulse, figuratively speaking. And compared to others, I may have even had considerable help along the way, particularly from one very dear friend, whom I also met at university and whom I’ve been friends with again since somewhere around 2001 (my now ex and I had already split households and each of us lived in their own appartment). And their is and were a number of kind gifts and encounters, which I truly am grateful for! So, no, I wouldn’t say I’m 100% embittered. But… a little. We’re all so distant from each other, when you really feel into it, aren’t we? All it takes to see things collapse very quickly is … missing one step, losing your beat for just a split second. And avalanche of adversity builds in the blink of an eye. Yes, I stand by that. It’s not self-pity, it’s not whining. It’s just telling as it happened to me. (and as it happens to millions more, I’m aware). Let me spell this out again: All it takes is missing one beat!

After learning the root cause of my troubles in life I immediately sought to enlist a good, specialized therapist. And without going into too much detail about that odyssee: It wasn’t until a mere few weeks ago that I found someone and have access to them (in terms of getting to afford them as their services aren’t covered by health insurance; prior to that my health plan precluded me from finding the right fit and every time that I though I had found someone, it became apparent very quickly that all they know was shock trauma, not the complex, more convoluted type. Well, technically, I’m subject to both “variants”). But… really: All it boils down to at the end of the day is symptoms management? For real?! Which in my book sounds dangerously close to “accommodate all those, who never had the misfortune of catastrophic things happening to them so they can go on living in their comfort zone”. For real? FUCK THAT! I’ve had it accommodating everyone and their dog for reasons that never had any significance in the world that others created for me to live in! I was a blame shifter, my wife would notoriously say. Well, from the outside and without further knowledge of the nasty nitty-gritty underneath all my ferocious attempts at blending in one might see me in that light. But that was because I never let on, not even with her. So, she had better shut the goddamn fuck up, thank you very much!

Oh well. Whatever. I’ve really given it everything I had, always, never shy to take on a challenge or ten –and commit to it! Sink my teeth in, dig my heals into it, all of that. And this is where I’m at now: No more. I’m done fighting a battle I can’t win, burnt my embers. I need to have that moment where I get to exhale and relax my jaws from needing to clench my teeth!

What now? I have not the least shred of an idea. Noone ever prepared me for a life that seems emptied of fitting options in so far as I think that anyone with enough self esteem will see to it they amplify their god given talents and put them to good use – for oneself and others. And that’s what I’ve been applying and employing myself. But it is a new day today, the limitations have grown and some seem insurpassable. I can’t be whom I was before. That guy … seems gone. For good. Or at the very least for the past number of years and vacant of new goals to set my sight on. What dreams I had… I think I’m safe to say I operated every crank and handle to make those happen. Even while I’m typing this, it’s not like I’d sit back and pity myself, wasn’t it? Even fairly recently, I though I had found another and doable avenue, which I thought would enable me to carry on with dignity and allow me to bring my prior accomplishments and experience to the table. Well, yes, while it lasted (about four months)

“The forces aligned you are significant.” “What would you fall on your sword for? If not this [i.e. LIFE!], then what?”

Hand it all back to “the universe” and remove myself from the equation? I can’t even think of answers any more. And by the way: This blog entry veered off somehow, I had meant to say something about closure with one of the more devastating events early into my life that seem to have set me on this path of needing to live with PTSD. But … even that… doesn’t seem all that important any more and all of a sudden. Why even give two fucks about anything any more?

Maybe that’s the new challenge. To find out – once more.

Psychedelic Drug Psilocybin “Magic Mushrooms” Spurs Growth of Neural Connections Lost in Depression | SciTech Daily

artist's depiction of neurons
Neural connections illustration, source: SciTech Daily (click on the image for exact reference/URL) | The psychedelic drug psilocybin, a naturally occurring compound found in some mushrooms, has been studied as a potential treatment for depression for years. But exactly how it works in the brain and how long beneficial results might last is still unclear.

Source: Psychedelic Drug Psilocybin “Magic Mushrooms” Spurs Growth of Neural Connections Lost in Depression

I’ve been hearing and reading about the therapeutic benefits of the active agents in Psilocybin for years on end, numerous studies from clinical trials have been initiated and the results come in, in strong support of what the article says as well: Psilocybin fosters the “growth” of neural connections that were found to counteract major e.g. unilateral depression and other mental health issues.

I had hoped for LSD to have a similar effect per a study design at UPK Basel, which I participated in last year (two sessions on LSD at barely above microdosing levels). Sadly, I can’t say that lasting effects are present, at least not over a prolonged period of time (but I guess, the subjective “feel” might have been different, if I had been able to resume a real version of life when the trial period was over; sadly, my life’s circumstances or rather: what’s left of a life are not conducive to positive change).

I’m on a waitlist for another study, this time involving the use of psilocybin. I’m having strong reservations as to ketamine as I believe to have pretty much established for myself that I had an adverse response to it when undergoing surgery as a young by, thus leaving me with PTSD thereafter (and until today). So here’s to hoping they’ll recruit me for their study over here in my home country. I’m not of much use for anything else but being a lab rat at this point, so bring it on, I say!

Update: More on the same subject and a pretty much equal finding here.

Disappearing

For more than ten years I’ve been trying my darnest to resume a moderately autonomous life(style), but had to find that the law for people like myself who had to depend on welfare once doesn’t support that idea. In other words: Once you’ve decided to fully depend on social benefits, there is no turning back. (on paper, yes, but whenever I tried I had to find that I was made to return benefits in higher amounts than what I was able to earn; in plain language: Benefits are being claimed by two authorities independent of each other and regardless of the fact that anyone in the world can only earn and spend money once, not more than what they make. As crazy as this sounds – it is. And it’s a fact, unfortunately).

I’ve been trying not to disappear and find some connection in real life again, a social group of some kind or even just single contacts, friendships. It hasn’t worked out in a dependable way except for one friend, whom I talk to semi-regularly and whom I see every few years.

I feel I have burnt all my resilience. And I can’t keep banging my head against a sky-high brick wall any longer. I have engaged in talks with a branch of social services that will come see me in person at least once per week. I don’t like the idea of needing to give someone access when they request it. But it may well be the only way of ever getting to talk to real people other than my therapist. And as for the latter: I don’t see how I might benefit from this as I now had to realize that the limitations I am confronted with aren’t only with me, they’re just how society “rolls”.

All of this is frankly too much to deal with. I don’t think I can continue dealing with the place that I find myself in at this time in my life. Very dark thoughts of giving up have become close to impossible to fend off. (and this is from more than ten years of having given it all the effort I am capable of).

UNC researcher wants to remove hallucinations from psychedelics | Raleigh News & Observer

magic mushrooms
A vendor bags psilocybin mushrooms at a pop-up cannabis market in Los Angeles. In 2020, voters in Oregon approved a measure legalizing therapeutic, regulated use of psilocybin. (File photo.) RICHARD VOGEL AP

Source: UNC researcher wants to remove hallucinations from psychedelics | Raleigh News & Observer

Is it an oxymoron — a psychedelic drug without the trip? “Basically,” Roth said in an interview with The News & Observer.

Above linked article/interview reports on the work of Dr. Bryan Roth at UNC, who built his “dream team” of scientists to investigate the potential making of psychedelic compounds sans psychedelic effects, like e.g. hallucinations or other altered perception. He has launched an effort of running massive computer calculations that look at ways of altering the molecular structure of the known psychedelic compounds in such a way that they will continue to have therapeutic effects on subjects taking them, but without the “trip” that is often associated with them.

Following the very promising results MAPS.org have had with their MDMA-assisted therapy in individuals with post-traumatic stress the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first ketamine-based antidepressant in 2019. And per a study coming out of Johns Hopkins University, psilocybin might have an even larger impact on treating treatment resistent depression and anxiety.

Roth isn’t new to the field. Just last year he helped publish a paper for scientific journal Cell describing the processes by which LSD binds to the serotonin 5-HT-2A receptor.

“What we’re trying to find is drugs that bind to that receptor (and) activate it, but don’t cause a psychedelic experience and are anti-depressant.”

says Roth, who managed to land himself and his team a hefty $27 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a research organization within the US Military, who are known for funding “high-risk, high-reward” research, i.e. projects that are likely to fail. But if they succeed, they might yield massive (monetary) benefits.

“We may fail,” Roth concedes when referring to the notion that it might be impossible to separate the therapy from the (hallucinogenic) trip. But that doesn’t seem to be DARPA’s major concern. Because if Roth and his team of scientists along with a computer program that is able to generate a billion theoretical psychedelic compounds succeed, they not only have created new psychedelics, but potentially transformative medicine.

It looks as if Nixon’s War on Drugs was finally loosening its grip on perception altering substances, at least where sincere science is concerned. And given the vast number of significant therapeutic benefits from psychedelics new compounds might revolutionize the medical and psychiatric field after all.

Can ketamine-assisted therapy break through mental health roadblocks? | Popular Science

“I tried for years to address my PTSD through therapy and conventional drugs. Then I decided to get high on ketamine.”

Sounds plausible to my ears: Can ketamine-assisted therapy break through mental health roadblocks? | Popular Science

In comparing this experience with my own around this time last year and as screening and preliminary sessions for two sessions with a rather minor dose of LSD at UPK Basel commenced I will say that I had ruled out Ketamine for myself. It is known for its dissociative effects and I had apparently suppressed a rather dysphoric experience I had had at age four for all my life until it resurfaced by way of a brutal flashback in 2009.  (the tax on my body was so high, I passed out on the way to the kitchen, suffered a laceration on the chin and a concussion and had to be taken to hospital that same night to have the gaping wound taken care of; when I awoke after a few hours of erratic sleep, I felt emotionally regressed to that moment when I awoke from surgery at age four and when the original, really (re–) traumatizing experience had happened).

I’m still harboring major concerns in regards to Ketamine in a therapeutic setting. But I think I’d be a bit more confident now as my two sessions with LSD were of a very comforting, almost euphoric nature. Now that I know and have experienced something that comes as close to bliss as I could imagine, I guess I have a ‘tool’ to work with should the effects of Ketamine become overwhelming (or have me spiral into a full blown retraumatizing experience). This is not to say that I’m going to explore on my own nor have I gotten recruited for any of the studies being conducted on the continent I live in. However, I have my radar “armed” for anything along the lines of studies I might be eligible for as well as so–called compassionate use scenarios, although I wouldn’t exactly know where to start with my search for those in my country of residence. Also, when I get a chance to participate in a clinical trial again, I’d be willing to give it a shot with Psilocybin. Anything to regain some connection with my body, myself, my genuine emotions and persona… The ‘life’ I have now is a brutal struggle for survival from one day to another and really… no life at all.

Cruising…

Cruising the Pacific Coast Highway on our honeymoon with the love of my life – or so I thought at the time – was a seminal experience, one of the most significant next to birth – and having survived it! – and all the other landmarks of a more or less stereotypical conventional life’s path. I was on the road to my future, literally and figuratively – again, or so I thought at the time. I see it as a mercy now that one can’t look ahead and really see the future and what it holds. It did hold a number of more joyful experiences following that beautiful two-week vacation in the land of my dreams, again x3: Or so I thought.

Highway One in Big Sur; California. Doug Steakley/Getty Images

Now, I’m confronted with a very different life, whose challenges have often surpassed my not so minor talents and experience. I need to take it one day at a time. I am aware that all of us have their share of burden to carry and deal with, I get it, trust me. However, I will say this and I think I’m not too far off-base in gathering that most of us have an image of self, a version of who they are or aspire to become that they hold dear, right? Whatever that version is and encompasses, I’m pretty sure that we all know that “perfect me” that we all – or most of us – strive for. And I had been under the impression on that particular cruise and vacation that I had come within the closest attainable reach of that perfect life for myself and the dear ones in it that I could have possibly dreamed of.

All of this is now more than 20 years in the past. I know all the boilerplate self-help formulas by heart by now, “you gotta move on, the past has already happened, you can’t go back, you gotta let go, look ahead, when one door closes, another will open”, yada, yada, I heard it all (and wanted to believe it). But… none of these clever people, books and phrases ever give you much practical help in how to deal with the pain of irreversible loss, I find. Especially the latter, when a loved one has passed on, we KNOW for a fact they’re not going to be back in our lives in the flesh. (so that’s the kind of “irreversible” I’m talking about). And more often than that, we get reminded of the huge gap they leave behind. And frankly speaking, I’ve become a little sceptical and even weary in believing that such wounds ever really close up and heal. They heal some alright. But do we really want them to close all the way up? Wouldn’t it be a little like betraying that person who is no longer here?

From years of introspection, of doing the work, of having overcome major inflictions with not much else than bare volition, determination (“eyes on the prize!”) and commitment, perseverance for two or three of them, I still feel inclined to say: Loss is just that – what we once held dear and close to our hearts is gone. For good. It or they won’t return and be back in our lives. It can be a person close to us. And that includes our very self. Yes, we can lose the person we were!. And I think there is no remedy for that blank that such loss leaves behind. All we can do is try and find acceptance that our lives and everything and everyone in it have been altered – for good.

(I hope, you didn’t read this as self-pity. It’s not. I don’t need to be baby-sat, I have been and largely still am a self started, DIY kinda guy. But feelings are feelings. You can give yourself permission to feel them or not. But they’re still going to be there).

Hope, you’re all going to have a nice summer’s day. Be safe. Stay healthy. Get the freaking jab as soon as you can. Peace.

Do Psychedelics Just Provide Comforting Delusions? | Vice.com

Shayla Love champions the approach of marrying psychedelic therapy with philosophy in so far as the ethical implications resulting from psychedelic experiences with their often life long lasting effects aren’t addressed anywhere so far. Moreover, the experiences under the influence of psychoactive agents is being considered to ’cause’ the outcomes that ‘psychonauts’ often report from these experiences. She and a number of committed researchers question that conjecture or rather: They’re suggesting that it required scientific investigation whether or not or to what extent this is truly the case.

Source: Do Psychedelics Just Provide Comforting Delusions?

For quite some time now and from looking deeply into psychedelic experiences and their therapeutic benefits as well NDEs and their dramatic aftereffects, and in particular from looking at a potential intersection of both, an unease has grown in me about the reasons for these changes in people, which often have them change their lives in dramatic ways, abandon former career paths, relationships, even marriages and pursuing a continued journey of self exploration as well as coaching others with that. In particular, the ‘mystic experience’ type has many ‘psychonauts’ drop their former belief systems – if they had any -, converts atheists into staunch ‘believers’ and reaffirms those having walked the various spiritual traditions resulting in even increased fervor of doing so. Bluntly put, it’s become increasingly annoying to me to read the same narrative over and over: People undergo their psilocybin, DMT or Ayahuasca ‘trip’ with or without a sitter, in a clinical or indigenous people’s setting, alone or with others and they ‘come back’ forever changed! And the overlap with NDEs and the often dramatic accounts of having met deceased relatives or religious figures, “archangels” or whatnot were striking to me in so far as they sounded like a different flavor of the same “treat”. And because the experiences typically exceed anything we’d get to encounter on a day-to-day waking consciousness basis, are “ineffable” and “impossible to put into words” that do them justice – as particularly NDErs don’t tire to reiterate –, it is hardly ever questioned or even just systematically looked into exactly of what nature these experiences are: Are they indeed hints to an underlying or “supernatural”/transcendental reality that encompasses our physical existence, are they indeed “proof of an afterlife” as Prof. emeritus Dr. Bruce Greyson purports (who has been investigating NDEs for several decades in his career and who came up with a scale measuring the depth of the experience), do they allow a sneak peek into what’s “really real”? Or are NDEs simply a different type of illusion very akin to psychedelic experiences? So far, I have only seen studies done by Imperial College, London, and another one at the University of Virginia, who provides a neurochemical model of Near Death Experiences (feel free to fill me in should I have missed similar studies from different sources). Both sound very plausible to my ears, I must say.

Plausible or not: The point is that it is typically accepted as a ‘given’ that the nature of both NDEs as well as mystical type experiences during psychedelic ‘trips’ are being taken ipso facto as “realer than real” or some ultimate reality which surpasses and indeed contains our day-to-day experience of life, our Earth, the Cosmos etc. Seriously? Based on which criteria should that be so? Because every single person having had such an experience tells us so? (and others typically don’t or not often confront them knowing full well that we so far lack a commonly agreed on framework for these experiences which would help to identify their significance with regard to our understanding of our world or more specifically: The human condition, human consciousness; particularly the latter is still very poorly – if at all – understood with one camp suggesting it was an ‘epiphenomenon‘ and others insisting consciousness was the ‘base substrate’ that permeates the cosmos – and everything in it.) So long as we haven’t found at least some common ground even with more mundane issues like e.g. whether or not there was free will in humans to begin with, how could we possibly tackle the more complex questions arising from psychedelic experiences and what I’ve come to believe to be a subset of the former, i.e. NDEs? (Fairly convincing work has been done on the correlation of a near death experience and psychedelics and how it is that NDEs produce such vivid imagery and “spiritual” experiences – and it had been my personal hunch all along, I will say).

So, I guess after … all in all an amount of time comprising decades of personal research into these phenomena complete with a NDE–’like’ experience of my own at only age four, I’d have to place myself in the camp of sceptics denouncing the possibility of an afterlife or any kind of ‘transcendental’ reality that awaits us when we die. I am not seeing that it was easy for me to contend, there are some major ethical and other implications one is somehow prompted to come to terms with. On the other hand, the evidence we have is not convincing to me, albeit I’m well aware of the super rich body of anecdotal reports from ‘survivors’ of NDEs and the likes. (I’d have to counter that very wording by saying: If you survived it, you weren’t dead, as death is an irreversible condition).

But to each their own. I just linked above article, because I thought it to be valuable in terms of making serious attempts of finding a base set of criteria that might help to put such experiences, extraordinary as they may be, in context and perspective. (Oh, and b.t.w.: I had two psychedelic experiences in the context of a clinical trial last year, none of which produced hallucinations, so they might qualify as that type of experience that is transformative to an extent (and therapeutically viable in that regard) minus the psychoactive/hallucinatory/mystical content that so many report and which some scientists quoted in the article call for.

Free free to see for yourself, if so inclined (I mean, the article 😉 )

Ethnographic Accounts of Ketamine Explorations in Psychedelic Culture, here: Kenneth Ring’s Frightening Ketamine Experience

Whoa! I think I am at liberty of giving myself permission to have incurred long lasting post-traumatic outcomes from my own “NDE–like” experience at age four in the context of surgery and when getting anesthesized with either truly Ketamine or a very similar anesthetic being used at the time (ca. 1970). As I have repeatedly mentioned in other blog entries, I still sometimes wake up with night terrors from this experience that I must have dissociated from for more than four decades until it instantaneously resurfaced in a huge flashback in October 2009, when I suddenly had the entire and complete memory of this experience return to my waking consciousness along with a knowing that I had indeed had something of a frightening NDE at that time, something I’d more recently and cautiously began referring to as an NDE–like experience after having immersed myself in the literature as early as age 14 – roughly in the mid 70ies and after Moody’s “Life after Life” had just been released – and with renewed determination and dedication of inner exploration and integration following my flashback in 2009.

I just finished reading the first part of this paper by the California Institute of Integral Studies issued in July 2014. (I’ll link to a downloadable version as I’m not sure about their rules on disseminating this paper publicly and can’t risk any copyright claims or any such thing). I’m likely to read the rest as well, but will give myself pause for tonight in another set of searches over the course of the last few days for information that might help me make sense of just what the heck it was I underwent – or should I more aptly say suffered – as a young boy when undergoing throat surgery. In cutting to the chase: Prof. emeritus Dr. Kenneth Ring of their department of Psychology at the University of Connecticut recounts several psychedelic sessions in the context of having gotten invited as a speaker at the Esalen Conference in June of 1985. Seeing as he had been a researcher of and expert on Near Death Studies for most of his career, he had been invited in that capacity. As seemed to be a culturally accepted custom during those times, him and other individuals involved with the conference or other research projects collectively underwent experiences on MDMA and Ketamine in private settings (with harm reducing measures in place, as I understand the paper). While most of his Ketamine induced experiences were of the “trippy” and near-ecstatic variety, he mentions one particular experience some time after Esalen – but in context with a personal encounter preceding and following it – that had him deeply disturbed with its contents and which he would be adversely affected by even until days later. (He also mentions in this paper and personal account that to this day – he’s 85 today – he had never forgotten the experience and the very disturbing contents it seemed to convey. Specifically, the nature of the common “dissolution of ego”, which Ketamine “trippers” notoriously seek out and subject themselves to, and where the latter is usually experienced as a state of ultimate bliss, this time Prof. Ring’s experience was radically different: He came away from it with a “message” or understanding that ultimately humans aren’t real, that we are rather led to believe we were, when in fact we are what he calls simulacra or to quote him about this part of his “trip”:

But only the images are real, not the people. We were no more than simulacra— the whole of existence was not as we supposed. Instead, it was empty—just full of moving images. Who or what was behind the projector? Nothing … . I am certain that I have never experienced anything more unnerving and psychologically destabilizing in my life. I felt that all points of ordinary reference and meaning had dissolved and that it left me, or what I had thought of as me, completely void.

Prof. Emeritus Kenneth Ring on an experience with a high dose of ketamine

Yikes and then some, no? This… idea of not only humans, but everything about life as we know it including Earth, other people, life events being a complete projection without any real basis or factual reality to it, such was the overwhelming and utterly terrifying nature of my experience as well – at effin’ age four for cryin’ out loud! If a seasoned “psychedelics veteran” at the time and grown man with a firm sense of identity coins this experience as nothing more unnerving he had ever experienced and [nothing else more] psychologically destabilizing, what the heck do you think it does to a four year old?! In fact, as I recalled the contents of this entire experience in this brutal flashback in 2009 with all the distressing somatic expressions most likely associated with it at the time I originally experienced it, not only was I given the message that humans didn’t really exist, but that nothing existed, had ever existed nor would ever exist! I was made to understand by some unseen, shapeless “entities” for lack of a better suitable word and in a telepathic kind of fashion that everything I had ever thought about myself, my life, my family, creation at large – to whatever extent I may have had a concept of the latter – was just that: A figment of “my” and in fact everyone’s imagination, a projection we are born with and allowed to believe in, which in fact is not based in reality and that in fact the whole of creation had …. never happened nor would ever happen! Oops… I guess, I should have issued a trigger warning…

Well, other than these semi-regular night terrors I still encounter every once in a while, each of which is really horrible to the umpteenth degree when it occurs and sees me waking up from my own screams of terror…, I don’t think that it affects my day-to-day “life” – or rather what’s left of it – much any more. And in fact, in trying to make sense of whether or not this very early experienced and dramatic “altered state of perception/consciousness” was either an NDE or something else, I am now more than ever leaning towards NDE–like. In fact, given my own experience as well as Prof. Ring’s contributions in the field and more recent research into the commonalities of NDEs and psychedelic experiences like e.g. this or this, still being the sceptic I’d take both phenomena for coming from the same realm of the human psyche and/or biology. To be more precise: I still don’t and simply can’t believe in an afterlife…; I rather take NDEs – spectacular as some may seem and as extraordinary as some of the experiences may be, just a hair shy of “proof” – for just that: An altered state of perception invoked by a “flood” of naturally produced chemicals in the brain, such as e.g. DMT, which make the process of “fading out” better bearable. Or to be even more “brass tacks” about the entire idea of an afterlife: I find this idea to be an utterly distressing one! What? Eternal consciousness and existence? That…to me… feels like the biggest trap one could find themselves in. It is entirely likely though that my personal position on the phenomen is … shall we say “clouded” by this early … “k-hole” experience I seem to have had.

Does that put my mind at ease? I don’t know. And frankly, I can’t care too much. Other traumatic events preceding that one have an ongoing grip on my soma and have produced complete incapacity. So… that latter part is what I’m dealing with on a daily basis and which reduces perceived quality of life dramatically. But then… I guess, I was “preaching to the choir”, right?

(P.S. I should note that having had two mostly very pleasant LSD experiences in the context of a clinical trial last year was very helpful in hopefully countering the outcomes of that early terrifying NDE–like “thing” – or such was my hope. Sadly, though, I had had another severe night terror not too long ago, so… I guess my hopes of “overriding” the memory by way of a happy “trip experience” did not manifest the aspired outcomes and lasting effect. Oh… bummer. However, in looking at the brighter side of things: At the very least I know from experience that such “oceanic feelings” do happen. And … that I can experience it as well, ideally without the use of still illegal substances… And yes, nature does it for me. So.. .that’s good, after all)

Difference in Action of Ketamine vs. Other Psychedelics? | Psychology Today (Annie Lennon)

Source: Charles Thonney/ Pixabay

And why this differences is important in considering use cases.

Source: How Does Ketamine Work Differently from Other Psychedelics? | Psychology Today

Here’s an article by Annie Lennon, co-authored by MD Dr. Jeffrey Becker, explaining how ketamine works very different in the brain when compared to other psychedelics like e.g. LSD, DMT or Psilocybin (the latter is the active agent in “magic mushrooms”). Her key points are:

  • Whereas ketamine works by relaxing the brain’s inhibitory architecture, psychedelics work by overriding it.
  • Because ketamine and psychedelics have different mechanism of action, they may be better suited for different use cases.

Psychedelics work to “relaxe” (ketamine) or “overwhelm” (other psychedelics) those brain functions that inhibit altered states of consciousness in our waking consciousness. In doing so the brain’s coordinated interplay of different brain regions gets temporarily disengaged or altered, thus invoking “profound insights” and “mind altering” states as typically reported by experiences of psychedelic substances. In above linked source Annie Lennon and Dr. Jeffrey Becker explain how ketamine works differently from other perception altering substances, which might make it therapeutically better suitable for conditions like unilateral chronic depression, anxiety disorders and/or trauma related symptoms.

The authors stress that “set and setting” are crucial with both given their fairly dramatic effects on the mind and psyche. (I can personally attest to it from two experiences with minor doses of LSD when participating in a clinical trial at UPK Basel last year.) More info in the link above along with URLs to related reading.