Psilocybin and Cluster Headache: Jim's Story
Jim shares his journey with cluster headaches, going from living a normal life to awaiting an accurate diagnosis. Jim dives into the complexities of life completely changed from severe pain, the risks and challenges of the variety of medications, and techniques of managing pain abortive and prevention techniques and increasing his own quality of life. Jim came to Eleusinia and found some of the unexpected. One man’s journey back into a place of hope. Listen here or on Apple Podcasts.
Jim: The sky is a deeper blue. The sun is warmer. The coffee in the morning is just a little bit different. You’re damn right I have a different look because I feel different, and I have some hope.
Tawnya: This next episode is so educational and informative. Jim tells his own story of the battle he’s fought with cluster headaches for over 30 years. He describes in detail the treatments that he’s tried and the risks that he’s had to take on because of these treatments, his experience at Eleusinia and the hope and the plan that he has going forward. You’ll love this, enjoy.
Jim, thank you so much for coming to the show. It’s so wonderful to have you here. Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and why you decided to attend Eleusinia?
Jim: Oh, yes and thank you for the welcome. It’s great to share my story. If I can help anyone out there searching like I’ve been searching, that is exactly what I’d like to do. So it’s a pleasure to be here. My name is Jim and I have cluster headaches. And I’ve been suffering with that disease for about 30 years. For those who may not know exactly what cluster headaches are about, I thought I would just give a brief description:
Cluster headache is not a migraine. They’re often treated and clumped in with migraine, but a cluster headache or, I call them attacks, that is not a migraine. I do not mean in any way to diminish someone who suffers from migraines because they’re intense and they can be debilitating. But a cluster is different. And as the name implies, these attacks come in clusters. They hit me and others who suffer kind of rapid fire. A cycle will start out kind of at a low boil. It will crescendo to a high boil. And then it’ll fall again until it peters out.
A cluster cycle, at least for me, can last anywhere from two weeks to my longest cycle has been almost five months. So the length of a cycle can vary, and the time in between cycles can vary.
At first, my cycles hit me only every three years and only lasted a couple of weeks. And as the years progressed, the cycles were more frequent and so that at some point I was only getting maybe two or three months headache-free, and the cycles were longer.
Like I mentioned, the cycles kind of start out slow, they crescendo and then they fall again. But when it’s in a high boil, they can hit in an attack three or four times a day. So it is kind of, that’s what I meant by “rapid fire.”
The pain is unlike any other pain I’ve ever experienced. The pain feels like… I’ve described it as an ice pick just jammed into the back of my eye, maybe through the side of my head. And then it’s kind of like it’s being manipulated, so it’s just on fire.
When it is at its height, the pain that I’ve experienced, it’s not like you can just, ” you can manage anything.” It’s rolling on the floor, grabbing your head curled up, screaming. I call that a “screamer.”
So the pain can go anywhere from, of course, like, you know, that old pain scale, one to 10. It can start out at a one and rapidly increase to the most intense pain I’ve ever had. I’ll call that a 10. That can happen in a matter of minutes. So if you start feeling this thing come along, you know you have to act fast if you have any type of abortive treatments or you may miss the window and the thing will spike on you and you’re in real trouble. Without an “abortive,” or something to arrest the pain, the actual headache pain can last anywhere from an hour to two hours. And again, that that starts out a little bit slow than it crescendos, it stays there and it drops off.
So I wanted to just differentiate a little bit about those who suffer with clusters from other types of pain and certainly other types of migraine. It has been described as one of the most intense types of pain someone can endure. So anyone who suffers from clusters, I have a lot of sympathy for, because it is debilitating.
When you’re in a cycle, whether you’re in pain, actually having an actual attack or awaiting one, waiting for this shoe to drop, there’s also another phenomenon that is that a cluster cycle can do. And that is it can cause real psychological trauma because it, number one, it’s fear. You’re so scared that at any moment you could be on the floor.
So it makes work difficult. It makes social arrangements difficult. And so people withdraw. I certainly did. It makes it really hard to go to work. It makes it really hard to join a… go to a party or go to a movie, even to go out to dinner. So you’re in fear of when it’s coming next.
There’s another effect that is also pretty debilitating, and that is, as my neurologists have told me, a pretty much a “shutdown” in serotonin in your brain. When you’re in a pain cycle, serotonin is pretty much shut off, which causes depression. And that is nothing to just shake off. That is a pretty debilitating feeling of despondency and helpless.
And so you’re battling during a cycle really, I think three things: You’re battling the pain, the fear of pain, and the feeling of helplessness and depression. So it’s basically a shit show when you’re in a cycle. So it took a while for me to get diagnosed. It’s actually pretty easily diagnosed if you get the right kind of doctor. And it takes a while sometimes for people’s cycles to really start taking shape so that the doctor can diagnose it.
Once it’s diagnosed, and again, that can be a little bit of a trial and error process for people. I have found that there are three avenues for treating this. One avenue is called what I would call the Abortive avenue: finding some type of intervention that will arrest the pain. That’s, I think objective number one for people who suffer. When you start feeling “the beast” as cluster heads call it, when you start feeling it being active, you have to move pretty quickly. And it’s great to find or have something that you can take so that you don’t hit a 10 or a nine or even a seven or a six. So those are the Abortives.
Avenue number two: finding some type of intervention that will hopefully stop a cycle. Hopefully at the beginning, but maybe when your cycle’s at a full boil, you know, finding something that can not only abort the pain but kill the cycle. And then the third avenue is what I would call the preventive avenue, finding something that possibly could prevent a cycle from ever starting.
So each one of these three avenues that I’ve kind of outlined has a different approach. Certainly the doctors approach those three avenues in a different way. They have different tools available to treat that, and it’s confusing. And some things work, some things don’t. For an abortive versus something they think can stop a cycle won’t necessarily abort the pain.
So I think, for me anyway, I’ve had to pursue all three avenues at one time. And like I said, there’s some crossover, so it gets a little confusing sometimes. Another thing that’s confusing about treating this is the medical profession: doctors. If you went to three different neurologists about clusters, you may get three different recommendations. Three different approaches, and some of them would be inconsistent.
So that’s another thing that’s a little bit confusing. I have start and stopped being treated by several neurologists. So, that’s a little bit about just clusters in general. Just really quickly, on the abortive level, something to find, to treat the pain or to, you know, to arrest the pain… I have found that oxygen really helps. When someone, when a doctor first told me about oxygen, it was hard to believe that something so heinous as this cluster could be treated with oxygen.
It’s not just oxygen that you may, you know, see people walking around with an oxygen tank and something in their nose, like a, an emphysema or something. This is maybe 15 liters per minute with a rebreathable mask on. So you’re just basically hyperventilating 99% oxygen at about 15 liters per minute. So it’s a lot, a lot of oxygen, quick, and it will arrest… it’ll take me from a nine or a 10 down to a two or a three in about 20 minutes. That is something that I found to be helpful.
Oh, and by the way, I should say any of these treatments that I can quickly outline here, there are pros and cons to each treatment. One of the pros of oxygen is that it’s relatively inexpensive. It’s easily attainable, but you’re hooked up to an oxygen tank. You can’t really go at certain places with your little friend at your oxygen tank trailing behind.
The other thing too that oxygen has done for me, which is maybe I would call a negative, is it doesn’t keep them, the spikes, the attacks away as long as some other interventions. It can make you dizzy. So be careful when you do your oxygen and stand up. It makes you lightheaded because you’ve been hyperventilating a hundred percent oxygen. So there’s oxygen as an abortive, that worked for me.
Sumatriptan is another great abortive. There are all kinds of triptans. Sumatriptan IM, intermuscular, see you gotta give yourself a shot will very effectively, within about 15 minutes, it can take me, just like oxygen from a 10 down to a two or three within minutes. Problem with sumatriptan and problem with a lot of triptans is it is an intensive vasoconstrictor. So the older you get, or really anyone, if there’s something in your pipes like cholesterol buildup or plaque or I don’t know whatever else they call it, and your artery shrinks because of the triptan, you can cause heart problems, you can cause stroke, etc. So it gets a little dangerous.
Any triptan, you will find the recommendation from the manufacturers and from the doctor is to not take that more than four times a week. Anything over that they say is beyond their recommendations, which makes you a little nervous when you’re doing it four times a day. So you know, what I do is I mix oxygen and sumatriptan shots. There are other abortives I’m just highlighting, for me what I found throughout all these years was oxygen and these sumatriptan.
But for me, I got tired of the oxygen tank and I got tired of the stress of the sumatriptan. So I started thinking, I need another abortive. I need to find something that’s more sustainable long term that’s easier to use but is effective. So the second avenue, you know, trying to find something that stops a cycle… there are all kinds of things like prednisone.
They’re pros and cons to prednisone. But it, for me, I’ve found, did help stop a cycle. But each time I’ve used it, and I’ve used it many times, I’ll get relief for maybe a week or 10 days, but it will always pop back up and sometimes when it pops back up, it comes with a vengeance. But if you know, prednisone for me did work. But again, there are pros and cons. Prednisone is pretty harsh. It makes you grouchy as all get out. You can’t sleep. You feel like you’re going to explode, but there’s no pain. Except for it doesn’t sustain. Botox, did it. Tried it several times. It does give some people relief, particularly other migraine sufferers. But that did not work for me. Tried it.
Another one that helped stop: occipital nerve blocks. Tried those several times with no, no results at all. But for some, that helps. Ketamine treatments. I’ve done ketamine treatments many times. I’ve done ketamine through submersive treatments, IV submersive treatments in a doctor’s office. They also included with those treatments Nayzilam, Propofol, Zofran, something called DHE, Depakote, Lidocaine. So what I’m saying is, is that my neurologist did ” ketamine plus,” so it was ketamine plus a whole bunch of other drugs. I’ve done consecutive, three consecutive days, several times of that. Like other interventions that did give me some relief. But again, each time I’ve tried that, “the beast” has returned with a vengeance.
So again, just like the abortives, the things that I have pursued to stop or kill a cycle have only had moderate results. Therefore, just like the abortives in the avenue of trying to stop a cycle, I knew that I needed to pursue something that was different, maybe off the grid a little bit, but something that I haven’t pursued. And then the long term prevention. What can you take to prevent this thing from ever stopping? There are all kinds of drugs that the neurologists will throw around. Things like Aimovig, Emgality, blood pressure medicine, anticonvulsants, acupuncture, ear piercing, change of lifestyle like retirement, which I pursued. All of those I have tried and none of them has prevented a cycle from recurring. So again, of the three avenues… prevention, I’ve tried multiple, multiple interventions with no success.
So again, all three avenues. Abortive, killing a cycle, and preventing a cycle. I’ve really tried hard over 30 years to pursue, and in each avenue I finally came to the conclusion, look, I got to try something else. I have to take a different approach to this disease.
And psilocybin came to mind because in the last few years there’s been a lot, there have been just a lot written. I read Michael Pollan’s book, “How to Change Your Mind.” I read about psilocybin research and what they’re doing in psilocybin clinical trials and a lot of anecdotal evidence and stories from people who have tried psilocybin to treat all kinds of things, specifically cluster migraines.
So my interest really peaked. This is something that there’s been a lot of discussion about. A lot of, there’s been a kind of a renaissance in interest in it. The problem in my brain was all the baggage that came along with it. Number one, it’s illegal. Number two, you know, it’s the, you know, Haight Ashbury and San Francisco walking around in a robe type of stuff, you know. So, you know, I’m a pretty mainstream guy and all of a sudden I’m looking at using a schedule one illegal substance.
But let me tell you folks, when you’ve been through the hell that I’ve been through, and when you have tried the avenues that I have tried, you get to a point where look, my wellbeing is quite frankly more important. And so my mind started opening up to this possibility. By the way, I should say that my neurologist, in whom I have great trust and faith, about three or four years ago said, you know, Jim I have patients who get relief from psilocybin. And so she’s the one who planted this seed of, you know, psilocybin.
She certainly couldn’t recommend it and dispense it and treat me with it, but she planted a seed of, you know, psilocybin is an option. And, but again I don’t know how to go out and get mushrooms. I don’t know what park to go to and put up a sign and say, “Hey, I am a cluster head. I need mushrooms.”
So it seemed out of reach to me. It seemed like I was thinking, “well, yeah, that’s great for some people,” but that seemed like something on a different planet that was not accessible to me. So, fast forward, you know, to a current time when I’m researching and hearing about psilocybin. And I’m just trying to figure out how am I going to do it.
So, it was my wife who dug in a little deeper than I did and found Eleusinia. And it was good timing because it was right after what I would call a failed ketamine attempt. And I looked at the website and I pushed reserve. It was a leap of faith for me because I had jitters about it. I was scared about it. I didn’t know. I was… I was scared. It was out of my comfort zone, by a long shot. And as I analyzed why, “Jim, why is it out of your comfort zone?” It was out of my comfort zone because I’d been told it should be out of your comfort zone my whole life. Right? And when I really dug into it, on one side of my brain, it was like there’s nothing to be scared of, quite frankly, Jim.
Psilocybin is way less dangerous than that treatment that I just experienced in my neurologist’s office. They just pumped me full of all kinds of medicine. And by the way, every time I shoot up my Sumatriptan, I could stroke out. What could be more dangerous than that?
So I started talking myself into it. I did a lot of thinking about it. I did a lot of reading about it, and I did a lot of reading on the Eleusinia website. And it made me feel a lot more comfortable. Here’s the situation with Eleusinia. They are expert in my opinion, and by the way, I did do a retreat at Eleusinia.
I looked at, you know, looking at the website, it just was perfect for me because they provide everything you need. They provide what the experts call “set and setting.” They have the right setting. They help you prepare mentally for it. And the staff there are… were just unbelievable at holding the space for you and making sure you knew that you were safe.
That’s all on the website, and it just calmed my nerves. So I pushed reserve and got on a plane and off I went.
Tawnya: Did you book a call with Jessica, Jim?
Jim: So after I pushed reserve, then the next prompt is, okay, we’re going to make sure you can book a call with Jessica at Eleusinia before you reserve or just right after, just to make sure that you’re the right kind of candidate and that you know, what you’re searching for is something that they can provide. So yes, I did. Finally, I did get on a Zoom call with Jessica and we talked about my specifics, what I was searching for and what my hopes were. And then it got all arranged. It was super easy to arrange. They keep you informed. They let you know what to bring, what not to bring. And all you gotta do is show up with comfortable clothing and an open mind and some motivation.
Tawnya: Well said.
Jim: So, you know, like for example, one thing that I needed and couldn’t bring was oxygen, just in case I had some attacks. And I didn’t want to use Sumatriptan shots. I did bring my Sumatriptan. Didn’t have to use it because they had oxygen for me. So I walk into my room and there’s the tank, all ready to roll. I should report that I didn’t need the oxygen either, but it was there for me and I was very grateful for that.
So, you know, so I showed up to the retreat I had a lot of high hopes for figuring out a way that maybe psilocybin can help me abort pain, to help me kill a cycle maybe, and to maybe even help with prevention to prevent a cycle from stopping.
Now again, it was all a big question mark because number one, could I tolerate psilocybin? Was it going to be too hard for me? Was it too much of Mount Everest for me to climb? Was I going to have a bad trip? Was it going to be something I couldn’t tolerate? That’s one question.
Another question is, well, how am I supposed to do this moving forward? It’s one thing to do it at a retreat for five days, but what happens, you know, next March when another cycle comes. How am I going to do this? So I had a goal of: number one, can I tolerate this? And number two, can I figure out how I could actually use it for all three of those avenues that I described?
But something else happened to me in my experience at the retreat is… not only did it give me hope about treating my disease in all three of those avenues. But it also did something quite remarkable about my psychological outlook, my emotional approach to this disease. That was a hidden benefit that I did not see coming and I did not expect.
The psychological boost that I got from attending the treatment was as important to me as the hope that my attendance gave me about treating physically this disease. So, you know, I arrived and they don’t mess around. They jump right into it. So one thing that I really, really liked about their itinerary was that they provide the opportunity to take two different doses. One is a five gram dose of psilocybin and one is a 1.5 gram dose. You’ll hear different dosing levels tossed around a bit. Micro, macro, mini, sub-mini, below perception, Herculean, and all this kind of stuff. They take the mystery out of it. They just let you know exactly what’s in front of you.
So I experienced two different doses. The five gram dose and the 1.5 dose. They refer to that at the retreat as the “macro dose” and the “mini dose.” I am very grateful that I got to experience both because they’re very different experiences and the takeaways from each dose level were very different. And I’m anticipating that as I continue to explore how psilocybin can help me, I will continue to learn about dosing and what effects that I can take from a macro versus a mini and vice versa. So really helpful there.
Another thing that I saw on the itinerary was this thing called “DMT.” I didn’t know what the hell DMT even was. But they explain it. Of course, they explain it on their website and they give you all kinds of information when you’re there. But for those who may be wondering, DMT is the psychoactive ingredient found in Ayahuasca. So a full Ayahuasca experience is very different than just taking DMT. It is an intense psychedelic experience, but for me anyway, there was nothing to analyze or think about other than sit back and watch the movie. But it’s an intense psychedelic experience, but it only lasts for about 10 to 15 minutes. That was my experience anyway.
They suggested that the DMT could be a tool that I could use for cluster to abort, to abort an attack. Like I use my oxygen and like I use my Sumatriptan. The whole process start to finish is like maybe 20 minutes. So I was very curious about what this DMT stuff was all about and I was able to experience that as well, a couple of times actually. So, just to be clear, then, I did experience a five gram dose of psilocybin, a 1.5 dose of psilocybin and the DMT.
The other great thing about doing it there is the following: Well, there are several, but the group there, the staff, they fill you in on what to expect. They fill you in on what not to expect. One thing I learned is expectation is the thief of freedom. So that if you go into it with some specific expectation… of course I went into it with high hopes, but that’s different than an expectation. If you have an expectation that you’re going to go and have this experience and confront your worst fear or your worst problem and that doesn’t necessarily happen you’re going to be disappointed. So they help you with putting your arms around that concept.
They also help you with putting your arms around the concept of – you need to trust the experience. Now that can be a little tricky for someone who’s never tried it, like myself, who has some jitters about the whole thing. Yeah. Trust is, yeah. Telling someone to trust is one thing, but actually doing it is. It was such a trusting, comfortable, safe environment that you could trust that you were going to be okay.
They were there always to what they call, again, “hold the space” for you. Right? You always knew there was someone there. Oftentimes during the experience people would just come and stand by you and wouldn’t say a word. You were able to orient to space and time because someone was just there.
Tawnya: Would you mind starting from the beginning of macro dose day and giving us a description of what it was like moving into that?
Jim: Oh, sure. They give a lot of comfort in providing set – your mindset and the setting and letting you know that it’s going to be safe and to trust. And so I went into that with a really firm base of, look, Jim, you’re just going to have to just float down the river. Right? Just, just don’t fight it. They teach you this beforehand.
And it was a big deal to me during the experience that you don’t have to stay stuck on a bad channel. You can shift. And oftentimes all it takes is an actual, you know, roll over or get up and walk over there, shift the setting. Shift your mindset. You can change channels. If there’s an experience that you are feeling that is uncomfortable, you may choose to stay there, but you don’t have to. You can shift. You can change channels. So I went into the experience knowing that I can shift if I’m uncomfortable, I’m going to be safe.
And trust what they’ve told you. So that’s important. I think all three of those elements, very important as you experience this. Especially if someone’s trying it for the first time. So that’s what I did. I took the five gram and they help you with breathing and calming your mind and it’s very ceremonial and it’s done in a very respectful, calm way. Folks, this is no party drug. This is really a solemn event here.
And everyone there is searching for something too. Everyone else is there striving to find out something about themselves and improve their life. So it’s a feeling that everyone’s in the same boat. Everyone’s there trying also, and they’re scared and they’re taking a leap of faith. So you have this great feeling of comfort. So they take, I took it, it was in a paste. And it took not very long before there was some pretty intense psychedelic hallucinatory response for me. I wasn’t scared. I realized this is… this is what I signed up for.
And it was quite frankly, very pleasant. I personally was very introspective. I did not want to communicate with others, although I’m glad they were around. And I saw people moving about and people would come to check on me, but it was a very quiet, contemplative, introspective time for me the whole time.
It was for the first couple of hours, I would say, Tawnya, that it was, pleasant. It was not agitating. I did see people, some of my peers, the other guests that were agitated, or at least it seemed to me that they’re agitated. I didn’t know exactly what their experience, but I got a little bit worried. And again, because of what they’ve told us before, don’t worry about other people. Worry about yourself. And if you want to interact, you can, but you don’t have to. Everyone else is going to be just fine. So I trusted. Again, trust. I trusted that I don’t have to worry about it anyway. I’m just here for me.
So I kind of went inward. So it was very, it was a very quiet, contemplative time for me. And that lasted, Tawnya for I know at least a couple of hours. And I was calm, I was not agitated, and it was quite frankly, peaceful. And then as I went through the day, it changes. It’s not a static experience. It’s not just like this “it’s happening. It’s happening.” It moves. It goes up and down. It’s a very dynamic, fluid situation, and the intensity level of it is also dynamic. It’s not static, nor is it just a crescendo and then de-crescendo. It moves up and down at different points, at least for me, during the day.
And I should say, without getting too personal, that there was one point about midday or toward the end of the day where I had what I would call a very profound experience. And that is I, eyes closed, I had some, a vision of, of what I interpreted to be “the beast.” Now, again, I want to pause because I don’t want people to think that you’re going to confront your worst, terrible fear because that may or may not happen. For me, I saw an image that I associated with the pain in my head, and I didn’t expect that, I just sort of made the connection and I was able to really stare at and analyze this really scary image, very scary image that I associated with my pain. And sure enough, as just like any other images that you see, it started to change, morph and it ultimately went away.
My takeaway from that was that I am not, I don’t think, able to “kill” this beast that I have, but this experience taught me that I can stare at it. I can not let it consume me, and it’ll… then it’ll go away. Just like the pain always does, but I don’t have to let it terrify me, even though looking at this thing in my image was absolutely terrifying. But it went away and I want to highlight that because I think that’s why I feel different about my disease: is because I realize that this beast that has plagued me for over 30 years is not going to consume me. It’s not going to get me.
I have some power over this thing, and in fact, I’m fucking brave. Sorry for the F word there, but, I’m brave to face this. I’ve never felt brave about this. I felt underhanded. I’ve felt misunderstood. I have felt like I’m the only one on the planet that has this thing. I felt like this thing is way bigger than I am.
And that experience… forget the pain, the physical pain part of what psilocybin can do. That part of “I am brave” and I can stare this thing down was a very powerful thing for me and I’m not going to forget that.
The 1.5 day was a very different experience for me. And again, there’s a big difference between five grams and 1.5. And it’s different for everyone, right? Some people have just as an intense experience with 1.5 is they do with five grams. And I can tell you that I’m one of those persons.
Now, let me just say that the five gram was like climbing Mount Everest. Jay told me that. It was exhausting. It was hard. It was, that was an exhausting experience. Meaningful, as I’ve pointed out. But it was exhausting. The 1.5 grams for me was not exhausting. It was for some people, but it wasn’t for me. But my 1.5 day was filled with utter joy and an utter sense of beauty and peace. And for me, that was just as meaningful and as important as the vision I had of staring down the beast with my five gram day, right?
So it was the 1.5, it was not as… it just wasn’t as intense in terms of your brain wasn’t as moving as quick and you weren’t analyzing everything that you looked at. It was just put on some music that I love. You know what, I’m going to be specific about this. In fact, I called over to Jessica and said, “Jessica, nothing’s happening. Something’s wrong.” And she said, “Yeah, something’s happening. Yeah, it is.” And I was like, “Okay”. So I sat there a little bit longer and I just started feeling really peaceful and calm and I just sort of sat.
I sat and watched this water fountain and listened to it and sort of stared at the sky, and I just felt so calm and peaceful. Well not, not necessarily euphoric, but just like really sort of just “mmm.” I haven’t experienced that for a while. I put some headphones on and I listened to a work that I have loved throughout my life.
And I listened to it. I’ve listened to this, well, it’s Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Everyone’s heard of it. It’s the Ode to Joy, particularly the third movement. I’ve heard it dozens of times in my life. So I put that on, cranked up the volume, sat in a hammock and I listened to it.
And I’m telling you, it was as if I had never heard it before. I was listening through the notes. I was listening behind the notes. I was listening underneath the notes, and it was the most beautiful, joyous piece of music I’ve ever heard. Well, like I said, I’ve listened to it dozens and dozens of times before, but this time it was remarkably different. I was experiencing the world and my senses is in a different way.
I can’t necessarily describe it because the whole experience is ineffable as they say. But I was experiencing something that I had never experienced before listening to the same piece of music that I’ve listened to dozens and dozens of times. What I’m trying to suggest is even though it wasn’t climbing Mount Everest, it was an experience that I’ve never felt before, and it lasted all day.
It was just this feeling of calm and of joy and beauty. And who can’t benefit from several hours of that feeling? It was a fantastic experience for me and quite frankly, as meaningful, and I would say as intense, as the five gram experience. But it was more manageable.
Quite frankly the five gram dose seems that it was hard enough that I don’t want to… I don’t want to do that again for a while if I don’t have to. But that’s the key. You don’t have to! You don’t have to climb Mount Everest every time to get some benefit from this substance because I got a great benefit from the 1.5 gram. That day was very important and meaningful to me.
So what does all this mean for my headaches? So that’s the big million dollar question.
I left the retreat with hope that I have not had in 30 years because I know that this psilocybin can do something for me psychologically for how I perceive and view this disease and view the world and my place in it. And it also has great hope for figuring out a dosing plan that can manage the pain when I’m in a cycle. Perhaps even prevent a cycle from coming. Now, that part is different for every cluster head. That part is different for everybody. So that part is going to be some trial and error.
And I’m a planner and I’m a linear thinker, so I’m like, “I need a plan. I need a plan.” And the plan is… well, you don’t have a plan. You don’t leave feeling like, what the hell, what do I do now? There is a roadmap. I have a plan to dose at a certain level for a certain period of time. Take a break. Try it again. And then, you know, if I can manage my pain during a cycle with some frequency, and some level of dosing, that’s my goal. And then I think also to prevent, I’m probably going to be doing some dosing plan moving forward.
It will be a bit trial and error in terms of frequency and level of dosing, but I know how to do it. I know how I will respond. I know I can manage it, and the mystery of it all has vanished. And for me, it only holds hope, which I haven’t felt for a long, long time with my disease.
So if you choose to experience this retreat, you need to know that they will provide the mindset. They’ll provide the physical setting. They’ll give you a plan going in. They will talk about your experience while you’re there so you can make some sense of it all. And you leave knowing that if you want to pursue this type of treatment there’s a roadmap to do it and you’re going to get support along the way. So it’s a very empowering thing.
It demystifies the whole thing. And I would encourage anyone who’s struggling with something and has exhausted their toolbox to give this a try. In fact, I’d even go further than that. Don’t exhaust your toolbox. Don’t go through the brain damage I went through. Give this a try.
You know, I kind of laugh at myself now a little bit because at one point a doctor told me, Jim, your headaches are being caused by tension and stress in your temporal mandibular joint. TMJ. You’ve heard that phrase, TMJ-stress. And it’s because you have a bad bite. Your teeth are… you’re not making the connection and your teeth right? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So what we’re going to do, so we’re going to send you to an orthodontist. We’re going to put braces on you for a year, and we’re going to get you ready for surgery. We’re going to go in and chop your jaw in half and slide it around and move it into a different position, and then we’re going to staple it all shut. And then you’re going to have another year of orthodontia, and then you’re going to have a better bite, you’re going to have more room in your head. The TMJ will go away and your headaches will go away.
Can you imagine? I was actually going to do that. I actually went to the orthodontist and I put my braces on, and about three months into that, I said, yeah, I’m not doing this.
So when I say when, I say “use all the tools in your toolbox before trying Eleusinia,” I don’t really mean chopping your jaw off and jumping through the fire. Because you don’t need to. This is a viable alternative to all kinds of treatment and I’m very grateful that I did it.
Tawnya: Thank you so much, Jim. I heard you say earlier, prior to the podcast you were kind of concerned about going home to a house full of holiday guests and they had perceived you a little differently.
Jim: So yes. I left and I had told, of course, those with whom I’m close. My children, and of course my wife knew what I was doing, but my kids and some of my family members, what I was up to, that I was going to go do this psilocybin retreat. I should say that all of them without any exception, they were only extremely positive. I don’t know what I was expecting. Like, you know, “Dad, what are you? What? You’re going to go do shrooms in Mexico somewhere? What are you doing? You got mad at me for smoking weed when I was,” you know, all that kind of stuff.
I thought I don’t know how they’re going to react, but they were all so supportive. In fact, I have a physician friend who said, “Jim, I’m surprised you didn’t do this years ago.”
So I had a lot of support on understanding going into it, but I also knew that coming home, there was going to be a house full of holiday guests. And I was a little bit worried about walking through the door and everyone just be like, “okay, tell me first of all, are your headaches gone? And, and tell me everything! What happened? What happened?”
I mean, this is not an experience that you that you can really write about. That’s not an experience that you can really communicate about because it’s too hard, it’s too complicated, it’s too personal. And it’s, I don’t know, for me it’s kind of sacred. I don’t want to just go talk about it over the Turkey dinner. Right?
So I was a little worried about that. And they didn’t push me at all. Of course, they understood and I just said, look, I’ll tell you what I want to tell you, and I’m not going to tell you what I don’t want to tell you and bug off of, you know. And they were completely fine with that.
I was a little self-conscious about it, but more than one family member, including my wife, said there’s something that’s different about you. You have a different look in your eyes. You’re not all slumped over. You have a different, well, I’ll just call it different spring in your step. And my response to that is it’s because I do. I do have a different look. I do have a different outlook. I do have a different spring in my step.
Number one, this beast is not going to kill me. This beast is not going to consume me. And I know that when I look at that tree, it’s maybe different than I think. It’s maybe different than I have thus far perceived. When I listen to a piece of music, I’m going to listen to it differently and it’s, it’s kind of cooler than I ever thought.
The sky is a deeper blue, the sun is warmer. The coffee in the morning is… it’s just a little bit different? You’re damn right I have a different look because I feel different and I have some hope.
Tawnya: Wow. Jim, that was fantastic. Thank you so much. You were so excellent at telling your whole entire story.
Jim: I hope I can help someone in their own journey and I’d be happy to share in the future.
Tawnya: Yeah, and I hope that you do stay in touch and share how your planning is going as you navigate this moving forward.
Jim: I will, because it is going to be some trial and error, but I’m not intimidated by the process. And I, you know, I feel like I know what I’m doing. So I will be happy to share and take advice from others as well.
Tawnya: Oh, thank you, Jim.
Thank you all so much for listening, you can find all the information that you need to learn everything about this retreat on Eleusiniaretreat.com.
We are a retreat that offers ongoing integration, support, breathwork classes, and cultivation support after you have attended this retreat. It’s an amazing experience that’s one of a kind. If you’re looking for a science-based retreat, something out of the box, something to change your life, something to add to your practice, this is where you really need to start: Eleusiniaretreat.com.