Depression and Anxiety
My Iboga Journey….so far.
A review one month after treatment.
A month ago my life was falling apart or rather had fallen apart.
I was depressed, suffering from intense anxiety, terribly overmedicated and dependant on tranquilizers and anti-depressants which were not making anything better.
I was placed on disability leave from work because of these factors six months previously. I then relapsed on Methcathinone (cat) from which I had 4 painfully earned clean years left wasted over a few months and found myself taking cocaine and large amounts of MDMA along with the Cat. I smoked pot almost none stop in an effort to self-medicate while my long term relationship deteriorated and ended in the midst of this.
I had been the target of crime twice while in this bad space, which compounded my feelings, and I was a complete wreck left with nothing. That’s how I saw it. It was all I could see. I had given up on life and was in a suicidal despair. My family was being affected terribly and I was dragging everyone down with me.
I had just finished my second of two week-long stints for depression in Sandton Clinic in the space of a month and I wasn’t feeling any better than before.
I might have been recently clean from drugs other than my perpetual weed habit but it was an effort to keep it that way and I was relying heavily on tranquilizers and on 4 different schedule 5 medications at once. I needed help badly. Luckily my best friend who lives at the coast suggested I go stay with him and after seeing how the meds were making me worse helped me wean off all of them other than the tranquilizers, which I had become absolutely dependant on and the mere thought of going without them brought up the familiar panic response. None the less I was able to think again and with a clearer mind I decided to address the issues with something drastic.
Two good friends of mine had been going through their own tough time and struggle with substance abuse and told me about their success with going through an Ibogaine assisted detox program. They stressed it wasn’t a “rehab” in any classical sense and they both suggested I look into it as they believed with a pressing certainty that it would help me with all my issues. It wasn’t the first time I had heard of Ibogaine, which is an extract of the root of the Iboga tree which grows in West Africa. I was very familiar with plant entheogens (teacher plants) and the psychedelic experience and Iboga was always something I had heard to stay away from. “It’s not recreational” and “It is extremely intense” were two mental images that had formed from the little I knew about the plant and my knowledge about its uses up to that point was limited to the success stories I had read about its’ use as a detoxing agent for heroin addicts (If I remember correctly there was a Carte Blanche epiode focussing on Iboga for heroin withdrawal).
My preconceived conception about it was that it probably scared addicts straight. To say I was scared of it is an understatement, I was terrified. Ibogaine treatment was something I was viewing as the emotional and mental equivalent of being flayed alive.
I got hold of the suggested facilitators at the Magalies Wellness Centre and immediately was assured, with that same certainty my friends who had been there showed, that this would help me if I wanted to get better. After speaking to Anso, the psychologist who heads the centre, I was sold. She spoke my language and understood my situation and for the first time in a long time I was already starting to feel a glimmer of hope. After confirming a booking into the Magalies Wellness Centre I immediately began researching everything I could read into about Ibogaine. Much of what I read spoke of miraculous cures and the uniqueness of the experience for each individual as well as just how physically and mentally trying it could be. Although I was feeling that this may just be something that could help me, I was not at ease about the experience itself and “terrified” still described my state of mind. There was nothing to lose though as I saw it and it was time for a kick up the backside, a big fat “psychedelic smack” was something I figured I might as well go through before giving up on hope.
Preparing for the treatment I thought I would detox myself as much as possible and attempted to stop tranquilizers on my own a week before. After experiencing extreme anxiety and panic, I soon realised the extent of my dependence on the tranqs and called up the Wellness Centre to explain my situation. I was informed that it was not necessary and that detoxing from the tranquilizers was something the Ibogaine would assist with no problem. Ok, that was a silly thing to have tried alone, so I continued with the tranqs and spent the last few days before treatment in the familiar manageable haze of large doses of benzodiazepines and a constant cloud of weed smoke. I shook non-stop, had lost so much weight I looked close to death and it didn’t take much to get me to burst into tears about everything in my life and nothing at all, I was drained and tired of feeling like someone was sitting on my chest and I thought impulsively and constantly of ending my life.
It was a nightmare and I was really starting to look at the treatment as a “last chance”, a lifeboat that was either going to save me or sail past like all the other treatments and medications which promised to help but didn’t in the slightest. To emphasise the extent to which I had exhausted other treatments over the course of my recurring depression I must point out that I had tried everything psychiatry and psychology could offer, every medication imaginable; hospitalisation, a stint in rehab, psychology sessions, exercise, herbal alternatives and vitamin and mineral supplements and even electro convulsive therapy which is a barbaric treatment that left me with amnesia I still have. These treatments combined never once left me feeling that anything was better or would possibly be getting better anytime soon.
The Monday I checked in I was quite literally shaking with fear and the drive through to Magaliesburg from Johannesburg felt a bit like walking to the gallows. Upon arrival at the centre I was immediately greeted with compassion, love and smiles from everyone there. I felt my concerns starting to leave as I realised I was among people who know what they are doing and are passionate about helping people get better. I related to everyone there and came to realise that many of the facilitators and therapists had been through their own life journeys and sorted out their lives with the assistance of Ibogaine. This was something I was now committed to and the day flew by as I got ready for the first treatment which was to begin at 6pm on the Monday night. There was no eating for 6 hours before the treatment commenced and minimal water was to be consumed for a few hours before.
I settled into bed and tried to do the last of my mental preparations while I had my blood pressure and heart rate checked. The time had come. I received a test dose of 200mg in a capsule along with an anti-nausea medication and was left in the room with a camera watching should I need to signal for assistance. I had been informed that I would recieve my Ibogaine treatment split over two nights, one capsule at a time while having my vitals monitored to ensure there were no adverse effects and the medication was being tolerated. Within what I am guessing was less than 20 minutes I felt my shakes calm down to nothing. I had not expected this initial tranquil feeling before anything else started. My body felt heavy and despite the anti nausea tablet the sick feeling in my stomach set in and my body started to tell me that something stressful was in it. I lay back waiting for the huge trip to begin and closed my eyes tightly as I had been told that any visual experience during the trip would only happen with closed eyes and should I want it to stop I just had to open my eyes. After a few hours of lying there staring into darkness while receiving more capsules to get to my first nights target of 4, there was nothing. The physical side was unbelievable and the nausea and discomfort felt from even moving slightly was something that was not pleasant and although I did not throw up I had spent much of the time feeling a bit ill. It was disorientating and nauseating but it wasn’t emotionally or mentally testing that first night and I was slightly disappointed at not having had a profound “trip” as was described by many others who had documented their experience and by the early hours of Tuesday morning I was given a sleeping pill and nodded off.
“Grey Day” is the term given to the day after treatment. It is a time of trying to process what had happened while dealing with the body stress and side effects like light sensitivity and emotional issues surfacing and the sense that something was changing. We watched documentaries and ate well that day and the next while receiving counselling and therapy from the various on-site practitioners and Anso who brings an amazing insight into the human experience and imparted advice on things like how to manage negative thought patterns into more positive ones. I had already lost all craving for tranquilizers and cannabis and was waking up at the crack of dawn. Something was starting to change, I won’t say I was better on Tuesday or Wednesday. I was still struggling emotionally and felt depressed. We watched informative documentaries and made a vision board which is something I had been wanting to do for a while and was glad to do.
Thursday arrived with much anticipation and a change in expectations. I felt ready to let go and accept whatever came from that nights session. I requested if it would be possible to play some music in the beginning of the session and an arrangement was made to borrow an ipod and speakers. I was hoping that would ease the transition into the experience. As with the Monday nights treatment all safety precautions were taken and the Ibogaine administered one capsule at a time, this time supplemented by Iboga root bark which contains a small amount of Ibogaine along with a number of other plant alkaloids in order to try and achieve the desired effect. This session was very different to the last. The beginning of the trip was dominated by the ambient psychedelic music I had put on. The music was something I can’t explain and for a while I was lost in just how beautiful sound can be, I could feel the Ibogaine going to work on every part of me, both physical and mental and the image that one of the facilitators put in my head about Ibogaine as millions of minions working on the “chip boards” inside me, soldering connections and disconnecting unwanted connections was spot on. After a couple of hours of getting immersed in the music and general feeling of wellbeing (despite the ever present nausea) the music cut out and the trip itself began. To say that you “see” a lot during the trip is a massive understatement. Feeling like an observer I saw so much imagery from my life, quite possibly everything I have ever seen running frame by frame at millions of frames a minute. It was far too much to recall even a single frame and was very dreamlike and nowhere near as terrifying as I imagined. As hard as it is to describe any psychedelic experience, this one takes the cake so to speak. I gave up trying to make sense of the trip afterwards and the notes I had been painstakingly taking throughout the course of the week stopped as I realised that I did not understand or have the ability to translate the actual experience itself afterwards. I did get physically sick that night and purging Ibogaine is not a pleasant thing to do, it tastes revolting.
All I can say about that night is that it was profound, confusing and most definitely felt like I was being reset, rebooted and allowing my various levels of subconscious to process what was far too much to consciously go through. The next day as predicted was a grey day with disorientation and unsteadiness with much emotion flowing through me. Here is where the magic begins. In the weeks following the treatment all I can say is that every day is better than the last. I left the centre with no desire to do drugs, no physical or emotional withdrawal and most importantly absolutely zero trace of the depression that had haunted me for longer than I could remember. I occasionally get a touch of anxiety although it is not nearly the unbearable monster it was before and I look forward to it being a thing of the past soon. The world is filled with hope and beauty and what Iboga has given me is the ability to control my mind and emotions. Being able to choose to feel better is a skill which I did not practice before.
It is difficult to relate it as a spiritual awakening because that means such different things to different people, although this is how I see it. My sleep cycles reset and I rise with the sun and I go to gym most days where it was previously difficult to get out of bed. My relationships with family and friends have changed completely and I have been able to remove myself from groups and people that were not good for me. I am no longer the angry person I realise I had become, with situations in life that would have been unbearable now seeming like nothing more than the surmountable challenges they are. I appreciate the time I spend with my young son in a way I wasn’t able to before. I went from bursting into tears every day for months previously and now the only tears I have shed in the last month have been of joy at the beautiful things that I already had in my life all along which I am now appreciating and massively grateful for as well as the amazing things that I am able to bring into my life with intent. I have stayed in touch with the people from the centre who have become friends as well as having met and stayed in touch with a few other people who have gone through the treatment process for various reasons. The consensus from every single one is the same, despite their different subjective experiences during the treatment and their various reasons for undergoing treatment; from drug issues, burnout and emotional distress to psycho-spiritual reasons. Every one of them is so blown away by the experience that the word “miracle” gets thrown around and accepted as undeniable.
There is so much to say about Ibogaine and the supporting treatment process offered and the strange thing is that the more I try understand it the less I do, all I can say is that it works, without a doubt, it has given me my life back and I will never again even consider antidepressants/rehabs or becoming a “patient” again. This treatment does not create patients, it allows you to heal to a point that is not just a maintenance or relief from symptoms but gives you a chance to be “you” again and what you do with that is your own choice.
If you are thinking of doing Ibogaine assisted therapy, please put aside your doubts and fears and give it a chance, the benefits are so profound and so immediate that they will speak for themselves. If you are seeking to no longer consider yourself sick or a permanent “patient” or are living in the cycle of a twelve-step program, then know that there are people working to fix ailments rather than create patients and they are doing an unbelievable job. It is a leap of faith and one that I am so very grateful that I took, I only wish for others who are struggling like I was to commit to this option and feel good again.