Search Suzanne Crone


Inside, Outside

Posted in Adventures With Humans


Like most people, I subscribe to websites that I find interesting, and then once they begin to send me emails, I delete them almost immediately. Not all of them, but more than half. Recently, poised to hit the delete button on an email from the U.K. news media site, 'The Guardian,' a headline caught my eye: “U.S. Cancer Patient Developed ‘Uncontrollable ‘ Irish Accent, Doctor’s Say.” I clicked on the link. The article described the case of a 50 year old man who, while in treatment for prostate cancer, spoke with an Irish accent, despite never having been to Ireland. The article went on to explain the man’s new lilt as ‘Foreign Accent Syndrome,’ which in this case, persisted until his death after twenty months of cancer treatment. You can google the article if you’d like the details, but, Foreign Accent Syndrome! I did a little searching on this and found items describing people, usually with some kind of head trauma or ailment, speaking with Chinese, German, or French accents. Can you imagine? You’re there in some backwater town in the middle of nowhere, lawn full of hunting dogs, car parts, and empty moonshine bottles. You wake up with a migraine and find yourself quoting Simone De Beauvoir, and ordering Gitanes cigarettes online before your morning baguette and coffee. I know the syndrome doesn’t involve more foreign behaviour other than the accent, but you can’t stop me from imagining it.
My main take-away from the existence of Foreign Accent Syndrome is that we are not in control; the brain has tricks up its’ sleeve. Another curious brain fact is that imagination can impact you as much as reality can in some cases. This makes sense if you consider those moments when you thought of a spider, or a snake, or of having left a burning Gitane on the coffee table and felt anxiety stirring in your gut. Meditation, especially Zen meditation focuses on emptying the mind in order to foster a feeling of peace, of tranquility; you’re getting rid of the mind-spider, sweeping it out of your mind-house. Movies, and plays affect us, fictional stories can make us cry, or laugh, and music, and visual art can bring us to our knees though you know that right now, you really need to shovel the driveway because you can see the snow, you can measure it with a ruler; it is a fact. While shoveling your driveway, you might think about the exam you wrote, or the debate you won, or even that ‘license to practice’ that you hold, and worry that people are going to find out that you’re a fake, and we’ll ride the segue to a symptom of what’s called, ‘Imposter Syndrome.’ I think you’d have to have some kind of robust ego to never have experienced this. I could be wrong, but what do I know? I think if you don’t have self-doubt now and then, you’re dangerous, never questioning if you’re on track just like any of history’s despots, and you don’t want to be a despot, do you? At work, or even–at home?
This begs the question, “Who are we?” I know I’ve had experiences where I’ve said something that surprised me, that I didn’t mean to say, and later thought, “where the hell did that come from?” Other times I am calm, and in control, and can say what I mean, and think, “Now why can’t I do that all the time?” Who are you, and who am I when we meet? What if I’m not as present as I want to be and end up making you think I’m an idiot. But if you’re not present either, how does this work? We need to tap out and come running back and try again. We want to be authentic, because if we’re not, we’re missing out on a relationship at some level, and this is where I feel the world exists–in relationship with the other. That thing there between us, despite being invisible, is the only true thing and it is everything. To be open, accepting, and giving outside of yourself creates the world, unleashes what is possible. I know this from sixty years of hanging around.
The next question is, “Who are we when we die?” Yes, we are done with our bodies, but in regards to relationship, we still have access. I didn’t learn this from hanging around and observing. I learned this from going on a trip, a mushroom trip. No Air Miles, no lost luggage, but a trip nonetheless.
I had done some research in to psilocybin, or ‘magic mushrooms,’ a form of fungi unique for its’ specific, psychedelic effects when ingested. I had read about the therapeutic possibilities in using psilocybin for mental health; for freeing the mentally stuck when other modes were rutted from circumambulation. I want to be clear that all of the therapy I have done over the years has been helpful and worth every penny. Okay, there was one therapist who was a wank, but my work with her was short-lived, and I will write about that another time. Here in my life, there had been a sudden change that had knocked me off my pins a little. In consideration of this, I had been prescribed a light anti-depressant, but decided to leave it unopened in my cupboard and give psilocybin a try. I made this decision based on my desire to take control in a way that would help me better regain my equilibrium, and possibly, move even further ahead. I know that anti-depressants are useful, and save lives; I have had experience with them in the past, so it’s not like I was unaware.  In my case, this latest prescription, the first in over twenty years, seemed a commitment to nothing, to a holding pattern with no healing to look forward to, whereas psilocybin offered potential for movement.
 I had guidance, and started microdosing, which means I was taking small amounts of psilocybin every couple of days. The first time I felt the effects, I hollered out loud, “That’s IT!” The feeling was exactly what I had been hoping for; I felt engaged instead of medicated. There was definitely something good happening, but my goal has been to not need anything, so I decided to take what’s called ‘a heroic dose,’  a carefully considered, more significant amount, and do a full, psychedelic trip in order to break through, get the treasure, the healing.  I know as soon as I say, “psychedelic trip,” you imagine a smoke-filled room, or a lawn full of partially naked hippies; an iconic image from the 60’s counter culture. This wasn’t the case. I made sure my apartment was safe, found the music I wanted, then parked myself on my sofa with my eye shades. No smoke. No Procol Harum, and I was fully clothed, lying under several blankets. The music I had found was arranged specifically for use by a psychedelic practitioner. I had started with some random music for psychadelics but found it irritating and switched to this practitioner set and was happy that I had. I set an intention before I took my dose, a suggestion I had gleaned from my listening to advice from the pro’s. The specific questions I had are not important, but the more general, What is it the mushrooms want me to know? seemed to be the thing. That may sound nuts, but you’re running around your house talking to Alexa, and slave to your Fitbit, so don’t judge. I’m talking to a fungi from a network of mycelium that has been a remarkable part of our planet’s makeup since before mankind was around. Spiders, but no Gitanes yet, and used for centuries by indigenous Amazonian tribes, where, by the way, there is no mental illness. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Alexa.
Enough defending my decision. I want you to know that the outcome of my story is positive, a win, but there’s a difficult piece of relevant information that you need to know; if you’ve heard or read my other essays, you’ll know that my father committed suicide. He initially tried in 1972, with sleeping pills, but succeeded on a snowy December night in 2004, upstairs in our barn, on the farm that I grew up on. I have to tell you that he used a shotgun, because it influences a detail. I hope this doesn’t upset you. I’m sorry if it does. The worst is over, so please stay with me.
I was waiting for my heroic dose (5 grams) to kick in. It doesn’t happen all at once, in fact I was an hour and a half in and was wondering if I needed to take more. “Patience Grasshopper.” I did not. I began to see things, and then realized, “Oh, the trip has started!” The first part dealt with specific questions I had, and they were answered. Then, came the part where the mushrooms got to show me whatever they felt was useful, and it seemed that they wanted me to see my father. At first, I didn’t recognize him. He was lying down, his face was deflated somewhat, and his eyes were looking up toward the top of his head. Then, as my view clocked around him from his left to his right via his feet and not the top of his head, I realized who it was, and in what state he was in though I could see no wound. I had not gone out to the barn on the actual night, so had not seen him. It was my mother who found him and I wasn’t about to ask her to describe what she saw. It is likely that what I was seeing was not how he actually looked, but it was enough to get me to the moment in time, along with the gravity that went with it.
Here, I should mention that I’ve been studying Jungian psychology for several years, and have been analysing my dreams with the help of a licensed Jungian analyst. In this process, I have become aware, and able to participate in my dreamscapes instead of merely observing. I feel that this skill was helpful in my mushroom trip. Back to the barn floor:
I moved closer to my father, and the scene changed to him in the body I was familiar with, wearing familiar clothing, and on the barn floor where I was told that he died. I wondered if I was making this up, but everything I was being shown was from a perspective that I had never used before. I was shown a view of the road from the barn on that snowy night, watching as my car arrived, lit by the flashing light on the roof of the police car guarding our driveway, as if something, someone saw that. I stood beside my father on his right side in this trip, when all of my previous imagining of the scene was from his left. So here we were, my father and I. He sat up, and was whole, not wounded. I held him in my arms but I could not get him to look at me. I could not see his eyes. I told him that “it was okay, that it was all over,” and by this, I meant the line of ancestral anguish and darkness he had been carrying; too much for anyone to bear. I said, “I have come for you.” You should know that I was crying here in my physical body, tears streaming out from under my eye shade, my heart welling. I repeated this several times. That and “it’s all okay. It’s all over.” Then, it was as if all of the paramedics, and the police stood back, and I took my father out. I could see them pause, there upstairs in the barn with the overhead light shining like a Christmas star.
Now, I was shown the barn in another season, in summer, and I saw my father, but he was lithe, and healthy, and handsome, wearing a blue checked shirt and overalls, clothes I had never seen him wear. The big barn doors were open and he was standing, looking out toward the paddock and the fields beyond. There’s a centre pole that sets in used to secure the barn doors closed. I remember this pole was still there, an odd detail, again, something I would not have envisioned if I was making it up.
Here’s a weird thing: for several weeks before this, I found myself watching Robin Williams interview clips, “The Birdcage,” and a few of his other movies. I have learned that there is usually a reason for whatever I am drawn to artistically or intellectually, but the Williams thing I found curious. I had seen a head shot of him, the Wikapedia shot, where I noticed eyes, and a jaw similar to my father’s, but really I wasn’t sure, other than the obvious suicide–Williams in 2014.
At this point in my trip, I was outside the barn with my father when Williams showed up. He and my father hit it off, like good friends, and went walking up through the fields. It was as if my father was excited to answer any and all questions about the farm, the thing he loved, and Williams was keen on making my father laugh. There was an ease and a love between the two that was heartbreakingly beautiful.
The final part of the trip showed my father in a nice, crisp white shirt, in the kitchen, as if he was getting drinks for himself and his new friend. He looked so handsome and finally–finally, while we were both standing at the kitchen counter, my father looked at me–he looked at me, I saw his eyes, and he was smiling. He hugged me, and he said, “thank you,” then with an easy, relaxed, unhurried gait, walked out to the lawn, leaving the door open behind him. I had a clear feeling that this was not at all a ‘goodbye,’ that my father is here, made whole again because in the process of further healing, I was given the opportunity to go back and get him. That sounds arrogant, but it was a clear message, not something I made up, and I’ll take it. I have the therapy bills to prove it.
The dead can’t be brought back to life, but here, it’s clear that there is still relationship. I found the experience with my father deeply moving and so healing. In the readings I have done on suicide, and there have been many, there’s a segment of energetic analysis that suggests the person who committed suicide gets lost when they die. It’s not a natural death, and the brutality of it, the suddenness leaves the soul floundering. Also, there is shame. And I don’t know if any of this is true. Go ahead and ask Alexa, but it’s possible, and so when my father wouldn’t look at me, I was aware that I needed to change that, I needed to get him to look at me so we could see each other, and he would know that everything was okay, that he was found, and that he was so deeply loved. When he looked at me, there in that kitchen, my heart just about burst. Though my father died, wherever he is, we have a relationship. Yes, it could be just the story of him, and this trip was a way to heal my own psyche, and I’ll take that too, but there was something; this was an experience, not a numbing, or a throwing off as in, “the past is the past,” a phrase that always makes me want to chew glass.
“Thank you,” was the only thing my father said during the trip. He never toyed with accents. “Pronounce your ‘g’s’, “ he would tell us, an unrelenting proponent of clear speech. Wherever he is, in my mind, off in the ether, I am made to believe that he’s having fun with Robin Williams. Is this true? The mushrooms felt this was necessary, and in addition to seeing my father’s eyes–having him look at me, it’s comforting to think that he is happy, that he is not alone. Whoever I am, in whatever state of presence, despite whichever shenanigans my brain is pulling, my heart is grateful.