If you’re experiencing anxiety following a bad trip, you’re in the right place. I’ve been exactly where you are right now – and I’ve gotten through it. I created this site to help people who are struggling to understand what happened to them and how to get back to normal. I am so sorry that you had to go through a traumatic trip, but I have no doubt that you’ll become stronger and wiser through this experience. I know it’s hard right now, but the more you can look at this as a positive opportunity to change and grow, the faster you’ll begin to heal.
First things first, there are a few things that are really important for you to understand:
- What you’re experiencing is normal: anxiety and uneasiness is a natural response to a scary, traumatic experience. Many people go through this and heal from it. You truly are going to be okay.
- While you may feel like a totally different person now, you did not “break your brain.” You will feel normal again.
- The anxiety does not have the power to control you unless you let it. I know that is probably hard to believe right now, but framing it this way in your mind is the first step you must take to actually get in control of it. If you continue to believe you are powerless against your anxiety, that will continue to be true.
With this understanding, it’s time to start regaining your feeling of normalcy and confidence about your life and your ability to function, while understanding that this dramatic, transformative experience was something that happened for a reason. You chose to do the psychedelic for a reason.
Step #1: Understand why bad trips can happen
A “bad trip” is a psychedelic experience that is scary, difficult, ominous, unsettling, traumatic, or otherwise unpleasant. It is entirely normal to experience anxiety after going through something traumatic. So, why do bad trips happen to begin with?
- Taking more than you can handle: If you took a large dose, upped your dose, or mixed multiple substances, it’s likely that you ended up taking more than you were ready for. This made the experience too intense, and you had a hard time coping with it.
- Trying to stay in control: When tripping, many things happen that are out of our control. It can feel as though you’ve entirely lost control of your mind, and that is a very scary experience for some people. When you try to forcibly control a psychedelic trip, things can generally become very tense and take a turn for the worst. It’s best to surrender to what ever is happening in the experience.
- An anxious disposition: Psychedelics tend to magnify our personality traits. If you struggle with anxiety in your daily life, it’s possible that the trip magnified that tendency.
- Emotional difficulty: If you haven’t been in a great place emotionally recently, it’s possible that your troubled emotions were heightened by the trip.
- The wrong surroundings: Usually, it’s best to take psychedelics in a safe, relaxing, and familiar environment, especially when you’re inexperienced. Many people, however, trip in loud, busy, and unfamiliar places such as concerts, music festivals, camp grounds, and even friends’ houses. These unfamiliar or destabilizing environments can lead to a sense of fear and panic.
- The wrong people: It’s extremely common to trip as a social activity. If someone you tripped with scared you or made you nervous (even if they didn’t mean to), it’s important to spend time examining your relationship with that person. They may not be as they seem.
- Fear of having a bad trip: If you were afraid going into the trip, it’s not surprising that you had a scary experience. Taking fear into a trip can be detrimental, and I would always suggest to wait until your no longer afraid.
These are very broad explanations of some of the general reasons that trips can turn difficult. I’m a big believer in the idea that, if you can start to understand what led to your difficult experience, you’ll begin to be less haunted by it. In order to help you further analyze what went wrong, I’ve created a questionnaire that you can fill out. If you’d like to fill out the questionnaire, you can click here for the Google Doc. This link takes you to a read-only version of it, so you’ll need to click File>Make a Copy in order to save it to your own Drive and edit it. You can also read the version that I filled out.
Step #2: Infusing the anxiety with some logic
The next thing to do is to write down everything you can possibly remember about your trip, in chronological order and in as much detail as you can. This is the beginning of thinking about the trip objectively, because by taking it out of your brain and putting it on paper, it becomes less ominous and strange.
Thinking objectively and logically about a scary trip is very important. The experience you had was largely subconscious, and while the subconscious mind is extremely powerful and beautiful, it is definitely not logical. We spend so much of our typical lives trying to make logical decisions and basing our understanding of the world on logic that, when we are thrown into the totally illogical, subconscious realm of psychedelic trips, it can be too much to handle. This can give you an uncomfortable sense of anxiety that lingers long after you’ve come down. After an intense trip, it can be difficult to shut off the illogical side of our minds, almost as if someone left a door open somewhere in the house and it’s letting cold air in.
Take what you’ve written about your trip and make sure to note the parts of it that were particularly scary for you. Try to understand why those certain things were so scary. If you were terrified because you were really feeling like you were about to die, why death is such a scary idea for you? Was it the way you were going to die? Were you thinking about the people you’d leave behind? Was it your uncertainty about what happens after death? Write down these thoughts and try to keep asking “Why?” until you feel like you’ve gotten to the root of the issue. You may not fully understand why something was so scary, and that’s okay – you will in time. For now, just write down everything you do understand or think.
I can’t stress the importance of writing down your experience enough. This is one of the most relieving experiences because it allows you to just get it all out. It will help you to no loner ruminate on what you experienced and mull it over in your mind. It will help you to look at what happened more clearly, and it will help you analyze what caused your difficulty.
Step #3: Understanding your anxiety patterns
The next thing to do is to start keeping a record of everything to do with your anxiety, especially if you’re having what you might call an “anxiety attack” or a “panic attack.” Write down everything about these experiences as soon as they start to occur: What’s the day and time? Where were you? What were you doing? What were you thinking about? How did you feel? What do you think triggered the anxiety? There are a few reasons for doing this:
- You can start to understand the patterns and triggers for your anxiety, so that you are more prepared for and objective about it when it starts to happen. This starts to remove the anxiety’s power over you.
- You gain a reference that will help calm you when you do have anxiety. When you start to feel some coming on, you’ll be able to refer back to your notes and realize, “I’m simply having some anxiety right now, and it’s totally predictable – nothing is really wrong.”
When dealing with this anxiety, it’s important to remember that it’s coming from the subconscious mind, which has the noble goal of trying to protect you against a perceived threat. It doesn’t realize that there is no threat or that the threat is over, and so it starts trying to protect you again (anxiety) as soon as it perceives a threat again (a trigger). In order to get past this, you’ve got to start seeing your anxiety for what it really is and disassociating yourself from it – try to think of it as an old friend who you’re playing a game with, and the object of the game is to not let him or her take control of you.
Once you get the anxiety attacks more under control, the next step is to work on healing from them and understanding the lessons the trip was trying to teach you.
If you’d like someone to talk to about your bad trip anxiety or someone to help you go through these processes of understanding, I am happy to do private sessions. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.