Today we’re shedding light on the complexities of psychedelic experiences and their impact on mental health, particularly in the context of depression. This article is inspired by our thought-provoking podcast interview with David Gamburd, which you can listen to on all streaming platforms.
David, a male in his 30s employed in the field of marketing, not only serves as a client of Psychedelic Passage, but is also a valued member of our co-founder’s, Nicholas Levich, men’s group. We delve into David’s personal journey, exploring the pivotal moments and realizations that led him to consider psychedelics as a means of healing.
As David recounts his hesitations and the shift from recreational use to intentional healing, listeners are drawn into the genuine and vulnerable exploration of his path. David provides valuable insights into the complexities of antidepressants, emphasizing the need to strike a balance between their benefits and potential limitations.
He shares his transformative experience of grappling with the contrasting emotions that psychedelics can bring to the surface, highlighting the invaluable lessons learned in the process. This article contemplates the nuances of healing with psychedelics and dispels the myth of a quick-fix solution while acknowledging the potential for profound transformation.
- You Are Not Alone: It’s essential to remember that individuals battling depression are not alone, and seeking help and support is a sign of strength, not weakness.
- Check In On Yourself: Depression’s gradual nature can make improvement challenging to recognize, so self-reflection is crucial for gauging progress and identifying early signs of depression.
- Love Yourself: Embracing self-acceptance, self-love, and self-compassion can foster personal growth and development.
- Psychedelic Passage: Your Psychedelic Concierge — The easy, legal way to find trustworthy psilocybin guides, facilitators and psychedelic-assisted therapy near you in the United States.
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The Beginning of David’s Battle With Depression
Discussing depression is not an easy task. It’s an affliction that often defies description, a storm that rages within, hidden from the outside world. David Gamburd acknowledges the inherent difficulty in talking about this deeply personal and often stigmatized subject. He recognizes that depression can manifest differently over time, leading to both differences and similarities in how it is experienced by the individual.
Depression, for David, has been characterized by feelings of inadequacy, a sense of unlovability, and unworthiness. These emotions can be all-consuming, making the world seem as if it’s closing in on you. There have been moments when he felt that the world might be better off without him.
One of the earliest memories of David’s struggle with depression paints a poignant picture of the emotional turmoil he endured. At a tender age of 13, he mustered the courage to approach his parents, tears streaming down his face, to reveal that he had half-heartedly attempted self-harm using knives he believed shouldn’t be in his room. This revelation underscores the profound despair and hopelessness that depression can inflict.
“I debated bringing this story up at all, but I feel like on a podcast about depression, being vulnerable and honest is important to ensure that people with those same feelings know that they’re not alone and that having thoughts about harming yourself is a symptom of a disease that you can fight against. And that it is possible for you to feel better and love yourself, even if you’ve had those thoughts.”
The Lasting Effects of a Positive Adult Role Model
David’s journey through depression encountered a significant turning point during his high school years. It was here that he encountered a mentor who would leave an indelible mark on his life. This mentor was not only one of the first people outside of family and close friends to believe in him but also someone who openly accepted and supported him as a queer teenager in a religious school.
Their interactions were a source of immense positivity and encouragement for David. The mentor would pull him aside in the school hallway, giving him praise and affirmations about his character and development. This mentor’s unwavering belief in David’s inherent goodness and worthiness had a profound impact, shaping David’s self-perception.
One poignant memory from this time was an exercise where educators wrote letters to students. David still has the letter his mentor wrote, which read, “Shine, boy, for you are already good.” This message of being inherently good began to take root in David’s heart, eventually helping him cultivate self-acceptance and self-love.
The Lack of Self-Love in Western Cultures
The narrative David shares resonates with the experiences of many individuals, especially in Western cultures, where the pressure to conform and compete can be overwhelming. Adolescents often find themselves measuring their self-worth against others, a process that can sometimes lead to unhealthy comparisons and feelings of inadequacy.
“And I think that sentiment is so important in Western culture where kids are often in pressure cooker environments that are competitive.
Growing up you’re measuring yourself against someone else and I think there’s an element of that that’s healthy competition and an element of it that becomes unhealthy.
And there’s not a lot of recognition or acknowledgement for kids that they are okay the way they are and that they should love themselves the way they are.”
David’s story emphasizes the importance of embracing self-acceptance and self-love, even when society seems to push for constant self-critique and improvement. It challenges the notion that self-criticism is the only path to growth and development. In fact, David suggests that love and self-acceptance can be more effective motivators for personal development.
This perspective encourages individuals to consider whether it’s possible to love themselves as they are while still striving for improvement. It challenges the notion that self-contentment leads to complacency, highlighting that self-love can serve as a powerful source of motivation and growth.
Traditional Approaches to Depression: Medication and Talk Therapy
David Gamburd shared that he had tried two differently medications for depression, namely SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) and bupropion. While he found bupropion more helpful, he expressed concerns about the stigma associated with antidepressants.
Antidepressants can be valuable tools, especially during severe depressive episodes, as they can elevate the baseline mood. However, some individuals, like David, feel that they may also limit one’s emotional range, leading to a sense of emotional numbness.
It is essential to acknowledge that the effectiveness of antidepressants varies from person to person. Some people may find them to be a crucial part of their depression management plan, while others may seek alternatives due to side effects or limited efficacy.
“Yeah, I’ve been on two different medications. I haven’t taken medications for about a decade, something like that. Earlier in my life, I tried SSRIs, which I’m not a fan of and I think are somewhat problematic.
Also tried bupropion, which was a lot more helpful. I think there’s a stigma against antidepressants, but I also think that they’re important for specific parts of your journey battling depression.
Sometimes you really need something to just elevate where your floor is. And I think that’s what antidepressants can really do. But at the same time, there is some feeling that they also limit your ceiling, right? And that’s something that I experienced.
But for getting out of those really tough periods, I do think they can be an important tool, but I don’t think they should be something that people depend on as a crutch for their entire lives.”
David also emphasized the importance of talk therapy in his journey to manage depression. He underwent several periods of talk therapy, each focusing on different aspects of his mental health.
One of the most recent forms of therapy he tried was an intensive six-week course, where the primary focus was on self-assessment and equipping him with tools to battle depression independently.
Nicholas Levich, host of the podcast, highlighted the concept of self-resourcing, which involves empowering individuals with the tools and resources needed to navigate life’s challenges independently. The goal of therapy, in his view, should be to provide clients with the skills and insights to eventually reduce or eliminate their reliance on therapy itself.
In addition to medication and talk therapy, both speakers discussed the significance of self-care practices. These practices included meditation, breathwork, yoga, exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, and socializing, even during periods of low motivation.
These activities, when integrated into one’s routine, can contribute to improved mental well-being. However, it’s important to recognize that some individuals may develop a level of dependency on these self-care practices to manage their depression effectively.
David Gamburd mentioned that he had also experimented with substances like alcohol and marijuana in an attempt to cope with depression. However, he recognized that turning to drugs and alcohol is not a sustainable solution for long-term mental health and can even exacerbate the problem.
The Decision to Turn to Intentional Psychedelic Use
David Gamburd’s journey into intentional psychedelic use began after he joined a men’s group where discussions about psychedelics became more frequent. His friendship with Nicholas Levich, the founder of Psychedelic Passage, played a pivotal role in his decision.
Trust and a pre-existing bond with Nicholas helped ease his initial fears about diving into the world of psychedelics. David had previous experiences with psychedelics in recreational settings, but those experiences often left him wanting the effects to stop, especially when faced with the overwhelming intensity of psychedelic visions and thoughts.
However, the messages and discussions within the men’s group and the Psychedelic Passage community encouraged him to explore psychedelics with intention. Nicholas Levich was curious about David’s takeaways from his psychedelic journey, starting with the preparation phase.
David shared that these experiences are difficult to put into words, but he described the journey’s arc as a profound shift between two contrasting realities. At first, David felt that everything made sense, understanding his purpose and place in the world. It was as if he could heal the world simply by existing.
However, this initial euphoria gave way to the shadow side of the experience, where deep-seated thoughts and emotions surfaced. David likened the shift to a stark contrast, where his mind oscillated between these two extremes.
“I’m not necessarily in this world while journeying, but I am following my own thoughts. And when the arc fades from understanding my place in the world and kind of this beautiful view of life to the dark side of the experience, my mind is kind of constantly trying to get back to that place where I just understood everything and everything made sense and it felt good, but it’s impossible. “
“And I think there’s a lesson there in and of itself, right? That I think the medicine almost is sort of trying to teach you that neither one of those realities is true. You’re not the solution to the world’s problems. You’re not necessarily even the solution to the people who you’re close to and their problems.
You’re not the worst person in the world and all of these dark thoughts that you’ve had or your subconscious has processed, that’s not you either. You’re somewhere in the middle and those two realities, those are kind of emotions and they can exist. ”
While psychedelics can offer profound insights and understanding, the journey is only the beginning of the process. Integration and ongoing work are essential components of the intentional approach to psychedelic use. David’s perspective evolved over months, and he realized that the journey was not the endpoint but a catalyst for deeper self-exploration and growth.
The Necessary Components: Self-Love & Acceptance
Changing Your Mindset
David draws inspiration from Tara Brach, a meditation teacher and author, who emphasizes the importance of changing one’s mindset. Instead of constantly critiquing oneself, David suggests that embracing self-love and self-acceptance fosters personal growth and development.
This shift from self-criticism to self-compassion is a significant turning point in his journey. While David’s journey has led him to a place of significantly improved mental well-being, he cautions against the notion of complete and permanent “cures” for depression.
He believes that depression is often linked to the way one’s brain is wired, making it challenging to eradicate entirely. However, the crucial difference lies in how individuals handle depressive episodes.
David expresses that the key to managing depressive bouts lies in cultivating self-compassion. Instead of blaming oneself for feeling down, he advises embracing the understanding that difficult emotions are a part of life. This perspective shift allows individuals to detach from their emotions and treat themselves with kindness during tough times.
The RAIN Framework
David introduces Tara Brach’s RAIN framework (Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Nurture) as a valuable tool for practicing self-compassion. This framework encourages individuals to recognize their emotions, allow them to exist without judgment, investigate the root causes, and nurture themselves with love and care.
“I remember after a ceremony, only having, I think a day, maybe two days off of work and kind of opening my laptop again and just being like, what is this? Like, I don’t care about any of this. Your brain is just not ready to jump right back to the real world. “
And it’s important not only to give yourself the time and space, but to be honest with yourself about how hard are you trying to implement these practices into your life?
“And who are you cheating if you don’t do them? There’s a lot of football coach/motivational speak here of, if you don’t do your pushups, like who are you cheating, right? But at the end of the day, it is true.”
Nicholas Levich chimes in, highlighting the significance of understanding that emotional states, including depression, are temporary. The intuitive knowing that one is not permanently stuck in a certain state allows room for healing and growth. He draws a parallel between this concept and the experience during a psychedelic journey, where fixating on a negative thought or feeling can perpetuate it.
A Lifelong Journey: The Gradual Nature of Improvement
David Gamburd shares valuable advice for those grappling with depression. The journey toward healing often unfolds slowly, making it easy to overlook progress. David encourages individuals to carve out moments for self-reflection and note the subtle shifts from their starting point.
Depression can be a slippery slope, with the gradual decline in mental well-being often going unnoticed day by day. David also urges individuals to conduct regular self-check-ins to gauge their emotional state accurately. This self-awareness can help individuals identify signs of depression early on, preventing it from reaching a severe and debilitating low.
You’re Not Alone:
One of the most vital messages shared is that individuals battling depression are not alone. David reminds us that countless people have experienced similar feelings and struggles. Every person is deserving of love, both from within themselves and from the people around them. There is no shame in seeking help and support.
David also touches on the idea of humanizing mental health experiences. Depression is a complex and deeply personal journey, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. He acknowledges that he doesn’t have all the answers, and neither does anyone else. We are all trying our best, taking it one day at a time, and striving for growth and healing.
“I feel so differently about myself. I think a lot of the elements that we’ve discussed of self-acceptance and self-love are a key component of that. I still have negative moments and hard days, and I think that’s an important thing for people to hear as well, because I personally don’t want the storyline of this to be, you know, I’m cured and I’m better and depression is over. I don’t really know that that’s a realistic outcome.
I think feeling a lot better is a very realistic outcome, but I don’t know that completely curing yourself, so to speak, of depression is ever really possible. I think I’m of the opinion that depression has a lot to do with the way that your brain is wired, and that’s not necessarily something that you can completely change or control, I guess.
And so I think the biggest difference is this ability to have self-compassion for myself when I do experience depressive days or depressive bouts as opposed to blaming myself for those depressive days or depressive bouts.”
Nicholas Levich expresses gratitude for David’s candor, honesty, and vulnerability throughout the conversation. He acknowledges that discussing one’s personal struggles with depression is an intimate and courageous act. It’s a reminder that opening up and sharing our experiences can be profoundly impactful and help others who may be going through similar challenges.
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Frequently Asked Questions
1: What are the key turning points in David Gamburd’s journey through depression?
David Gamburd’s journey through depression saw several turning points. One significant moment was encountering a positive adult role model during high school who believed in his inherent goodness and worthiness, which had a profound impact on his self-perception.
Another pivotal moment was his decision to explore intentional psychedelic use, driven by discussions within a men’s group and his friendship with Nicholas Levich. Lastly, David emphasized the importance of shifting from self-criticism to self-compassion and embracing self-love and self-acceptance as a key aspect of his healing journey.
2. What traditional approaches to managing depression did David Gamburd explore?
David Gamburd tried two different medications for depression: SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) and bupropion. While he found bupropion more helpful, he acknowledged the stigma associated with antidepressants and the potential limitations they can have on emotional range.
Additionally, talk therapy played a significant role in his journey, with periods of therapy focusing on different aspects of his mental health. He also incorporated self-care practices like meditation, breathwork, yoga, exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, and socializing into his routine.
3: What advice does David Gamburd offer for those dealing with depression?
David Gamburd provides several pieces of advice for individuals grappling with depression. He highlights the gradual nature of improvement and urges individuals to carve out moments for self-reflection to gauge emotional well-being accurately. He emphasizes the importance of recognizing that they are not alone in their struggle and that seeking help and support is a sign of strength.
David also recommends shifting from self-criticism to self-compassion, drawing inspiration from Tara Brach’s RAIN framework, which involves recognizing, allowing, investigating, and nurturing one’s emotions. Finally, he underscores the message of embracing self-love and self-acceptance as powerful motivators for personal growth and healing.