This is a continuation of a series on methods for treating depression. See part 1, part 2 and part 3.
4. Diviner’s Sage for a World in Need of Wisdom
I awoke recently from a dream, then laid awake to think about it - letting the subconscious ingredients stew in the fertile hypnagogic state of my open mind. It is not often that I get a clear sense of meaning from a dream. I don’t often remember them even 30 seconds after I wake. The evening in question I had been listening to this vital podcast from Russell Brand where he interviews Wendy Mandy - a woman steeped in the wisdom of ancient shamanic traditions after spending much time with indigenous people from across the world. The message of my dream was that I also needed to speak up.
I have spent a lot of my own time ‘doing’ in the last few months (which explains the gap between posts in this series) and not much time ‘being’. In the little free time I have had for relaxing I have been attracted to channels like Rebel Wisdom and podcasts such as Brand’s. Discussions from these sources have helped me make sense of some of the chaotic world events that we are all experiencing and act as a balance to the brutal realism I am taking in from alternative media news outlets.
The very fact that I am ‘doing’ so much these days is a welcome transformation from my previous lingering state of depression. In my experience of a catatonic zombie state due to mental illness I was at times scarcely able to get up for a glass of water. The methods I used to reduce the impact of this crippling affliction had to be expanded and built upon like a toolkit. I have already mentioned the more common sense and traditional avenues - good nutrition, good exercise, meditation and talk therapy. Part 3 of this series is where I began to delve into the chemical altering of my perception and its influence on my recovery.
Pay It Forward
I am told it is world suicide prevention day today, so what better way to celebrate the prevention of my own suicide (and hopefully encourage the prevention of others) than by explaining one of the mechanisms through which I am alive today. The mechanism I speak of is a natural one. It has hundreds of years of human ceremonial usage. It is called Salvia Divinorum (Diviner's Sage).
In all likelihood the only time you might have heard of this herb, which hails from the mint family, is in relation to its abuse and consequent banning (specifically there are many videos online of people taking it in a non-ceremonial setting - at the same time being laughed at by their 'friends' for their confused disembodied reactions). It was legal in the UK for some time but this legit use was finally put out of the reach of the many potential beneficiaries by the government's passing of the sweeping Psychoactive Substances Act.
Usually when talking about a psychoactive substance I would be careful not to recommend use - given that every mind and body is different and the recipient could react in any number of ways. Who am I to prescribe a mind-altering chemical? The same is true of Salvia Divinorum - with one exception: ceremonial use or medicinal micro-dosing of the plant.
Given Salvia's non-toxic nature and the rapidity with which it is metabolised by the human body (if you are interested then of course do your own research) I have lost my trepidation about passing this information onto others. Mental health issues are killing far more people than Salvia ever did. A personal reason for this change of heart is that I have since had contact with a person who was at their last resort with their mental health issues, who I could have possibly suggested this to (having had positive benefits I will describe below). Alas, I did not mention it. Their story did not end happily and keeping quiet was one of my few regrets in life.
If you have followed my writing this far, I will assume that you are open minded enough to consider that nature may have provided a free solution to our mental health crisis and you might like to know more. Up until now there has been very little information to support the plant's use as a treatment for depression. The same was true when I began to try it in such a manner - all I could find were anecdotal reports (which I now feel ready to add to). I am very keen to see some real scientific research into this plant, but because of the profit motive I feel it will be some time until proof of its benefits can be seen.
The ceremonial use of Salvia Divinorum goes back at least as far as Mazatec shaman in Mexico and possibly to the Aztecs and so it has a spiritual and medicinal history that long predates its current status as illicit and dangerous (the War on Drugs will of course keep us safe). The traditional usage was to roll up a few leaves in a small ball or 'quid' and to hold this in your mouth for a time, until the active ingredient Salvinorin A was present in the body at the level that was neccesary.
This is not how I first experienced the plant - instead it was much like the YouTube crowd mentioned earlier - smoked through a bong in a concentrated format in order to transcend our reality. The difference is that it is nigh on impossible to reach such an intense psychoactive state through chewing (I have also tried this, but the time it takes to chew is more than enough time for your body to process the chemical). In my most depressed state, out of a desire to leave my body and mind, I also smoked a potent 60x extract in a cigarette. That experience turned my mood around instantly from one of utter despair and suffering to awe at the magnificent night sky.
I reiterate that this is not a sensible way for an ill person to try this medicine.
By following the traditional method of chewing a quid (expanded on in another anecdotal report) I was able to reach a state of mental calm and clarity without any other noticeable psychoactive effects. It was not a trip, it was a subtle changing of thought patterns and mental state. It was very apparent when I took the medicine while experiencing symptoms of depression that involved negative thought loops and suicidal ideation. I could sense the same thoughts starting to emerge after chewing the quid, but they would not lead anywhere. It is almost like they were blocked. I remember thinking that the feeling was what I expected from chemical antidepressants I had been prescribed by my doctor.
Meds for Some
I tried a couple of different pharmaceutical antidepressants when I was in the depths of my illness. The first was totally ineffective and had unpleasant side-effects. The second seemed more effective but also had its drawbacks. I am not here to tell people that these will not work for them and should be avoided. My own experience was mixed, with many different avenues being tried on my path to healing.
This ancient and natural ingredient, Salvia, was one that helped me tremendously at a time when every other avenue led to misery. Since I am still alive to speak, today seems a perfect moment to break my silence.