One day wife of Patrick Mettes noticed that the whites of his eyes had turned yellow. He was a journalist in his fifties working for MSNBC in New York City. Days later he got diagnosed with a bile duct cancer that had spread to his lungs.
During three years of different medical interventions, he was completely overwhelmed paralyzed by anxiety and depression. One day on the front page of the Times he read “HALLUCINOGENS HAVE DOCTORS TUNING IN AGAIN,” mentioned clinical trials at several universities, including New York University, in which psilocybin—the active ingredient in so-called magic mushrooms—was being administered to cancer patients in an effort to relieve their anxiety and “existential distress. He immediately called in.
Mettes was scheduled for two dosings—one of them an “active” placebo and the other a pill containing the psilocybin. Mettes laid down on the couch, put on the headphones and eye mask, and fell silent. Two therapists stayed with him throughout the experience, saying little but being available to help should he run into any trouble.
In Mattes own account, he likened the start of the journey to the launch of a space shuttle, “a physically violent and rather clunky liftoff which eventually gave way to the blissful serenity of weightlessness.” At one point he suddenly started shuttering, griped one of the therapist's hand as if his life depended on it, lifted his legs and started to deliver a baby. “Dying and being born is a lot of work” – he said. He was crying and breathing heavily. He was being born or he was giving birth to himself. Then Michelle Obama made an appearance which let him reconcile his issues with his mom. “The considerable feminine energy all around me made clear the idea that a mother, any mother, regardless of her shortcomings . . . could never NOT love her offspring”. He had a whole riff on aesthetics and why we need to simplify in everything we do. We put too many words in the songs, too many elements in the TV programs and that we need to focus on love. Love is the most important principle. Then he climbed up the hill that was made of stainless steel with a very sharp edge. When he looked over he saw a plane of consciousness that was infused with love. He saw it as a plane of consciousness outside of himself – what will survive after him. He thought "I could go over to that side now". He chose not to. He didn’t want to leave his wife jet and he still had some time he wanted to spend in this word. When the trip ended he was sweaty and exhausted. His wife said he looked as if he run a marathon.
Mattes spend next 17 months in a very different frame of mind. He spend days walking around Brooklyn searching for interesting places to have lunch. He was savoring every moment. In one session with his therapist, he said he never had been happier in his life as in these last months. His focus has shifted from the quantity to the quality of his time. He felt overwhelming gratitude for the time he had left. Eventually, he stopped chemotherapy. Not because he wanted to die, but he didn’t want to live that way. Towards the end, his lungs started to fail and he went to the hospital at Mt. Sinai. His wife and his doctor described that his room in a palliative care unit became like a gravitational field in the hospital. Everyone on the floor wanted to spend time there. He was putting out so much love. His wife said he was like a Jogi. We normally turn away from dying. And here is someone facing death in a matter of days that was putting out this energy.
Learn more about newest research on psychedelics therapies in Micheal Pollan appearances on Tim Ferriss, Sam Harriss, Joe Roggan or Kevin Rose podcasts. I stitched this fragment from two sources: Micheal Pollan on Sam Harris’s podcast #127 (start at 28:02) and The Trip Treatment . The more extensive account of this story is included in Michael Pollan's book “How to Change Your Mind”