Writing on acid is easy. It's not a remarkable creative adventure. I don't feel like Hunter S. Thompson. I don't see two women fucking a polar bear like in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (though I do wish Benicio Del Toro was here). But, like I said, writing on acid is easy—every emotion I feel is on the surface and it plainly feels smooth. I don't care enough to think twice before typing how I feel. I can hear the endless hum of my Macbook fan. My senses are sharpened and I'm seriously having the time of my life, alone, in my bed watching Vanderpump Rules, away from everyone I know, quietly tripping on what I understand is 60ug of acid...because that's what I was told. This is how I chose to experiment with psychedelics for the first time. I'm not sure if I'm trying to be edgy or if I'm just terrified.
I'm a pretty cautious, guarded person. I'm not only introverted, but my trauma firmly disallows intimate connections. I've attained peace and the means to treat myself like a best friend rather than rely on others for happiness and validation. I refrain from alcohol so I've seldom discovered myself in situations where I'm asked to do "real" drugs (though I should add I lived in New York City for six years working in media). I've snorted dust, smoked weed (a handful of times), and fought with a Klonopin addiction (prescribed for anxiety). I think I did Molly once but who knows; it could have been pressed Vitamin B. I've declined to dabble in drugs since fentanyl became a buzzword in America and because a friend of mine overdosed on the synthetic painkiller in 2009.
I've grown to dislike altered states because I virtually always lament having done drugs shortly after ingestion and despise feeling out of control, something I've been working on in therapy for approximately a decade. I had a grave secondhand experience with acid earlier this year when my boyfriend inadvertently ingested an acid-laced gummy bear at a friend's house and drove to my apartment. It kicked in halfway through the commute. He allegedly assumed it was a regular gummy bear from a heap of gummy bears on the kitchen counter not infused with drugs, and it's wild he only ate one. Seriously, who only eats one gummy bear? That doesn't seem even remotely satisfying. "I feel weird. I just wanted to call you and tell you that I feel weird," he said on the phone. I didn't think much of it, I remember rolling my eyes, because I'm a super bitchy girlfriend. Why are you calling me to tell me you feel weird...? I always feel weird! Get over yourself, man.
I knew I'd, at the very least, take in some vibrant visuals and possibly undergo some sort of trippy, therapeutic breakthrough. Maybe there would be fractals.
He knew there were gummies in the house that were acid-laced, but it wasn't until he arrived at my place—pupils dilated as fuck—that he understood he'd consumed one. The night was pandemonium, his trip was hell. I wanted to help but was irritated by the circumstances. I had work in the morning! I'm a bitchy girlfriend! Over the course of five hours, he laughed, then cried, laughed again, then felt resolved. He said he perceived things he'd never felt before, but I believed it was simply because he's an irreversibly repressed white man who'd never been to therapy before. I gave him a notebook and some pens, imagining some artistic tools would allow him to verbalize how he felt during his trip. He wrote me two notably bizarre love letters that I decline to quote; I was wholly shook by the all-night experience. Still, ever since the episode, I've been kind of intrigued with the concept of hallucinogens. My boyfriend survived an unexpected trip and I'm objectively mentally stronger than him, so why was I so afraid? Plus, I just lost my job, so now every day of my life is an opportunity to get high!
I needed to do everything carefully. Safety is my number one concern—like I alluded to earlier, I like to be in control of my brain and environment. I like to feel prepared, if not combat-ready, and had no idea how I'd react to acid. Do people get sad enough to kill themselves on psychedelics, like, if they're already sad in general? I talked to my primary care physician, who was worried about my recently developed "aura migraines"—migraines that incapacitate my senses, namely my sight (I lose it), sense of touch (I go numb), and ability to speak (literally, I won't be able to form sentences). She told me to forsake the idea until I'd gone a month without a debilitating migraine, but she also told me I wouldn't die, and because I'm not depressed—just permanently traumatized by certain life occurrences—it'd probably be fine to do a small amount. So, I stayed clear of my established migraine stressors. A month later, I texted a friend, who texted a friend, who texted a dealer (that's how it works). Before long I had a weird little square of blotting paper in my possession, kind of like the ones I use on my face in the summer when my pores seep oil like Deepwater Horizon. There wasn't a smiley face or cartoon character on the blotting paper. Reality set in: my life is not remotely reminiscent of Skins and never has been nor will be. A blank blotting paper laced with acid seemed fitting. Now I just needed to figure out what to do with it and when.
So, I researched. Apparently, when you take hallucinogens you need be extremely heedful to a few things: your company, the environment and security (loving that last one). Company? I plainly didn't want any. Petrified by psychedelics as I was, I wanted to drop acid by myself, alone, and I didn't want to advertise my plans because I felt like a fake. Telling people would make me anxious and I know one of my dippy friends would have tried to convince me to sit in a park or eat fruit or bird watch, but I felt anxious enough already. I needed to weather this alone, in case I cried (I did) or threw up (it was plausible for a moment). I wanted to discern how I reacted to it on my own. Look: when I said I was an isolated person, I meant it. But from my determination for loneliness sprung a brilliant idea. I'd been meaning to rewatch the sixth season of Vanderpump Rules in time for the premiere of the seventh on December 3rd. Maybe the cast was all I needed. Stassi, Jax, Tom, Katie, James, Lala, the Tom who wears makeup, Kristen, Ariana, Brittany, Scheana. LISA VANDERPUMP. My fucking people! I'd found ideal companionship for my acid trip after all.
I opted for the most tranquil place I know: my bed. I've set up my apartment to somewhat resemble the spots I see in Refinery29’s “Money Diaries”—the articles that describe the living conditions of 21-year-old girls in NYC with an allowance and their own personal interior designers. I have a dope mattress, linen sheets, and 36 plants (most of which reside in my room) so, in a way, I was in nature. I have a mounted tv and no overhead lighting. My room is practically a private park! And in my homey comfort zone, with my mind transcending time and space (or whatever would be happening to me), and my friends (the full cast of Vanderpump Rules), what could possibly go wrong?
My mouthguard is in. I'm ready. I put the tab under my tongue before realizing I probably should have put it on top of my tongue like in the movies because it would have looked cooler. I could have taken a selfie of myself with the acid blotter on my tongue, possibly throwing up a peace sign. Not sure who I'd have shown it to, but I'm certain it'd have been received well. Maybe I'd text it to Pete Doherty, whose number I have for some reason. Anyway, it dissolved quickly and I laid there in a neurotic linen bundle, nervously anticipating inevitable hallucinations of 3D monsters that would frighten me enough to jump from the bedroom window of my third story apartment to my death. The acid began to kick in during Season 6, Episode 7: “See You Next Tuesday”. I had waited impassively to enter the void (get it? like the movie.) and come face to face with Terrence McKenna's so-called "machine elves," whom, if they exist, I'd like to have a word with. I read online that 60ug of acid is essentially trash, and I have on good authority from a friend who loves hallucinogens that you can truly never be completely sure of how much acid you're taking, so I was suspecting the worst. I knew I'd, at the very least, take in some vibrant visuals and possibly undergo some sort of trippy, therapeutic breakthrough. Maybe there would be fractals.
As it turns out, Season 6, Episode 7 of Vanderpump Rules was not a pleasant episode to view while tripping acid for the very first time. Ariana Madix and Lala Kent begrudgingly share an audio recording of Brittany Cartwright's boyfriend, the infamous Jax, bashing her immediately after cheating. Like, shit-talking her to the girl he cheated on her with, who recorded their conversation. How my mind was receiving what I saw on screen reminded me of the Mr. Krabs meme; everything whirling around, demonstrating the cast's confusion. In the episode, you can't hear the recording while Brittany listens to it, but in my altered state I heard it boisterous and clear—except the voice wasn't speaking to Brittany, but to me. "You're ugly, you're fat, you're worthless. You have small tits, you're a bitch, you're a psycho." It wasn't a voice I recognized, and the voice was weirdly breathy and calm and it just... kept going, pulling out every insult I'd had ex-boyfriends hurl toward me. I didn't cry, which was mysterious because I thought acid made people cry, but mayhap I just wasn't there yet. Or maybe, I was letting go of the pain.
"Letting go" was a buzz-phrase I read about a lot in my research of psychedelics. I'd learned hallucinogens can enable you to bid past traumas farewell, but as I reflected on it, I worried if it was possible acid wasn't classified as a hallucinogen at all and I wasn't letting this go. Maybe I'd rigorously fucked this project up and had misread something. But my mind was already bending, and I was in what felt like a bit of a meditative trance, where sentiments would disappear as quickly as they'd approach me. So whatever it was, I assumed all that I was feeling was what "transcending" indicates.
On screen, Brittany attempted to force she and Jax's mutual friends to listen to the recording on a Bluetooth speaker. Jax had turned into a shark, kind of 3D on the screen. His jaw, nose, and teeth were sharklike. He was fuschia. Like, hot pink fuschia. But he kind of looks like that anyway. Regardless of all the insults I'd just weathered from the ghosts of ex-boyfriends past, I had a desperate desire to laugh. This was sinister. I was laughing at poor Brittany as she learned, all while being filmed, that her boyfriend had cheated on her and shit-talked her too. I couldn't help it though, I felt elated. I looked at my hands and they glittered. For someone approaching their 30s, I love glitter now as much as I did when I was 6 years old.
An hour and a half into my trip, I felt the... opposite of pain? I can only term it "lightness." I was fluffy and buoyant.
I glanced at the ceiling and it glittered. I needed to make it glitter more, so I got up and turned on my star projector. It added more glitter; the projected blue and green stars were super blue and super green. They danced chaotically, not rhythmically. I didn't care if it was a trick my mind was playing. It was splendid. The lights were off and the blinds were drawn in my already fairly darkened bedroom. The entirety of Los Angeles was going dark. Everyone on screen was screaming at one another, and I was just thankful to be alive in an enthusiastic way I hadn't felt before. I had to fight a desire to call my mom and tell her how wonderful the world suddenly was to me. As a rule, I've always posited as someone who hates everything so my parents would never believe I was delicate. My mom would have thought I was being held hostage and it was a scripted call a kidnapper was demanding I make so no one would suspect anything.
A symptom I wasn't anticipating? I felt light like my joints worked for once, instead of grinding, popping, and "sublaxing," where joints actually pop out of place. Doctors tell me I suffer from hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a mostly hereditary connective tissue disorder that's worked against me my whole life, believed to be the root cause of my overabundance of sleep disorders, micro-colitis and other gastrointestinal issues, and musculoskeletal problems like scoliosis, pronated ankles, intensely flat feet, and a deeply rotated pelvis. I'm constantly in pain, and it's worsened ten-fold as I've aged. The pops and creaks emanating from my body are unpleasant and uniquely unfeminine, leaving me feeling helpless, useless, out to pasture at age 28. An hour and a half into my trip, I felt the... opposite of pain? I can only term it "lightness." I was fluffy and buoyant. I later investigated this feeling and it turns out psychedelics can have anti-inflammatory effects. Tea! Maybe I should start microdosing.
The downside is I'm significantly paralyzed as I drift into Season 6, Episode 7: "It's Not About The Pasta", which is triggering. It elicits memories of my worst hallucinations during sleep paralysis, including seeing a girl hanging from a noose in my open closet and persistent hallucinatory visits from Columbine shooter Eric Harris, my childhood epitome of evil. Then there are my other sleep paralysis "demons": TV show extras like a bearded man that resembles Father John Misty and a cold, angry woman in her mid-30s with platinum blonde hair. They've harassed me together and separately, on and off, for years. I tell people hallucinatory sleep paralysis is just a real-time movie playing out through your eyes of all the things you fear, consciously or subconsciously. Imagine what scares you most bothering you every night, through 3D lenses. My chronic sleep paralysis is another reason I've never dabbled in psychedelics—I've been tripping naturally my entire life. It hasn't exactly been pleasant.
Everything on screen swirled and lights flashed. I saw geometric patterns, which I'd read about, so I'm uncertain of how much of my trip is being influenced by expectations. Sacred geometry aside, I'm still fully aware of what I'm viewing. I'm watching Jax and two friends attend a Reiki session. Tom Schwartz is there because he cheated on his wife again. I'm still paralyzed and disconcerted. Jax starts crying and I cry with him. I'm sympathizing with a man, which is unusual, but he appears sincere. He looks like Baby Huey, the dumb and horrifying duckling baby from the old cartoons. But he's sad, so I'm sad. He needs therapy. Or am I projecting? We all need therapy. I feel his discomfort a bit too much and begin reminiscing on how many significant others I've hurt with my self-destructive behavior. This part of the trip really sucks ass.
I'm still bawling despondently as I enter the real void here, the notorious Vanderpump Rules scene about...pasta. Lala Kent shapeshifts into a queen; a profound queen like Elizabeth I, with a powdered white face and no eyebrows. Her perfect, plumped lips are the same. James looks like Dobby the house elf from Harry Potter, which I'm surprised I haven't referenced already while writing this. His suspected secret lover, Logan, just looks red. Lala and Logan ate James' beauty queen girlfriend's pasta without asking. Pasta is estimated to be Vanderpump slang for cocaine, though the cast has vehemently denied "pasta" was, in fact, code for "coke." I believe it was code for coke, and I believe it now more than ever. I'm still crying, and Lala and James' toxic codependency makes me cry more. They're yelling about something moderately trivial. Even if Lala did snort Raquel's cocaine without her permission, she and James obviously love each other. This is what most of my relationships are like: unrequited love and yelling. My trip has me questioning if I should make amends to all the people I've emotionally harmed or if this trip alone is enough for me to just move on and pretend I've never hurt anyone. I'll take the latter.
I start slumping toward the end of the episode. Stassi Schroeder, my queen, is throwing a party at SUR for something important, but everybody needs to fight first. Stassi is wearing hot pink fake lashes that look like huge moths hovering over her eyes. Logan is insinuating that he and James fuck. Logan isn't pink anymore. Lisa Vanderpump, however, is wearing a fully pink outfit, complete with a rosy fascinator (those fancy British hats people wear to horse races). She's convincing Scheana Marie to eat. Scheana's been stress-starving herself. The french fries are wriggling like they're alive. And they're all wearing '60s flower print ensembles, which is a fantasy to my fragile, acid-riddled senses. I chug my pH9+ water and peel a banana I placed on my nightstand earlier, recalling that bananas contain potassium and can revive those who have fainted, which I learned when Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves! came out in 1997. With all the shit I’ve been hallucinating, I may as well be fainted. Even the banana looks alive.
I'm beginning to want this out of my system, and maybe focusing on eating something yummy will help while I wait for it to wear off. But I'm only a little over two hours in. I've read some acid trips can last up to six hours, but the peak feels like where I am now. My skin looks like it has scales. I hear what sounds like bees, but it's comforting. Focusing on the screen is difficult, I keep seeing sunflowers everywhere like they're growing from the ground. I know there are stages to acid; onset, letting go, the plateau, and the stage where you're kind of just chilling. I feel like I've plateaued. It's not getting weirder, but it's not getting better. I'd like to re-enter society, but am fully unable to, paralyzed in my bed with the Vanderpump clan. The trip persists for about four more hours regardless of how much water I chug, though I detailed the peak of the storm. I feel like I'm nearly able to function properly by the time it hits midnight, emerging from my paralyzed state as Stassi runs out of her death-murder-themed 29th birthday party in a frenzy. I didn't sleep at all, I wanted to watch the sunrise from my living room's southwest facing windows. Maybe it all really is about the pasta.
This trip—now a week ago—may seem like a massive waste of time to most, but I was going to lay in bed all day anyway (unemployed, remember?), so honestly, I lost nothing and gained at least...a little perspective? By the end of it, I don't feel particularly changed, or improved. I don't feel like I discovered anything, but I'm already a self aware therapy-goer who has survived so many traumas, I can't imagine having the types of breakthroughs I've read about. Is it possible I took less acid than I was supposed to? I read ingesting less is better than more, so I guess it's a positive thing that this was how I first experimented. I attempted something I, at one point, dreaded because I feared how I'd react to it, and now I know. Now I can experiment more.
Now I can read the various comments sections when this piece circulates and acknowledge everything I did wrong and right and do better next time. I've already spoken to a trusted friend whose presence naturally eases me, and we've decided to drop acid together this week. This time, in a public park, or the beach. Just preferably after the premiere ofVanderpump Rules.