Hello everyone, I am a 21 year old guy, and I got HPPD 6 months ago after a very intense trip on a substance I still cannot identify. My story was in a quite different context, which is the reason I believe my HPPD experience was very different from others on the forum, especially how I interpret the disorder. I started doing drugs at 19, from MDMA to LSD to Shrooms to DOB and 2CB, and the same thing used to always fascinate me. There was this "missing piece" in the puzzle of life that was always being seen during these experiences, but fades out after the trip is over. Through later research and personal inquiry, I came across Ego Death/Enlightenment, which is the mystical experience of "no-self", which all of these drugs happen to produce. Each drug acts in its own special way on the Default Mode Network of the brain, the group of regions responsible for generating a sense of self, a stream of thoughts and images, an auto-biographical narrative self, and a sense of self being in time. Turn these regions off, and all of that disappears from your conscious experience of the world, and everything radically changes. The ultimate goal of all mystical traditions on planet Earth is the transcendence of the egotistical experience of man, through practices such as meditation, yoga, zhikr...etc, and through direct experiential insight into the faultiness of the construct of selfhood. I got extremely obsessed with enlightenment, and spent a year and the half exploring all of its aspects through meditation, inquiry, and psychedelic use. My quest came to an end 6 months ago, when I ingested half a tab of something that was not LSD, but had the effect of complete ego death for a continuous 12 hours. I was so happy when it happened, as if my entire life fell into place at that time, and I sat down in meditation and merged with nothingness. The twist is that I woke up the next day still gone, and what I wanted for an entire year and half turned out to be an experience I completely rejected when it happened, and got a visual problem that I researched about and eventually discovered that it is common and is called HPPD.
My HPPD over 6 months was nothing close to a uniform phenomenon or a uniform experience. It has evolved and changed over time, generally on an apparent trajectory back to its "normal state". The first day after the experience however, I was in complete terror of what I had done to my brain, simply because my sensory experience of the world had become nothing of what I knew before. Especially my visual experience of the world, which was in a 2D "right in your face" format, as if I could no longer dissociate from vision into an inner world of self(images thoughts...etc). That 2D image also had tracers and floaters and trails, and an agitating aura of a double image around every object, terrifying auras and noise around all kinds of lights, terrifying after images that last entire minutes, along with horrifying static that gave me the sense that the resolution of my image was irreversible, and this static could do patterns and shapes using itself causing more noise. There was also this constriction to my visual field, as if nothing but what was directly experienced was actually there. It was as if there are no mental visual perceptions of how the world around is apart from what is in front of me at this instant. This fucked-up-ness, along with the narrative that I am that one kid who has irreversibly fucked himself over and is forever doomed to be this alien weird child who lives in an alternate reality, lasted for about 3 months, from the end of January up till the beginning of May, and I'll get to how that subsided in the next paragraph. And boy it felt like an alternate reality, because this change in sensory experience was accompanied by a very noticeable change in my experience of Self and others, memories, space and time, and the world. And all of them ceased to exist. My direct experience in my body was nothingness. When I would look inside it would be utter empty silence, the one that gives you shivers. I could not have a mental experience of myself, I couldn't identify with my thinking as myself, and I could not see images and flashbulb memories, and most striking was that I could not feel anything, nor anyone, nor nothing.
Due to the predominant self-loss theme, I could distract myself sometimes from seeking help and information for HPPD and instead seek help and information to help reconstruct my ego. I eventually came into contact with a Buddhist teacher online by February, and she provided me with some practices I can do in order to revive the mechanisms of the ego, and generally they focus on re-sensitizing the body and reconstructing emotional conditionings. As I did that over the next 2 months, I realized that my visual problem was evolving and changing along with my changing sense of self. It was as if the more emotional experience I reconstruct, the more my visual systems go back to normal. And up till now, my visual experience has become nothing like that of 6 months ago. I got 3D back, trailers and auras and light problems disappeared, the only remaining visual problem has to do with focus and static that is about 10% from where I started. All this while having a semi complete sense of self that can do complex mathematical problems, visualize vividly, and centered in its bodily sensations. I also happened to contact Lisa Cairns, who continually experiences egolessness, and asked her whether her visual experience of the world changed along with the change in sense of self, and she confirmed that the image does indeed flip into 2D and the eyes become more sensitive to light.
For my experience, it seemed that HPPD itself may not be a disorder on its own afterall. I realized that at one point in time, 3 to 4 months after all this happened, and after reconstructing my sense of self as guided by the buddhist teacher, that I could no longer separate the phenomenon of ego diminishment with my visual problems. It seemed that the more I stimulated my self centers again, the more my visual problems subsided. And this is in line with our neurology to a certain extent, as a lot of the Default Mode Network in the brain that is responsible for our sense of self hood and that I was trying to revive all of this time is intimately correlated with sensory processing systems, especially visual processing (I think through the occipital parietal junction that assembles auditory visual and somatosensory information), but all this is me hypothesizing and trying to find relationships that serve best to describe how my experience went for me. I thought that maybe if I shared this, a lot of people would benefit if they have a shift in focus from the visual problem they are having to a much deeper and profound experience they are having. Maybe through that shift in focus, HPPD could change for you into the transforming experience that it was for me, rather than it being this horrifying alien experience. I have not recovered yet, but I am way closer now to how my perception was prior to the trip than to what followed after it, and how it was at first really got me to breaking points in which I thought this was it, this was how I ruined myself forever, which turned out to not be true at all. And in a sense, I would recommend all of you to not believe these statements that your mind produces amid such changes, even if at the time they seemed to be an accurate description of what looks like you are messed up, they may be of no truth at all.
I will surely post again once I have fully recovered, and I would like to hear your opinions on how I am perceiving HPPD, and whether what I said was of any help at all. I also wanted to talk about how to revive the ego back, and the practices you can do, but I'll leave that to another post on its own after I hear your opinions on this matter.