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Evening all,

(Skip to the end for the descriptions of the visuals I get, and please let me know if you’ve had that as well, I’ve been dying to know if anyone else gets them like that!)

It’s so great that this place exists! The little that I’ve been able to find about HPPD seems to all be second hand accounts, so there being a group full of people with first hand experience is very reassuring. When it was happening more intensely, the worst part was being cut off from the world through being driven to distraction. Part of you isn’t there, and “What planet are you living on?” was a common question. 

I’m sure many of you have it to a greater extent than I now do, but I’d still like to share my experience of it, because a few years ago the hallucinations often freaked me out. It was overwhelming and debilitating, and the memory of that time has stayed with me. It still happens sometimes, but I know what triggers it now, and therefore have somewhat more over control over it. 

If you’re reading this, thanks for listening. (I wrote the following paragraph too soon, it’s definitely a long read): I’ll try to keep things as brief as possible, but as I’ve never properly gotten it off my chest, and as there’s multiple things which, I think, led me to have HPPD, this might drag on a bit.

SO....

When I was 19 (I’m 23 now), I lost a friend in pretty horrible circumstances. I had been saving up to go backpacking with friends but, a few weeks before we were booked to go away, he passed. We decided to carry on, but in hindsight I spent the whole 4 months in shock, in a very alien environment. Whilst trying to make the most of it, thinking “it’s what he would have wanted,” in the background I couldn’t stop trying to make sense of what had happened (it was completely avoidable, he died alone in the corridor of a hospital on the other side of the world, because the paramedics left his medical documents on the public bus they picked him up from). So whilst I definitely overdid it with the acid, it was not a great set and setting in the first place. 

Before that, I’d occasionally smoked weed from 14, and by the time I was 16 it had become habitual. I’m from London, and at that age I didn’t know or care about the difference between the rocket fuel skunk that street dealers would sell you, and the cleaner variety that’s easier on your brain. I also started taking ecstasy quite regularly at around that time, and ketamine a year later. By 18, the year before the HPPD started, I’d been overdoing it pretty consistently for a while. I’ve heard that for some people, once they’ve flicked the switch, their mind stays in that place, and I think that’s what happened with me. 

Part of the reason I’m posting this is that I found out last year I have adult ADHD, and have been reading about that a lot recently. So I’m wondering if any of you have had the same thing happen, specifically losing someone whilst having undiagnosed ADHD, and subsequently taking too much acid and developing HPPD. Seems like a long shot, but the internet’s a big place so who knows. 

Due to the tendency of having “high sensitivity,” both sensorially and emotionally, one of ADHD’s less known symptoms is that it makes you particularly susceptible to emotional trauma. Experiences that would normally only be temporarily overwhelming can easily get stuck on a loop in your head. Certain memories can endlessly replay themselves in an ADHD brain, burrowing further into your day to day thinking over time. That’s not to say that I think I have ptsd or anything, just that HPPD was an accident waiting to happen, given my neurological set up. 

I now know ADHD was also the cause of the excessive drug consumption in the years running up to the trips that sparked the HPPD, and so I’m sure all of the above created the perfect storm for one too many tabs to have the effect it has had.

During the 4 months of being away we had fairly easy access to a cocktail of what should have been prescription drugs, from shady pharmacists. This included clonazepam (or maybe it was zopoclone) which can apparently also cause hallucinations. So, for a month before the acid began, we’d already buried ourselves fairly far beneath a layer of industrial strength painkillers and hash. 

I found a review of a doctor I was considering going to on this forum today, who supposedly specialises in HPPD (although, given the lack of research on the topic, I’d question whether it’s even possible to be an HPPD specialist). He said that of the hundreds of cases he’d seen, the majority had begun whilst the person was, so to speak, “in the wilderness” for the first time. I.e far from home, in an unfamiliar environment, and in distress to one extent or another. That describes my situation at the time exactly. 

After that month’s worth of visits to unscrupulous pharmacists, we found that this other, more potent chemical was on offer at our next stop. Trips to ramshackle pharmacies (largely consisting of three hastily constructed walls, a roof, a disinterested shopkeeper, and enough opioids to sedate a small country) became trips to a technicolour clad, mandala tattoo sporting Russian man that lived at the base of a tree, with abundant supplies of acid and a very long beard. He was like something out of a fairytale, as was the journey it took to find him.

Having to scramble through bushes and over rocks, to reach a tree where you knew a man with ribbons platted in his beard would squeeze a pipette onto your tongue, sounds made up. That general feeling of unreality and dissociation, both environmentally and chemically induced, definitely stayed with me when I came home. Whenever the HPPD happened for a year or so after, the memory of being distant from myself like I was at the time felt very fresh in my mind.

Anyway, now that hallucinogens had entered into the mix I decided I’d found my calling, and would be a committed psychonaut. General mind exploration was something I’d wanted to do for a long time. Again, I didn’t realise I was trying to “solve” my ADHD, as if stemmed from something that I needed to figure out about myself in order for it to stop. I naively approached psychedelics in the same way as I’d done with other things I’d tried over the years, all of which I had inevitably overdone. 

Without realising, I’d probably edged closer to HPPD every time I decided to over indulge in a given substance, unbalancing my brain chemistry a little more each time. In the past I rationalised these things by telling myself I was just being a show off, trying to outdo the people around me. The doctor that diagnosed me with ADHD, however, explained that trying those various substances was an attempt to self medicate, and that’s ultimately why I think I have HPPD. 

We spent about 3 weeks there, paying the bearded man a visit far too frequently, as I now know. I don’t think I had more than a week’s worth of rest days, so I went from having never taken acid to doing it about 15 times in quick succession (followed by another 5 or so in the months ahead).

I’d taken mushrooms and 2cb before that, but acid was a completely different story (obviously, but not obviously at the time). I now realise where the combined effects of being grief stricken, attempting to figure out what felt off inside me (ADHD), and machismo naïveté get you to. I was way too gung-ho with something as powerful as acid, and had never heard of set and setting. 

Even after that, the recurring visuals still hadn’t presented themselves. Another 6 weeks passed, and one by one my friends returned home. It was only me and a guy a few years older, who we’d bumped into at various points along the way and had become friends with. When we first met he told me that he hadn’t really stopped tripping for 2 years, and I found the idea of that fascinating, terrifying and oddly hilarious. I know, jokes on me. 

I mentioned the HPPD doctor saying that he’s found it to often stem from being in a very unfamiliar environment for the first time. That and the grief, my set and setting, were the straw that broke the camels back... so a trip could break my brain. 

On the day before I would need to make the long trip back to the airport, the two of us decided to walk up a mountain for 8 hours. We’d acquired what our hostel owner, another bearded man whose general demeanour told you he was well acquainted with hallucinogens, described as “the real deal.” Logically, we decided that the best place to experience the “real deal” was up a mountain, so up we went. 

I forget exactly how strong, but the real deal was somewhere between 300–500 micrograms. Not Terrance McKenna territory, but enough to blow the bloody  doors off. A few weeks ago I walked past someone wearing a T-shirt that said “I left my mind up on the mountain” and was laughing for quite a while. I can still picture the view when I forgot who I was like it was yesterday. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, but probably too beautiful, and too overwhelming. 

I could hardly see, walking was a challenge, and stringing a sentence together was out of the question. It started to get dark not long after the peak, and we decided to go swimming, joining a large group of young men on a weekend trip from the nearest city. Tripping balls in a pair of shorts, in the dark, surrounded by people staring at you, is not something I will ever forget either. 

We then spent several hours in a large tent, ruining the relaxing time that the few other occupants were having with an extremely longwinded laughing fit. It started after one of us mustered the first sentence in a long while, “I think we’ve lost it,” and the HPPD set in from then on. 

This must be far longer than what counts as an introduction, so I’ll be quick.

After I got back, I was hallucinating constantly for a good 18 months. Everything would have a halo, particularly dark things against light backgrounds, like trees against the sky. All flat surfaces, like walls and clouds, had visual snow, if I’m using that term correctly. The contours of fabrics have proven to be a particularly long lasting trigger, because they look so much like acid visuals. 

There are various other things like that, but the thing that was the most frustrating when it was constant was the closed eye displays as I’d be falling asleep. They still happen, but I think the Ritalin I now take, plus the benefit of it being four years since it started, has meant that it’s infrequent enough to be more fascinating and beautiful than it is exhausting. At the time, I was an insomniac for quite a while because of all this. I had several wobbles that made me think I was becoming schizophrenic, and a particularly memorable one was at about 4am one skunk addled night. Drifting off, but also panicking about nothing as usual, an old Irish man shouted “WHY HAVEN’T YOU DONE ANY DRIVING LESSONS?!?” so loud in my ear that I jumped up and had to turn the lights on. 

Basically, and if anyone’s still reading then please let me know if you have the same thing, when I close my eyes there is purple and yellow light. They’re in concentric circles, and if the outer one is purple, the inner one will be yellow, and they’ll slowly fall into the centre, swapping places as one reaches the centre. It’s very hard to describe. Anyway, they’re in flat circles if I’m calm and not paying attention, and if I get agitated by it they tend to lose symmetry, becoming more erratic and developing what I can only describe as the texture of a thorn bush. It looks spikey and  unwelcoming, whereas the circles are pretty serene. After a while I got incredibly fed up with it, but that led me to figure out that I was in control of what was happening, as in I could literally control the lights by picturing something. 

The first time this happened, all I could think of was “hello ****” (as in hello me, but I’d rather not attach my name to this as I do feel a bit mad saying it all). So, I concentrated on the shape of one letter at a time, and after a minute or 2 the words flew across my field of vision from left to right, in the default font of Microsoft word art, but made of the same purple and yellow light... 

I still don’t know what to make of it. I hope that before I die they figure out what is going on, because all I can think is that whatever is looking at this stuff, my minds eye, is an actual thing in an actual place. 

If I think of peoples faces hard enough, they appear in the same coloured light, but like they’re a photocopy that’s been recopied loads of times. 

I’ve also been drifting off, and I’ll suddenly think “Huh, I’m not tripping, that’s nice.” This is often followed by a feeling that I’m falling backwards in a chair in slow motion, but in the last millisecond I’ll notice that feeling and have a sudden intense falling sensation, like when you think there’s another stair at the top of a staircase but there isn’t. I’ll simultaneously say “oh f***” in my head, and will suddenly have intense, intricate visuals. If you’ve seen Interstellar, it looks like when they go through the wormhole in that. 

Another good comparison is the old screensavers on macs (I just googled it, and it’s called the “Mac flurry screensaver”- it’s almost exactly what it can look like).

On the second page of the document in the link I’ve attached, the purple and yellow pattern is identical to what the most common pattern looks like. 

https://www.tijdschriftvoorpsychiatrie.nl/assets/articles/56-2014-11-artikel-neven.pdf 

If it seems like I’m taking the piss, I know this can be intensely unpleasant and debilitating, and furthermore that schizophrenia is absolutely not something to joke about. Having said that, the only thing that stopped me slipping off the edge a few times was by laughing at myself, and at how bizarre and incomprehensible the whole thing is. Whilst it’s somewhat sabotaged my life from the inside, I know my experience is relatively mild, so if you’re really struggling with this then I don’t mean to be brash. Being a tool is a coping mechanism, and if any of this sounds like it’s poking fun at something that can actually be awful, I don’t mean to.

Big love to you all, and an enormous thanks to wherever set this up.

 

 

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