Wanna hear a strange little story?
Years ago, in the Spring of 2012, I overdosed trying to kill myself. I had been contemplating suicide since I was a child and felt like it was finally time to just go through with it. I did enough research so that I was confident it would be a lethal dose. I played the odds and lost. Or at least that’s how it felt at the time.
I wish I could tell you one of those stories of someone who attempts suicide, lives, and they’re immediately grateful for “failing”. But that wasn’t me. Nothing has ever made me feel worse than regaining consciousness that day, knowing I had an opportunity, and I couldn’t make it work.
Within a few weeks, I started thinking about a more efficacious method for whenever my second attempt would be. That’s when I got a confirmation letter from Ryerson University that I was accepted to live in campus residence. It was a big deal because Ryerson’s a commuter school, so only a small percentage of students get accepted into residency.
I knew it was an opportunity to figure out if life could possibly be worth living. Moving into a university residence is an extremely unique situation because you’re essentially living in a building with a hundred of your brand new best friends who are all intelligent, ambitious, and down to hang out every night.
And now that I was 18, I finally was able to see a doctor about getting on antidepressants without worrying about my parents finding out. I can’t say for sure whether the medication did anything to help back then because there were so many conflating variables going on, but it was a relief to at least exercise that option.
I still had that part of me who desperately wanted to stop living, but it was easy to distract myself from that between meeting so many awesome new people, learning about exciting new subjects, and crashing lectures I technically shouldn’t have been in.
The problem was that as the second semester was coming to an end, I knew it wasn’t sustainable. You can’t live like that forever. I knew I was getting kicked out because I ignored my GPA in favour of doing things that made me feel like life could be okay. And I’m glad I did. The depressive episodes hit hard when I had to leave, but at least I left knowing that there’s some hypothetical life out there that seems like it might be worth living.
Fast forward through a couple of wild years and it’s 2016. It took three years of applications and boosting my GPA in night school, but I finally got accepted back into university to work on a super interesting degree. Yet, the following four years were a bit of a roller coaster heading off the rails fast in my senior year. Still, my grades were solid and I made it to Spring 2020, time to finally graduate, right?
Not so fast. A global pandemic hits, and I lose access to a social circle that was keeping me going through the darkest place that my head had been in since that reckless day in back 2012.
I was stuck at home with only a few weeks of online classes to wrap up that academic chapter, but then I woke up one day on the kitchen floor and my shoulder’s killing me. I go to the hospital, it turns out I had a seizure for the first time. The impact dislocated and fractured my right shoulder. Two weeks later, another seizure dislocates my left shoulder.
I was a temporarily handicapped recent graduate applying for jobs in an economic market struggling to stay open through the pandemic, let alone hire entry-level employees.
I make it to October 2020, but the weight of everything that piled up on me over the previous year or so pushes me over the edge one night. Eight years on an array of antidepressants, all kinds of psychotherapy, trying to find a life worth living, and nothing to show for it. Maybe this whole “living” thing never was meant for me. Let’s attempt again.
End up in the hospital. This time they lock me in a psych ward. No electronics, no visitors, and one erratic patient was very possessive over the only phone. So just me and my thoughts as a two-time suicide failure.
When I got out of there I knew I needed something radically different. Over the previous few years, I had heard a lot about psychedelic treatment for major mental illnesses. Proponents of Ayahuasca, an ancient and traditional psychedelic brew from the Amazon, had so many inspiring testimonials. It seemed like a promising option, but the borders were closed due to the pandemic. I couldn't get to South or Central America any time soon to participate in those treatments.
I talked to my doctor about any options available, and even though he was aware of the promising research emerging about psychedelic treatment, there was nothing within the medical system available for him to refer me to.
So within a few weeks of leaving the psych ward, on my own, I get my hands on an obscure psychedelic that sounded promising from the limited information I was able to find. And over the coming days, in my first two encounters with psychedelics, I had the two most powerful experiences of my life.
The first one spoke to the depressed aspect of my illness, the hurt child deep down within me. It sympathized with all of his pain but followed up by letting me know that it was a necessary struggle. It was the only way I could become the person I need to be to accomplish the things I’m meant to do.
The second spoke to the manic part of myself that I never could properly control. I got the message that this was an important tipping point. From that day on I’d be able to use this scattered aspect of my disordered mind as a superpower. I felt joy for the first time in my life and couldn’t stop smiling knowing that I was finally on the path I needed to be on. It was still a mystery where exactly I was headed in the future, but I knew I was facing the right direction.
After that proverbial Twin Miracle moment of these incredibly powerful experiences, I knew, not thought, KNEW that I’d never experience depression ever again. And I was right. I haven’t.
By the end of 2021, I found a way to get working on a major project that a few years ago seemed like an impossible pipe dream. I’ve begun a career path that I’m buzzing every day thinking about.
I know a lot of mental health advice can sound pretty generic, and, at least from my perspective when I was in a bad place, not very helpful. So here’s a tip for the kids thinking about calling it quits.
At least give adulthood a chance.
I didn’t talk to anybody about my mental health as a teenager because I was paranoid about being put in a facility against my will. I didn’t know that having a fun life was even possible until I moved away from home. You legally don’t even have individual autonomy until you’re an adult, so you haven’t properly experienced being a real person yet. Just wait, you don’t need to go through with that ultimate permanent decision. There are so many options out there you haven’t even heard of to help you get through this. You can figure this out. Just give yourself the chance.
As for everyone else out there struggling, I think this can be extrapolated to other milestones beyond just adulthood. If you’ve never truly felt loved, you don’t know what life can be like. If you haven’t tried pursuing your dreams, you don’t know what life can be like. I don’t have a kid, but I assume there are some parents out there that’ll tell me I still don’t even know the extent of the riches life can have if I ever choose to do so.
You never know what’s possible until you get there. And you can’t get there if you don’t try. But don’t let that intimidate you. You don’t need to try that hard if you don’t have the drive just yet. Everything is accomplished one step at a time. Day by day, start taking baby steps. There are no failures, only new discoveries and learning opportunities.
The image up top is a brilliant artistic rendering of a photo taken by my closest friend of nearly 15 years on the night of my second, more energetic, psychedelic experience.
As I was coming down from my trip, I sat down and contemplated the incredible message that I just internalized. I think it’s beautiful to now have a piece of art that captures in a frame the most pivotal moment of my life thus far. And that’s thanks to the foresight of my oldest confidant in my mental health journey.
This, perhaps, is a good segue into the last point I should make here. You need good people in your life. Don’t try to make it alone. I know making friends can be hard. I know that finding supportive and compatible people can be hard. But trust me, the time and energy you put into building those relationships will be the greatest investment you can ever make. No question.
I’m probably one of the happiest people alive today. I’m most certainly the most ambitious person alive today. So why don’t you stick around with me? Because if you make it through these times of darkness, and you’re still here, you have a superpower. You have the experience of making it across a bridge that some people tragically don't.
Starting today, make those first few baby steps. We're just on the brink of proper social change when it comes to mental health awareness and psychedelic research. Stick around, we've got Sweeter Plans. May 1st, 2022
- Kevin Luke, Founder of TBD Creative House
Goals - Social Awareness & Advocacy
Mental health is a difficult topic for most people to talk about and I think this is an area where iconography can be helpful. My vision is that by wearing or sharing the Sweeter Plans logo, we can quietly communicate to others that we support the availability of psychedelic treatments for mental health issues.
I think about a young person who may not be ready to talk to their family about the things they're going through, but maybe a Sweeter Plans T-shirt or sticker on their laptop prompts a question from their parents. And if that young person doesn't want to talk about their own struggles, they can tell their parents to check out this website, and read my story. Seeing that this is a cause their child cares about might be the much-needed catalyst to have an open conversation about what that person might be struggling with and the different types of treatments that have worked outside of conventional pharmaceutical treatment.
There have been many campaigns revolving around mental health awareness over the past few years, but they don't often have a direct call to action. With Sweeter Plans we want to spread the word that there is an overwhelming number of stories of people who got through their psychological troubles with the aid of psychedelic treatment, as well as an ever-expanding amount of scientific research supporting the efficacy of these treatments.
Sharing this message is critical because those who feel like they've exhausted every kind of treatment need to know that there are other options that they likely haven't been exposed to yet. And as a community, we must bring to the attention of legislators that policies urgently need to be changed to allow medical professionals to discuss and administer these treatments to patients who could benefit from them.
Goals - Consciousness Discovery Centre
Awareness alone isn't enough to make the advancements needed in this area. Because of the stigma surrounding psychedelics stemming from decades of negative propaganda, many researchers shy away from looking into psychedelic psychotherapeutic treatment. This is unfortunate because looking back into the depths of history it's clear that psychedelic plants were key parts of spiritual and cultural life all over the planet.
Some of these are still in use today, like Ayahuasca of the Amazon, and Iboga of central West Africa. Others are lost to the sands of time, but we still know them by name, like the Soma of India and the Kykeon of Greece.
I bring these up because I think the phrase "Consciousness Discovery" works well for what I envision - a place to make discoveries about consciousness in the past, present, and future. In the past, so much of humanity's history of psychedelics has been lost or intentionally erased. New research is slowly emerging, and I'd like to build a centre where we can contribute to that growing body of knowledge to learn more about ourselves.
Given how universal the use of psychedelics and altered states of consciousness were throughout the Earth, I also think that this research could be a great opportunity to unite people from distant parts of the world in understanding our ancestors, who, regardless of which continent they happened to be on, all saw essential value in consciousness-altering rituals.
This research into the past can then be a catalyst for discoveries about consciousness in the future. By getting a better understanding of why psychedelics were a crucial part of living a holistically healthy life as an individual and a community, we can begin to piece together how psychedelic treatments and ceremonies can help us heal our ills in the contemporary world. Perhaps by rediscovering the ceremonies of old, we can develop life-changing and life-saving treatments for the future.
And finally, for consciousness discovery in the present, I hope for this centre to also be a place that can occasionally host Ayahuasca ceremonies under the guidance of experienced plant medicine workers. This idea is inspired by the work of Rythmia Life Advancement Centre in Costa Rica, which I was fortunate enough to have visited earlier this year. Ayahuasca is a powerful and revered plant medicine with use in the Amazon going back thousands of years.
I got to experience firsthand the impact of several journeys with this medicine and now hope to help provide a place for others to have these revolutionary experiences as well. The amount of miracle stories out there from people who completely turned their life around after working with plant medicine is astonishing. If you want to get a better understanding of Ayahuasca and the Rythmia Life Advancement Centre, check out my friend Samuel Austin's brilliant film, Awakening Your Soul.
Proceeds from our shop here will be directed toward the design and construction of this Consciousness Discovery Centre. Your contributions are appreciated.
When you get your gear, tag us on social media #SweeterPlans
"No prizefighter can go with high spirits into the strife if he has never been beaten black and blue; the only contestant who can confidently enter the lists is the man who has seen his own blood, who has felt his teeth rattle beneath his opponent's fist, who has been tripped and felt the full force of his adversary's charge, who has been downed in bloody but not it spirit, one who as often as he falls, rises again with greater defiance than ever"
- Seneca, Letters from a Stoic