Depersonalisation to Realisation: Tracking a 7-day Microdosing and Art Therapy Voyage, by Xanthe E. Horner
Xanthe E. Horner is a multidisciplinary artist, witch and intuitive tarot reader based in East London, UK. Her creative practice perches playfully on the intersection between art-making, visionary experience and mythopoesis
As an artist, I see my visual practice as a vital bridge between inner experience and outer reality, as though in externalising that which was previously only in my mind enables me to understand it, to metabolise it. Shadow work is vital to my self-development as well as my artistic process. And yet I have zones in my mind I have a habit of keeping myself from, memories of episodic depersonalisation and disassociation through my teenage and early adult years.
I managed to minimise many of my trauma responses through self-healing, in discovering the power of sound and various holistic modalities. Though still, these memories would haunt at the edges of my psyche. They remained unresolved currents I was afraid would pull me back in; to a feedback loop of anxiety, crushing existential terror, disconnection from myself and the world at large.
After formative misadventures with psychedelics and legal highs in my teens, I came to the psychedelic renaissance a little late, sceptical and fearful. Though after a transformative experience macrodosing with LSD, my doubt subsided into belief and hopefulness. I was able to shift some latent pain I had been holding on to. I realised that so much of my depersonalisation and dissociative episodes came from this inability to face my pain, to encounter the source of trauma. I decided to microdose 0.2g of Psilocybin mushroom dust in tea each day for a week and use a combination of art therapy and journalling to track the inner changes as they manifested. I also utilised meditation, breathwork and grounding in nature at various points in the week when I felt stuck.
In preparation for this journey I spent some days reflecting, slowing down, looking after my body. On Sunday night, ahead of the first day, I had a microdose tea and constructed an altar with items that felt relevant to the process. used a deck of cards to help me set an intention. I pulled cards that resonated with the archetypal processes I was set to encounter; The body, The Cave, Fortune etc. The Psyche cards seemed to be mirroring this journey of initiation that I felt it to be. From connecting with the cards I devised the intention:
To journey within
To the Wisdom of the Body
To do inner work
To uncover the message
To surface the gems
My altar complete with photos of myself from childhood, an hourglass, healing crystals for love & courage, a handmade doll of my inner child.
Psyche Cards pulled to signify the process:
The Body, The Sage, Work
Psyche Cards pulled for the underlying key aspect of each stage:
The Message, The Cave, Fortune
I took the rest of the day to anchor this intention and to allow my thoughts to coalesce around the images, archetypal motifs of transformation. I found the last part; To surface the gems, particularly important, because in re-engaging with these experiences I hoped to extract some value that would enable me to gain perspective, even wisdom.
The following day, having taken my dose I began surfacing some feelings of anxiety and tremors, the sensation of dread and helplessness deep in my chest. I chose to help myself open more with a guided meditation. I was able to see myself as a child of 8 or 9 years old, a plump little girl with a messy fringe and a shy smile. I was struck by how gentle and soft I was, how I would tend to my soft toys. I saw myself before my dad had left, a slight 6 year old who was boisterous and playful. There was a clear distinction between the two, I saw my later childhood years as going into myself, protecting myself in softness to try to smooth over those hard edges of early pain. In my teens I had attempted to move away from and effectively disown this image of myself, out of shame. Looking through the eyes of compassion, I could see all along I was just trying to protect myself, to put a barrier between myself and the world.
Upon reflecting, I found it interesting that I was guided this far back. As if this was the initial rupture. I realised how harsh I had been to that small and soft person who was only doing her best with the tools she had. I could see my teenage years, with bouts of eating disorders, were a continuation of the theme of moving away from this pain, of rejecting the wounded inner child, of disassociating from an initial rupture in my sense of wholeness. I realised I was unearthing that lost child.
The following day I chose to ground in nature in my local woodland. Upon taking my dose I felt feelings of anger, irritability and resentment, I believe these were old feelings from my early teens towards myself. As I entered the woodland and took in my surroundings these feelings began to subside. I began to feel genuinely present and had so much curiosity for the crunch of leaves underfoot, for the patterns in the tree bark, even swinging on a makeshift swing. I began to feel deeply calm, connected and plugged into the vitality of life. Unrestrained childlike feelings came back to me, as did memories of similar experiences in nature throughout my life. I felt as though I had suppressed the possibility for spontaneous joy, and vowed to allow it to return, to call my essential wildness back to myself.
Days 1 & 2: Mixed media collage and drawing. Day 1 was the sensation of the joys and fears around ‘opening the box’. Day 2 was my day of immersion in the woods, still with perils and intrigue.
The following two days were the exact opposite of the optimistic breakthroughs I felt I had experienced on the first few. Feelings of being stuck, hitting a wall, anxieties that I’m not going to be able to go deep enough, that these feelings are too buried. These feelings eventually started moving on their own when I was present with them. I took to writing poetry to provoke a deeper communication between conscious and unconscious. Though it was on Thursday night I had a telling dream. I dreamt that I was back at school, dressed in my old school uniform, then in a moment I was at my grandma’s house, still dressed in my uniform. There were men with guns in the living room and a sense of threat. I felt this to be my ego defences: guarding the vaults of memory.
On Friday I decided to combine my dose with a root chakra meditation, where I saw different versions of myself sat at a table, from a very young child to early adulthood. It was as though these differential aspects of myself were characters, roles I had played to reinvent and evade myself. This reinvention was part of moving away from my pain. I had no ability to integrate these different aspects of myself as I was causing my own fragmentation, in trying to move away from my pain, I was never experiencing my own wholeness. I believe now that these dissociative episodes, in particular, the reoccurring terror that I was not ‘real’, resulted from this inner fragmentation. Although I had the experience of excess, of not being able to contain my emotions, I now see this was the result of having no real continuity or tethering to ground my experience, and so I would seep over the narrow bounds I had created for myself. My fundamental disconnection from ‘self’ led to the anxiety that I was mad, going mad, or didn’t in fact exist. The depersonalisation I experienced was in fact a protective mechanism, creating a buffer between myself and the world, and the spiralling existential thoughts attached to it were a byproduct of that disconnection and alienation. It felt as though the terror I had been resisting in entering this journey was unfounded. Simply, the only thing left to confront was my own fear.
I decided to do a more embodied activity on Saturday with my dose, settling on a breathwork and trauma release exercise. I found I was able to release through shaking and was surprised that I had returned to that promising state of inner restfulness and peace of the first few days. I felt as though I had dislodged that stuckness. I didn’t need to relive being in a disassociated state. Rather, I faced difficult feelings and applied wisdom to past experience. I went back into the archives and changed the narrative. The doorway disintegrated as soon as I stepped through it.
Days 3-6: Mixed media collage. The process of feeling closed, stuck, then of releasing fear & conscious transformation.
For my final day and last microdose, I decided to return to the forest. I felt as though I had come full circle. A freedom I have not felt in a long time. My main take away from this experience is that our fears are not the truth. We must confront what we fear to be in greater capacity to hold truth, to re-write old narratives and retire old thought patterns. I found that microdosing gave me an ability to open more readily, though I still had to do the work. It is a tool. The gentle medicine means you are less likely to try to force change, but to go at your own pace. I was surprised throughout the week by my ability to stay with those feelings of helplessness and frustration, to witness and understand that discomfort is a necessary stage of metamorphosis.
Day 7: Mixed Media Collage. A vessel in a state of struggle, the cocoon before metamorphosis.
 Nick Hobson, PsyCards, 1998 www.psycards.com
 Jason Stephenson: PTSD Visualization: for trauma relief & healing
Meditative Mind, Root Chakra Healing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6cb3MPiRe0
 Ethereal Meditations: Guided Healing Meditation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Giin8EiqbnA