As the sun rose, light entered Lizzie’s bedroom and woke her up. She sprung off her floor mattress and danced a little to the music playing on her bedroom speakers. Because her and I share a brain and body, I can also tell you some of her thoughts, though I can’t say I know all of them. That morning she was eager to get her day started because she had plans to try a drug that had a chance to help her with her debilitating post-traumatic stress. She walked into the attached bathroom to take a shower. Already feeling rather stressed by the weight of being awake for three minutes, she put on her playlist that she had titled “Mania is Just a Scream Away”.
As she swung her hips in the shower trying to generate energy through dance while she cleaned herself, she reviewed her day’s decision one last time. “I’ve been having these feelings as long as I can remember, and my mind is a goddamned enigma to me. I’ve read plenty of studies that say this can help. With any luck, I’ll remember whatever horrible, awful thing happened to me, and then I can heal.”
Suddenly she started hearing the music again. A few songs had passed, so she figured she must have had been out for about ten minutes. “Not too bad,” she sighed. She then made a conscious effort to keep her thoughts on completing the tasks necessary to get through showering and dressing so as to avoid missing another day dissociated in her bedroom.
Especially not today. She threw on some comfortable clothes and walked into her living room. There she found her housemate Logan asleep on the couch. She giggled and paused for a moment to appreciate how calm he finally seemed. Then she walked over to the makeup station to relieve the anxiety from having her bare face seen.
As she touched up her eyeliner, she saw Logan waking up via the mirror. “Ready to do some drugs?” she chirped.
“I am so ready for this.” He stood up and walked into the kitchen. Meanwhile, Lizzie made herself useful by acquiring some blankets from her bedroom and placing them on the couches in the living room. Then she tidied up the room a bit. A smile crept across her face as she unpacked a few more items from last week’s move-in and consciously appreciated her new home. Then she sat down on the couch. She had bought it from another graduate student who had better taste, so it’s uncharacteristically fancy for her personal aesthetic, though admittedly very comfortable. Really, nearly everything in the well-furnished house came from someone she met during her two years and counting of living in California; so while nothing matched, every individual item was somehow special. She shouted into the kitchen, “Dude, this place is nicer than anywhere my parents have ever lived.”
Logan reentered the living room carrying a plate with two mushroom sandwiches on it. “Wow. I think this is about as nice as my parents’ house.” Just then, their friend Jas knocked on the front door and let himself in. Lizzie leapt up to hug him. Logan just stared as the two embraced.
“Have you guys eaten the shrooms yet?” Jas asked.
“No,” said Lizzie. She returned to her spot on the couch and took a sandwich. “Y’know, normally I would have some severe anxiety eating this much. I mean, I still kinda do, and I probably won’t eat for the next few days after this, but, like, drugs are worth the calories.”
“You should eat everyday, Lizzie,” Logan said.
“Yeah,” Jas added. “So wait, where’s my portion?”
Lizzie responded, “Uhh, you didn’t give me any money for shrooms, so I didn’t buy any for you. I’ve covered your last several trips, and normally I’m happy to, but this is a bit expensive for me to buy you a dose. I’m happy to supply you with red candies, though. If you could give me a few dollars for the supply, that’d be cool. For once.”
“Okay,” Jas sighed. Lizzie set her sandwich down and went to her closet to acquire a few bottles of pills. She haphazardly tore into the box of boxes of pills and took three out. She walked back to the living room and tossed them on the floor in front of Jas, who had sat down on the floor. “Thanks,” he said.
“Of course,” Lizzie said smiling. She took a large bite into her sandwich. Her shoulders and eyelids tightened, and her body prepared itself to panic in response to the unfamiliar food. She consciously slowed her breathing and focused on her hopes that suffering through eating this sandwich and the accompanying anxiety that usually feels like being a screw stripped from being tightened too enthusiastically by a hyperthymic craftswoman.
She swallowed her first bite. “Oh, wow, this is way tastier than I expected. I wonder if I’d like regular mushrooms. Though I suppose since I don’t like eating in general, I probably won’t want to start a new food.”
Logan said, “I think it’d be a good idea for you to get some variety in your diet. Plus, you’re a vegetarian, right? Mushrooms are a good source of protein for you.” Lizzie and Logan finished their sandwiches as Jas swallowed the bottles of pills. “I can’t wait to puke. I heard puking on shrooms is great.”
Lizzie said, “I don’t think I actually can. Highs and lows of bulimia, y’know? I even tried putting a belt down there once, and nope, nothing. Anything that goes down, stays down.” She took a blanket and crawled on the floor to a spot she could stretch her body unobstructed. She said, “Anyway. Tripping. Music. How about we take turns putting on albums on the speaker?”
“Yeah, I like that idea, but knowing us we’ll probably be distracted after the first album,” Logan said.
“True. So would you like to go first or shall I?” Lizzie asked.
“You can go ahead,”
“Okay,” Lizzie said. She took her phone from her pocket and connected it to her living room speaker. She put on Fall Out Boy’s From Under the Cork Tree. “I have some feelings to go through.” The first song led her to again face the fact that her public image was disconcertingly detached from her actual personality. A line she had written on a notebook she carried everywhere the year before came to mind: “Life wrapped in plastic ain’t half-bad.”
Her body relaxed into the cold tile floor, at first just sinking into a hypnotic state, but then as the drugs took effect, she felt like her body was melting. As the album playing reached the popular singles from fourteen years prior, Lizzie found her thoughts swirled around her childhood. Something felt newly off about it. While the summer before she spent a week yearning for the past and her biological family, and while she’d spent the remainder of that year pursuing those people, her father attempted to kill her on New Year’s Day, so she swore to refuse any contact with him until he went to rehab. Nonetheless, her childhood memories were mostly pretty good. Under the blankets and the influence of psilocybin, she felt suspicious of her childhood.
Lizzie’s connection to reality grew progressively weaker. As though she were clinging to a log on the surface of a river flowing downhill. Then as though the log had reached a waterfall and ejected Lizzie, she lost all connection with the present. Bright oranges and reds flashed in her vision. She heard screams of terror. She tried to open her mouth to scream, but found she was completely paralyzed. Her head seemed to slam into the ground, though immediately after, she opened her eyes and saw her head was well off the ground. She quickly seized the opportunity to throw off her blanket. The deluge of sunlight shining through the glass walls rescued her from the dark hole she fell into in her inner mental world. “I think I just had a flashback,” she said.
“Oh? What was it like?” Logan said.
“Terrifying, mostly. I couldn’t make much out clearly. There was a lot of screaming and a general sense of terror and violence. I need to see it more clearly.”
“Are you sure that’s a good idea? You don’t want to retraumatize yourself.”
“I took these drugs to figure out my C-PTSD, so I’m going to take this opportunity to understand my memory while it’s here. This stuff isn’t exactly easy to come by.”
“Okay, if that’s what you want. Do you wanna go outside and smoke now?” Logan asked.
“How will it affect the effect of the mushrooms?” Lizzie answered.
“It’ll intensify them.”
“Oh, cool, that’s what I wanted.”
“Okay, I’ll go get the stuff.” He walked out of the room.
As Lizzie waited, she checked Messenger on her phone. She opened the group chat that she started for some friends from college to share memes that morphed into a wider group of people who all know Lizzie and support each other emotionally. She typed, “So, I think I just had a flashback. I’ve had them before, but they’ve never been this vivid and immersive. Lots of screaming and violence. I hope to find out more soon.”
She continued, “Also, I think whereas LSD is good for enhancing euphoric experiences, psilocybin seems to be good for letting the mind explore some darker recesses. Much like DXM.”
Her friend Paul responded, “Maybe you shouldn’t be experimenting with hallucinogens again.”
Lizzie said, “This is to help me get over my anxiety and trauma. It’s not like I’m just having fun with drugs.”
Paul said, “Maybe you should see a therapist instead of self-prescribing experimental treatments. Didn’t you also say you have anorexia? That will kill you. You can’t beat that on your own.”
Several friends in the group, Logan and Jas included, joined in encouraging Lizzie to get professional help for her eating disorder and any other disorders professionals may identify. The next thing Lizzie knew, several minutes had passed and she had sent a message saying “Fuck you all, I don’t need this” and had thrown her phone across the room.
Logan reappeared with the smoking supplies, so Lizzie turned her attention away from her phone and followed Logan through the sunroom and into the backyard. Jas followed closely. As the three stood barefoot in the grass, Logan turned to Jas and asked, “Since you’re the most capable right now, can you please go get us a blanket to lay on?”
“Sure thing,” He went back into the house.
Logan and Lizzie sat down in the grass. When Jas returned, he said, “I like how you asked me to bring you a blanket and then sat in the grass anyways.” The three of them laughed. “Anyways, I brought you all some water, too. Always good to stay hydrated.”
Logan took the blanket and spread it out on the grass while Lizzie relaxed on her back, arms stretched out to take in as much sunlight as she could. The three began smoking from a small ceramic pipe with a citrus-themed BIC lighter. As they passed them around, Lizzie continued her soul-searching. Being in her backyard gave her a chance to look at the house she’d been gushing over. “We’re all just highly evolved apes that put really complicated boxes in places to keep us comfortable despite the weather,” she said to nobody in particular. She crawled over to the palm tree in the middle of the yard and sat at its base. She smiled at the sun, the palm, her friends, and the place she could finally call home.
Turning to Logan and Jas, she said, “Hey, we should name the palm dude.”
Logan said, “What do you want to name it?”
Lizzie said, “How about ‘Our Friend’? I bet this one won’t die.”
Logan said, “Ha! Yeah! Alright, this is Our new Friend. Does Jas know about that story?”
Lizzie said, “No,” and turned to Jas. “First we wrote ‘Our Friend’ on a balloon. After a few hours it popped. Then we found a cute lil spidey dude and called it Our Friend. But we haven’t seen her since. Somehow I think this friend will last longer.”
Jas said, “I certainly hope it does. It’d suck for the tree to fall on your house. Most insurances specifically exclude that.”
Lizzie said, “You know, that wasn’t the direction I was going, but yeah, that would indeed suck.”
The three sat under their friend on top of Lizzie’s fuzzy pink striped blanket Jas had brought out. For a few minutes, the three quietly took in their surroundings. Then without warning, Lizzie fell out of reality into another flashback. It was more intense, keeping all of her senses fully immersed for longer. She could tell this time that she was unable to move in this situation. The lighting was dim, but present. Behind the screams, the ambient noise was really loud. One of the screams sounded like her mother’s. Before she could make much more out, she found herself suddenly in the present, and in Jas’s arms. He held her as she shook. Once grounded, she pushed away and sat back down on her own. The feeling of suspicion she had about her childhood earlier was back with greater confidence. She asked her two friends, “Hey, so, it’s normal for parents to hit their kids and then deny it later, right?”
Logan said, “No, Lizzie, that’s child abuse.”
Lizzie frowned. She said, “Oh. I guess I can see that. And keeping a child in a below-freezing room every night?”
Logan said, “Also abuse. Or neglect.”
Lizzie said, “Neglect? You mean like they also weren’t supposed to leave me without social contact for weeks? What, was I also not supposed to be left in charge of very drunk adult men, father included, as a small child? Did other kids not get hit as a punishment for expressing pain after getting hit? What’s next, are you going to tell me all that unwanted sexual contact also has negative effects on me today?” The two just looked back at her sadly. She closed her eyes tightly to hold the tears in. Jas leaned forward and handed her a pipe while putting an arm around her shoulder.
Lizzie put the pipe to her mouth. She tried to light it, but she accidentally burned her thumb. “Ow!” she cried. She tried to think the pain away, but her thoughts had no effect. “What the hell? Why does it still hurt?” she cried.
Logan said, “You burned yourself. It’s going to hurt for awhile.”
Lizzie said, “But normally I can stop the pain after I notice it. Wait. Can you not do that?”
Logan said, “No, I can’t choose to not feel pain. I don’t think most people can. It sounds like you’re usually dissociated and the shrooms have forced you to be in your body.”
Lizzie said, “Holy shit, how do you live? This is hell!” She sucked on her burned thumb.
Jas pulled her in closer. He said, “Here, give me your hand?” Lizzie complied, and Jas held her thumb in his hand.
Lizzie said, “I think more weed would help the pain. Can you help me? My thumb hurts too much to use the lighter.”
“Sure,” Jas said. He handled the lighter and pipe for Lizzie to smoke. Indeed, her thumb pain became more tolerable as the cannabis took effect. She was able to resume thinking about other things. At that point, she appreciated that the friends she chose to trip with were both witches who were impressively in tune with their bodies and environment. While not knowing more than everyone else in the room about what she’s doing bothered her somewhat, she was grateful to have particularly excellent companions to help her grow past this weak spot she had.
Logan said, “I just realized. Capitalism wants you to constantly produce as much as possible. So not doing things is resisting capitalism.” Lizzie expressed her agreement, and Jas expressed his confusion. Logan then further explained his realization: “Capitalism makes us think we have to be doing things to make someone money all the time. But we don’t. I can just lay here.”
“I’m glad you had that realization,” Lizzie said. Then she returned to her own thoughts, feeling close to something big. She said, “As much as I hate to say it, my self-conception is super Platonic, isn’t it? I’m all detached thought and not at all in my body. Like you said, I’m usually dissociated, but shrooms disable my dissociation. So, normally I could dissociate away the burning pain, but now I can’t.”
With her mind now back on her thumb, the burning intensified rapidly. She began to sob uncontrollably. She cried, “How do I make this pain end?”
Jas held her closer, and Logan told her, “It’ll go away. The trip will end and you’ll go back to your normal.”
Lizzie became silent as she slipped away from reality again. Her body in Jas’s arms, she found herself standing isolated in a dim room somewhere in our inner mental world. A woman stood before her whom she recognized as Victoria. Sometimes she called herself Victoria when she was in a particularly triumphant state. But in this moment, she felt a deep conviction that Victoria held all of her vanity, and that she, Lizzie, was not herself actually Victoria. This Victoria character she figured was a manifestation of the side of her hellbent on plasticizing herself.
She heard a stern voice from behind her say, “You know what you have to do.” Feeling cold metal in her hand then, she glanced down and saw she was somehow holding a gun now.
“No,” she said, “I can’t.”
Behind her a woman who looked much like her but a little taller stepped forward to her side. She recognized this woman as Natalia, another personality that sometimes took control of her body and then had a vivid hallucinatory presence. Natalia put her hand on Lizzie’s shoulder. She said, “Lizzie, trust me. You must.”
Lizzie trembled. More fearful of the solemn woman gripping her shoulder than destroying the unwanted part of herself, she pulled the trigger. A bullet punctured Victoria’s chest, and Lizzie fell to her knees crying.
She found herself back in the outer physical world with Logan and Jas trying to make her responsive. She managed to break out her inner crying to the outside world. Then she said through her sobs, “I’m sorry, I didn’t want to shoot Victoria but Natalia pushed me!”
Logan said, “What are you talking about? Who are Victoria and Natalia?”
Unable to continue speaking, Lizzie buried her face into Jas’s arm and cried some more. Logan said, “I can see her sweating through her clothes. Let’s get inside out of the sun and get her some water.” Jas helped Lizzie get back to the living room to rest on a couch as Logan went off to get more water.
“Okay, I think I want some alone time to think now. Are you going to be okay?” Logan said after handing Lizzie a glass of water.
“Yeah, I think I just need to rest, anyway,” Lizzie said.
“I guess I’ll head out then,” Jas said. Then Lizzie drifted into a nap.
When she woke up, the daylight had been replaced by the glow of the chandelier. She turned her head to the other couch and made eye contact with Logan. “Oh hey, you’re awake. Wanna smoke?” he said.
“Sure,” Lizzie said, and slowly swung her legs around to sit up. “You wanna smoke outside or in the garage?”
“In the garage,” Logan said. “It’s too dark outside. I’ll go get the stuff and meet you in there?”
“Sounds good to me,” Lizzie said. She walked into the garage and sat on the lone futon. She pulled out her phone and texted her best friend from the last year of college, Maria.
“How’s life going?” Lizzie asked.
“It’s a pain but I’m moving along. You?” Maria said.
Lizzie said, “That is the biggest mood. Teaching is more fulfilling than I expected. Success is less fulfilling than I expected.”
“I’m glad to hear at least one of those things is fulfilling. But what is success?”
“Being hot, having money and a swag house, being popular, etc. Standard metrics. Turns out I’d rather read and teach.”
“Yeah that stuff never really seemed like you. Except for the being hot part cause that’s just how you’ve been.”
Lizzie said, “Oh huh. I thought that was just. Universal. Like. I thought everyone liked those things.”
Maria said, “I’m not sure how to phrase my response…I think most people want to be comfortable and that’s their idea of comfortable.” Lizzie stared at the message for a minute trying to think of a response. Then Maria added, “I’m also not entirely convinced you thought everyone liked that stuff.”
“Oh huh. I didn’t take comfort into consideration. Especially since getting hotter has been 0/10 for comfort. But I don’t get what you mean when you say you’re not convinced I thought everyone liked that stuff.”
“You’re usually not one to make sweeping statements such as ‘everyone likes x’ etc. So something is catching me as off.”
Lizzie said, “….huh. Yeah… Maybe my pursuit of being the best demanded some fallacious sweeping beliefs.”
“I could also just be being pedantic or whatever the word is.”
“Also possible. Both can be true, too.”
Maria said, “It’s also nini time so I’ll talk to u later,” and added a heart emoji.
“Okie pokie love you sleep well.” As Lizzie set her phone down, she looked up and realized Logan had already sat down on the futon with her. She said, out loud this time, “Wow, I dissociate hard.”
“Why do you say that?” Logan packed a bowl and handed it to Lizzie.
Lizzie said, “I was so single-mindedly in a text conversation with Maria that I didn’t even notice you enter the room. It’s okay, though, she helped me realize some important things.”
As Lizzie inhaled deeply from the pipe, Logan said, “Yeah? What did she help you realize?” Lizzie unlocked her phone and showed him the exchange that just occurred as she continued to smoke. After he finished reading, he said, “Wow, yeah, I’ve been telling you that for awhile now.”
Lizzie traded the pipe for her phone back. She coughed a bit, not quite sure whether she was trying to clear her throat or buy time. At least, I’m not quite sure why she coughed; she could have known and just never let me know. Her throat and mind clear, she said, “Yeah, but like, something big clicked today. I think Victoria and Natalia are alternate personalities. I’ve fortunately already studied dissociative identity disorder a fair bit for my doctoral research, and it explains so much about my chaotic life, and I’ve suspected it several times since I was young but always had it dismissed as crazy. But like, remember when you asked me several days in advance if I wanted to do shrooms and I said, ‘Saturday is four days away. You can’t expect me to know what personality I’ll have then’?”
Logan said, “I always figured you were just using it as a sort of hyperbole.”
“No, yeah, so did I, kinda. Like, looking back, I see all the obvious signs now. And how many times I basically already said it out loud. But it’s a lot to believe.”
“It sounds like you cracked open a lot of trauma today. You should probably talk to a therapist about it. And the anorexia.”
“Actually, I’m over the anorexia. If there’s anything that motivates me, it’s people telling me I can’t do something. Like, in high school, I wanted to expand the number of musical instruments I played, right? So I asked my friend whether to pick up trombone or bass guitar and he said some nonsense about a jack of all trades being the master of none and doubting my abilities. So I auditioned for the jazz bands on both of the instruments he played and beat him on both.”
“So basically you’re going to beat anorexia out of spite?”
Lizzie said, “That and all the stuff I realized with Maria and shooting Victoria.” She shuddered.
Logan said, “Well, I hope it works out.” He stretched and yawned. “I’m gonna go to bed. Good night. I love you.”
“I love you, too. Enjoy sleep.” Lizzie finished the bowl as Logan left the garage. Then she put herself to bed. Lying on her side with her arms wrapped around a body pillow and her eyes closed, she tried speaking inside to Natalia. She said, “Hey, so, are you in here?”
She felt a presence for a second before Natalia responded. Natalia said, “Yes, I am, Lizzie. Hello. I’m glad we know more about each other now.”
Lizzie said, “Me, too. Um, so. As long as I’m still high and having an extra easy time manifesting hallucinations, would you like to cuddle?”
Blushing, Natalia said, “I really would.” The body pillow in Lizzie’s arms began to feel like Natalia’s body: warm, soft, human, alive, and safe. Lizzie felt a surge of endorphins almost indistinguishable from those she got cuddling with people who actually have their own bodies. She felt her anxiety melt away, so deeply comfortable in Natalia’s embrace. The two soon fell asleep.