Conor Bezane

@conorbezane | contributor
Super Contributor
Conor Bezane is the author of the memoir The Bipolar Addict: Drinks, Drugs, Delirium & Why Sober Is the New Cool, available now on Amazon. He is an expert wordsmith with bylines in MTV News, WebMD, AOL, and VICE, among others.
Conor Bezane

Talking to Strangers Helps My Mental Health, Even Though I'm Shy

I’m pretty shy — maybe more of an ambivert since it depends on the situation, but recently I started to push myself to talk to other people who I don’t know but I sense may share some common interests with me. I started reaching out a few weeks ago at a concert in Chicago by my favorite English singer-songwriter Frank Turner. Frank usually wields an acoustic guitar and plays mostly  easygoing solo folk music , but on this tour, he’d gone primarily electric, performing a louder set of punk songs with his full band, The Sleeping Souls. It was among the best live music I’ve seen this year, with an encore of “I Still Believe,” his most famous song, to give you a taste. Usually I would never muster the courage for “small talk” with anyone, but this ended up really great. I just turned to the blonde woman next to me and said, “Have you seen Frank before?” It turns out she had seen him 20 times, she had Frank Turner tattoos and along with her husband and friend, had been following Frank on his 50 States in 50 Days tour, which just wrapped successfully with a final show in Hawaii. They were from Grand Rapids, Michigan. We talked about Frank’s sobriety — he is in recovery for cocaine addiction. We discussed my sobriety. And that deep conversation continued in-between bands. I told them I was a writer and that I had written a memoir about my mental illness, addiction, and recovery. I gave one of them my card so they could check it out. The evening culminated with the three of them giving me a huge bear hug and a heck of an excited congrats when I told them I was  10 years sober . They said Frank is very open with his fans and encouraged me to write him an email about my book, given the fact that we are both sober and obviously obsessed with music. So I did. Frank emailed me back within a week. He’s psyched to read my book “ The Bipolar Addict ” and I’m sending it to London, where he lives. According to the  American Psychological Association , “Despite the fact that so many people profess to dislike making small talk, it turns out that talking to strangers and acquaintances can actually strengthen our mental health and enrich our lives.” The small talk didn’t stop at the Frank Turner show. The other day, a woman at my neighborhood coffee shop was wearing a dress with a vibrant and colorful print. I complimented her on the dress and she said she bought it on her recent trip to London and Paris. While we waited for our coffees, we chatted about Europe, my love of Spain — where I studied abroad — and how Paris is hands-down the best city in the world (we agreed; settled truth). I also talk to a couple of my baristas on the reg; they always comment on my t-shirts, whether it’s my Joy Division t-shirt or my Pete Buttigieg for President shirt, or others. My best friend from college — the most outgoing person I know — has always been a “small talker” and she’s constantly having fascinating conversations in her life with strangers. I must say, she has been an inspiration to me. I also enjoy talking to Uber and Lyft drivers. What’s playing on the radio is a natural icebreaker. Not only that, I have started to break out of my social shell. I joined  Meetup.com — an app where you can plan and join activities with fellow strangers/future friends. I’m trying Meetup to put myself out there because the dating apps aren’t yielding much of anything, and I’m looking for a partner. I’ve been to five “gay” meetups so far this summer and I started a group of my own — “Gay Creatives.” This is not to say that I am abandoning my good friends; I’m just branching out a little. The research on small talk makes it clear that the activity is good for our collective health.  The Atlantic  observes that “studies have shown that talking with strangers can make us happier, more connected to our communities, mentally sharper, healthier, less lonely, and more trustful and optimistic.” A  2020 study in the journal “Self and Identity” concluded that “People are often reluctant to talk to strangers, despite the fact that they are happier when they do so… Ultimately, this research shows that conversations go better than expected.” From my experience this summer, I couldn’t agree more. Summer is my happy season. Maybe that’s why I feel more inclined to strike up conversations. I’m vowing to continue talking to strangers. You never know where a friendship or relationship could bloom. While the search for a partner continues, my newfound burgeoning social life feels great!

Conor Bezane

What My Auditory Hallucinations Are Like With Bipolar Disorder

Most people associate hearing voices or auditory hallucinations with schizophrenia. But almost no one speaks of this issue when it comes to bipolar disorder, despite the fact that 20-50 percent of us who live with bipolar experience them, according to Psychiatric Times. Hearing things that aren’t there is scary. Like very scary. While I don’t hear voices per se, I do hear noise. Sometimes if I am at a party in an enclosed space with lots of loud talking, when I leave the space, I hear a jumble of sounds that echoes throughout my brain and won’t stop. It’s as if I am hearing a murmur of dialogue lingering all at once after the party. Many voices in dissonance. When this happens, I immediately need to jump in a taxi or rideshare and head home. I remember one instance in which my auditory hallucinations caused a panic attack. In the cab, I would lay down, then get up, lay down and get up. I couldn’t stop moving. I’m a recovering alcoholic and If I have a craving in a public place where alcohol is present, I also leave instantly. These situations are worse than my most terrible anxiety symptom: perpetual sweaty palms. I started noticing this happening several years ago at a party my ex-partner and I threw at our spacious apartment in DUMBO, Brooklyn during my first and major manic episode. I was stuck. Nowhere to hide. Everyone’s coats were on the bed, so I couldn’t even retreat to my bedroom. There was nowhere to go. But the noise persisted and I just drank and drank more to keep the noise at bay. It didn’t work. It just made it more awful. Auditory hallucinations also happen to me in places with high ceilings. For example, after seeing a concert at a venue with high ceilings, I hear the same “blah blah blah blah blah” on repeat from everyone exiting the show. Crowd noise. There are no distinct words. Just an annoying babbling of lots of voices that are indecipherable. It won’t stop. Music is my higher power in Alcoholics Anonymous, and when this happens, it is my savior. I sit in the dark, I light a candle, I have a cup of tea, and I fire up Spotify to listen to quiet music. It’s usually but not limited to classical: Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Vivaldi, all the greats. Sometimes I listen to quiet indie music like Air’s “Moon Safari,” Yo La Tengo’s “And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out” or Beck’s “Morning Phase.” They’re great for calming you down in any situation, because you can’t sleep with auditory hallucinations. It is pretty much impossible. These auditory hallucinations are the most scary part of my diagnosis. I’m not alone. According to Scientific American, “Healthy people also experience hallucinations. Drugs, sleep deprivation and migraines can often trigger the illusion of sounds or sights that are not there. Even in the absence of these predisposing factors, approximately one in 20 people hear voices or see visual hallucinations at least once in their lifetimes.” This data comes from studies by the the World Health Organization. “Scientific American” also says transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) may be an effective treatment for auditory hallucinations. I wouldn’t wish auditory hallucinations on my worst enemy, but I am comforted that I have a plan when they strike and I know from all my experience that the noise will always stop. Eventually.

Community Voices

Pete Buttigieg on LGBTQ+ Families

<p>Pete Buttigieg on LGBTQ+ Families</p>
Conor Bezane

I Wish I Could Take Less Medication for My Bipolar Disorder

Illustrious alt-rocker St. Vincent said it best: Pills to wake, pills to sleepPills, pills, pills every day of the weekPills to walk, pills to thinkPills, pills, pills for the family Pills have absolutely saturated American life for decades now. But in recent years, it seems like medications have been even more ubiquitous in our society. Just watch the news and almost every other commercial is for some drug or another. I take eight different medicines for my bipolar disorder. While out of town for the season, I am forced to obtain my meds via mail order. Managing this many meds and scheduling refills is a colossal task. I thought everything was on auto-renewal, but it wasn’t. I had to pay out of pocket for several of my meds to get an emergency supply while I waited for Express Scripts to come through in the mail. I was recently skimming a book titled “Anatomy of an Epidemic — Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness In America” by Robert Whitaker and the idea of one pill a day came to mind. The book is a scathing indictment of the pharmaceutical industry and the mental health industrial complex. One of his arguments is that we are completely overmedicated and over-diagnosed. I believe my diagnosis is correct, and I go to therapy once a month, which is very helpful. But keeping track of eight medicines can be — well — a tough pill to swallow. I take antidepressants, I take mood stabilizers, I take antipsychotics, I take anti-anxiety pills. An alphabet soup of pharmaceuticals that treat my bipolar disorder. My depression emerged in December of 2007, while I was living in New York City. Seeing a psychiatrist for the first time in my life brought a diagnosis of depression. My doc placed me on a single SSRI. Of course being bipolar on an antidepressant alone just skyrocketed me into mania. After a manic episode, I crashed hardcore and took a medical leave from work. I suffered a horrifying episode of major depression that lasted nearly a year. My psychiatrist tried a jambalaya of newfangled pills — and not Lithium — in order to lift me out of depression. In my current home in Chicago, my doctor and I settled on my medication regimen more than a decade ago. We change doses every now and then, but for the most part, my treatment is static. But ultimately these pills are something I need. With my first psychiatrist, we tried an exceedingly gargantuan hit-or-miss variety of prescription meds. In fact, I experimented with a cornucopia of antidepressants, save for a few new ones that have popped up in recent years. It wasn’t until I got a second opinion and tried Lithium that I was lifted out of my deep depression. Lithium saved my life. It’s the most important aspect of my treatment. While overlooked a lot, Lithium is not a panacea. This is what has worked for me, but everyone’s brain is different and reacts differently to medications. As most of us know, the pharmaceutical companies are in it to make money. Maybe that’s why my previous psychiatrist — quite possibly in bed with Big Pharma and always having samples of new meds on hand from drug reps — prescribed so many newfangled meds. Because they’re fresh and shiny and they cost money. Lithium is an old warhorse. It’s cheap and it’s been around since 1970, when it became the first drug approved by the FDA to treat bipolar disorder, then called manic-depression. It is a salt that appears in nature, not a drug engineered, packaged, marketed and sold to us like all other meds. The secret is… Lithium works. But it is tried almost as a last resort for bipolar disorder. And it is used in tandem with other psychiatric meds. A whopping 11 percent of American adults are taking antidepressants. That’s more than one in 10. This is according to a 2011 study by the Center for Disease Control. If I had my choice, I would take one pill a day for my bipolar disorder. I don’t understand why this isn’t in development stages. I asked my own doctor, who is up on the latest studies and literature, and he said he has heard nothing of the sort. For people living with HIV, there is a single tablet treatment available now. Why is there no single magic bullet for bipolar, which has been treated with meds for more than 50 years?  Until that day comes, I will continue to swallow my myriad jagged little pills (shoutout to Alanis) just like the amazing St. Vincent delineates: Pills to grow, pills to shrinkPills, pills, pills and a good stiff drinkPills to fuck, pills to eatPills, pills, pills down the kitchen sink

Conor Bezane

I Had a Public Bipolar Meltdown at Work and HR Came to the Rescue

Before I was diagnosed with bipolar 1, I had a total meltdown in the office — hysterical tears, raving, driveling, murmuring — the whole kit and caboodle. My officemate took me to our boss for help and my boss — sensing my distress immediately — escorted me to the Human Resources department. I worked for MTV in New York, owned by Viacom at the time, one of the largest entertainment corporations in the world. The company was packed with young creative types who are more prone to conditions like bipolar disorder than the population as a whole. There are many creatives who are bipolar and famous and many artists who are not celebrities who live with bipolar, too. What happened to me, Human Resources had seen many times before and they were experts at what to do. I hadn’t slept more than a few hours the weeks before my breakdown, which occurred in the spring of 2008. I had stayed up all night most nights writing maniacally, smoking weed, drinking bottles and bottles of beer, listening to loud music, and even dancing with myself. I am sober now. I went skydiving to celebrate 10 years clean. But I digress. That day at Human Resources, I was totally manic and sobbing. At first it felt like I was being taken to the principal’s office in high school, but once I got to HR, I suddenly felt safe. I met with a woman there who was maybe 10 years my senior and she calmed me down. I’ll call her Claire. Claire’s voice was soothing, like an NPR host with a quiet drawl that had a dreamy effect. In my manic mind, I initially thought I was taken to HR to air my grievances. “Why are you unhappy?,” Claire asked. “I don’t know about you, but when I tell people I work for MTV, they think I’m so uncool,” I said, rhapsodizing, not realizing the gravity of the situation I was in. She replied, “When I tell people I work at MTV they think it’s awesome!” As an aside: Many Gen X-ers like myself are disgruntled that MTV doesn’t play music videos anymore. In other words, MTV used to be cool and now it’s lame. But there’s a reason why they don’t play videos. Music videos don’t get ratings. However, moving on, Claire and I talked some more, but I don’t remember most of our conversation. I was in her office overlooking Times Square for around 30 minutes. When we parted, she gave me a navy-blue folder with her business card stapled inside and some literature about overcoming struggles in the workplace. We agreed I would go on paid medical leave for an undetermined amount of time. I immediately felt a sense of relief. I needed to get stable and so my new psychiatrist — recommended to me by a friend of a friend — put me on an antipsychotic and a mood stabilizer. We tried different combinations of drugs and dosages until we landed upon a formula that seemed to work. The only reason I was never hospitalized was because I had a very supportive boyfriend who I lived with. While I was on leave, I had the opportunity to see someone from an independent Employee Assistant Program (EAP). I met with Juan three times while manic, waxing philosophic on how divided this country was during the at-that-time George W. Bush administration. He tried to bring me back to earth. And by just having the opportunity to vent, it really helped. When I was seemingly stable, he gave me a green light to go back to the office. But my quarter life crisis wasn’t over. I broke down crying the moment I stepped in my office again. Turns out I wasn’t ready to go back to work after all. My major bipolar episode wasn’t finished with me. I wrote this essay to encourage anyone who is having a mental health emergency at work to be not afraid to seek help. I’m lucky my company was so compassionate about my situation. Anyone in the field of psychology will tell you not let your feelings bottle up and exacerbate. I think in the end that’s what I did, and that’s why I landed in a place of gloom in the first place. Please don’t panic. Don’t allow your thoughts to blather. There is help. But not all help is a panacea. If the doctors or people surrounding you aren’t working out, move on and find others. Continue to hunt for the best help. I am truly grateful that I had such a positive experience with HR. Heaven forbid you land in a psychiatric catastrophe that requires a visit to HR. But if you do, know that you have a safety net. Writing is a cathartic exercise for me. Nowadays I don’t write voiceover and create news videos like I did at MTV; I do freelance writing, with bylines in places like WebMD, VICE, and Queerty, as well as regularly contributing here at The Mighty. And my life became even more complicated. What happened next is a story for another day. Or if you’re curious, it’s a story you can read in my book. The beat of bipolar is a tricky one to dance to. But the beat goes on. And on. And on. Until you blink and you’re OK once again. To quote Kurt Vonnegut: “So it goes… so it goes.”

Conor Bezane

I Wish I Could Take Less Medication for My Bipolar Disorder

Illustrious alt-rocker St. Vincent said it best: Pills to wake, pills to sleepPills, pills, pills every day of the weekPills to walk, pills to thinkPills, pills, pills for the family Pills have absolutely saturated American life for decades now. But in recent years, it seems like medications have been even more ubiquitous in our society. Just watch the news and almost every other commercial is for some drug or another. I take eight different medicines for my bipolar disorder. While out of town for the season, I am forced to obtain my meds via mail order. Managing this many meds and scheduling refills is a colossal task. I thought everything was on auto-renewal, but it wasn’t. I had to pay out of pocket for several of my meds to get an emergency supply while I waited for Express Scripts to come through in the mail. I was recently skimming a book titled “Anatomy of an Epidemic — Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness In America” by Robert Whitaker and the idea of one pill a day came to mind. The book is a scathing indictment of the pharmaceutical industry and the mental health industrial complex. One of his arguments is that we are completely overmedicated and over-diagnosed. I believe my diagnosis is correct, and I go to therapy once a month, which is very helpful. But keeping track of eight medicines can be — well — a tough pill to swallow. I take antidepressants, I take mood stabilizers, I take antipsychotics, I take anti-anxiety pills. An alphabet soup of pharmaceuticals that treat my bipolar disorder. My depression emerged in December of 2007, while I was living in New York City. Seeing a psychiatrist for the first time in my life brought a diagnosis of depression. My doc placed me on a single SSRI. Of course being bipolar on an antidepressant alone just skyrocketed me into mania. After a manic episode, I crashed hardcore and took a medical leave from work. I suffered a horrifying episode of major depression that lasted nearly a year. My psychiatrist tried a jambalaya of newfangled pills — and not Lithium — in order to lift me out of depression. In my current home in Chicago, my doctor and I settled on my medication regimen more than a decade ago. We change doses every now and then, but for the most part, my treatment is static. But ultimately these pills are something I need. With my first psychiatrist, we tried an exceedingly gargantuan hit-or-miss variety of prescription meds. In fact, I experimented with a cornucopia of antidepressants, save for a few new ones that have popped up in recent years. It wasn’t until I got a second opinion and tried Lithium that I was lifted out of my deep depression. Lithium saved my life. It’s the most important aspect of my treatment. While overlooked a lot, Lithium is not a panacea. This is what has worked for me, but everyone’s brain is different and reacts differently to medications. As most of us know, the pharmaceutical companies are in it to make money. Maybe that’s why my previous psychiatrist — quite possibly in bed with Big Pharma and always having samples of new meds on hand from drug reps — prescribed so many newfangled meds. Because they’re fresh and shiny and they cost money. Lithium is an old warhorse. It’s cheap and it’s been around since 1970, when it became the first drug approved by the FDA to treat bipolar disorder, then called manic-depression. It is a salt that appears in nature, not a drug engineered, packaged, marketed and sold to us like all other meds. The secret is… Lithium works. But it is tried almost as a last resort for bipolar disorder. And it is used in tandem with other psychiatric meds. A whopping 11 percent of American adults are taking antidepressants. That’s more than one in 10. This is according to a 2011 study by the Center for Disease Control. If I had my choice, I would take one pill a day for my bipolar disorder. I don’t understand why this isn’t in development stages. I asked my own doctor, who is up on the latest studies and literature, and he said he has heard nothing of the sort. For people living with HIV, there is a single tablet treatment available now. Why is there no single magic bullet for bipolar, which has been treated with meds for more than 50 years?  Until that day comes, I will continue to swallow my myriad jagged little pills (shoutout to Alanis) just like the amazing St. Vincent delineates: Pills to grow, pills to shrinkPills, pills, pills and a good stiff drinkPills to fuck, pills to eatPills, pills, pills down the kitchen sink

Conor Bezane

I Had a Public Bipolar Meltdown at Work and HR Came to the Rescue

Before I was diagnosed with bipolar 1, I had a total meltdown in the office — hysterical tears, raving, driveling, murmuring — the whole kit and caboodle. My officemate took me to our boss for help and my boss — sensing my distress immediately — escorted me to the Human Resources department. I worked for MTV in New York, owned by Viacom at the time, one of the largest entertainment corporations in the world. The company was packed with young creative types who are more prone to conditions like bipolar disorder than the population as a whole. There are many creatives who are bipolar and famous and many artists who are not celebrities who live with bipolar, too. What happened to me, Human Resources had seen many times before and they were experts at what to do. I hadn’t slept more than a few hours the weeks before my breakdown, which occurred in the spring of 2008. I had stayed up all night most nights writing maniacally, smoking weed, drinking bottles and bottles of beer, listening to loud music, and even dancing with myself. I am sober now. I went skydiving to celebrate 10 years clean. But I digress. That day at Human Resources, I was totally manic and sobbing. At first it felt like I was being taken to the principal’s office in high school, but once I got to HR, I suddenly felt safe. I met with a woman there who was maybe 10 years my senior and she calmed me down. I’ll call her Claire. Claire’s voice was soothing, like an NPR host with a quiet drawl that had a dreamy effect. In my manic mind, I initially thought I was taken to HR to air my grievances. “Why are you unhappy?,” Claire asked. “I don’t know about you, but when I tell people I work for MTV, they think I’m so uncool,” I said, rhapsodizing, not realizing the gravity of the situation I was in. She replied, “When I tell people I work at MTV they think it’s awesome!” As an aside: Many Gen X-ers like myself are disgruntled that MTV doesn’t play music videos anymore. In other words, MTV used to be cool and now it’s lame. But there’s a reason why they don’t play videos. Music videos don’t get ratings. However, moving on, Claire and I talked some more, but I don’t remember most of our conversation. I was in her office overlooking Times Square for around 30 minutes. When we parted, she gave me a navy-blue folder with her business card stapled inside and some literature about overcoming struggles in the workplace. We agreed I would go on paid medical leave for an undetermined amount of time. I immediately felt a sense of relief. I needed to get stable and so my new psychiatrist — recommended to me by a friend of a friend — put me on an antipsychotic and a mood stabilizer. We tried different combinations of drugs and dosages until we landed upon a formula that seemed to work. The only reason I was never hospitalized was because I had a very supportive boyfriend who I lived with. While I was on leave, I had the opportunity to see someone from an independent Employee Assistant Program (EAP). I met with Juan three times while manic, waxing philosophic on how divided this country was during the at-that-time George W. Bush administration. He tried to bring me back to earth. And by just having the opportunity to vent, it really helped. When I was seemingly stable, he gave me a green light to go back to the office. But my quarter life crisis wasn’t over. I broke down crying the moment I stepped in my office again. Turns out I wasn’t ready to go back to work after all. My major bipolar episode wasn’t finished with me. I wrote this essay to encourage anyone who is having a mental health emergency at work to be not afraid to seek help. I’m lucky my company was so compassionate about my situation. Anyone in the field of psychology will tell you not let your feelings bottle up and exacerbate. I think in the end that’s what I did, and that’s why I landed in a place of gloom in the first place. Please don’t panic. Don’t allow your thoughts to blather. There is help. But not all help is a panacea. If the doctors or people surrounding you aren’t working out, move on and find others. Continue to hunt for the best help. I am truly grateful that I had such a positive experience with HR. Heaven forbid you land in a psychiatric catastrophe that requires a visit to HR. But if you do, know that you have a safety net. Writing is a cathartic exercise for me. Nowadays I don’t write voiceover and create news videos like I did at MTV; I do freelance writing, with bylines in places like WebMD, VICE, and Queerty, as well as regularly contributing here at The Mighty. And my life became even more complicated. What happened next is a story for another day. Or if you’re curious, it’s a story you can read in my book. The beat of bipolar is a tricky one to dance to. But the beat goes on. And on. And on. Until you blink and you’re OK once again. To quote Kurt Vonnegut: “So it goes… so it goes.”

Conor Bezane

How Big Pharma Ads Impact Me as a Man With Mental Illness

If you can think of a disease, they probably have a pill for you. Dementia? Diabetes? A mood disorder? Hypertension? Fibromyalgia?  You can run, but you can’t hide. Pharmaceuticals are everywhere. Prescription drug advertisements blanket the American airwaves like a tight N95 mask covering nose and mouth. We see b-roll of happy-go-lucky people smiling and laughing while they play tennis, go antiquing, or ride a merry-go-round and it’s all supposed to distract us from hearing about the side effects. This medication can cause diarrhea, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, rash, fatigue, hives, heart problems, and sometimes death. The litany of possible side effects goes on and on in every single one of these ads. But are the possible risks worth caring for the principal problem? I get it, they’re covering their legal bases, but really, they don’t want you to think about any of that because they want you to stare at your TV and focus on the niceties. They want to divert your attention. Because of the ubiquity of these ads both on TV and in certain magazines, you might think, “Is there something awry with me?” Don’t get me wrong, medicine is a necessity and oftentimes required for one to stay healthy. I know my meds are critical to treat my bipolar disorder. But I’m glad the primary pill that treats my mood disorder is lithium, a salt that occurs in nature. The pills are cheap to produce, cheap to buy, and impossible to copyright. However, without insurance, some meds cost thousands of dollars even just for one month’s supply. Only in America. Truly. Or down under. The U.S. and New Zealand are the only two countries in the world that allow direct-to-consumer marketing and advertising of pharmaceuticals. Doesn’t that sound out of whack? Surely the rest of the world believes in unbiased health care. Furthermore, doctors are visited by representatives from Big Pharma and given samples of new drugs to dole out to their patients, starting them on new regimens (barring their consent).  The amount of money spent on pharmaceutical ads in America has more than doubled in the last five years to $6 billion in spending. That’s $6 billion dollars spent on you to convince you that a new pill might help with your health. For example, one fairly new drug for a relatively common mental condition — I’m not going to name names — costs $1500 per month out of pocket. Its generic won’t be available until 2023. So if you don’t have insurance, this drug is basically out of reach. And many insurance companies won’t cover it or much of it anyway because of the price tag. All of this reminds me of a now-humorous public service announcement circa the 1970s warning of the dangers of children getting their paws on prescription pills. I learned about it from this Busta Rhymes video, and a punk song by the Lunachicks, both of which allude to it. This is serious We can make you delirious You should have a healthy fear of us Too much of us is dangerous They can be dangerous indeed. Do we all need to be “fixed?” Maybe. But not so fast. At what price? It seems like television is creating generations of people with health anxiety who constantly fear they are bearing a new ailment. “Ask your doctor about [xyz drug].” It’s a refrain we hear at the end of every single prescription drug ad. And it scares some people. What is meant to “fix” can make us feel broken. And that’s counterintuitive.

Conor Bezane

New Peer Support Line for People Trying Therapeutic Psychedelics

The New York Times has called psychedelics and  MDMA  (i.e. “molly”) the “ hottest new therapeutics since Prozac .” CNN’s Anderson Cooper declared a  “psychedelic renaissance”  on an episode of “60 Minutes” in 2019. And Esquire magazine has even suggested  LSD is actually good for us . Psychedelics are having a moment. However, they need to be taken seriously and not as a joyride as they become more available. Now there is an app and hotline called  The Fireside Project  that will help people have a safer experience while undergoing a therapeutic psychedelic session. Last year, a study by the New England Journal of Medicine showed promise for  psilocybin in treating depression and anxiety . Fireside aims to help you have a therapeutic trip. And if you’re having an uncomfortable experience, Fireside’s Psychedelic Peer Support Line can talk you through it. The Bay-Area-based nonprofit is the first-ever hotline of its kind, offering support to those who are taking psychedelics who may need either some handholding, or just someone to talk to while they experiment with psychedelics. Fireside is staffed by 30 trained volunteers. It acquired seed money from supporters in San Francisco, a city that is a longtime friend of psychedelics, given its history of the hippie culture in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood and homegrown bands like The Grateful Dead. Launched in April 2021, The Psychedelic Peer Support Line is free and confidential, and its central goal is to “Help all people minimize the risks and fulfill the potential of their psychedelic experiences.” You can text or call them at 62-FIRESIDE, open every day from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. PT. “The Psychedelic Peer Support Line is staffed by compassionate, supportive volunteers from diverse backgrounds who are trained to listen deeply and from a place of non-judgment,” Fireside’s website says. “All volunteers have completed our rigorous training program.” So, who’s on the other end of the line? From the website’s FAQ: “We’re people who get it. We’ve been there ourselves,” the FAQ says. “But, we’re here for emotional support only. We’re not doctors or therapists, and we don’t provide medical advice or medical assessment,” noting that if you think you’re having a medical emergency, you should call 911. Think of Fireside as a psilocybin peer support group. Or a free-of-charge  trip-sitter . Fireside has partnered with the University of California San Francisco, which will study the effects and progress of the hotline. “This is a really important service that is being provided to society; first, because we’re in a mental health crisis, which has only escalated since COVID, and second, because I think more people are using psychedelics for this reason,” UCSF investigator Joseph Zamaria tells  Forbes . “People are self-medicating with psychedelics.” He adds that Fireside “can assure a little bit of safety, a little bit of  harm reduction  in the space.” Another partner involved with the research is Dr. Rachel Yehuda, Director of the Center for Psychedelic Psychotherapy and Trauma Research at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine in New York City. Yes, there is a whole center devoted to this kind of research. “The excitement about psychedelics and their potential therapeutic benefit is driving many to try them on their own, sometimes in a way that blurs the boundaries between recreational and therapeutic use,” she tells Forbes. Fireside doesn’t discriminate between recreational users and those who are taking psilocybin for therapeutic purposes. They are saying the hotline can help anyone. Mere months ago,  Oregon legalized psilocybin  for psychiatric purposes.  Washington, D.C. also decriminalized it , along with  ayahuasca  and peyote. And New Jersey passed a measure that will  minimize the criminality  of possessing psychedelics like LSD and magic mushrooms. While I have never experimented with psychedelics save for eating half a shroom once in college, my interest is piqued. If a psychedelic drug can truly beat depression, I’m all for it. To reach the Psychedelic Peer Support Line , call or text 623-473-7433.

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