BACK FROM THE ABYSS
I was at a dinner party in early 2019 when my friend Chris asked me, “What are you going to do with your life once your girls all leave home?” I said, without hesitation, “I want to start a podcast!” With a look of surprise, Chris said, “So do I!” We quickly determined that we had to get together and make this dream happen.
The inspiration for making a mental health podcast was my patients and their incredible stories of suffering and healing. I wanted to create something that would be like releasing balloons of hope out into the world, with the message that recovery is possible, that treatment can work, that out of the darkness can come light and wisdom and gratitude.
Most of the podcasts I listen to are interviews or talk shows. I wanted Back from the Abyss to be more intimate and to be built around very personal stories of mental illness and recovery. We aim to record all the stories in person, as I think storytelling is most raw and heartfelt when it’s face to face. Often our recording sessions end with tears or high fives or hugs. Helping people tell their abyss stories has turned out to be one of the most meaningful experiences of my life.
I originally thought that a mental health podcast would be of most interesting to patients and their families, but I am finding that some of the biggest fans are therapists. This has led me to bring more of an educational focus to the podcast, rather than my initial idea of simply sticking with the stories. We make just two episodes a month, but I like to think of each one as a lovingly created meal, made from scratch, and worth the wait.
An amazing healing journey deserves a detailed post-game analysis and deconstruction. Here Elizabeth, a participant in the MAPS MDMA study, sits down with Craig and co-therapist Karen Cooper to look back at what were the crux moves and essential ingredients that shifted Elizabeth's PTSD into remission.
Dr. Craig Heacock
Dr. Craig Heacock is an adolescent/adult psychiatrist and addiction specialist in Colorado. He was a co-therapist in the Phase 3 trial of MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy for PTSD and has particular interest in the use of ketamine and other psychedelics to treat severe mood disorders and PTSD. He is a graduate of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and did his psychiatry training at Brown University.
Chris Johnson is a distracted cartographer with a creative soul and a love for music and storytelling.
After a nightmarish sexual assault at age 15, Mitch's life felt over. Wracked by daily dread, panic, and a desperate longing to die, he eventually found his way 22 years later to the MAPS trial of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for severe PTSD.
In this astonishing account, Mitch describes how MDMA was able to reactivate his innate healing intelligence to allow him to go directly into the hottest fires of his trauma with a powerful shield of openness, safety, self-compassion, and trust. Mitch describes the actual "how" behind MDMA-assisted therapy and why it shows such promise for the future of trauma treatment.
Chris successfully hid his increasingly severe depression throughout middle and high school, but by his first year of college he could no longer ignore the horrifying signs that his brain was losing touch with reality. Inanimate objects began to radiate into his thoughts, and suicide seemed the only way to escape. Fortunately Chris took the scariest leap of all and began to open up to a therapist about what was happening in his mind, leading to an exploration of shame, a reformulation of the self, and finally the unexpectedly powerful healing of ketamine.
This is the first of a two part very special interview with Saj Razvi, the Director of Education at Innate Path in Denver, CO. Saj weaves together his three fascinating perspectives— that of a nationally recognized trauma expert, his own personal story of early childhood neglect and how this shaped everything else to come, and finally his long journey of healing the deepest wound a person can have, eventually coming to MDMA and then psilocybin at the latter part of his therapy journey.
The episode starts with some foundational concepts in understanding trauma and its long term effects, then shifts to compare and contrast psychotherapy vs somatic therapies vs psychedelic assisted therapies (cannabis vs ketamine vs MDMA vs psilocybin). Part 1 ends with Saj's life-changing MDMA therapy session and beautifully describes how MDMA might help people break through the dissociative legacy of complex PTSD and attachment trauma.