Just a dirty girl from the dirty south…co-parenting a baby boy in New Orleans.

Seven minutes in heaven.

I recently learned first-hand the stark differences between DMT and 5-MEO-DMT while doing some research on the subject from the comfort of my living room recliner. In retrospect this information would have potentially come in very handy a few weeks prior when I convinced a few of my dearest friends to take a trip with me to smoke 5-MEO-DMT as part of my birthday celebrations. I was under the impression that these drugs were one in the same, just the natural versus the synthetic. I had no idea that the drugs were not only structurally different, but that the experiences would be so dramatically intense and life-altering. If you are looking for some beautiful visions and the potential of encountering and perhaps communicating with otherworldly beings then DMT might be your jam. If you are searching to experience the intense dissolution of your world, the death of your ego and the knowledge that time and space are not at all as you have experienced them, then 5-MEO-DMT might be what you are seeking.

I was offered an opportunity to try 5-MEO-DMT and of course I jumped at it. Both DMT and 5-MEO-DMT are illegal substances in the United States and therefore require travel to ingest legally. I have felt moments of isolation in my experience since completing my MDMA therapy, so I wanted to have some contemporaries join me in this opportunity. Thankfully three of my friends were excited to come along. I (foolishly) consider myself somewhat experienced in the realms of psychedelic use. Since my completion of MDMA therapy, I have traveled to participate in an ayahuasca ceremony, additional to my own personal use of psilocybin and LSD when I was younger. Being a person who loves to hear about the experiences of others, I often sought out DMT stories. Knowing I had ingested this compound through my use of ayahuasca, I craved the knowledge of how it affected others when smoked. I was curious and  was often met with stories of recreational use that made me laugh, “The last time I smoked DMT was in the bathtub of a shitty motel with a Natty Light sitting beside me.” I figured if people could find meaning in experiences such as these, I surely would be able to gain something too.

5-MEO-DMT is a psychedelic drug that is part of the tryptamine class. It is found naturally occuring in a wide variety of plants and also can be harvested from the venomous secretions of the Bufo alvarius toad native to the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. It is said to be three to six times more powerful than DMT. Although it became a schedule 1 drug in the United States on January 9, 2011 it has been used as an entheogen by South American shamans for thousands of years. 5-MEO-DMT works on the serotonin system meaning that people using MAO inhibitors or SSRIs should not engage with the substance due to danger of  serotonin syndrome. Limitations of documented human usage have made it difficult to find clear information on toxicity and potential for harm, but death is listed as an extremely rare occurrence.

I decided that I was going to go first. At nearly the age of thirty-nine, I commented on how rare it was to have many firsts left in life. I was prepped with the knowledge of how to smoke the drug, about how many minutes I would be “gone” and how long before I would feel “normal” again. There was more dialog exchanged but out of respect for the healing traditions of this ceremony I am going to respectfully omit that information. I stood up and declared, “Well, I’m pretty fucking scared right now, I am afraid I’ll be locked in a state of fear and anxiety and time won’t exist. But I’m here with people I love and I know y’all got me, so let’s do this.” I held the hands of my friends, then took my place standing on my blanket under the canopy of trees in the sunlight. The guide placed the pipe in my mouth and instructed me on how to breathe in. Once I had fully inhaled the guide covered my nose and mouth and began counting backwards from twenty. The words started to stretch out “Twenty, niiiiiiineteeeeen, eiiiighteeeeeeeen…” and then before my very eyes the entire world fractalized into nothingness. Wait, what? I know I can write that and you, as the reader may be able to imagine it, but until you see the complete dissolution of what you have always known as reality, it’s completely impossible to convey just how spectacular, overwhelming and for some –  absolutely terrifying this experience is. I remember the guide’s hand coming off my face and with the first breath of air I took in, I let go.

I felt like a fat pat of butter on a hot pan. I melted into everything. I became everything. I believe I can recall a sensation of falling and then I was in complete ecstasy. I felt as if every cell of my being was exploding in an orgasm all at once. I was one with the universe and in that completeness the only thing that existed was extreme pleasure. I was surrounded by warm colors and enveloped in a sustained sensation that felt like it went on forever. Time ceased to exist, I ceased to exist. In this realm the only thing was euphoria. It was the most intense sexual experience I’ve ever had in my entire life. Dear universe, I hope you wore a cosmic condom. So how did this look from the outside?

My cohorts said I rapidly went down onto my blanket and began writhing around omitting what was lovingly referred to as “the voice-over of a porno.” It was VERY apparent that I was in the throes of ecstasy as I repeated “Oh my God. Oh, fuck. Oh, yes.” This orgasm lasted approximately seven minutes, at which point I rudely snapped back into my body. I remember the fear and confusion that came with “putting back on my meat suit.” I was disoriented and still experiencing a very heightened psychedelic state. The world was once again the world, and I knew where I was and who I was with. But sounds and colors were incredibly intense. The people around me appeared to be a mere few feet away and then as if I were viewing them through binoculars. I had an intense moment of fear and shame as I had no idea what I had physically done. I was disheveled, covered in sweat  (later realizing I had wiped off one of my drawn-on eyebrows) and knew I had orgasmed. There was little talking, and finally I busted out in a giggle fit with the realization that it didn’t matter what I had done, and that I couldn’t really do anything but lay where I was because I was still so in the experience. I had the distinct feeling that the universe (creation, god, everlasting energy) had decided to reward me for every time I had faked an orgasm or given my sexual power away to please another, by giving it back to me all at once. Bliss retribution. I had delightfully received.

I watched silently as my other friends ingested the smoke. Their experiences started the same as mine, with the grand dissolution of the world, but from there each of us had incredibly different journeys. Within thirty minutes of initial ingestion, I was happily shoving food in my mouth. I felt giddy and excited and couldn’t stop laughing about the absurdity of it all.

After we had all returned back to ourselves we talked amongst each other about the experience. The word that kept coming up was “wild.” I have to admit that smoking 5-MEO-DMT was one of the most profound and definitely the wildest experience I have ever encountered. The after effects lasted over a week and at times I feel I can still access some of what I experienced that day. Even the members of our group who had terrifying experiences feel as though they have gained an incredible amount of knowledge from the ceremony. While we all agreed that we would probably use this substance again in the future if the opportunity presented itself, there was no desire to seek it out. I think 5-MEO-DMT can provide an invaluable experience, but it is not something I would suggest lightly. Ego death is no walk in the park. There is also an ongoing discussion about the ecological ramifications of the popularity of use. Please inform yourself in regards to the respect of not only ceremonial tradition but also the treatment of these plants and toads. It is surely not worth the harm or eradication of a species for a psychedelic experience. We chose a very ethical group to work with and I would wholeheartedly recommend you do the same.

After this life-altering encounter we headed home. I returned to New Orleans right before my birthday. Before going on the trip I had been worried about turning 39. Luckily I learned first hand that time doesn’t really exist so age doesn’t even matter.
For more information on psychedelics and 5-MEO-DMT please check out:


After the Toad

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Galatea of Spheres – Salvador Dali


If you know me, you know someone who has had an abortion.

Does knowing that I’ve had an abortion make you feel differently about me? In 2006 I was raped by a someone close to me which resulted in a pregnancy. I had to navigate the post-Katrina New Orleans women’s health care system in order to find access to an abortion. It was a nightmare experience that I fear is not all that different over a decade later. When I read the article published yesterday about a Walgreens pharmacist in Arizona who refused to fill a woman’s prescription for Misoprostol, I felt a familiar disgust. Women’s rights still have a very long way to go.

When I determined that I was pregnant after my rape, I went to the Planned Parenthood in New Orleans. I was quickly informed that they did not provide abortions and was given the address of a clinic on St. Charles Ave near Louisiana Ave. Pulling up to the location, I was terrified. The last incarnation of this building before Hurricane Katrina, had been a church. Part of me felt as if I had been punked by the woman at Planned Parenthood. I was afraid that upon entering the building I would be met by a group of Christians who would pray for my soul and the soul of my unborn baby, and attempt to guilt me into not going through with my choice.

I found that was not the case. I entered a dingy waiting room which contained several uncomfortable plastic chairs and a few couches. There were several women there, some with small children in their laps. A few of the women were crying and one woman on the couch looked as if she had been sedated. It was a difficult scene to take in. After a short wait I was called to the back where I met a male Vietnamese doctor who spoke very little English. I was told to undress from the waist down and he didn’t leave the room while I did so. I can vividly remember seeing small dried spots of blood on the lower step of the examination table, and being disgusted by the lack of cleanliness around me.

I wasn’t even four weeks pregnant, so the doctor was unable to locate the fetus using a regular external ultrasound. He had to do a transvaginal ultrasound which was something I was unfamiliar with and the language barrier did not offer much explanation. I found myself fighting back tears as a strange man who I barely understood rapidly moved a hard plastic piece of equipment around inside of me. He was able to determine I was indeed pregnant and offered me two options. The first being a medical procedure in which vacuum aspiration would be used to remove the pregnancy, the second being a medical abortion which consisted of taking two different pills, one which blocks progesterone causing a breakdown of the uterine lining followed by another which makes the womb contract. I quickly opted for the prescription as I couldn’t imagine undergoing a medical procedure in that office. The prescription was more costly than the surgical procedure.

I was given the first medicine there at the doctor’s office and was handed a prescription for the second medicine. I went to the CVS pharmacy down the street and faced the judgemental stare of the pharmacist who was all too familiar with the prescription written a few blocks away. I didn’t dare go to my regular small independent pharmacy for fear of a confrontation. Before even ingesting the medicines which would ultimately end my pregnancy, I felt an overwhelming amount of shame and embarrassment. Feelings that only amplified the trauma created by my rape.

I don’t recall any side effects after the first medication but that may be because I had an adverse reaction to the second one that landed me in the Emergency Room. I took the second medication and had severe abdominal cramping and I was fairly certain that the abortion had been successful. Unfortunately I experienced intense vomiting and couldn’t keep anything in my system. If a drank a glass of water, I would throw it up. This happened throughout the night and the next day when I got to work I was so dehydrated that I couldn’t think straight. I tried to call the doctor’s office but they were closed. I tried to work, but after nearly passing out, my best friend suggested I go to the hospital. I had already been to Touro Hospital in New Orleans with a severe double kidney infection which had left me hospitalized for two days, and without insurance I was afraid they would not treat me due to my outstanding balance. I had my friend drive me across the lake to Slidell Memorial Hospital, which turned out to be a poor choice.

I wasn’t in the waiting room for very long before I was admitted, as my symptoms worsened. My nurse who was at first warm to me, became very hostile the moment she was informed of the medicine I had taken. She insisted on catheterizing me without an explanation and did so with no kindness. She repeatedly cut me off and gave me very little information as to whether or not I would be okay. I had to have another transvaginal ultrasound performed by this nurse who refused to speak to me while she roughly entered my body. My friend had left not long after we arrived in order to get herself to work, and I cried alone in my hospital room wishing so desperately that my mother could have been there with me. I later had a male nurse who told me that I was severely dehydrated and would need to stay in the hospital overnight with IV therapy. My original nurse stopped by my room one last time before she left to tell me that I had succeeded in killing my baby. I felt so alone, ashamed and frightened that night. When my best friend picked me up the following afternoon upon my discharge I didn’t want to talk about it. That experience cost me $3780.00 in hospital bills and a whole lot more in emotional scars. While I’ve written about my rape in the past, I haven’t gone into detail about my abortion experience. Through my work with MDMA assisted psychotherapy, I have realized that the trauma of my abortion is undeniably part of the trauma of my rape.

It’s now 2018 and the abortion options available to women are constantly under siege. I strongly believe that all women should have access to safe, hygienic, respectful abortion options. I am a parent to a wonderful child, which has only strengthened my pro-choice beliefs. Although my experience in 2006 was traumatic, I’m incredibly grateful that I was legally able to terminate my pregnancy. Thank God for Abortion.

For information concerning women’s rights and abortion here in Louisiana please visit

Lift’s mission is to educate, advocate and litigate for policy changes needed to improve the health and well-being of women in Louisiana, their families and communities.

Our annual fundraiser is happening this Friday June 29th. Information and tickets availible here

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Me 2006 New Orleans, Louisiana

When it rains, it pours.

In the last 72 hours I’ve spent more time asleep than awake. I’ve succumbed to my bed many times, only to drift off into restless sleep punctuated by nightmares. I’ve learned the hard way that even if I try to mentally deny trauma, my body will still respond. Part of me wants to applaud the hard healing work my body is doing, the other part of me feels fucking hopeless.

It’s been over two months since my final MDMA/therapy session and honestly I had been feeling better than I had in years. I was going through an exciting phase of integration where I felt I was understanding myself at a much more intimate level. I was excelling in my time management and communication with others. For the first time in a very long time I felt incredibly excited about the future. Then something happened.

I can’t tell you how many times in my life I have wished that I had been born a male. This thought often crosses my mind in situations where I have felt afraid or intimidated by a man. I don’t climb on my soapbox often to highlight the drawbacks of having a vagina instead of a penis (more likely to be judged on appearance, less pay, higher likelihood of being sexually assaulted/raped, being held to completely different sexual standards, doing the majority of emotional labor in relationships) but I feel the pressure of these truths more often than I would like to. And sometimes it is too much.

I was verbally assaulted on Friday while tending bar. I understand that as a bartender, especially in New Orleans, I should have a thick skin and not take things personally. But the truth is that my body reacts very differently to a perceived or actual threat than the body of someone who has not experienced significant trauma. When an angry male customer who is larger than me and acting in an unpredictable and aggressive manner tells me to “go fuck myself” and then refers to me as a “cunt”  – it matters little that my brain is forcing me to not outwardly react and look calm in front of my customers, my body is going completely haywire. And in direct opposition to everything I have been learning in therapy, I refused myself the ability to feel and process what was happening and instead fell into the old, destructive pattern of denial and distraction.

I was unable to take a break from the bar (a stage of sorts, with several onlookers) when this happened. Even though I was physically shaking and on the verge of tears I couldn’t find empathy for myself and instead heard my old mantra “toughen up, stop being so weak.” A few of the customers at the bar who witnessed the incident showed me kindness and even stayed for quite some time to make sure I was safe. But the absence of anyone who could provide me actual physical support only further complicated the matter. I worked the rest of that harrowing shift as the sole bartender, which was several more hours. The weather was terrible, with intense thunderstorms that lead to flooding all over the city. This only served to make my job  busier and more challenging than it normally is. After the incident, I spent the remainder of my shift in a mode of hyper-alertness as I was afraid that this man might return to the bar.

What are we supposed to do in situations like this? Working in a corporate environment significantly limits the possible reactions. I downplayed the whole thing and tried to act like it was no big deal, but deep down I knew it was. Why do we tolerate behaviors like this? What does it say about our culture when people are allowed (and sometimes rewarded) for horrendous behavior? Are Yelp reviews more important than physical safety? Also what does it say about the way we value ourselves and each other when we victim blame by using expressions such as “you shouldn’t let things get to you” or “that’s just how it is.”

I spent the later part of Friday evening crying alone in my car. I felt completely overwhelmed with sadness and despair. I felt worthless and angry with myself for not being more prepared. I heard that insidious voice that has played like a broken record for years “This wouldn’t have happened if you had been paying attention. You’re only safe as long as you stay vigilant.” In the span of the shift I went from having this fledgling core of safety right back to the broken record of fear, panic and anxiety. I went to bed feeling terrible.

The weekend proved to be dramatically shaped by my experience on Friday. Even though I fought to keep denying the effect that the interaction had created, I understood that I wasn’t well by my level of anxiety and irritableness coupled with intense lethargy. Nearly all of my interactions over the weekend went poorly, no doubt somewhat shaped by my prior experience. I spent a lot of time crying and was extremely grateful that my son was out of town and I had the privacy to work through my emotions.

I went to therapy today and was grateful to finally discuss the situation honestly. I have always felt so ashamed by my PTSD. So much that I denied having it for the majority of my life. I have felt embarrassment and weakness over my uncontrollable physiological reactions to situations that may leave others somewhat unfazed. But I know that I truly don’t have a choice. I have learned the hard way that there will always be some setbacks. At times the world can be an unpredictable, scary place. But I’ve had to remind myself that it isn’t always this way. I have to remind myself and truly believe that there are people out there who understand and empathize with me because they have experienced these situations as well. I am not alone. And if I am not alone I know I can find the support I need to feel safe again. Feeling safe is the first step in the healing process. Here I go again.


Billy Tipton & The Korean War

When my father was 21 years old he served in the United States Army and “fought” during the Korean War. In honor of yesterday, which would have been his 89th birthday, I’ve ( very modestly) edited one of the war stories that he recorded for me as part of his memoirs.  

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So anyway, after that they sent me to Korea. And, of course, I corresponded with Rosemary while I was overseas. Course I embellished the letters I wrote to her. I made it sound much more warlike than it really was. And over there, while I was in Korea I knew a guy by the name of Harry Probst Van Osdale, his momma owned a department store in Akron I believe, or someplace. Anyway, we got to be friends.

And I got with this UPS outfit, Unit Personnel Section, because when I first arrived in Korea, we were out there and they were assigning us to different companies. Most of them were going on the line. Finally, the Sergeant asks “Is there anyone here who can type?”

Well my hand went up like a Roman candle because I didn’t want to go up on the line, believe me. And so they signed me and I was the morning report man for the time that I was there.

The main thing I was interested in was the whores around the compound when we were in Chuncheon, and that’s where I met Sandy. Sandy was a good whore and had been taking care of this young boy named Kim. I think he was seven years old when I met him. I ended up taking care of him. It even got to where we had a cot for him in the tent. There were 8 of us to a tent. One was a football player who could reach over the barbed wire fence and pull him up where he could sleep safely in our tent at night. And of course we gave him cigarettes and, you know, we fed him. I knew that when I finally rotated back to the United States you could only bring so much Yen, which was the military money. So when I left there, I wanted to make sure Sandy would continue to take care of Kim. I gave her the sum of $750.

And the day I was gonna go, I’m looking through the barbed wire fence at Kim and he says “Tippo, someday me America go!”

I said “Well, I certainly hope so, Kim, cause you really deserve it. You’re a good little man.”

While I was over there this captain that Johnny, my step-father, knew in the Army called me on the phone and boy that pissed everybody off. Here I am, I’m up near the front lines and I’m getting a phone call from this jackass who just wants to know how I’m doing. This is the same guy that one time while he was driving down the road, he dropped something and he reached down to get it, stopped looking at the road and ran into a telephone pole. So, you know what kind of a brilliant son of a bitch he was.

I have to tell you this now. The war, we’d been all over. And I’d had one night where I was guarding a gasoline dump. And they put me down there. The first night we had moved, our tents are not even up, I’m on guard duty. I gotta go and guard the gasoline. And on the way down there the Lieutenant that was taking me down there says “Oh yeah, well last night, the guy that was guarding down there, we couldn’t find him in the morning. All we found was his helmet and something else, but the rest of him was gone.”  So, that really interested me. That night it was, I don’t know, 20 below zero, one of them kind of nights. And when gasoline drums are in that type of cold, they crackle. So there I am, they have a tent with a small stove for the guard to be in. Well, I’m thinking about that guy that disappeared the night before, and my ass wasn’t going in that tent where they would suspect I was going to be. I was hiding out between the goddamn barrels.That was one of the scariest fucking things that I was involved in, in Korea.

Time goes on and now the war’s over. And we’re in this place on the side of a mountain and we’ve set up our tents. And we’re still doing business but kind of haphazardly because there wasn’t anything going on. There wasn’t anybody getting killed and all of that shit like it had been, which I knew because of the morning reports that I made out every day. I would know exactly who, if anyone, had been killed the night before.

Now we were there with the warrant officers. Three or four of us got into a poker game and we’re drinking Canadian Club. All we could get over there was Canadian Club. And it came through the Koreans. We were playing and we ran out of whiskey. And now we’re deep in this game and we’re about half drunk and we don’t have any whiskey. So, Mr. Hall says “Well Tipton, there’s a chogie camp about a mile and a half down the canyon. Why don’t you go down there and buy us four bottles? I think there about 10 dollars a bottle. Here’s 40 dollars, let’s cut it out of the pot here. We’ll do it up now and we’ll all pay for it.”

So, down the fucking canyon I go and I come to this place where they got a bunch of small tents. This was where the Korean workers lived. And in this one big tent, that’s where the commanding officer is. So, I talked to this Korean and I tell him I want to see the Cap-i-tan. And he knows what I’m talking about, we go in there, he then disappears and the Captain is sitting there behind a table in a uniform. And he says “How many bottle you want?”

I said “Four.”

And he called to a person that was in the other side, in another compartment of the tent evidently. And in a few minutes, he comes in. He brings the bottles and sets them down.

The Captain said “That’ll be forty-four dollar.”

Well, he was already beating me for a dollar on each one.  But anyway, I thought about it for a few minutes like I was gonna get the money out of my pocket and I says to him “My Captain would really take it good if you would give him this “presento.”

“Oh, no, no, no. I can’t do. No, no, no. You don’t understand!”
He told me I didn’t understand.

I said “Yeah, I understand. My Captain would appreciate if you would give him these as a  present.”

“Oh, no, no, no. Impossible. Not possible.”

I took my .45 out of the holster and I pointed it at him across the table and I said “My Captain would really like it if you make a present of these.”

“Oh, it’s fine, fine. Very good! Very good, very, very, very good!”

So now, I’ve got this. I’ve already made my deal and I’m backing out of the tent. It’s a flap and as I’m coming out the flap there was a Korean coming in the flap. So, I just took that .45 and knocked the shit out of him. He was out, completely I’m sure. I didn’t stay there long enough to find out because I’m out in the night and I’m running away from this chogie camp and I’m beginning to think that what I’ve done is really ignorant.

I’m running and I’m running and I hear behind me men yelling in Korean. These motherfuckers are jabbering and I can tell they’re on a dead run to find me. I’m running up this goddamn canyon and I look and there’s this little space that I would call a wash, but it had some brush and growth in it. Now I knew if I kept running that they were gonna get me and kill me. So, I got in that canyon as good as I could do it and I lied on my back and I had that .45 pointed up. I said to myself “Well, the first motherfucker that finds me is gonna meet his maker. After that I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I know that motherfucker is going to die from finding me.”

Well, here they come and they’re all around me. And they’re even standing on a little ledge on top of where I’m looking up at them. They don’t see me. Oh they run here. They run there. I don’t know how long I lay there, it seemed like an eternity and pretty soon they withdrew. After I was pretty sure they were gone – the majority of them, cause I figured I could kill one or two if I had to, but with all of them I wouldn’t have a chance – I got out of there as fast as I could.  

When I got back up to the poker game warrant officer Hall says “Well, goddamn. It sure took you a long fucking time to get them.”

I said “Yeah, well there was a bit of a problem.”

“Bit of a problem?”

And so I set the bottles on the table and I say  “The Captain down there made you a present of these.”

He says “A present? You don’t know what the shit you’re talking about. You really are drunk.”

And then I explained the whole story and they laughed their ass off. They thought it was funny as could be.

Oh, by the way, this Harry Probst Van Osdale deal that I mentioned earlier… the guy that lived in the same tent that I did. He was going with Sinclair Lewis’s daughter and he was writing to her, but he didn’t know what to write or what to say, so he asked me if I would write her. Boy, I really wrote her. I wrote her flowery letters and really told her how Harry was doing in the war, but like it was Harry. And Harry would copy them and send them to her. So, I thought that that was kind of interesting.


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Don’t forget about the dogs.

My mother had an extensive collection of table decorations. A hope chest in the dining room held stacks of linens including tablecloths, lace overlays, placemats and napkins. There was also an absurd amount of napkin rings. At least one variety for every major holiday, and several seasonal selections as well. She adored this collection and I can’t ever remember seeing her six-seat dining room table bare. She justified her ever growing collection by her insistence upon hosting all holiday family dinners. For these occasions, the best of the best adorned the table along with copious amounts of artery-clogging food. My mother never ate much other than meat, prefering to chew on everyone’s left over bones and smoke her Virginia Slims on the back patio.

Setting up for these occasions caused a lot of stress in her home. More often than not a screaming match would ensue in which my mother would threaten Julie, her partner, and I with violence if we “wouldn’t get off our lazy asses to help.” I can remember one Easter Sunday when she wanted the extra folding chairs taken down from the attic immediately. When both Julie and I showed little urgency over the matter, my mother retrieved her .38 pistol and began wildly waving it around. Needless to say we got the chairs from the attic, whispering to one another about how crazy she was, but never taking it very seriously. It’s strange how quickly we normalized such irrational behavior.

It’s been a few weeks since my last experimental session with MDMA and the insights are still continuing to unfold. Life hasn’t been all rainbows and cupcakes no matter how much I wish this were the case at times. There is more balance though, and I’ve noticed that my reactions to situations aren’t as immediate as they have been in the past. I’ve been actively trying to maintain a state of openness. I keep reminding myself of the limitation of expectation. As much as I discovered and processed during the experimental sessions, things are continuing to be revealed to me.

For the last few years I’ve struggled with an ongoing uncomfortable situation. It’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly when it started but it’s become a daily struggle. I love dogs. I’ve always had a dog as a pet, and usually more than one. I have rescued several dogs off the streets here in New Orleans and helped them to find homes. We currently have three of these rescue dogs. Our dogs are well behaved for the most part although the youngest has a lot of energy. When I get home, especially if I am by myself, the youngest of the dogs is extremely excited to greet me. I can often hear her nails (along with the other two) hitting the wooden floors inside as I approach the door. Occasionally she will bark with excited frenzy upon my arrival. This creates a horrible trepidation inside of me. I cannot stand the feeling I experience. If I know that Andy will be home soon, I will often drive around the neighborhood waiting for him to get inside before I go home. It has become a strange reaction that I’ve normalized enough to live with.

I had a talk with Andy a few weeks ago about this situation. Now that I’m more aware and present to my physical reactions, I’ve taken note of the ones that feel uncomfortable. I was heavy-hearted and confused as to why I was having these feelings towards our dogs. I asked him what I could do about it, admitting that sometimes I hate to come home. I couldn’t understand or explain why I have this reaction. He listened but there was no solution. I tried not to dwell upon it and instead opted to give it some space.

Coming home from the gym the other morning, I had a revelation. If that word seems dramatic that’s because it is fitting. As I was approaching the front door of my house I could hear the dogs on the other side, and along with the feeling of fear/anxiety I had a loud thought which was “don’t forget about the dogs.” Accompanying this thought was the immediate remembrance that my mother had two miniature dachshunds at her home on the day I found the bodies. These dogs were confined to a room adjacent to the the kitchen in which the floor was tile. When I discovered my mother, Julie and Lark’s bodies the background noise was that of two excited dogs tip-tapping their claws on the floor and barking with frantic energy. I had completely forgotten about them being there. I had no recollection of the sounds they were making until the very moment I was approaching my own door just days ago. I have told the story of what happened that day many, many times and not once can I ever recall mentioning the dogs. What a complete and utter mind fuck.

My beautiful brain has been gracious with these disclosures lately. I spent an afternoon under the influence of a lovely substance with a few close friends of mine. At one point I asked one of them about their childhood which opened up a space for us to talk about past traumas. In listening to this person talk so openly with me about the things they had encountered I was able to feel such immense empathy because I saw so much of my own experience in theirs. In that moment they had become a living mirror to me. I saw how the things that we both suffered forced us to develop certain coping mechanisms that worked as suits of armor against the unpredictability of pain. I also saw how as time progressed in both our lives these suits of armor became cloaks of oppression, holding us back from our own potential and happiness. It was such an honor to share those feelings for someone I love. This is the kind of intimacy that transcends some sexual experiences. I still want to fuck, but I also want to get high and get real.

That same evening while relaxing in my bathtub eating strawberries, I contemplated some of my actions and motivations. I recognized that I have a strong desire to be desired and to feel power and control over some of my relationships. I asked myself why I seem to be so attached to this. I came to the conclusion that because I rapidly lost many of the people that I loved very unpredictably, I find a false sense of power in the belief that I can somehow control the love that others feel for me. That by controlling this desire and these relationships, I won’t have to feel the pain of loss. I had to laugh at myself. Staring at my fingers as they danced on the waters edge, I felt completely relaxed in the knowledge that the whole thing was futile, as I would surely eventually lose every single thing that I love. The people I love will grow and change, as will I. Death will happen to all of us eventually and we have no real way of knowing when. By trying so hard to cultivate and maintain certain states of permanency, I am missing out on precious moments. And any of those moments could potentially be the last. Cliff notes version: attachments equal pain and suffering.

I am immensely thankful that throughout these discoveries, one lovely thought has grown — I am no longer afraid of what is in my brain.

I want you to think about the times you feel uncomfortable. What are you telling yourself then? Is the way you are perceiving a situation truly the way it is, or is it drastically shaped by your own past experiences? I want you to think about the times you feel wonderful. What are you telling yourself then? Or are you telling yourself anything at all? I think that those of us who have experienced trauma (nearly all of us) don’t necessarily understand just how much it has affected the way in which we see our worlds. For years I had normalized feelings of fear and anxiety so much that I denied the strangeness of hating entering my own home. That’s incredible. Now that I understand why I have these feelings, I am allowing myself to be open to the hopeful shift in my reaction. Once we can acknowledge something, we no longer have to simply react to it, we can recognize it and change the narrative. We won’t forget about the dogs.

Copper & I

Where the Magic Happens

Fourteen years ago today Andy ended our relationship for the first time. It was messy and he said a lot of cruel things. “We have nothing in common and if I wasn’t fucking you I wouldn’t want to be your friend.” Oh, and my personal favorite “The first time we had sex was a ten and all the other times have been like five’s.” I  was devastated but also relieved as I had expected things to fall apart. I remember even after he said all of this and assured me that we were done, I still gave him a blow job. It was on the rear balcony of my uptown home and it was raining outside. While on my knees I could hear the droplets hitting the metal overhang. Today, this same man who my therapist at the time said was “uncaring, completely immature and emotionally unavailable” put rose petals in with the snack I brought to work. He has no idea that today is our weird “first breakup and farewell bj” anniversary. Women tend to have a better memory for these occasions. Still there were petals with the snack that he prepared with the same care as our son’s school lunch. He is an amazing father, partner and even after all these years much better than a five as a lover. I’m not mad at all about what happened fourteen years ago. I can actually find so much hilarity in it.  We were immensely different then. Some would say that just wasn’t our time. I might say that my bj’s are just that good.

Timing is everything. Part of me has always hated to admit this because in it’s acceptance there is also a sense of our own powerlessness. Months before I even had an inkling that I would be participating in an FDA clinical trial for MDMA- Assisted Psychotherapy, I kept fixating on the idea of being in the right place at the right time and it’s unfortunate opposite. It bothered me that a person’s complete life experience could be altered simply by timing, beginning with the precariousness of our existence based on the design of ovulation. I’ve had to balance out my fearfulness of poor timing with my inherited belief in luck. My father would regale me with tales of his youth in which he would often just barely avoid a terrible circumstance by sheer luck. He told me that he was lucky, and he believed I was as well. A productive placebo perhaps, but reassuring regardless. Occasionally though we all need a little more than luck.

Here’s the thing. Before I began this trial I didn’t truly believe that I had PTSD. I understand how ludicrous this sounds when the tragedies I’ve experienced are put into context. Nevertheless when told by my current therapist whom I trust very much I would nod my head in agreeance but not accept what she was saying inwardly. It wasn’t until I went through the first battery of psychometric testing did I realize that I was really fucked up. Before then the timing hadn’t been right. Even if someone I loved and trusted had told me “Hey the way you view the world isn’t really the way the world is,”  I would have been incapable of believing them because I had made the world the way I truly believed it was. I now understand that no one would have had any luck in challenging my convictions. I needed to see, absorb and understand the truth that I had come to believe so intensely was not the truth at all. I needed to also understand that I had been powerless in this mode of thinking and reacting. I wasn’t choosing to be the person I had become.

The disconnect that I had developed over years between my mind and my body, became the disconnect between me and the world. I used to sit in therapy and cry. I would tell my therapist of how incredibly lonely I felt. I would explain that losing my nuclear birth family left me feeling desolate and untethered. I would question – if I was less intelligent, would I be happier? I felt exhausted all the time from either suppressing my sadness and discontent or faking my joy and happiness. I had been working so hard to give everyone the reaction they expected that I had forgotten that my reactions were mostly fabrications, straw men. I was going through the motions and believed I was holding it all together. But now I know I wasn’t. Now I realize just how close I was to the edge. I had spent years pretending. Years of thinking that what I was experiencing was reality. Years with very little truth and understanding. My mind was in control – planning, protecting, diligently on guard – and my body was dangling flesh. My body felt nothing but occasional sadness and pain. Tiny bits of emotion that would make their way past the high guard. At the time I didn’t know or understand any of this. I just knew I was different, alone and incredibly unsatisfied with all that I had worked so hard to attain.

Being a part of this trial has allowed me intense introspection that I feel would have been possible through therapy, but would have taken decades. Andy’s analogy of the trilogy is actually quite fitting. In my first experimental drug session, I was figuring out what was available to me. My trust was being built, not just with Shari and Ray, but my trust for myself. In that first session I was able to recall memories that were not necessarily related to a specific trauma but memories that allowed me to feel things in a way that I had forgotten I could feel. This set a precedent for the second experimental drug session. In the second session I was open to a lot more of what was coming up.  The dosage of the drug was higher so I felt more of the effects of the drug, but more importantly I was able to access more feelings than before. Most of those feelings were sorrowful and after that session I was no doubt depressed. In reconnecting with my body, I was riddled with fear and anxiety including: lack of self-worth, guilt over the past, projection into the future, and the quiet desperation of loneliness. Thankfully I made it through which proved to me that the darkest wasn’t nearly as terrifying and defeating as I had believed it would be for years. This gave me hope and strength and moving into the third session my team and I devised an intention.

I knew there were specific things that I wanted to focus on including the death of my mother and my rape. In regards to my mother and the circumstances surrounding her death I had always been able to discuss the tragic events that occurred with a feeling of removal from the situation. It was as if I was telling the story of something that happened to someone else. I had always been able to remember a good amount of specific details but I had never been able to connect to my feelings. While on 180 mg of pharmaceutical-grade MDMA, I placed myself into the memory of that day. I replayed the tragedy and not only did I remain present in my brain, but I also allowed myself to feel what I didn’t allow myself to feel that day. As one can imagine, it was very sorrowful and the sheer terror of the truth reverberated through me. Incredibly though, in the experience I was able to find shocking amounts of empathy for my mother. I considered how terrified she must have been once she had killed Julie and Lark and felt that she could only end things by killing herself. It was a profound experience to mentally go back into that space and remain present to my feelings and not just my thoughts. It has significantly changed me.

Shari and Ray were my support system. They held the space for me to go into these memories and allowed me the safety to do so wholeheartedly. Reminiscent of the scene in Poltergeist where the mother has to rescue Carol Ann and the family and psychic tie a rope around her, Shari and Ray were my rope. I knew if things got too intense, I could tap out. That they would be there to pull me back if I needed them to. They did not need to. Thankfully. After I went through the traumatic event of my mother’s death with the loving support of my team, I decided to tackle the trauma of my rape.

For the first time in over a decade, I told the story of my rape aloud to two individuals who actively listened and showed incredible amounts of empathy. When I finished they were both struck with how dejected I had sounded and had physically presented. I had discussed with them how my rape has continued to affect me specifically by causing a visceral, unpredictable reaction in my body during times of intense arousal. I have described these reactions as feelings of being smothered, suffocated and silenced. In order to process this tragedy, Shari and Ray implored me, asking about triggers that elicited that feeling of panic within my body. I had admitted to them before, and did so again during the session that certain yoga poses immediately cause that reaction within my body. These poses being shoulder stand and plow. For over a decade I have avoided doing these poses even when I was teaching yoga. So there I was, high as fuck, and I suggested that I put myself into a physical posture that I knew would make me feel completely terrible. I had to find the levity in the situation in which then after deciding I would go into the poses, I came up with the short list of things I needed to do beforehand. Hello avoidance. I needed to blow my nose, have a drink of water, eat a mint, have another drink of water. I was like a child avoiding bedtime. Finally I made my way to the mat and after some simple stretches I carefully got into plow pose.

Immediately I felt  intense panic, fear, shame and sadness. I struggled for my breath, from the panic as much as from my tears. Shari and Ray were right there with me holding the space for me. Even so, I felt terrified and paralyzed. Shari calmly and lovingly asked me, “What does that feeling need?”  So I asked the feeling, and simple enough it just wanted to be heard. I just wanted to be heard. Me, Lori Tipton, lying on a mat in a building on the campus of a mental hospital, high on MDMA, just wanted to be heard, believed and empathized with. Bada bing, bada boom. There are so many circumstances surrounding my rape that caused me to be silenced at the time. I never realized how toxic that silence has been. Being in that miserable pose and allowing myself to feel everything, and being seen and heard by people who I have grown to trust and care for immensely was incredibly healing. I stayed in that first plow pose for a few minutes. Then I came out of it and relished every moment of easy breath. I went back into the pose two more times. And by the end of the third time, it was uncomfortable, but it wasn’t unbearable. For me that’s no short of a miracle.

I am still processing all that has happened to me. I feel like I’m standing on the shore of openness and action. Part of me wants to feel the tug of the waves and allow them to take me wherever I am supposed to be. To trust in the pull, the process. The other part of me wants to dive into them. To thrash against them and feel the power of myself, my desires, my volition. I’m walking that shoreline like a tightrope. This walk is the integration, the practice.

To reconnect with my body has been one of the most harrowing and rewarding experiences of my life. I have had to mourn the loss of myself, my time and my potential. I have had to accept the parts of Wilder’s life that I was physically there for but not emotionally available for. I have had to treat myself with kindness and patience, which have taken time to cultivate. It has been a reconnection lubricated by immense sorrow and a plethora of tears. But it has also left me with something more beautiful than I could have imagined. Feeling. Presence. Awareness. My truth has released me from the guilt of my past and allowed me to acknowledge that great things are still available for me. Right now. In this very moment. Andy confessed that over the last few weeks he has found immense satisfaction in silently watching me experience mundane things as if for the first time. And that is how so many things are feeling right now. Awkwardly delightful.

I am falling more in love with my life every day. I am finding it so much easier to laugh the way I used to years ago. I feel lighter, calmer and less agitated. This is not to say that I’m now free of all fear and anxiety. I still have that voice that so badly wants to question everything and constantly self-criticize. Thankfully, it’s not nearly as loud. I have a new, small fear that I’m listening to but limiting its growth. This fear worries that I’ll wake up one day just as crippled by my PTSD as I once was. I hold this little fear close to my heart and whisper soothingly “that’s impossible, because you can never unknow the things you’ve learned.” And when it wants to sweep me away to that oxymoronic comfortable place of feeling bad, I bring myself back to the moment. My son’s laughter, the tenderness of my husband, the taste of my lover’s skin, the love of my community. These moments are where the magic happens. And I want to be open to all of them.



Third time’s a charm.

“What if I’m no longer myself when all this is over with?” This question persistently troubled me when I first began my participation in the current FDA clinical trial for MDMA- Assisted Psychotherapy. As I have progressed in this study, it has transformed from a serious inquiry to a meek whisper. I have nearly altogether dismissed it due to the realization that before beginning this treatment, I really didn’t know myself. I mean I thought I did, in fact, I was sure I did. But as revelations occured and contemplations followed, I found that the identity that I was so afraid of losing was not at all the true essence of who I am.  Both my therapist and my tarot card reader answered my initial question with the same words, “When this is over you will be more of yourself.” I am finally understanding what they meant.

If parts of my story have mirrored yours, that’s because we aren’t that altogether different. Now that I’ve made it through some of my most intense personal moments and felt the reward of sheer survival, I have returned with some remarkable knowledge. The discoveries I’ve made have been both monumental and at the same time incredibly simplistic. It’s a similar feeling to when you’ve finally been shown the proper way to do something you’ve been doing wrong for a very long time. Perhaps the proper way is even incredibly easier than what you’ve been doing and while there is a joy in finding a better way of doing this thing, there is also a bit of guilt and frustration in the acknowledgement of the time you’ve wasted doing it wrong.

Here’s a very abbreviated synopsis of what I’ve learned about myself thus far. I experienced a severely traumatic childhood. My mother was mentally ill, and because of her illness she was incredibly unpredictable. Before I even had words, my interactions with her often left me feeling afraid. This fear began and continues to manifest in issues of abandonment, and doubts of self-worth. Specifically because my mother had a very dualistic personality and was able to present to the majority of people in her life as a sane person, I was left feeling not only sad but also extremely frustrated. My child mind reasoned that she must have had a choice in her actions and that something that I was doing wrong was the cause for the often bad times I experienced with her.  As I grew older and her illness progressed, her interactions only served to continue to feed my fears of abandonment and my lack of self-worth. Perhaps if these interactions had been all that occurred, through therapy and through having a very loving and respectful relationship with my father, I would have been able to understand, empathize, and not internalize my mother’s mental illness. Unfortunately, that is not how things played out. The traumas that occurred during my adult life only worked to solidify my fears and my beliefs that I am not worthy or lovable. Beginning with the tragic loss of my brother and my guilt over being unable to help him. Continuing with my mother murdering two people and herself, followed by a natural disaster of magnificent proportions. And further progressing when I was raped by someone I loved and trusted which ended in pregnancy and abortion. As slowly and as steadily as Pangaea’s separation, each one of these events helped to solidify and reinforce my fears and beliefs. Slowly building them silently inside of me, allowing them to rob me of my ability to feel, to be in my body comfortably, and to accept what had happened to me.

Seems simple enough, doesn’t it? Most of us suffer from some fears of abandonment or doubts of self-worth. I believe that most people reading this will be able to relate. So it seems nearly ludicrous to me that I am only now able to draw the parallels between these circumstances and my PTSD. I have come to believe that my ability to deny what was happening to me was partly due to the vast separation between my mind and body. Something that I have become consciously aware of.

While working at the bar a few weeks ago I was visited by a friend who works nearby. He has a quiet, caring demeanor not unlike a trusted priest or a favored school nurse. He provides an easy intimacy in which I’ve felt a security in telling him things. Even secrets I normally wouldn’t discuss have had a way of easily rolling off my tongue. His response is always one of tender indifference, as if to reassure me that he values what I’m saying but he’s not disturbed or even attached to it. I’m not quite sure how it had come up one day but I blatantly told him, “You know I really love sex but I’ve faked a considerable amount of orgasms.” He continued listening unfazed and the conversation progressed. Later when discussing my thoughts on non-monogamy I joked with him stating, “I really don’t care how many lovers a person has, as long as I’m the best.” He smiled back and with the nonchalance of Yoda replied, “Well, that’s why you fake it. You’re too worried about giving an experience to someone else that you don’t allow yourself to enjoy your own experience.” After stating this he hustled out quickly to make an appointment leaving me the rest of the shift to consider what he had said.

I brought this up in therapy because I believe my faked orgasms are the perfect analogy for how I’ve been moving through my life. So often I have chosen to sacrifice my own complete fulfillment which I know I am capable of, for some smaller representation of that experience that at times is a complete mockery. I have faked something that I was perfectly capable of actually achieving, and at the prompting of no one but myself. I think at first this faking “it” was a necessity for life. In the aftermath of several horrific experiences I tricked myself into believing that I was just fine. As I have written about in the past, I locked my feelings deeply inside of myself, and just as my mother mastered her dualistic nature, I also presented one side of myself to most of the world. In doing this I greatly increased the chasm between my mind and body. Not allowing myself to experience my feelings and suffering the intense destruction of them when they would find a way out (generally during periods of intoxication or overwhelming depression.) My own denial of my experience and the emotive response to it, was no doubt a factor in the development of my PTSD. Once this disorder began to manifest, the subsequent changes in my brain structure and my interactions with the world only furthered my desire to upkeep the farce. While at first it seemed like the easy thing to do, and the thing that would allow me to persevere and survive, it has proven to be exhausting and unfulfilling. Much like a relationship built on disingenuous pleasure. If I have to fake it to make it, I don’t want it anymore.

I’m truly invested in authenticity. I am devoted to allowing myself the time and energy to be present to all the things that are coming up. With an incredibly hectic life this hasn’t been easy, but it has been rewarding beyond measure. I have had to evaluate some of my automatic reactions. I have had to acknowledge my triggers and be present to the horrible insecurities they often manifest. I have had to let go of relationships that I hoped would blossom. I have had to be open and willing to let love change me. I have had to accept that I’m still learning who I am. I have had to trust that all of this will be worth it in the end.

On Saturday I will attend my third and final experimental drug session. I’m ready to go all in for this one. I have discussed with Shari and Ray my intentions, and they are loving supporters. There are still portions of my mother’s death that I have an inability to recall. I can remember in vivid detail the events leading up to and even most of the aspects of the discovery of the bodies, but there is something integral that is still missing. I continue to be able to talk about these occurrences as if they happened to someone else. I feel as if I witnessed them (which I most certainly did) but that I was completely emotionally removed from what I was experiencing. Even my 911 call from the house that day is calm, considering what I had discovered. I am hoping that by revisiting this experience while under the influence of the drug, I will be able to emotionally access things I have been unable to in the twelve years since this happened. Either that or it’ll be the worst roll ever.

I am also interested in processing my rape. I have talked very little about this trauma and it took me a decade to write about it ( know that it still affects me though, as I often have unwanted physical and physiological reactions to certain types of touch or intimate situations. It has been the trauma that has caused me to feel the most shame and in turn the one that I have been most reluctant to work through. It has often been eclipsed by the larger, perhaps more significant tragic events that have occurred in my life, but I know it needs to be acknowledged. Regardless of the level of pain, I am apt to recognize the effect it has had on me.

Saturday sounds like it’s going to be a riot, doesn’t it? The most exceptional aspect to these plans is that I’m no longer afraid. I know that this work isn’t going to be easy and it might not even be fruitful, but at this moment I don’t fear it will kill me. And that alone is worth whatever happens this weekend. I’ll report back from the other side.

As always, thank you for your continued support.



“Baby, if I don’t feel it I ain’t faking no no.” – Rihanna