I spent a year not thinking about an ex. All day, most days. Not thinking about her cheekbones, not thinking about her soft kisses, and, especially at bedtime, not thinking about her warm half smile, her small yet curvy frame engineered perfectly to spoon with mine.

Not thinking about her was best, because thinking about her meant admitting ending our engagement was a mistake, and also remembering all the crying at the end, by both of us, and the hard diamond of pain in my gut.

I said: cuddling is a difficult way to fall asleep, and without that spooning I slept plenty, sometimes 12 or 14 hours a day. Plus, I was free to drink whenever, even in daytime, something she tried to get me to stop.

A therapist suggested I was stuck. Lodged. Caught. She said the words "dangerously depressed" or something, but I didn't pay attention because you know therapists: if they don't diagnose you with something, they're not going to get paid.

Then one night I drank ayahuasca. It's a psychedelic drug from the Amazon, sort of like jungle LSD. You may have heard of it on the bestseller list, or on Chelsea Handler, or this website, often.

I drank it in a small room, with a guide, with 30 other people, in Colorado. I'd taken it before. The hallucinations were often colors and shapes meaningless to me.

This night on the drug, something happened: I hallucinated my ex. We were sitting side-by-side on the bed. She did that halfway smile, warmly, her lips curling up toward perfect cheekbones, and my chest vibrated with joy.

I expected her to turn to me and cuddle.

But her lips kept curling up, to reveal her cheek bone. Then the flesh peeled completely off her skull. She was dead. And my skeletal ex turned to me, and made the floor open, like a trapdoor, to the fires below. And then she grabbed my leg and said, "Now I'm going to show you the hell you put me through," and started to pull me hellward.

I said, audibly, "No no no no no no no!!" And the noise made me realize I wasn't damned, I was a human in a room on a drug, and I raced outside to throw up.

[The ayahuasca vine via Shutterstock]

Psychedelics are coming back. Some people praise them as possible cures for sadness. Other people are terrified of them because of all the bad trips. But, for me, psychedelics are great for the same reason they're dangerous; you can't control the experience, and they show you parts of your brain, body and consciousness you'd love to exile.

I told my therapist the next week about skelet-ex.

She said: maybe I was actually thinking about my ex a lot.

The therapist said my depression was actually me punishing myself. What I needed was to accept that I get sad and overly excited and I'm driven by impulses beyond my control and that I hurt people. Over the course of months and years, freed from some of the need to self-harm, I began to exercise, eat better, meditate more, and — something else the ayahuasca helped me with — stop drinking, a key part of my current happiness.

After a few months, I was thinking about my ex only from time to time, whenever my regret and guilt came up about her, which turned out to be less of a drag on my life than when I wasn't thinking about her at all.

Whenever my mind flashed onto her sweet smile, and I felt a nugget of regret in my belly, and I was tempted to push the feelings away, instead I dealt with them.

I was able to move on and date other people. And now my love life is better. Facing difficult feelings sometimes is the best way to, eventually, stop having to face them all the time.

[cover photo: Amazonian shaman via Shutterstock. Not the author's actual experience.]