Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, more commonly referred to as OCD, is an illusion of control over reality. The afflicted is likely to conduct a series of painstaking and interminable rituals throughout the day, while ruminating, on a loop, each and every possible reality offered by each and every possible choice available, hoping to find some impossible gilded path where all dissolves into harmony. But in doing so, they instead dissolve into the living death of perpetual indecision. Reality evades control at every turn.
I know this because I have it, and while the disorder manifests differently in each individual, my experience is one I know that Adam Strauss, the writer and performer behind “The Mushroom Cure,” a one-man show about his search to cure his OCD via psilocybin mushrooms, can relate to.
In the hour and a half show, Adam relives a deeply personal journey that grants the audience an intimate look into his obsessive thoughts, his burgeoning relationship with a psychology grad student, and the way in which psychedelics reconfigured his role in shaping his own life.
He channels mind-numbing internal vacillations over mundane choices – like which iPhone mp3 service to opt for, or which city sidewalk to stroll on for maximum health benefit – in a truly comical way. on I think that any over thinker, even if they haven’t been diagnosed with OCD, can relate to the seductive quality of our mind’s invasive second-guessing that he so acutely renders. And the love story between him and Grace, a gentle, highly perceptive soul who first introduces him to the notion of psychedelic therapy, serves to underscore the healing journey in a profound way. It’s through Grace and Adam’s evolving perception of her do we begin to see how psychedelics brush the cobwebs, making way for a more authentic understanding of what’s around us.
Grace is depicted as a pure, infallible being with an angel’s voice. And when Adam’s OCD begins to tyrannize his mind with empty critical thoughts about her, it’s the psychedelic experience that allows him to view her with true, unblinking eyes.
The climax of the show is his solo psychedelic experience, one that spurred the black tidal wave of his own self-inflicted neurosis to daunt him before spurring him to call 911 on himself, a trial and tribulation as mirthful as it is tense.
Despite the ebb and flow of his romance, Adam realizes that it is he, ultimately, who is in the driver’s seat, the director, the arbiter of how his experience is to be colored.
It can be uncomfortable, in a good way, to witness his tortured experience from the comfort of a theatre chair. But it’s a good thing. A good thing to empathetically bristle (and in my case, cackle all too loudly) at the mind’s virtuosic ability to dissect every decision, and the heart’s capacity to open widely to the grand humbling of the third eye via psychedelics.
OCD may attempt to rob us of our autonomy by haunting every decision with the promise of perfection, but in the end it leads to nothing but heartache. Adam’s show beautifully and hilariously illustrates how one’s heart can undergo a metamorphosis through psychedelics, perceiving the world as it exists outsides of one’s tightly wound cage of thoughts. I cannot recommend it enough for those in search psychedelics’ capacity to shine a bright light on that which we cannot easily see.
The Mushroom Cure is playing at Theatre 80 in NYC until Jan 7 – learn more here