Summary: MDMA-assisted psychotherapy study participant and veteran Nigel McCourry is profiled by Citizen-Times. Journalist Mike Belleme of Citizen-Times speaks with McCourry about the stark differences between living with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and living without PTSD, highlighting how receiving MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in a MAPS-sponsored clinical trial helped McCourry overcome treatment-resistant PTSD. “Fear should be questioned so that the information embedded within it may be revealed. Only by facing our fears with brutal honesty and determination to overcome them can we personally grow,” explains McCourry.
Originally appearing here.
For the month of January, photographer Mike Belleme is sharing parts of his “States of Fear” project, asking people in Western North Carolina what it is they fear the most in an attempt to bridge the gap between people with different backgrounds and experiences.
Nigel McCourry, 34, is an Iraq War veteran who lives in Asheville. His fear is complacency.
After serving in Iraq, McCourry returned to the United States suffering from severe posttraumatic stress disorder, resulting in extreme feelings of isolation and insomnia and debilitating hypervigilance. Memories of getting shot at every day and killing people, and of a traumatic incident with an improvised explosive device, which nearly ended his life, plagued his consciousness constantly and affected his relationships.
McCourry was part of a trial experiment in South Carolina treating soldiers with PTSD with MDMA, the drug known as ecstasy. It has successfully treated his PTSD, which McCourry says is almost unheard of. He is now trying to find the balance between hypervigilance and complacency.
“We got shot at every day. After three months, it was like primitive survival mode,” he said. “There were signs in Iraq that read ‘Complacency Kills.’ Becoming complacent makes you vulnerable and lazy. Fear can be a good friend or a wicked enemy….
“As a friend, fear allows us to identify our own insecurities and weaknesses, and it communicates to us when we are in danger,” he continued. “As an enemy, it haunts us and makes us targets of manipulation. It separates us from our higher selves.
“Fear should be questioned so that the information embedded within it may be revealed. Only by facing our fears with brutal honesty and determination to overcome them can we personally grow. If we do not face our fears with such determination they will come to haunt us and present themselves as demons. Every day I try to ask myself what I’m afraid of and then I take steps to overcome those fears.”
About this series
Each month, a local photographer hosts the Living Portrait Series, choosing a theme and different subjects to photograph and interview each week.
The goal is two-fold: to share and champion work by local photographers, and to foster a greater understanding of the people and perspectives in the community.