In the more than five years since he last played an NHL game, Daniel Carcillo has resided in some frighteningly dark places.
Once an enforcer who traded punches in about 100 NHL fights, he says at times he’s found himself trapped in a downward spiral of depression and anxiety — mental health disorders that have been linked to the repetitive head trauma he suffered as a player. And though he has fought hard to get better — researching no end of treatments and spending more than $200,000 over a four-year period at various medical clinics in search of relief from a laundry list of symptoms that also included a failing memory, insomnia and impulse-control issues — a raft of prescribed remedies have proven, at best, temporary. Nothing worked for long.
A two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Chicago Blackhawks who had largely cut himself off from the hockey community, thanks in part to his involvement in lawsuits against the National Hockey League and Canadian Hockey League, he was suddenly a man on an island. More than once, he says, he considered suicide.
“I was lost. I was lost in life,” he was saying in a recent interview. “Nobody really wanted to hang out with me. I could tell I was a burden to my family. I didn’t want my kids to learn how to grow up seeing the way I was acting. I just thought it might be better for me to be gone.”
But 13 months ago, he got a call from a former teammate who suggested an unconventional option. At the former teammate’s urging, Carcillo got on a plane to a location he won’t disclose to undergo a treatment that he says saved his life.
Carcillo was administered what’s known as a “hero dose” of psilocybin, an ancient psychedelic plant medicine commonly known as magic mushrooms. And though he described the experience as challenging — a hallucinogenic exploration of the darkest corners of his psyche — he says the after-effects have been remarkable.
The suicidal thoughts have left his head. The symptoms that made post-NHL life difficult have largely subsided. In short, he says he’s never been better.
“I’m doing phenomenally well,” Carcillo said. “I’m living my best life right now.”