Purple Magazine
— The Brain Issue #33 S/S 2020

marika thunder by olivier zahm

interview and portrait by OLIVIER ZAHM
photography by BERNADETTE VAN-HUY

in the free mind of a young artist:
the talented daughter of painter rita ackermann
on finding herself and growing up in violent times

OLIVIER ZAHM — Marika: so, you’re taking mushrooms. What kind?
MARIKA THUNDER — It’s called Golden Teacher. I’ve been doing this microdosing regimen to get off my antidepressant medication. I’m almost done — I’ve been on antidepressants for four years. I was first prescribed them when I was 16. I was told I had all these issues. And then my brain got used to them…

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, the mushrooms are replacing your medication. Does it work?
MARIKA THUNDER — Yeah! It’s been helping a lot. The mushrooms, or this journey work with this woman, have been saving my life the last year.

OLIVIER ZAHM — She’s a shaman?
MARIKA THUNDER — She’s a spiritual healer. She trained in the jungle with this indigenous tribe. She’s been doing this for 30 years — a really long time. But she’s had these abilities to tell what’s wrong with people since she was a little girl. She can also predict things before they happen.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Like a psychic?
MARIKA THUNDER — Kind of. Voices and stuff like that. But she knew that it wasn’t crazy. She’s saving lives. She works with all sorts of people. And she does these healing sessions and works with plants. I was already in and out of rehab for a couple of years at that point. At age 15 I was sent to my first rehab. That wasn’t as much for substance issues — it was a mix of things.

OLIVIER ZAHM — You’re 21 now. So it’s been about six years of medication, and now you’re changing to this mushroom treatment. And it’s much better?
MARIKA THUNDER — Much better. I’ve gone over a year without a single opiate. I mean, I’m taking Suboxone — which is to help get off opiates.

OLIVIER ZAHM — What kind of drugs were you taking?
MARIKA THUNDER — When I got sent to this treatment center, I had been using intravenous fentanyl for about three-and-a-half months. Fentanyl is like synthetic heroin, but it’s maybe 50 times stronger. I was using that and crystal meth every single day for months. I had issues with meth for years, on and off. I was putting my body through hell. And I was homeless multiple times. I was doing all kinds of crazy shit, like robbing people, selling myself, all this, just to survive. I’ve lived in five different states in the past five years. So, I got to see a lot, which was really cool.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Where were you?
MARIKA THUNDER — I was in Texas, California, Pennsylvania, a little bit in Minnesota — I was just there for rehab. I got sent to Los Angeles — I was out there for about a year on this program that I really hated. It was rehab for teenagers with issues. And basically it was just a way to get money out of my parents.

OLIVIER ZAHM — How was life in rehab?
MARIKA THUNDER — I was barely allowed to talk to my parents at all. The way it worked was that they told my parents, on the phone: “We think your daughter has this, this, and this personality disorder. Her life is probably going to be full of drugs and jail. She might die within the next couple of years, so get ready for that.” And they put me on six different medications.

OLIVIER ZAHM — So your parents paid for it?
MARIKA THUNDER — Yeah. And they told my parents that I was one of the worst cases they’ve seen in their whole careers. Whenever I was on the phone with my parents, and I would try to say, “This place is crazy, I hate it here, they’re just telling you lies,” they would hang up the phone on me.

OLIVIER ZAHM — It’s a business for them.
MARIKA THUNDER — I know. Isn’t that crazy? I hated that place. It’s in Malibu, and it’s one of the most popular, “successful”… And it’s not successful. All they do is they tell these 16-year-olds: “You’re damaged. For the rest of your life, you’re going to have this issue. You’re sick. You can’t live like a normal person. You can’t drink alcohol at your wedding. You can’t ever do this or that, or you’re going to end up in jail, or smoke crack, or die, get AIDS, or whatever.” They just scare you so much. And when you tell these 16-year-old kids this stuff, they believe it. They think, “Oh, my gosh, I’m bipolar.” And for me, what happened was that I thought: “All right, my life is going to be a mess. Well, I might as well just make it a mess.”

OLIVIER ZAHM — That’s so scary.
MARIKA THUNDER — It is scary. I’m so grateful I’m out of it. [Laughs]

OLIVIER ZAHM — Because of the mushrooms? But also coming back to New York and staying with your mother [Rita Ackermann]?
MARIKA THUNDER — Yes! My mom is an angel.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Can you tell us more about your healer in New York?
MARIKA THUNDER — Well, I met her in the Caribbean, actually. That’s where she does her journey workshops. A friend introduced us because he’d been working with her for years. That’s how he got off his medication. So, she’s been changing everyone’s lives for the better. And she saved mine.

OLIVIER ZAHM — In America — everywhere — people are so ready to prescribe medication. Does it really help?
MARIKA THUNDER — It doesn’t. But for some people, it can. I did this research paper on Western pharmacology — what doctors in America do versus plant medicine. People in South America, like tribes in the rainforest, have been doing this for thousands of years. There’s a study showing that human consciousness maybe evolved as much as it did because the monkey versions of ourselves back then were eating mushrooms. They think that’s how our brains got more complex. And if you take mushrooms with the right intention, with the right guide, it’s an expansion of consciousness. You feel like you’re connected to something bigger than yourself, and you notice this oneness in the universe. It’s like connecting with god for the first time. And you start to see yourself as a child of god, or this precious thing that’s given one shot, so why fuck it up? Why be stuck in this cycle of misery — of doing the same thing over and over again, that you know isn’t working?

OLIVIER ZAHM — And going from drugs to medication, back to drugs, back to medication. Nonstop.
MARIKA THUNDER — Yeah. It was just a cycle, but it’s because I didn’t feel love. It’s like I didn’t want to feel feelings, you know?

OLIVIER ZAHM — And it’s destroying your brain. How did you get into drugs so young?
MARIKA THUNDER — I was really addicted to meth. I tried it for the first time when I was 15, but I started heavily using it when I was about 18. It was a total mindfuck. I was selling drugs a lot in high school, and then out of high school, to support my own addiction. And it’s funny because I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was 15 — Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. And that’s when they prescribe you Adderall. So, Adderall is just another form of meth. Methamphetamines and amphetamines are the same thing, except one is given to you by a doctor, and the other isn’t. So, I was trying to treat my own ADHD through methamphetamines. I had this idea that I could do it, and I could get through school. It’s all because I didn’t like the way school was taught — with homework and deadlines. I struggled with sitting still in class. And usually meth makes people crazy and “up,” but it could make me calm down and focus. If you do a lot…

OLIVIER ZAHM — And then you lose it?
MARIKA THUNDER — Yeah. But you don’t realize you’re losing it. It’s very gradual, until you see: “Oh my God, my life is falling apart because of this stuff” and “Why am I doing it?” I was so blocked off from my emotions. I felt empathy, but I didn’t understand it as deeply as I do now. And it’s just because everything was second to meth. Meth was everything. Relationships, family, all that stuff was important, too, but meth was more important. I was sick — I needed it.

OLIVIER ZAHM — And now this mushroom treatment, has it opened your mind?
MARIKA THUNDER — It opened my heart and mind together.

OLIVIER ZAHM — And your creativity?
MARIKA THUNDER — Well, I always had the creativity and the imagination. Because I’m my mother’s daughter, so I had that. But what I didn’t have was the heart — I was missing the heart. And that’s because I didn’t have my mom. I was never taught to respect myself as a woman or to be okay with feeling stuff. I was always taught that feelings are just going to get in the way. They’re going to lead you off track, which is so not true! [Laughs]

OLIVIER ZAHM — And now you are able to feel?
MARIKA THUNDER — Mm-hmm. Now I’m in a relationship, which is great. I feel more happy, grateful, I feel joy. But there are bad days where I feel like shit. But I can get myself out of it. I just tell myself, “Tomorrow’s a new day,” instead of “Oh, let me go start doing drugs.”

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, do you think having your relationship is helping?
MARIKA THUNDER — I couldn’t have done the relationship if I didn’t learn to love myself first. And you know what the trick is with a relationship? It only happens when you stop looking.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Couldn’t you have a relationship before?
MARIKA THUNDER — With Tinder only. [Laughs] Here’s the thing with feelings: I didn’t want a real, intimate relationship. I just wanted sex. Because I thought love was great and all, but I never really understood it. It seemed too complicated for me. I tried to meet people through school and through a job, but you don’t get as many options. It’s so much easier to go swiping through pictures. You’re like, “No, no, no, yes.” It was too easy. And I didn’t understand what it was when I was young. I’ve actually started two relationships from Tinder. They were great, but it was me who didn’t want to be really serious. I always had one foot out the door because I was scared of being hurt. I used to be scared of love. And also, I didn’t think I deserved it. I always saw my crushes as…

OLIVIER ZAHM — A fantasy?
MARIKA THUNDER — Yeah. But I wanted them at the same time. So, it was like, “I’m not good enough to have them, but I really want them.” So, I got myself stuck by thinking, “I’m never going to have a chance,” so I hurt myself before I even had a chance to try. And when I look at teenagers nowadays with their social media and stuff like that, it’s the same thing. These pictures of people — everyone looks beautiful. They have their make-up, their Photoshop. Everyone has all these super-expensive clothes, or always looks like they’re partying and having a great time. But you’re only posting what you want people to see of you. You’re not posting what’s actually going on. So people think, “Everyone’s having so much fun, compared to me.”

OLIVIER ZAHM — But why are you afraid of someone seeing the real you? What’s so scary about that?
MARIKA THUNDER — I used to be scared of it because I thought I was too different, you know — no one was going to “get it.” And I don’t think that way anymore. I was always comparing myself to other people. So, I was always like, “If I do fall in love with someone, they’re obviously going to go for the better option.”

OLIVIER ZAHM — Do you compare yourself with other people all the time? Because of social media?
MARIKA THUNDER — Yeah. It’s a really wild competition. You can never know what to trust. It’s Instagram, it’s Facebook. I didn’t really care about that shit at all. I was actually pretty late getting into it. I was 15 or whatever. Everyone in my grade was already into it.

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, to come back to this social media effect…
MARIKA THUNDER — And you’re hoping that maybe through getting the next cool fashion item, or the new iPhone, or whatever, that then maybe you’ll finally be cool enough, and you’ll love yourself, and someone will love you.

OLIVIER ZAHM — But it’s always external or superficial.
MARIKA THUNDER — Yeah. You never actually figure out who you are. You try to make yourself cool but still can’t find out who you are. I had a phase where I thought I was a total badass in terms of what society and Hollywood and music nowadays consider badass: “I do drugs, I sell drugs, I party, I have guns, I have expensive clothes, I’m dangerous, don’t fuck with me.” I made my whole personality about danger. And I didn’t realize that I was scaring people off. But it was just to be cool. And then you find yourself alone with a bunch of other people trying to be scary badasses. [Laughs] I have so many friends who don’t even realize they’re in that cycle. Or they realize it, but they don’t know how to get out. They don’t believe in themselves. You have to come to that answer yourself, or you’re going to die. I had three friends of mine pass away within the last two months. My ex died, another friend from high school died, and then another person died — all overdoses. From heroin. Or suicide — it’s a similar kind of thing, I think.

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, it’s a disaster for young people in America?
MARIKA THUNDER — Oh, it’s an epidemic.

OLIVIER ZAHM — You’ve seen a lot?
MARIKA THUNDER — Oh, yeah. I had a friend of mine overdose in my house. He didn’t die, but he never fully came back. And it’s so sad because these kids didn’t even have a chance to figure it out. They were just trying to be cool, to fit in. They were chasing what they thought was the next great thing, and the drugs were just… You don’t know what you’re getting. The darknet has it all fucked up. They don’t know how strong it is. And fentanyl, too. Just the tiniest bit can kill you.

OLIVIER ZAHM — And it’s chemical, so it’s manufactured, and if it’s badly done, it can fuck with your brain.
MARIKA THUNDER — Yeah. And it’s so easy to get! You can order drugs online, for Christ’s sake. Off the darknet, the deep Web. Which is actually surprisingly easy. I used to do it all the time. You have to download Tor Browser on your computer, and you use Bitcoin and stuff. You have to be smart about it. Read reviews on different vendors, make sure you don’t get ripped off. You have to get kits to test the drugs before you do them.

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, for you, it’s an epidemic? There are a lot of kids in this situation.
MARIKA THUNDER — Oh, my gosh. I mean, it’s killing everyone. Today the new trend is to introduce psychedelic medicines or to legalize other plant medicines, and bring more awareness. They’re doing research on a lot of psychedelic substances: LSD, MDMA [the active ingredient in ecstasy] — which is not a psychedelic; it’s a heart-opener, if you use it in a therapeutic environment with the right facilitator. They’re thinking of doing couples therapy or trauma therapy with MDMA now.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Do you believe in art? What does it mean for you?
MARIKA THUNDER — It’s whatever the fuck you want it to be. But like all things right now, money gets in the way, and it’s going to corrupt it. And social media is corrupting art, too. It’s corrupting all the arts: fashion, music, movies, everything. Because everyone is just trying to show off.

OLIVIER ZAHM — For my generation, everyone wanted to be an artist. Is that the case for your generation, too?
MARIKA THUNDER — I don’t know. Some people just don’t understand it. I think if you’re an artist, you just know. You’re born knowing it. For me, the second I was born, I already was like, “Give me the crayons, the paint, everything.” I taught myself how to write ahead of everyone else, so I could draw and write stories. I was born an artist. But then, I was like, “Oh, I want a career — so I’m going to do graphic design.” [Rolls eyes] I learned how to use Photoshop, and it was great: I learned about aesthetics, how to make a website look good, elements of design. My favorite graphic designer, David Carson, art-directed Ray Gun magazine…

OLIVIER ZAHM — He was a big inspiration for my magazine when I started.
MARIKA THUNDER — He’s my hero.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Would you like to go into acting?
MARIKA THUNDER — Yeah, I’m trying it all. I love acting… I have to try out a lot of different things to find which ones work for me.

OLIVIER ZAHM — It takes time.
MARIKA THUNDER — You can’t buy yourself personality. It’s always the people who think that they can buy personality, creativity, and imagination who decide, “I’m going to become an artist now.” If you’re an artist, you suffer from it. It sucks — you feel misunderstood.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Is there something bigger than art?
MARIKA THUNDER — Well, art comes from god — or whatever people want to call it. It’s what created the world, everything that’s perfect in the world and in nature. It just flows together seamlessly.

OLIVIER ZAHM — You can embrace that? But your generation is also confronted with a massive climate catastrophe.
MARIKA THUNDER — There’s nothing more I want than to preserve the planet. I want to change people’s minds. I want to make people understand, whether through introducing them to the medicine journey, mushrooms, other kinds of psychedelics, shamanism. It’s becoming a whole phase now.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Can it really be a life-changing experience?
MARIKA THUNDER — Yeah. When you realize that you’re connected to this universe, you’re not going to want to hurt it or use it the way we did before. It’s going to be hard, but little changes will happen over time.

OLIVIER ZAHM — And fashion? Is that superficial for your generation?
MARIKA THUNDER — A lot of people like to make it superficial. But fashion, art, film, theater, music, all that stuff — it’s its own entity. And again, money, social media people — they’re all going to try to fucking corrupt it.

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, you’re looking for something bigger than just art, or fashion, or cinema? Something that can really connect you to a bigger force.
MARIKA THUNDER — Yeah. Smartphones and social media take you away from the soul. They take you away from the bigger entity.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Plus, they destroy all political energy — you just take your medication and enter the norm.
MARIKA THUNDER — Yeah. And some people just go through their whole lives completely satisfied with that. Or they just learn to make peace with it. And it’s just not for me. [Laughs] I can’t settle for that.

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, what stimulates your brain today?
MARIKA THUNDER — Humor is great for me. I live off of it. There are a lot of ridiculous things going on in the world right now to make fun of, like our current political situation. [Laughs]

OLIVIER ZAHM — And what do you think about the recent gender revolution?
MARIKA THUNDER — I think it’s legitimate. So, whether doing drugs, or experimenting with your sexuality, or creating a new identity or personality for yourself — these are all things people are trying on all the

OLIVIER ZAHM — Is there a face for your generation?
MARIKA THUNDER — Celebrities come and go. They’re all fading. It’s just that the media are very manipulative — they try to make someone seem cool and down-to-earth enough for everyone to feel connected to them. It’s all marketing! It’s crazy.




[Table of contents]

The Brain Issue #33 S/S 2020

Table of contents

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