When I took MDMA—commonly known as Molly or Ecstasy—for the first time, I was expecting feelings of indisputable euphoria. Sure, I didn’t do much research aside from listening to my boyfriend's stories. But I figured that, with the drug’s reputation of causing an intense physical experience, or "rolling face," there wasn’t much else to consider.

However, I’ve discovered that taking a psychedelic drug like MDMA can result in a much different experience depending on the person and the environment. Heightened feelings do not always mean euphoria, and the trip is more tailored to the person rather than the general consensus.

Chemically, MDMA affects a person’s serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine neurotransmitters. Because the activity of these chemicals, specifically serotonin, is being increased, people feel a heightened mood–a state of euphoria. The surge of serotonin also leads to an enhanced sense of touch, love, and trust–reasons why everything and everyone feels so good on MDMA.

Because of the lifted mood, people typically become more talkative and more touchy–feely. However, I continue to repeat the words ‘typically’ and ‘usually’ because—although that may be the general reaction—my experiences weren’t exactly textbook, so yours might not be either. 

Initially, in both of my trips, I was hit with an overwhelming amount of anxiety. Anxiety, in terms of MDMA, is considered more of a long–term side effect because the extra serotonin produced while on the drug results in a decreased supply later. 

However, I found it easy to wave in and out of an anxious mindset. In the beginning, I wondered if I took too much. Why is this hitting me so hard? Why do I have the urge to cry? Why am I sweating? Why is my friend reacting that way? Will her body stop shaking? Are they waiting for me to be happy? To be more chill?

Although I took the drug in relatively safe and calm environments, my wavering clarity and my emotional intensity led me to oscillate between different feelings: anxiety, love, fear, joy, and sadness.

These rapidly evolving feelings gave me no urge to talk–I felt better listening, thinking, breathing. I reveled in the feeling of skin–on–skin and the movement of my joints. I let each of my feelings consume me individually before moving on to the next, allowing myself to melt into the place where I sat. 

The next time I took MDMA, I was better prepared. I made sure that I immediately began calming exercises when I felt the panic set in. I embraced all of the other sensations that bombarded me, instead of trying to fight them.

Both times, though, I never really felt euphoria, and even my friend kept asking me when she would feel happy. MDMA trips usually take place in a party setting–alcohol, music, and lots of people. Pure happiness seems unavoidable. With so much noise and action, how could you feel anything else?

But when it’s just you and a few other people chilling at home, there’s more time to pause, to unravel thoughts, to carry conversations, to switch between crying and laughing, to feel every conceivable emotion. 

I wouldn’t describe my MDMA highs as disappointing. Sure, I didn’t necessarily gain from them what I initially wanted, but the intensity of the experience—both emotionally and physically—is incomparable. 

No matter how much research you do (or how much you don’t), it’s impossible to fully prepare for a MDMA trip. The only way to know what to expect is to actually try it, as long as you’re  open to any direction–euphoric or not—that your experience may take.