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Books

Ayelet Waldman explains how microdosing LSD changed her life

Updated

Claire Lewis

She’s a novelist, Harvard-trained lawyer and former public defender, mommy-blog lightning rod, and one half of a major literary It couple—and now Waldman, 52, has written about a last-ditch hope to treat her depression: microdoses of LSD.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Your book is called A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life. But you went into it pretty freaked out by the whole idea.
AYELET WALDMAN: That’s what I think is important to understand. I went to Wesleyan University, and mostly I was just sitting with my arms crossed, shaking my head while people were tripping all the time. I’m anxious by nature and I have a mood disorder, so losing control is terrifying. I don’t even drink, really. But, like many people with mental health issues, I’ve tried so many things that I thought were going to work and didn’t. I had [a regimen] that worked for years, and it was great. But when that went to hell and I started back down the rabbit hole of new medications, I got really hopeless. So I studied this [microdosing idea] so neurotically and so carefully and so thoroughly. I read all these research studies and talked to everybody I could. But finally doing it was kind of like jumping off a bridge.

Were you waiting for the pink elephants to come twirling in?
Exactly. Or worse—like, a sea of black rats to come and open up.

But your experience was not some wild Fear and Loathing trip at all.
If I slipped a microdose to someone, they would never know it. They might just have a really good day. That’s it. There’s no hallucinations at all. None…. But it does have neuropsychiatric effects. Very mild ones. Really, it’s the difference between medicine and, I don’t know, Burning Man? I am not a Burning Man kind of girl.

This definitely isn’t a book about how much fun it is to drop acid.
It’s about reaching an emotional breaking point and desperately looking for a solution. Trying something that seems crazy that turns out to be not so crazy after all.

Your husband, Michael Chabon, never did the LSD with you. Still, he seemed very supportive of your choices.
I came very, very close to destroying my marriage. I decided I was a horrible person, that nobody should be married to me. So in the scheme of what’s worse for my children—having their parents divorce and have their mother maybe kill herself—this was better.

What about the legal aspects? Technically you broke the law.
Well, I’m absolutely up-front about it: The only reason I could do this is because I’m a privileged white lady. If I were a young black man, this experiment could put me in jail. But one of the responsibilities of privilege is to be out in front. I don’t want to overstate it—I’m not on the barricades here. I did it because I was in pain, and because I could.

And there’s also a disclaimer.
Yes. I am not telling anybody to do this, God forbid. But if I’m open about it, then I could stake out a position that calls for decriminalization and calls for more research, because I’m less at risk.

Microdosing has gained some traction in Silicon Valley among the tech elite. But that seems much more performance-oriented.
Totally. Like wearing a Fitbit. [Microdosing] has what I call the Adderall effect, and the Prozac effect. I don’t mean literally, obviously. But it’s stimulating, and it does make it easier to focus. It enhances neuroplasticity, so you find yourself making these connections that are really exhilarating as a creative person.

You write about clinical studies on the benefits of psychedelic mushrooms for terminal cancer patients, and MDMA for veterans with PTSD, which feels much more crucial.
Yes! MDMA has shown remarkable results. Not just for vets but anybody with PTSD: first responders, rape survivors. The research is just preliminary, but it seems to allow people to reexperience the traumatic memory devoid of the pain.

Will your kids read the book?
My oldest daughter wants to be a writer, and she hasn’t even read [Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel] The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Klay! They won’t read anything I write, it’s so aggravating. [Laughs]

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