Externally everything seems fine. My appearance manifests itself as a relatively high functioning young adult who lives and works in Berlin.
But I’ve dealt with an unquiet mind all my life, and managing that has proven to be a difficult but beautiful journey. I’ve experienced and still work with anxiety, addiction, mood swings, a strange relationship with food, significant dips in motivation, obsessive tendencies, and self-harm in many intricate fashions. I have trouble admitting this sometimes, but other times, it’s crystal clear.
A few weeks ago I started microdosing an LSD analog, 1P-LSD. It happens to be legal in Germany (for now), so I ordered it online. It’s one of many ways I balance my mental state, and so far, it’s working. Microdosing isn’t just another coping mechanism; it seems to be treating the core of my complications. But I’ll get to the many notable benefits later.
So why do I need to dose myself? Am I doing this for fun? To “biohack” my productivity? Am I jumping on a third wave wagon for the thrill of it? Why not see a doctor?
It took me a while to realize that I didn’t just need an attitude adjustment. There was something either chemical or epigenetic going on that I had acquired through the course of my childhood. I’ll spare you my history and the potential sources of these mental loops, patterns, and behaviors. We all have them.
So I was “sick” for lack of a better word. Sometimes I couldn’t leave my apartment, and other times I was the life of the party. Sometimes I was full of ideas and excitement, other times I was null, void, and exhausted. I’ve hurt people I love the most and tried to impress people I don’t like.
If I had gone to a doctor or psychiatrist in one of my downward trends, and explained everything I was going through, I could have easily received a prescription for SSRIs or anxiety meds like many of my friends. But the option to consult a new doctor about the inner workings of my brain was never presented to me. I never talked about it. With anyone. So I was never diagnosed with anything.
On the outside, life was peachy keen.
Even if I had gone to a doctor and taken certain medications, treating complications of the mind is no longer about treating the symptoms — sadness, fear, low energy, loneliness. Labeling these conditions generally and masking the symptoms with numbing medications (or from my experience, numbing addictions and behaviors) doesn’t work. When people go off SSRIs, their system is confused and fragile. The medical industry relies on our need for it, and often when we stop taking prescription pills, things go awry. (Side note: I wrote about the difficulties of going off the pill after 11 years of use. Still not sure how I’ll cross that bridge.)
As a society, we’re departing from the traditional healthcare model and searching for the sources of our pain and discomfort. In traditional (and still, modern) medicine, death is failure and illness is bad. Mental health is still a taboo, and there’s no reason to help people who are visibly healthy or physically fit.
But I’ve come to find that death is natural, illness can lead to growth, and that improving our health starts with self-care.
There isn’t a pill for every ill. My sickness, like many, stemmed from an imbalance. A web of causes that tied a messy knot in my mind — like a road block. I was addicted to hurting myself whether it was taking too many drugs, filling my skin with ink, picking at myself, mindless consumption, obsessive routines, and unhealthy dependence on others. Ex-lovers, particularly.
Antidepressants work for many people, but I’m still glad I never took them. I’m not against drugs. In fact, I love drugs. Mostly illegals ones though. But that’s not the story I care to tell. Stories of white people’s past experiences with illicit drugs can feel a bit passé in a time where people of color are still being jailed disproportionately for the same damn thing. And while my psychedelic experiences changed my life for the better, I can’t teach or tell anyone things they need to see, experience, and learn for themselves.
For context, I’ll give you a quantified overview of my past intake: I smoked marijuana daily for eight years, I’ve taken MDMA over 50 times, various uppers several dozen times, shrooms twice, alcohol regularly since I was 14, and DMT once.
Before 2017, I did acid twice. The first time at Golden Gate Park in a giggling circle of young USF students, and the second time out clubbing in Berlin, with MDMA and alcohol. I didn’t fully experience LSD on either of those occasions, so I never really focused on the effect or dialed into the profound visions and learnings. Until recently.
At this point, I’ve come relatively far into self-healing with the help of the classics: healthy diet, exercise, meditation, yoga, sleep, hydration, German aufguss in the winter. The basics. On top of that, I’ve been obsessive about my information intake. Less Snapchat, more NPR. Less nightly news, more John Oliver.
Moving to Europe made it clear that the American public education system somewhat failed me. My knowledge of world history is laughable compared to my European friends. I only speak one language. Don’t ask me to label a blank map of the world.
But, I’m curious.
Since graduating from college four years ago, I’ve made up for lost time by reading as many books as possible, listening to podcasts, and exposing myself to foreign places and people. And, yes, it’s true what you hear: the more you learn, the less you know. (This perspective might behoove some of the know-it-all MDs out there, considering the long road of discoveries ahead, especially regarding neuroscience.)
One thing I have learned is how to take care of myself. How to maintain a balance that allows me to wake up in the morning and feel happy, even ecstatic. Allows me to be more kind to people around me and build meaningful relationships.
It’s easier to connect with others when you’re mentally stable and in tune with your body. If an active community is one of the answers to society’s problems, then people need to get healthy. And doctors aren’t going to give us good health.
“It’s about balance. We now think you have a disease or don’t. But the truth is that disease arises from an imbalance in the system. Functional medicine is like being a soil farmer, as opposed to industrial agriculture. Instead of putting chemicals in the plant, we’re taking care of the soil so disease can’t actually occur, or it goes away as a side effect of creating health. Most of us who are doctors probably never took a course in medical school called Creating Health 101. What are the ingredients for creating a healthy human? It’s a pretty dumb, short list. It’s obvious. The right food, the right nutrients, the right balance of hormones. Light, air, water. Connection. Sleep. Movement. Love. Community. Meaning. Purpose. Those are the ingredients for healthy humans.” — Dr. Mark Hyman
A magical cure doesn’t exist. A pill wouldn’t heal me. I started seeing a therapist in 2016 thanks to my employers at Clue, and that was one of the catalysts… Becoming aware of yourself, the impact of your upbringing, and your body is the first step. Then, you gather the tools you need to piece together a healthier web.
So now, back to the question: Why am I microdosing?
I’m trying out another tool. Another experiment towards healing. To love myself after years of self-loathing. This is an ongoing process. Our bodies are changing every second. I’ll have to work every day to maintain my balance. We all do.
I already notice significant mental and physical benefits. While microdosing, I feel a heightened appreciation and awareness of my surroundings, relationships, and my body. I’m more mindful, focused, and calm. My mind isn’t as loud, so I can look out.
On days off, I don’t feel any cravings or hangover whatsoever. Microdosing is non-habit-forming, unlike coffee or cigarettes. My energy levels are consistent. I’m drinking less. I’ve had some of my best workouts since I began microdosing. I can hone in on every muscle and how each movement feels, rather than just going through the motions like I did before. The perceived disconnect between my mind and body is closing and listening to my body feels more natural. I give my body what it needs, and, more importantly, I don’t take what I don’t need. That might sound simple, but for me, it wasn’t the easiest mind state to achieve.
Most of all, I’m happy. And while I never needed psychedelics to marvel at the odds of simply being here, they’re helping me navigate the dark. I already feel the unhealthy mental loops and patterns that drove me to mindless addictions and general setbacks fading away. The knot in my mind is untangling, and I’m learning how to live a better life.
Psychedelics have been used for thousands of years all around the world. Microdosing isn’t just an elitist trend in the tech world or appropriation for selfish benefit; this is the future of personal mental health care and community building after centuries of misconception, misinformation, suppression, and harmful negligence. Religious and government authorities have opposed these substances for centuries for largely racist and financial reasons.