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If someone said you could take a simple drug that in five hour’s time would not only reset your brain, erasing years of depressive and anxious feelings, but also generally lift your mood, seemingly permanently, would you do it?
I suffered from anxiety and resultant depression on and off for years, ever since childhood. I have been on SSRIs twice, with limited results and plenty of side effects. I found that while I could get out of bed in the morning, my sleep was disrupted, my cognition was generally lower, and I had the dreaded sexual side effects.
For me, 2016 was a terrible year. I was in a constant state of anxiety, panic, and depression. I was isolating myself. I was at my lowest ebb. I thought a lot about who I would leave my dog to if I were to die.
I decided that I would seek therapy. Therapy really helped — I would leave sessions, after crying my ass off, feeling great! I would text my best friend, “I love therapy!”
Therapy wasn’t the entire answer. I was still quick to anger, and I often felt very low on weekends or when any small disappointment or dispute happened. I needed something more.
I read about microdosing, and it seemed promising. Microdosing is often suggested to patients with “resistant” depression and anxiety (meaning the drugs don’t work), as the reported side effects are minimal. I knew from David Nutt’s Drugs Harm List that psychedelics are in the low-harm category. Since I had experienced suicidal ideation on Zoloft, I thought, “This can’t be worse!”
I followed the Fadiman protocol—the accepted method for safely microdosing. You take a low dose on day one, wait two days, then dose again on day four. You repeat this for one month and assess how it worked. I opted to start at the lowest possible dosage and increase it with each successive dose, on the suggestion of others who had done the protocol. I chose psilocybin, the psychoactive substance contained in “magic mushrooms,” for its low risk of adulteration.
Then came the hard part.
Somewhere between graduating high school and becoming a semifunctional adult, mushrooms became hard to find. I spent an entire day texting people asking them for a mushroom connection. I came up empty.
I decided to Google it. Fifteen minutes and $68 later, I purchased dried mushrooms from an online weed store based in Canada that also sold psychoactive mushrooms. It would take three days for them to arrive. I was worried they might be duds or that the police would show up at my door alongside my unsuspecting mailman. Neither happened (thankfully.)
I kept a diary of my drug experiences in Evernote, recording the dose, date, time, and anything I noticed. I highly recommend doing this should you try microdosing.
The first diary entry:
Feeling relaxation and slight twinkles in eyes. Noticing that there is a tingly sensation when drinking La Croix.
I noticed that instead of my mind wandering the way some people have experienced, my mind went directly to my sources of anxiety.
Oh, these drugs are bringing on an anxiety attack, and the book said “the trip” could last up to seven hours. Great. I’ve just fucked myself.
Within two hours, a breakthrough:
I’m able to let them go as quickly as they pop in.
This refers to intrusive thoughts—the hallmark of my anxiety. THEY WEREN’T STICKING AROUND! This was so huge for me; later, I would cry about it.
Fifteen minutes later, a second miracle happened:
Feeling a desire to be productive. Considering going on the treadmill. Put on a sheet mask.
I hate working out.
But I…wanted to work out? And there was no brain resistance telling me all the reasons why I shouldn’t. I just…did. Did microdosing turn me into a normie in less time than it takes to watch Reds?
I had no side effects. I woke up the next day feeling optimistic and friendly toward others. I immediately purchased a grow-your-own-mushroom kit.
Dose two was the miracle dose for me. I took it and within an hour felt intense motivation. I spent six hours doing all the chores around the house that I had been putting off for weeks.
The weirdest part? I was feeling the euphoric effects of the mushrooms, but in a very light way — like how you feel when you’re having a lovely day on the patio with friends — except I was deep-cleaning a dishwasher. This was the moment when I knew this protocol had the potential to turn my brain around.
The most common report I heard from microdosing patients was “it resets your brain.” This could not be more accurate. I used to have an incredible amount of drive and motivation, though as I got older and as years of anxiety and depression callused my brain, I stopped feeling that way and instead dutifully soldiered on. I wasn’t able to enjoy things, and most things annoyed me.
But now, following the microdose protocol, I started having thoughts about wanting to see my friends more. I wanted to go out and do things. I wanted to take long walks with my dog somewhere other than our usual route. I wanted to do errands so I could get out and chat with people.
“This is the me I remember,” reads the last entry from that day.
As I increased the dose, I noticed I was getting into flow states more easily. The flow state is that feeling when you’re really focused on a task and you’re being superproductive. You feel a “work buzz.” I no longer felt like people were dragging me under with every message on Slack. I just. Kept. Focusing. I had lost that ability after years of being extremely online. I suddenly had it back.
On the fifth dose, I had an unexpected occurrence. I took the dose and felt very high, very fast. I fell asleep for two hours and had VIVID dreams.
Upon waking, I had come down with norovirus. Approximately 18 solid hours of complete body horror ensued. For the first four hours of this experience, I was still high. I very strongly DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS EXPERIENCE!
Instead of feeling miserable and rotten, however, I was able to see the humor in the situation and just roll with it until it was over. My stomach might have been broken, but my brain was continuing to heal.
Since I’ve told people of my experiences microdosing, I’ve had a lot of questions about it, like, “Did you hallucinate?” Not really. I’ve hallucinated more on codeine cough syrup, to be honest.
“Did you have a religious experience?” Not really. I wish I could tell you that I had some kind of “god conversation” like those touted in books you find at health food stores, but sadly, I think that requires a higher dosage than what I was taking. Maybe I’ll try it once my mushrooms are harvested.
People have also asked me if I had the stereotypical experiences of music sounding better or movies being more enjoyable. Not really! Sorry to bust the myth, but under microdosing, the effects are primarily just feeling good. All I wanted was a prolonged sense of feeling good, feeling motivated, and feeling engaged. So far, I’ve gotten it.
I’ve always been of the mind that drugs are dangerous because they are illegal, and while the illegality and stigma attached to mushrooms didn’t really bother me, I understand how it could stand in someone else’s way. I also live in a place where it’s illegal to drug test employees unless a very narrow set of conditions are met, so I realize my privilege in being able to experiment with very few impediments.
Psilocybin has helped me augment the gains from therapy and get back to feeling good.
Microdosing has been a life-giving experience for me — I have never felt such intense relief from such a minimal amount of medicine. I feel like I have a young brain back, but with all the knowledge of being an adult. I would definitely encourage anyone interested to investigate for themselves, even to work with progressive-thinking medical professionals if necessary to see whether they can get the kind of relief I did. For me, it was more than worth it.
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