Author Ayelet Waldman wasn’t tripping when she decided to try microdosing herself with LSD. Hoping to regulate her debilitating mood swings, the Harvard Law School alum did her research before dosing herself in a monthlong experiment, which she chronicles in her new memoir A Really Good Day. We caught up with Waldman before her Feb. 8 appearance at Brookline Booksmith.
Why did you decide to try microdosing? It came from this place of complete desperation. I was really profoundly depressed, and even more than that, I was driving away the people who loved me. I was punishing myself by trying to make their lives as miserable as possible so they’d stop loving me, which was this weird kind of self-harm behavior. I have a background in drug policy reform work. I taught at the University of California’s law school for seven years and created a class called the Legal and Social Implications of the War on Drugs—the title of the class says it all. … And there was this moment where my desperation crossed with my fear …and I could ignore my trepidation, because I had never done hallucinogenic drugs.
So you’d never tried any drugs, even recreationally, beforehand? I actually used to be super judgmental about recreational drug use, but I’m trying to be less judgmental now. …I smoked marijuana a handful of times recreationally. My husband and I have used MDMA as a kind of couple’s therapy. I have no interest in taking a bunch of MDMA and going to a rave, but I was super interested in the therapeutic value of it, the way that it makes you feel, how it enhances communication. But I’d never taken a traditional psychedelic. My attitude towards LSD was “I don’t want to be trapped in my own head.” If there’s a person on earth that’s going to have a bad trip, that is totally going to be me. I can give myself bad trip at the breakfast table [laughs]. I don’t need a hallucinogenic experience for that.
Do you think it was a benefit that you had never tried it before, so you had no preconceptions? That’s an interesting question; no one has asked me that. Maybe! I experienced a dramatic improvement in mood. I’m not really comfortable in saying that it was only as a result of the LSD, or that it was directly a result of the microdose, because without research how can we really say? And the placebo effect is really strong, you know. There are placebo effects of every drug. So it’s possible that this was just the mother of all placebo effects. … But I’m quite confident that what I experienced was a result of the microdosing—and what I experienced was a profound shift in mood. One day I was feeling suicidal and despairing, and the next day I felt really good.
Did your family support the idea? My husband was certainly supportive. Unlike me, he had experience with hallucinogenic drugs. … And he was in a similar place that I was, kind of desperate, so he was like “Sure, please try something, sweetie.”
How did your kids react? To understand their reaction you have to understand the extent of my despair. It was just really rough to be around me. It’s almost hard for me to talk about it because that’s the thing I feel most guilty about. I did my best to try to end my marriage, but as a parent, your primary obligation is to protect your children, and I failed to protect my children from my mood. So, I think they were just so relieved they didn’t really care what caused the improvement. From their perspective it was like “LSD? Well, Mom’s a freaking weirdo, but whatever. At least she’s not depressed anymore.” And I think the older kids probably thought it was a little cool.
You’re not a regular mom, you’re a cool mom! [Laughs] And I’m not a cool mom, normally. I think my kids pretty much think of me as, like, your “basic bitch.” You know, in yoga pants or whatever. So it was an unusual experience for me to suddenly be cool.
How would you describe your experience? I had a dogwood tree outside the window of my office. And I looked out the window that first day and thought, “Oh, what a beautiful tree.” I’m not a stop-and-smell-the-roses person. I don’t even notice the roses are there. I could be entangled in their thorns and I wouldn’t even notice there were roses. So, that experience was really remarkable.