Diary of a Microdosed-Mellowed Mama
Ayelet Waldman deftly writes about how LSD affects her moods.
It’s likely that Berkeley author Ayelet Waldman, during her childhood, scratched mosquito bites until they bled. Unwilling as an adult to resist the itch of things that swell and fester—parenting, marriage, drug use—the writer and former public defender delves personally and relentlessly into fact and fiction about LSD in her latest book, A Really Good Day.
Waldman is the author of 11 novels, short stories, essays, and nonfiction articles. She writes often about motherhood, parenting, feminism, relationships, and occasionally about the judicial system.
After floundering with increasing depression caused by what she calls “basically really bad PMS” worsened by perimenopause, suffering constant pain from a frozen shoulder condition, and confronted by the naked truth that her family—husband and writer Michael Chabon and their four children, ages 13 to 22—could no longer bear the brunt of her pendulum mood swings, Waldman engaged in a one-month regimen of micro-dosing the Schedule 1 (illegal) psychedelic. Following LSD microdose protocol established by Menlo Park psychologist James Fadiman, whose pioneering studies in the 1960s boosted the creative brain-banks of Silicon Valley techies, Waldman slipped 10 microgram, subtherapeutic doses under her tongue while hiding in the backyard. Keeping secrets, reflecting on embedded and defeating self-definitions, constantly questioning if shifts in her sleep patterns, work habits, and moods were proof the drug was “working” or simply a placebo effect, Waldman’s “deep scratch” investigative journal notes are a kind of literary blood-letting. Nevertheless, they eventually lead her to experience “a really good day.”
Along with a rollicking, humor-laced narrative, one of the greatest pleasures of Waldman’s storytelling is the learning made available. She writes comically, admitting that even a “microdosed-mellowed mama” is still a Jewish mama prone to melodrama and wonders if she should publish the account of her experiment with LSD in “blue crayon on recycled grocery bags, replete with illustrations of mandalas. . . .” Waldman provides concise histories of LSD and other illicit drugs and quick-step journeys through how the judicial system (mal)functions when it comes to drug laws and legalization. She also deftly outlines counseling approaches to combat depression, her family, marriage, and parenting history, the Bay Area’s sociopolitical and economic environment, and more. It’s a mélange of culture, comedy, curated facts—and classic Waldman. Condemn her for illegal drug use, find cause for joining her in a fact-based movement to better understand and treat mental illness, or simply savor a well-written romp through 30-days in the life of a “microdosed-mellowed mama.”
A Really Good Day (Knopf, 2017, $25.95, 229 pp.).
This report appears in the March edition of our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.
Published online on Feb. 27, 2017 at 8:00 a.m.