In A Really Good Day, Waldman explains how small doses of drugs helped her marriage, mood, and mental health.
How and why did you start microdosing LSD?
I have a mood disorder—premenstrual dysphoric disorder, that was very well controlled with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. At some point, things started to go off the rails. I became perimenopausal and my periods, which had always been super regular, became less regular. This system relies on being able to anticipate your menstrual cycle. If you can’t anticipate your menstrual cycle, you can’t use the medication. I tried lots of other things and nothing worked. I was yelling at my children, going into these spirals of despair. I would pick a vicious fight with my husband, I would feel terrible. That would make me feel suicidal. And I reached a point where I realized that I was going to make an irrevocable decision—I was going to drive my husband away or leave him. At that point I was so desperate that the unthinkable suddenly became thinkable.
A memoir requires a certain level of honesty, self-revelation, and self-deprecation. How else is it different from writing fiction?
The hardest thing about fiction is to capture a voice. Once you have the voice, the book takes off and writes itself. You don’t have to worry about that with a memoir. Your voice is your voice. But even in a memoir you’re constructing a character, you’re getting rid of the boring bits.
How have things changed now that you can no longer use the LSD microdosing protocol?
It was a hard restart. It was a reboot of my brain. Things would really be a lot easier for me if I could still do it. Except for a little MDMA and the LSD, I am actually a very-law-abiding citizen. I don’t take the carpool lane unless I have three people, I don’t overstay my parking meter. I am a very good Jewish girl from Northern New Jersey. I get good grades, I don’t cheat on tests. But the effects [of the LSD] were so overwhelmingly positive. I really do miss it. It’s taken a lot more work to maintain the stability, but it did kind of reboot my brain in a way that it really needed to be rebooted.
You’ve said you’d advocate for LSD microdosing in therapeutic cases. What implications would this have?
I think what we need is research. Right now we don’t have the research and I don’t believe in advocating policy that’s untested. But we know as much about the way LSD works on the brain as we do about SSRIs, and we readily prescribe those. I think there’s great therapeutic potential here.
So what are you working on next?
Michael [Chabon, Waldman’s husband] and I are working on a pilot for Netflix. I have a novel due in June. Do you have any ideas for me?