Ayelet Waldman is a privileged mom of four teenagers, married to a fellow writer, and living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She also lives with a variety of mental health diagnoses, some of which she questions. A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life is her chronicle of a 30-day experiment to improve things. It’s also a memoir of how the experiment fits into her life, and how it changes—and doesn’t change—some aspects.
A large part of Waldman’s memoir is explanation about the fundamentals of microdosing, which is taking psychedelics like LSD in extremely small doses. She also discusses the relationship of her choice to try this with her former profession—she was a federal public defender—and the drug war in general. And with other drugs and medications she’s tried over the years.
She also talks candidly about her ongoing mental state, as well as its foundation in her childhood. For readers that like a window into a writer’s head, this may intrigue you. Waldman has issues with focus and productivity. But she also admits to a large dose of “imposter syndrome,” where the writer doesn’t entirely feel worthy of their success. And she notes how microdosing changes her work habits.
And as the mother of teens, she must reconcile her own decision to experiment with microdosing with their family policies about drug use. Her efforts to balance harm reduction with the understanding that harmful substances like alcohol are legal is an interesting parenting discussion.
Having read several books related to aspects of illegal drug use over the last few years, this covered some similar ground. It also offered me new insights, since it’s so specific to one woman and her family.
I liked Waldman’s writing style and her voice. She structured the book in a readable way, balancing her personal experiences with the factual background information. Imagine attending a gathering of friends where several of you cluster around one person capable of capturing everyone’s attention. That’s the tone here. Waldman is both chatty and well-informed.
Still, I’ll say it one more time, this is a memoir from someone with incredible (and acknowledged) privilege. She faces barely any risk embarking on her experiment. Had she been caught; the statistics show that legalities would likely fall in her favor. And of course, she feels secure enough to publish a book about using illegal substances. It’s a polar opposite of books like The New Jim Crow, for example.
If you’re curious about the use of psychedelics as an addition to or replacement for prescription mental health medications, this is an interesting choice.
Pair with any of the following for more angles on the story:
- How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan
- Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari
- Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy
- A Colony in a Nation by Chris Hayes