How One Year Of Microdosing Psilocybin Changed My Life

I had never before felt so totally, completely, utterly, present.

Woman at peace via Canva | Eliza Alves from capture now via Canva

I didn’t plan on microdosing psilocybin — a certain type of mushroom. I mean, I didn’t say I need something else, something more.

My depression and anxiety were well controlled with antidepressants, exercise, therapy, and probably a little too much wine, but I felt good. Good enough. As good as any of us were feeling in the spring of 2022. Depleted but not despairing, not languishing but not quite thriving. Surviving.


So when my friend — a woman with treatment-resistant depression — gave me a small capsule, a microdose of psilocybin and said, "Trust me. You won’t trip, you will barely notice anything. You’ll just feel better," I took it.

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I was 54 and feeling "better" was the work of my life. A suicide attempt at 16, promiscuity and drugs into my 20s, a cross-country move at 24 to "get my life together," and a 26-year search to find my biological parents. Seven straight years on a therapist’s couch to peel back layers of grief, trauma, and abuse. A Major Depressive Episode at 50.


But there was also falling in love with a man, the kind of love that heals. The kind of long, healthy marriage that forms a protective scab over the wounds. Two children, now adults, who are gracious, kind, and hilarious, and my favorite people in the world. Friends to laugh and cry with, to feel safe with, to dance to Arcade Fire and Taylor Swift with. Fulfilling work. Adventures. A life of meaning.

And yet. The dull ache of depression and the electric hum of anxiety never went away. Momentarily, sure. But not like, gone. Evaporated. I couldn’t fully grasp the joy others so easily held. Existing was work, effortful.

I’d taken mushrooms once in my 20s and loved them, but never took them again. I knew microdosing psilocybin was not the same as recreational tripping. I’d read about its benefits with trauma survivors and veterans and knew it was sub-perceptual, below perception.

So one otherwise uneventful Sunday in March — without checking with my psychiatrist for drug interactions which you definitely should do — I swallowed the small gray capsule and went about my business. It was an idyllic Los Angeles day, 72 and sunny, with a breeze light enough to delight and a blue sky bright enough to captivate.


Feeling nothing, I decided to take a walk.

I put my "stress-free" playlist on, earbuds in, and headed out the door. A while later, I can’t recall how long, a calm overcame me. The leaves looked greener, the roses redder, the blues brighter. Most remarkably though, was my head. There was not a thought in it. No to-do list or imaginary conversation or story ideas, what ifs, or why’s.

I was totally, completely, utterly, present. All that existed was me at the moment. It was profound and beautiful to be emptied of worry and distraction.

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"Noodle must have been the cutest puppy. I wish we had his baby pictures," my 23-year-old daughter said, lounging in our backyard.


I had just gotten home from my walk, was drinking some water, and enjoying my tranquility. Her words echoed in my soul.

"Oh my god," I said. "There are no pictures of me before three months old. I’ve never seen — never will see — my newborn self."

I was relinquished for adoption at birth, spent my first few weeks in the NICU, and then three months in foster care before being adopted. I thought I had examined every inch of adoption’s impact on my life but I had never considered this. It stunned me.

Tears fell from my eyes. I grieved for baby me, alone and scared. A previously inaccessible pain moved through me, gently and easily. And then, I felt fine. Relieved. I touched the deepest wound my body holds and I was okay.


That night, in a dream, I saw a picture of baby me, a newborn swaddled in a flannel blanket. I was safe and held. I awoke lighter. Something had exited my being like a peaceful exorcism.

I checked with my psychiatrist. She could not sign off on microdosing (it’s not legal in California), but she educated me about possible side effects and benefits. I felt comfortable adding microdosing psilocybin to my mental health arsenal. I began the protocol recommended by my supplier. For a few weeks, every day; then every other day; then twice a week.

Over time, the pre-verbal trauma of being separated from my first mother, surviving in a NICU incubator, then foster care, found a way out of my body. Toxic residue from an abusive childhood — the kind that silences you — evaporated. Sludge that collected on my engine and prevented me from optimal functioning cleared away.

Decades of depression and generalized anxiety eased. My wine intake decreased, and I lowered my anti-depressant dose with no uptick in symptoms. My social anxiety dissipated, and I became comfortable with myself like never before. Looking like crap going to the market? Who cares! Meeting new people in a new setting? I got this! Have something to say? Say it!


In his deep dive into psychedelic research that became a Netflix limited series, How To Change Your Mind, author Michael Pollan writes, "Our task in life consists precisely in a form of letting go of fear and expectations, an attempt to purely give oneself to the impact of the present."

There are studies showing how and why this happened to me, how psilocybin rearranges brains, shifts neural pathways, and stimulates activity to reduce symptoms of PTSD, depression, and anxiety.

As an NYU paper reports, "A 2013 study from the University of South Florida found that psilocybin stimulates neurogenesis — the growth and repair of brain cells in the hippocampus, which is the brain’s center for emotion and memory. In the study, mice that were given psilocybin overcame fear conditioning far better than mice that were given a placebo. The study supported the hypothesis that psilocybin can help break the traumatic cycle that occurs in patients with PTSD."

Vaunted institutions like Yale and John Hopkins are publishing research, the New York Times is writing about it, NPR is reporting on it. I lived it.


RELATED: Why Moms Are Using Magic Mushrooms To Deal With Motherhood

"What’s your plan? How long will you microdose?" my psychiatrist asked. "I don’t know," I said.

After about eight months, my frequency of microdosing lowered to once a week. By 10 months, even less often. By one year, I wasn’t taking it at all. But its effects remain. I’m changed. I’m present in my life and comfortable with myself in ways I never imagined I’d be.


I became conscious of the times I allowed myself to be treated poorly by friends and lovers. A certain desperation to belong — to be accepted — clouded my vision, leading me to ignore billowing red flags. Like many adoptees, the, "If I wasn’t good enough to keep, I’m not good enough at all" is a thread in my tapestry. But as they say, pull one thread, unravel the whole thing.

And that’s what happened.

The steady stream of awakenings brought on by microdosing, the barely perceptible shifts gently pulled my threads. Over time, the unhealthy threads, the rotted strands, disappeared and left me with something beautiful. Not a new me, but a healthier me. Freer, more confident, and more authentic. And without question, a much, much happier me.

I don’t know if I’ll microdose again. I don’t need to know. The gift it gave me is living for today. And what a gift that is.


RELATED: I Used Psychedelic Medicine To Heal My Childhood Trauma

Mindy Stern is a screenwriter, essayist, and author.