I Found Happiness by Microdosing Magic Mushrooms

Psilocybin helps me manage my anxiety and depression better than anything else I’ve tried.

It didn’t take much convincing to get me to try magic mushrooms to improve my mental health. I’m no stranger to psychedelic drugs—I’ve tried a number of them throughout my life for recreational reasons—and I even worked in the cannabis industry for a time as the head content strategist for a trio of brands. This career move—pivoting from fashion director to pot proponent—did not come as a shock to my friends and family, who are well aware of my long-time use of psychedelics.

My experiences with these hallucinatory compounds have all been resoundingly positive. (With one exception: the time I cried after doing a small sampling of acid while listening to Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush. Surely I’m not the only one.)

That’s why I decided to try microdosing psilocybin as a tool for managing my anxiety and depression. Of all the currently recommended pharmaceuticals and experimental offerings used to treat these disorders, psilocybin was the one I was ultimately most comfortable with.

My mental health crisis originally stemmed not only from the myriad effects of COVID lockdowns, when so many of us felt down and isolated, but also from two horrible health scares in my family and the realization that I no longer felt morally okay with many aspects of the industry I then worked in—fashion. I was also suffering from body dysmorphia. Then, in June 2022, I severely injured my ankle. I needed multiple surgeries and had to move in with my parents for help during my recovery. Everything was reopening, but I spent the summer seething—and mostly indoors—because I was afraid to move and injure my healing body again.

It all contributed to what became a highly agitated and depressive state. Eventually, I found myself in a hole so deep I couldn’t conceive of therapy alone being able to help me. That’s the thing about a mental health crisis: Over time, a few snowflakes build into an avalanche. And then you become convinced that there’s no way to dig yourself out from under it.

In the deepest throes of my depression, I did try talk psychotherapy, which was greatly helpful; I eventually felt decent enough to discontinue it in favour of online check-ins, which I still do. And while I know that many depression and anxiety sufferers have had success using prescription meds—my husband has chosen this route—I can’t help but resist the idea. I have a deep skepticism of the pharmaceutical industry in general, which I believe cares far more about profits than about creating a product that actually helps people.

My choice to try psilocybin was bolstered by science as much as by my proclivity toward feeling groovy. The concept of microdosing had caught my attention a few years earlier, thanks to the work of folks like the bestselling author and fellow psychonaut Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma; This Is Your Mind on Plants) and the amateur mycologist Paul Stamets. The emerging research is promising, but it’s still pitifully meagre—largely because of psilocybin’s criminalization and the villainization of psychedelics in general. But psychedelic-assisted therapy clinics, which already exist in other countries, are slowly opening across North America, and they promise to offer psilocybin, along with mescaline and ayahuasca, once it’s legalized.

It’s Stamets who is responsible for inventing the microdosing routine that I currently follow. From what would colloquially be dubbed a “grey market” company—that is, one operating in an illegal industry with the notion that it will one day be legalized—I order a shipment of capsules containing a low-dose blend of psilocybin mushrooms, as well as another variety called Lion’s Mane. I take the capsule with a niacin pill, which can improve absorption into the body. This treatment, which I take every three days, is dubbed the Stamets Stack, and I’m immensely grateful for its existence.

My therapeutic dose also includes chaga and reishi mushrooms as part of the recipe, and I’m confident this combination of fungi is rewiring my brain. About a week after starting my routine, I noticed improvements across nearly every aspect of my life. To me, it’s no different from taking a vitamin or supplement, and aside from the obvious-to-everyone side effects I’m about to describe, the one thing I don’t feel is… stoned.

I now feel like I’m on an even keel, emotionally. I have a better understanding of my place in the world, and at 42, I finally believe that I deserve to be happy. With this newfound clarity, I find myself better articulating what I need from my personal relationships and what no longer serves me.

The anxiety is still there, but I understand how to mitigate it. When depression descends, I can ride the dips and waves with insight and tenacity rather than sinking further. I’ve also become acutely aware of what can trigger or anger me and I can control how I react.

I feel like I’m becoming the person I’ve always wanted to be: Instead of lying in bed until the last minute every morning, I get up and meditate, tidy, check my plants and exercise. When I’m microdosing, I have more bandwidth for daily tasks, I can more easily recognize when I’m about to get annoyed or irritated and I’m more inclined to give myself breaks before I do.

Career-wise, I have the capacity to work on the idea that my job does not define me. I’m now able to take on work assignments that my ego and my pride wouldn’t have allowed me to consider before, when I was younger and more professionally ambitious. This means I might never again be extended the more prestigious invites, such as London Fashion Week, but that no longer bothers me.

This idea—the concept of “ego death,” and the ability to see the bigger picture—has been described by other users of psychedelics throughout history and it’s really a joy. Ultimately, microdosing helps me feel in tune with nature: its beauty, its cycles and what it can show us about living a harmonious, peaceful and happy life.

Next: Could Laughter Be the Best Medicine for Stress and Anxiety?

Originally Published in Best Health Canada