A Combat Veteran’s Microdosing Report
First: I’m not condoning the use of illegal drugs, nor, am I advocating their use. What follows is a summary of my own experiences microdosing with Psilocybin cubensis, and why I’m doing it.
Second: I’m not saying psychedelics are an instant cure-all for all of life’s dilemmas. While Psilocybin, and psychedelics as a whole, can shine a bright light down a dark path for you, you still have to put one foot in front of the other, and walk it yourself...
Third: Do your research. Do your research. Do your research. In today's day of instant access to information, ignorance is a choice, not an excuse.
Before we dive in, let’s discuss a bit about what "microdosing” is, and why it’s gaining so much attention. For in-depth reading on the topic, do yourself a favor, read Dr. James Fadiman’s excellent book, The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys.
Much of what you’ll read about microdosing across the web will come from this guide.
Microdosing is a fiery trend with the brainy elite out in Silicon Valley1, that crowd that’s always looking for ways to maximize creativity (and profit), pushing the boundaries of what creativity is and can be. But I don’t fit into that crowd, or most others for that matter. I’m looking for an effective, long-lasting thing to help me cope with my own stormy ocean of depression and up-and-down moods/emotions that is PTSD. (Of course, an up-tick in creativity has been an excellent side-effect!)
To microdose is to take just enough of a substance, a “sub-perceptual dose” that has an effect at the cellular level, but leaves you functioning in your everyday life. A sort of, “happy ghost” that follows you around in your head. That’s the best way I can describe it. The goal isn’t to trip, the goal is to elicit just enough of the mind-boosting effects while keeping you not only coherent, but by becoming a possible super-conductor of unleashed potential in all its electrified synaptic glory, a fireworks show of neurons, as the brain communicates through different, higher-functioning pathways2.
Even though this image is a “simplified” version of the brain with placebo (a) vs. Psilocybin (b), it’s based on the published results of how the brain communicates, or “integrates,” more efficiently along so many more pathways. This is what the researchers had to say about it, “The width of the links is proportional to their weight and the size of the nodes is proportional to their strength. Note that the proportion of heavy links between communities is much higher (and very different) in the psilocybin group, suggesting greater integration.”
Research into the benefits of psychedelics isn’t terribly new3, Dr. Fadiman, who’s been at the leading edge of much of this research, approached the subject of microdosing in his 2011 book, The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide. And although this area of psychedelia, the microdosing-protocol, is largely unexplored and undocumented, science is relying on us, yes us -- normal, everyday people/humans self-exploring this avenue – as we send in our initial reports, which are nothing short of amazing.
According to Dr. Fadiman, a microdose is “10-micrograms of LSD or, or one-fifth the typical dose of mushrooms.” (2-500 milligrams of mushroom powder, according to the Third Wave's Guide to Microdosing, also based on Dr. Fadiman’s book.)
With an idea of what microdosing is, here’s the protocol I followed. (Wanting to find the optimal time frames, some weeks differ on when I took a dose and how much time elapsed between the next.)
- For the first four weeks, (beginning Nov 8th, 2017), I followed a three day on/two day off pattern, always taking my dose around the same time; between 9:45 and 10:00-o’clock in the morning. Since I usually workout in the mornings, I waited to take my dose after my morning workout. (I think it’s worth noting that doing this seemed to enhance the endorphin rush that comes after a good weight training session, as compared to the mornings when I did not workout.)
- In the fifth week, I changed the schedule to two days on/three days off. The extra day between doses seemed to work better, and towards the end, I backed off even more, taking a dose on say, Monday, then waiting a full three days until the next. Just like what’s recommend in Dr. Fadiman’s book.
- Delivery Method: I use(d) size “00” vegan gel capsules. I filled each one with about 6-700mg of crushed mushroom powder. (These numbers may be higher/lower. I came to that weight because “00” size gel capsules can hold about that much weight’s-worth of material, and I rarely filled the capsule all the way. This is a bit on the high end in terms of milligrams. So, start out conservatively, and, have a way to accurately measure out your dose would be my recommendation.)
- Strain Used: Treasure Coast.
- Journaling: An absolute requirement in this experience was to keep a written record of not only daily thoughts, but significant changes in thinking. (Below, I’ll include excerpts from my own personal journal.)
Since beginning the microdosing protocol, I noticed a few things right off the bat.
Empathy: I wasn’t very long into the protocol when I realized something interesting was happening. This… strange sensation, feeling, started seeping into my constant flood of loop-de-loop thoughts, translating into action. Constructive action. After two weeks on the protocol, I began to feel something akin to… connection. Like, I was actually in my environment, participating. Listening. Not just a spectator, watching on the sidelines. An active participant. Even by the second day, after my second dose, I knew something was different. It was a rush of emotion at first. Being so much more mindful of what I said and did. But it was a breath of fresh air.
I understand this whole experience could be checked off as placebo-effect. But, never, and I mean never, have I ever taken a medication for mood, depression, anxiety -- with every expectation and hope it would help -- that not only kept me aware, but kept me engaged and happy. Immediately! Without the medicine needing to “build-up” in my system. No dopiness, no grogginess.
This is an excerpt from my journal, on the second day:
November 9th, 2017
“Town experience was positive. I engaged with a guy named John, met him at a craft show my wife was doing. I engaged in a conversation, something I wouldn’t have normally done. High energy for most of the day... Felt engaged for most of the day, toxic thoughts, pet-peeves, didn’t bother me for long, if at all… Two days in a row where I’ve felt energetic, calm, cool. A happy sort of energy...”
A typical trip into any store with me is a quick snatch and grab, a critical mission, where the thoughts of some sort of attack make me want to exit a building that much faster, just in case. Always hostile and tense. But when I saw John, and when we both realized we recognized each other from somewhere, I was the one to reach out and say hi, and just went with it.
That’s a good feeling, to open up, engage. I’m starting to feel… more open to everything, everyone around me. It was like I had this thin film over my eyes for so long, clogging all of my senses, keeping me from feeling the fullness of life and the beauty of the simple moment, the appreciation of a strong and loving partner. You don’t even realize any of this until you’re able to look at your own behavior, your own fears, objectively. I pay more attention to how my actions will affect the world around me, affect my relationship with it. Causing me to think before I act.
For one of the first times in my marriage, I feel like I’m seeing things from my wife’s point-of-view. Understanding, more and more, the hurt and grief caused in the past. But, from those mistakes, I move forward. With empathetic thoughts, feelings, as a guide. And I’m perfectly okay with that. There’s this sense of mindfulness in my daily interactions I haven’t really had before, or at least paid attention to. Nothing is a chore, and everything has a purpose. My thoughts, my actions. And that’s a good feeling -- a powerful feeling -- to have purpose.
Another journal entry:
November 20th, 2017
“We ran into town today. Had a good conversation with Pandora about how I’ve felt more grounded since the start of this all. Visited my grandpa, talked about my DNA results from Ancestry, talked family history. He was put on anti-depressants a few weeks ago. It’s sad. He seems a little more dull. He used to joke a little bit more, engaged. But, he seems distant. It’s weird. I’m microdosing/w mushrooms and feeling more aware than ever before. My grandpa is put on anti-depressants, and seems more disconnected than ever before…”
Honestly, there’s been so many subtle changes since I started this protocol that even my wife’s having to adjust. Which isn’t bad. But, it makes me realize that even positive changes require strength, not only from myself, but from my wife, who’s stood at my side through thick-and-thin. She’s bore witness to, and has experienced the hazy darkness that’s followed me around, followed so many of my friends around.
It's not so different from when alcoholics or addicts recover from their addictions. Not only did I realize how much my wife had changed, to accommodate my difficult ups-and-downs, I realized just how damaging my behavior was. A weaker woman would have given up, left. But I was one of the lucky ones…
So, it’ll take time. But every day that goes by makes it better.
Here was a quick blurb I wrote in my journal, into the third week, perfectly describing what I was feeling:
Nov. 23rd, 2017
"For so long, I’ve worried about the future, stressed or raged over the past, and so, I could never enjoy the moment. With mushrooms though, it blasts that all away!!"
As it happens, my moods can ebb and flow like a tide. A dark cloud of depression, or crashing wave of anger can come surging forth at any time. But all the insidious negativity that hinders and warps, that feeds that sort of darkness with grating whispers of worthlessness, loops of negative feedback, have melted away into the backdrop, like white noise. They still come up, every now and then, but, it seems like those thoughts don’t stay very long. At least, not like they used to. They’d stay around for days, weeks even. Months…
Here’s the best way I can describe it:
Think of yourself as a rock who used to live in the sunlight. But, a terrible storm and terrible rains came through, and all the mud and earth around you, underneath you, was carried away. Suddenly, you’re in a dark place with no sunlight. Only darkness. So, time goes on and you get used to this perpetual gloom. It becomes a new norm. But then one day, the ground around you starts to churn and rumble, and before you know it, you’re pulled from out of the ground into the basking glow of the sun once more. That’s the re-emergence Psilocybin mushrooms bring. It digs you out of your darkness and brings you back into the light. Where you go from there is entirely up to you.
My thoughts don’t feel as trapped in my head as they used to. Whatever barrier(s) existed before have started slowly dissolving. Now, I can see an infinite sky of endless possibility, where my thoughts grow wings. And now those wings are spreading, preparing for flight. There’s more motivation. I’m going back to school. (Something I said I’d never do!).
I’ve recently picked up crafting. Another thing I've never done before. Using “nature-waste” to make things, like in the pictures below.
My writing flow has picked back up, even with a few stumbles here and there. The want, the need, to better myself for my wife and our relationship has never been more important.
My mind dances to a more composed tune. From a mosh-pit slam dance to semi-choreographed two-step. There’s a drive there now, a drive I don’t think I’ve had for a while. And I don’t feel it going away any time soon.
Here’s another journal entry:
Dec. 10th, 2017
“These last two days have been filled with energy, creativity, low anxiety. Feeling good. I think the way mushrooms help me handle fear might be helping. Fear that usually holds a person back, fear that usually stops you. It’s not there. Seems to be more connection between my thoughts and my actions. More of my thoughts are turning into action. I’ve lived inside my head too much, and mushrooms have helped open that door… So far, I still think a gentle trip, once per month, once every other month, would be sufficient in maintaining this level of connectedness, with maybe a strategic microdose thrown in for good measure…”
Would I do this again? Yes. But not anytime soon, and not with such a structured protocol. (I’ll explain why in a bit.)
This is a path I chose, carefully and deliberately, because of the issues I have with modern mental health in general, the approach in which it's dealt with; sterile rooms, distracted therapists, factory-production style psychiatry where time is of the essence, and the therapist/psychiatrist is always checking their watch. They think I never notice, when their eyes flicker down, sly twist of the wrist, already thinking about their next appointment, next patient -- hell, maybe they’re thinking about lunch or that their ass itches -- but I did see it, every time. I understand the goal of the treatments.
The mental health professionals know what they’re doing, they’re just over-burdened, loaded down with not only their own personal issues, but the personal issues of every person they see. So, I just needed something… different. More personal. More meaningful.
Veterans go through these "standardized" treatments approved by the VA, and along with the sensory-dulling medications, it often makes symptoms worse4,5. They still end up killing themselves, or descending deeper into depression and anger. I've had to talk more Vets than I care to think about from walking that Black Road of suicide. I’ve already lost one good friend down that way. So, something isn't working, a human-to-human break down in the system. The disconnect continues.
Psilocybin has been that connection, showing me a different way to look at myself, from within myself. And yes, it all sounds a bit hokey and new-agey. But it’s not anything new, and it’s all true, all honest. Science has proven it. Thousands of years of usage in cultures across the world, has proven it. And even though this whole report reads like an ad banner, as I oogle over the benefits of mushrooms, I want to be somewhat objective, so, I’ve made this (small) list of Cons.
- The obvious one. Psilocybin is illegal.
- Psilocybin can be difficult to obtain, unless you know where to look.
- Any effect from the microdose only seems to last for that day it was taken.
- I said I’d explain why I wouldn’t follow another strict protocol, so I’ll answer that here. (I hinted at it in the bullet-point above). If I were to compare the benefits from a mushroom trip with one large dose, to microdosing, I’d take the one, high-dose trip. For me, the altered perceptual experience of mushrooms is part of the journey, which brings about deep and profound insights. Not only that though, a high-dose trip leaves that same feeling of a microdose, but for a longer duration. I’ve had after effects last for several weeks after a high-dose of Psilocybin, allowing me to make significant progress and improvements in my life, which then boosted everything else. So, in my opinion, I think a microdose is best used when you know you’ll be confronting a stressful situation, or need a little more mental clarity to work through a problem.
I’m still a work in progress, but I’ve taken positive steps in the right direction, and I credit mushrooms for that. The weeks come and go, and each one is a stepping stone from the last. Not every day is perfect, but every day alive is a day worth living. I feel I've made more strides with the aid of Psilocybin than I have with anything else.
If you’re looking to benefit from the mind-boosting potential without the wavy world of a psychedelic adventure, then microdosing might be your answer. Microdosing should be looked at and taken seriously as a viable alternative to medications, to be incorporated into therapy.
If you think there are no answers to your own depression, anxiety, consider microdosing, consider Psilocybin. It’ll change your life.