Postpartum Depression dragged me to the deepest depths of hell I have ever known. Here are five ways Microdosing has helped me crawl back out.
Introduction / Preface
Shortly after the birth of my first child, I was hit with the most crippling depression I have ever experienced. It began with me feeling totally detached from my body in the early hours after labor. What I hoped was a light mist quickly shifted into a thick fog, preventing me from seeing myself or the world around me clearly, at times at all.
After an extremely difficult time breastfeeding, I was feeling guilty and frustrated with my body. "Why can't my body just do what it is supposed to do?" was my daily mantra. Throw in a few bouts of mastitis, a colicky baby, no sleep and even less support, and I was fully in the eye of the perfect storm.
One particularly icy afternoon in early 2018, I was eating takeout on the couch with my husband and my mother. My newborn screaming in the background had become like a strange new soundtrack to my life. My mom mentioned to me that I looked like I "could use a little fresh air," but it was way too cold, and I was too exhausted to toss on my coat and head outside. My mother suggested we open a window and sit next to it for a few moments to focus on my breath.
I agreed, thinking it may help clear up the muddled mix of messages that was playing on repeat in the deepest corners of my mind:
"You are an unfit mother."
"Your daughter would be better off with someone else."
"You have made the biggest mistake of your life, you idiot!"
Quieting them was becoming more of an active chore, focusing what little strength I had on doing successfully. After all, no one else knew what was going on internally, and I fully intended to keep it that way.
Once my mother was able to pry our small bedroom window open and I was able to have a seat with my face almost pressed against the screen, I took a couple deep belly breaths. By breath number three, I began looking out my window, fantasizing?, dreaming?, no, actually SEEING my lifeless body being tossed off the roof, a calm and pleasant grin pasted over my face as I fell. It would finally be over; things could finally be quiet; I could finally rest.
Horrified, I shut my eyes and prayed the vision would go away. As I opened my eyes again and looked down onto the street below, I saw myself, strewn on the sidewalk, limbs tangled, surrounded in red snow. I began to gasp as I tried to make sense of what I was looking at. I couldn't breathe, couldn't think or see anything else. I sat shivering by the window weeping in silence. Something was wrong with me.
For the past few years, I have been taking extremely small amounts of psychedelic substances such as LSD and psilocybin, the active ingredient in "magic mushrooms," in order to improve my mental health, emotional awareness, creativity, focus, and much more. One of the beautiful "side effects" of microdosing that I was not expecting? My postpartum depression has significantly reduced.
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If you haven't already checked out the episode on Microdosing, head on over to The Lunita Podcast and give Season 1 Episode 2: Microdosing Psychedelics a listen. Also, be sure to check our guide to Microdosing Psychedelics, and remember to subscribe to the podcast, leave us a review if you like the show, and give us a follow on Instagram for updates and conversations with the community.
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My List of the 5 Ways Microdosing has Helped Me Overcome Postpartum Depression:
1. I am Present
Coming back into my body post-birth has been an ongoing challenge. Sometimes I still feel detached, but unlike before, it is not all day every day. I am much more capable of being aware of where I am, what I am doing, who I am with (it's likely with my kids), and how they may be experiencing me. Am I responsive? Am I engaged? Am I listening? For me, being present means:
My kids get to experience the full me instead of a shell of who I am.
I am more aware of what they are feeling and in tune with their needs and behaviors.
I am in touch with my body and honest about what I need instead of operating on cruise control all day long.
2. I've Become Less Anxious
I often tell my clients (yes, I am a therapist) that anxiety and depression come hand in hand. One can not exist without the other, they are roommates in our mind. An important first step in tackling symptoms is figuring out which one has the bigger room in our brain.
For me, anxiety was living in the master bedroom and depression in a guest room off to the side with no closet space. My anxiety presented around being unable to relax with my newborn. Even when she was sleeping, I was constantly checking her chest to make sure she was breathing, thus robbing myself of any chance at getting the rest I so desperately needed. In retrospect, this only made my symptoms worse.
Microdosing helped reduce my anxiety significantly. The internal monologue that was once running on full volume finally had a plus and minus sign. I was in charge of how loud those unwanted thoughts played in my head. Granted, this took a lot of practice and did not happen overnight. Now, I am able to keep them on mute most of the time. On the days they begin to chime in again, I am able to breathe and tell myself, "This is just your anxiety, Nina."
3. I've Become More Emotionally Organized
Microdosing has strengthened my ability to organize my feelings. Taking care of small kids means that there are big feelings constantly being thrown around the room. At times, it can be a struggle to be in touch with your own feelings, let alone organize them, when you are teaching a little one how to manage and identify theirs.
The ability to breathe and say to myself, "In this moment, I am feeling sad," has been a radical shift. I can then allow that emotion to pass through me instead of getting stuck like a fly on a seemingly invisible web. The emotions no longer stay trapped inside of me with nowhere to go. I no longer bottle them up, hide them from myself or others, deny they exist.
4. I've Processed My Birthing Experience
Something no one tells you about birth is that no matter which way you slice it, birth IS trauma. Although I do not identify with having an emotionally traumatic birth (I felt supported, seen and heard in the birthing room), I DID walk away from my labor unable to fully process what had happened to me emotionally.
I had prepared for so long for this moment. I spent most of my first pregnancy mentally preparing for labor. I was told it would be more like a marathon, that I would have to pace myself and sustain extraordinary bravery and strength. Yet, I assume, when a marathon is over, its participants are able to rest as much as they please -- not sent home on little to no sleep to care for a screaming newborn.
Microdosing made it easier to see where I still needed healing post-birth. What parts of me did not feel completely whole?
My birthing experience had been very long and painful. Noticing what places of my body needed additional love and care was my first step. Thanking my body for what it had endured instead of holding it to unhealthy standards was another crucial step. It took me a long time, two years to be exact, to fully wrap my head around what my body had done. Yet now I have nothing but gratitude for my body, I have forgiven myself for what took so long to overcome.
5. I've Become More Self-Aware
Lastly, I've grown to a place where I am comfortable acknowledging my faults. I am no longer so defensive, irritated or disappointed in myself when I am not 100% on top of my game. I am able to recognize when I am projecting my own fears onto my children. I am also able to recognize when I am denying myself what I truly need, be it rest, a glass of water or twenty minutes of silence.
I am also able to verbalize what I am feeling and ASK my husband for support when I need it. Ex: The kids are both crying, dinner is about to burn on the stove, the bathtub is about to overflow, and I don't know which task to tend to first.
"Hey babe, I am feeling really overwhelmed. Tonight, I will need to be by myself after the kids are asleep."
Old me would have said, "I got it, it's fine," and been pissed off the rest of the night.
Motherhood is by far the roughest hood I have ever been to. It is relentless and takes you on emotional twists and turns almost hourly. Postpartum depression felt as if I was riding an endless roller coaster, with no seat-belt, hanging on for dear life but certain that with every bump or turn I would fall to my death.
Microdosing has not saved me from myself, nor is it a cure all for some of the more deep-seeded roots for where my anxiety and depression comes from, yet it has acted as a sturdy and reliable seat-belt, ensuring me that no matter how wild this fucking ride gets, I will most certainly be alright.
**If you enjoyed this article, check out 5 Ways Microdosing has Helped Me Become a Better Father.
Paul Austin's The Third Wave - A great all-around resource on Microdosing and psychedelic use in general.
JamesFadiman.com - James Fadiman is well-known throughout the psychedelic community as one of the first in the field to clinically study the effects of psychedelic substances (back before these substances became illegal and governments propagandized their "insanity-inducing" qualities).
We also highly recommend James Fadiman's book, The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide, a must-read if you're interested in learning more about psychedelics.
A Really Good Day by Ayelet Waldman - A truly enjoyable and informative book on Ayelet's 30-day Microdosing journey.
Microdose.me - The world's first mobile Microdosing study.