BookPage Nonfiction Top Pick, February 2017
Depressed, suffering from premenstrual dysphoric disorder and wrought with pain from a frozen shoulder, Ayelet Waldman was on a steady diet of antidepressants, estrogen patches and sleeping pills. Yet her pain and wild mood swings persisted. Her four children and husband (writer Michael Chabon) were the targets of most of her wrath.
“I found myself in a state of seemingly perpetual irritability,” she writes. “I seethed, I turned that fury on the people around me, and then I collapsed in shame at these outbursts. . . . I couldn’t manage to lift the grimy curtain of my unhappiness.”
Then she stumbled on a book about microdosing—taking tiny amounts of LSD, ofterwise known as acid. The doses are so small that they don’t cause hallucination but improve mood and focus. The process of microdosing was “not so much going on an acid trip as going on an acid errand,” she writes.
Following a strict dosing protocol, she experienced decreased physical pain and increased joy. Waldman, author of Bad Mother and a series of entertaining mysteries about a public defender turned stay-at-home mom, began her career as a lawyer and taught a college class on the war on drugs. She struggles with the morality of purchasing and taking illegal drugs, albeit for a good cause. She also writes openly about how her mental health has impacted her marriage; Chabon is portrayed with near-saintly patience, and a scene where they attend therapy is a lovely glimpse at a couple in it for the long haul.
A Really Good Day is a surprisingly poignant, funny and deeply introspective journal of Waldman’s month of treatment. Ultimately, her story is about family, marriage and dealing with modern life, with all its stressors and moments of beauty.