update: can I use sick time for psychedelic treatment?

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer wondering if they could use sick time for psychedelic treatment (#2 at the link)? Here’s the update.

I traveled to Oregon for my psilocybin experience in mid-October. Honestly, it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life; the outcomes have been even better than I had dared hoped.

But first, an update on the work side of this. I scheduled the experience for a Monday so that I could fly in on Sunday and return on Tuesday, and thus only need to use two days of sick time. My sick time was approved with no questions asked and nobody at work asked any prying questions about it. In hindsight I realize I was overthinking it.

Back to the psilocybin experience. The experience itself was profound and intense, one of the most intense of my life. While I wouldn’t call it fun, it wasn’t exactly bad either, just intense. It was very different than the experience you get during recreational use of psychedelics. My facilitator was amazing, she was essentially a neutral third party who was there to make sure I was comfortable and to answer any questions I had during, or after the experience. She was incredibly kind and helpful.

Since the experience, my depression symptoms have improved significantly. That isn’t to say I don’t still feel depressed occasionally, but it is far less often and never as intense. Before I was feeling a 9/10 intensity of depression almost every day for hours at a time, but now the worst I ever feel is maybe a 6/10, and that’s only once or twice a week. Plus, it’s easier for me to use various coping skills to feel better when I do feel depressed. These improvements have allowed me to go off Wellbutrin (an antidepressant) as well.

Additionally, my feelings of self-loathing and self-criticism have been dramatically reduced. I feel genuine love and compassion for myself now. I’ve also been more open to new experiences and more emotionally vulnerable with my friends. I still feel like I’m the same person I was before the trip, but now I’m a much healthier, wiser, and freer version of myself. I still have some mental health issues to work on, but they are much less intense and I’m making much more progress on them in therapy than I had been before the trip.

The experience really changed how I think and how I think about myself, so I suspect these improvements will be durable. I learned things about myself while on the mushrooms. They helped me observe my mind almost as if I was an outside observer. There are so many things I had “known” at an intellectual level about my negative thought patterns or healthier ways to think and be, but until I took the mushrooms I didn’t really know them in a deep, experienced way. Now I do.

Another important aspect of this treatment is what they call integration. You have to actively work to take what you learned in your trip and integrate it into your day-to-day thinking and life. It’s not exactly difficult work, but it does need to be done intentionally. If you just take the mushrooms and expect them to make you better completely on their own, it’s less likely to be helpful in the long run. Therapy has helped me a lot with that. I also think being in therapy for many years prior to doing this was helpful too in making it easier to learn from the trip.

I could go on and write pages and pages about this. While I don’t necessarily recommend this to everyone, and encourage folks considering it to do their own research, I think psychedelic therapy should be far more mainstream than it is. I know for me it has been life changing in the best way possible. I hope more states consider legalizing this treatment.

{ 39 comments… read them below }

  1. Junior Dev*

    I’m so glad this worked out for OP! “Additionally, my feelings of self-loathing and self-criticism have been dramatically reduced. I feel genuine love and compassion for myself now.” This has been in line with my experiences as well.

    1. Random Dice*

      I’m so glad! The science is so clear that psychedelics can be very therapeutic, when well administered.

  2. Jennifer Strange*

    I’m really glad this is proving helpful to you! John Oliver did a piece on how psychedelic drugs can be used in a rehabilitative/healing manner and it really is fascinating. I’m glad there are facilities available to help people use them in a safe and regulated way.

  3. Wendy the Spiffy*

    I’m fascinated with this topic and grateful you shared your experience. Watching “How to Change Your Mind” on Netflix — done by the wonderful Michael Pollan — has led me to the book and to a far better understanding of how much legitimate research and healing was blocked in the US under the Nixon administration. Just really interesting stuff.

  4. Hlao-roo*

    Thank you for the update and for sharing some of the details of your treatment! I’m glad taking two sick days was not a problem at work.

  5. Starbuck*

    What a lovely update. This is in line with what people I know have experienced with this treatment, so it’s wonderful that it worked for OP too. If anyone wants to know more about follow-up, check to see if there is a ‘community integration circle’ where you live – if you are curious and want to ask questions before you undertake a treatment, they are very welcoming spaces. The local psychedelic society in my area runs one. It’s not a place to go to seek the mushrooms though… they may find you, but don’t approach it with that in mind.

  6. Hills to Die on*

    I have heard so many amazing things about this treatment. A friend of mine told me about his experiences in detail and how healing it was for him. I am so glad you got relief from it too.

  7. Sandi*

    “Since the experience, my depression symptoms have improved significantly. That isn’t to say I don’t still feel depressed occasionally, but it is far less often and never as intense.”

    A good friend of mine has mental health issues and I like to remind them about this when they are going through a rough time. They got therapy and have greatly improved, but still get sad when life is difficult. Yet that’s normal and okay! Similar to how we feel physically drained for a few days if we get a cold, or muscles ache the next day if we do more activity than usual – feeling a bit depressed in reaction to something sad is okay and normal.

    1. different seudonym*

      By definition, depression is intense negative feeling that is not tied to external events. I personally experience it as a coldness and dimness of experience that happens by itself, without any obvious cause. I’m willing to believe your intentions are good, but your comments are ignorant, and if no-one has ever told you that before, you should reflect on whether they trust you to accept valid criticism.

      1. And thanks for the coffee*

        I don’t think this comment need be so negative towards someone who is just being helpful to a friend, who may or may not have diagnosed depression. I’ve been treated for depression for many years-my symptoms are different than yours. I agree that feeling better or worse at times is a part of life whether or not someone has depression.

      2. hohumdrum*

        I also have experience with depression and find what Sandi is saying actually quite helpful. When my mood/feelings/energy levels dip I sometimes get terrified that I’m headed back towards a depressive episode and when I’ve reminded myself that a certain amount of “up and down” is normal in life the thought has brought me relief.

        Also…depression is not unconnected from external events. Major life changes are part of what triggered my depression. If what Sandi said would be detrimental to you of course that’s valid…but that doesn’t mean you speak for everyone with depression.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      Hopefully, this is helpful to your friend. I know that for a family member, finding out that there is some “normal” sadness to life was profoundly upsetting, because they had never NOT felt sad/down/depressed before their medication regimen, and they were terrified that feeling sad or down meant that the medication wasn’t working. Took a while and quite a bit of reassurance for them to realize what “normal” was.

      On the flip side, it’s important to recognize that there is “breakthrough depression” – sometimes, the medications and therapy DON’T stop the depressive thought patterns and the person will spiral downwards. It’s not “normal” sadness – it’s depression. You may find that your friend will be more encouraged if instead of telling them that this is normal, that you remind them that the medication and therapy work most of the time, and that the depressive symptoms will be temporary until the meds kick back in again. You could also tell them that you will keep an eye on them and that if it goes too long, you’ll encourage them to go to the doctor. Knowing you have their back will likely be more reassuring.

    3. Hrodvitnir*

      I want to say this as kindly as possible, and very much do not want to pile on, but as someone with lifelong depression: being more mildly, less easily triggered into a *depressive episode* is by definition not the same as feeling non-clinically down.

      I know you’re being kind, and I don’t know your friend. But having chronic, major depression, that you have to actively work on your entire life being compared to normal levels of sadness or grief (or even short-term, situational depression) feels Really Really Bad. The term is horribly abused, but it can feel like being constantly gaslit by the world.

      Please understand that Major Depression is not the same as non-dysfunctional sadness, even when well managed.

    4. Bunny Lake Is Found*

      I am sorry so many people took your comment as somehow invalidating their own experiences with depression. I just wanted to say that wasn’t how I took it, especially as you did NOT say they were experiencing chronic depression.

      As someone with anxiety, I have come to live by the motto “that is anxiety lying to you”. Anxiety tells you something is scary, or bad things will happen if you do/don’t do something, and those bad things are nebulous and beyond comprehension, and Anxiety does it so much it just stops your brain from knowing which end is up. So it actually is quite supportive for me when someone says “That is anxiety lying to you” when I am panicking over nothing, and also when they say “This is an objectively scary/anxiety inducing thing.” It is like they are helping to put a stop to Anxiety gaslighting my brain rather than trying to gaslight me.

    5. Katydid*

      I’ve had a really rough year and am prone to depression. Comments like yours are similar to my internal voice when I’m trying to break free. I have to remind myself that it’s ok to be sad and stressed and exhausted when things are sad and stressful and exhausting. It’s interesting to see that many other commenters don’t agree that that’s helpful. I’m going to assume that you know your friend and know what helps and what doesnt, and I’m sure they’re so grateful to have such a supportive person at their side!

    6. Candi*


      It turned out a lot of my depression was linked to hypothyroidism. It’s been under treatment for almost a decade now (levothyroxine), but there’s still times I feel miserable or down. That’s part of being human.

  8. A. Nonymous*

    Happy to read this update, OP. My mom has also had really great breakthroughs as a result of controlled psilocybin & MDMA use, and sharing your story adds yet another success story to the pile (which benefits us all!)

    Way to go!

  9. Holly*

    I am so glad for you! I did ketamine IV treatment for really severe treatment resistant depression and it changed everything in such a positive way, I don’t really have words for it. I am glad psychedelic treatment helped you in a similar way.

    1. KetamineCanWork*

      I have a friend who just went through a 6 month ketamine treatment and it’s been soooo helpful. I didn’t know she was doing it and had noticed a profound improvement. I can’t go into specifics on what I noticed because it’s private, but yeah. Ketamine was much more helpful for her than traditional antidepressants were.

  10. bamcheeks*

    This is so great! A friend of mine was able to access this recently, and I am SO curious but I haven’t asked much about how it went because that feels a little too personal. But it’s so great to hear it worked so well for you!

    1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I think there’s a way to ask while acknowledging that: “I’ve heard great things about this kind of treatment and am interested in hearing about your experience, but don’t want to pry. Let me know if you’re open to sharing more.” (I would consider your motivation — is it just curiosity, or is it something you’d like to learn about for yourself or someone you know?) Lots of people find it transformative and may be eager to share, like this LW, but not be sure how accepting others will be and would appreciate a signal that you’re cool with it.

      1. Random Dice*

        “Lots of people find it transformative and may be eager to share, like this LW, but not be sure how accepting others will be and would appreciate a signal that you’re cool with it.”

        Co-signing this part! Nobody wants to be that “groooovy far-ouuuut” guy, but also it can be utterly transformational.

        There is so much Nixon-era War on Drugs – er I mean “War on Black Folks and Students Who Won’t Quietly Go to Die in a Stupid Foreign War” propaganda against this promising treatment, and it’s frustrating.

  11. Ally McBeal*

    Such a wonderful update. I look forward to the day when veterans and other people with PTSD can easily, affordably, routinely access this kind of treatment (in close consultation/supervision with a medical professional, of course). The US government’s knee-jerk reaction to all drugs except alcohol has caused so many problems and hindered so many people from appropriate treatment.

    1. Michelle Smith*

      It’s especially frustrating given that alcohol exacerbates my depression, so I don’t use it, but I could easily pack bottles of wine into my checked bag without fear.
      Instead I’m terrified I’ll be ticketed or worse if I try to bring my delta 9 edibles I use for sleep in my suitcase when I fly.

    2. Bunny Lake Is Found*

      I would actually classify ratifying the constitution to federally ban it and then reversing that in a blink of an eye as a pretty knee-jerk reaction to alcohol.

      To be fair, though, most of the legislative knee-jerk reactions to various drugs has more to do with racism and classicism than the effects/risks of the substances themselves.

  12. Voldemort’s Cousin*

    Wow. I’m so, so happy for you OP. I completely agree that psychedelic therapy should be more mainstream. Your experience is a testament to that.

  13. Alan*

    Such a wonderful update. Thank you. We have an acqaintance with hard-to-treat depression who finally found some help with ketamine, but it’s not covered by their medical care. We really need to expand our thinking when it comes to treating mental illness.

  14. Bruce*

    Here in Oregon I know where shrooms grow wild, though I’m not one to free-range experiment myself :-) Glad the supervised treatment has been helpful!

  15. Anon in Oregon*

    Three cheers for therapies that help, and the ability to go get them. Keep up the good work, OP. <3

  16. Palliser7*

    I wonder if we had the same facilitator! I had a similar-sounding fantastic experience just outside Seattle. It had been about 5 years but I still think of my two plant medicine experiences as some of the most profound of my life. So glad to hear that it helped you!

  17. Audrey*

    So glad to hear this, OP– such encouraging news. Many thanks to Alison for sharing this update as it has potential to help others who are struggling.

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