A tool in my mental health toolkit
Overall health, well-being and quality of life before medical cannabis
I have trouble regulating my nervous system as a result of trauma I experienced as a child. This resulted in bouts of depression, anxiety attacks, issues with self-esteem, and unhealthy coping mechanisms. The thing that tipped me over the deep end was an abortion when I was 21. My boyfriend at the time was from a very traditional family, so I naively believed that not talking about it with anyone was the best option. It spiralled into depression and coupled with being in a city I hated, thousands of miles from my family, starting my degree for a second time, and general life pressures, I began to turn into a shell of my former self. I remember my boyfriend would have to remind me to eat because I would forget. I would stay up until 3 or 4 in the morning watching trashy television just to numb my brain. I avoided my family’s calls and I stopped talking to my friends. My boyfriend became my regulator and safety net. I’d have panic attacks thinking about what would happen to me if he decided to leave or if he died. I’d have panic attacks thinking about school and work, sometimes even just socializing. Finally, one day, one of my boyfriend’s friends, who’s a proponent of cannabis and uses it to treat his mental health issues, sat me down and had a huge talk with me about cannabis. He started with CBD and THC, and sativas versus indicas. He broke it down to a science and that made me really curious. I started smoking more on weekends, then experimenting with strains and different consumption methods. I was really lucky because my boyfriend’s social circle were all long time recreational users, so I had this amazing platform of knowledge that I was just milking. It expanded into an intellectual passion and I knew I had to be a part of this community, in some way or another.
Additional info about this time in patient's life
The advice I would give to anyone struggling with mental illness and looking to explore cannabis is two-fold: Do your research and don't be afraid.
Firstly, there is a lot of misinformation out there about cannabis and plant medicine. Read as much as you can. Speak to advocates, medical professionals in the field, read patient stories, etc. Despite what it seems, once you start digging for information, there is no shortage of research or resources.
Secondly, don't ever be afraid. I remember once sitting in my car outside a dispensary for an hour before working up the courage to go in. It's difficult breaking through that initial fear of looking stupid, or trying something new, or being judged. But that nervousness is just the feeling that comes when your comfort zone is expanding. As long as you're consuming responsibly, checking in with yourself, and talking to a support system - what is the worse that is going to happen? If it doesn't work or if it doesn't feel good, at least you can say you tried it. If someone judges you, they don't be a part of your healing journey. Break through the fear.
Overall quality of life before being introduced to medical cannabis: 3
How Cannabis has had an impact on patient's day to day life
For a while, I believed my therapeutic use of cannabis was different from my recreational enjoyment. I learned that they are intertwined.
I smoked Orange Kush the other day…and I have these massive noise canceling headphones that I use when I’m meditating. I was half way through my meditation playlist and my face began to hurt. I realize I had been smiling from ear to ear without even realizing it. So, although I'm consuming more "recreationally", cannabis does two therapeutic things on a day-to-day basis - it elevates my mood and interrupts anxious thought patterns that contribute to a negative headspace. It turns down my obsessive worry. Naturally, when those interruptions are put on the back burner, I am allowed relief, I can sleep, I eat properly, and I pay attention to my self-care routine. My quality of life dramatically improves.
Then, of course, I also use it during times when I am under pressure or experiencing stress - to avoid spiralling.
Recently, in the span of a few month, I experienced some of the hardest tests of my life…at a certain point I was waking up thinking: "Okay universe, what are you going to hit me with today?" My support system was even saying: “Why is all of this happening right now?!” I thought all the negativity and stress was going to derail all of my progress. I genuinely was preparing for impact, but I had a tool that I hadn't had access to in the past. Cannabis walked me right through the fire. It is not a be all end all solution. But it gave me rest, it gave me peace of mind, guidance, insight, and perspective. I knew how and when to treat myself, and I made it through one of the darkest times in my life.
Under Doctor's Supervision?
Cannabis has changed the use of other controlled substances
Additional info about controlled substance use
For a long time, I relied heavily on alcohol to have fun and ease my issues with socializing. Sometimes I could manage it. Other times I would end up sobbing on the floor of my bathroom, blathering on about pains and trauma I couldn't seem to reconcile. I was using it as a lubricant to make myself more enjoyable to be around, but it was just amplifying my problems. I also began to smoke cigarettes heavily. They anchored my day and the habit gave me a sense of stability. If my anxiety began to spike, I could use it as an excuse to remove myself temporarily from the stressor and calm down.
I quit smoking and now only drink to enjoy a beer or wine with friends. I rarely touch hard liquor anymore. I have tried but it often ends in the same downward spiral, so I try steer clear of it.
Other lifestyle changes adopted along with medical Cannabis
Additional info about lifestyle changes
I feel the medical system has taught us that we need to treat the symptoms of our conditions - and I believe the further we get away from this, the better. Cannabis is not a be all end all solution when it comes to mental health. For me, it is one tool in my healing toolkit. It helps me sleep, it gives me perspective, it eases anxiety - yes. But when I'm eating nutritious food, exercising, expressing my creativity, taking time to slow down and check-in - that is when I am at my healthiest. I also regularly see a therapist, as I want to learn the science and psychology behind what is happening in my brain and body. It's important to me that I develop cannabis-free coping mechanisms so that I am not reliant on something external to regulate my nervous system.
Additional info about medical Cannabis experience
You are the architect of your own recovery. Mental health is a long haul battle and cannabis is not a cure. You are the solution. Cannabis is just a tool to help you activate that power. You cannot consume cannabis and wait for her to do the work. You have to be willing to meet her half way. Be present, be active in your recovery, seek professional guidance in whatever way makes you feel safest, and don't stop fighting.
Overall quality of life after being introduced to medical cannabis: 9