Tag Archives: bipolar disorder

Cannabis and Mental Illness

When you suffer with an ailment long enough, you look for answers that are outside of the box. Sometimes it’s because you don’t agree with the answers you’ve received, or the answers you’ve been given just aren’t enough so you’re willing to venture out in hopes you can put together enough remedy to have some peace in your life. For me, this is the case with cannabis and my mental health struggles.

I have always taken my meds prescribed by my Psychiatrist and have been in out of Psychologists offices for therapy as needed. I’ve read enough self-help books to take out a forest. I’ve always searched for solutions and answers in hopes of living the best quality of life possible, for myself and my family.

I have followed the system and its parodical and for me there has been huge benefit. There have been bumps along the road, and some incredibly hard years, some of it from medication trial and error, some of it from misdiagnosis … (Finally after twenty years, I’m being treated more accurately for Bipolar Disorder), and some of it from not always choosing the healthiest coping skills.

My meds definitely help stabilize my Bipolar Disorder and I’m grateful for that, I’m in a functioning state with little to no mania and occasional depression. The problem is finding the balancing act with my BD meds and my anxiety meds .. While I take both and get some relief, I’m still very anxious a lot of the time. At times it’s manageable and at times it’s not, and I’m at the end of my rope, as it spills over into my mothering, marriage and all aspects of my life.

I began drinking to medicate, a glass of wine over a couple of years became a couple of bottles of wine, long story short it became an ugly thing in my life and almost cost me my family. So, the drinking to excess went away but the anxiety did not.

I had smoked cannabis when I was younger in college on and off recreationally. I could take it or leave it though, it was not really my thing. Twenty years later, when CA went medical legal I decided to get my card and try it for actual medical purposes, specifically my anxiety and insomnia.

I researched it online and asked a few of my doctors about the benefits and harms of mixing cannabis and pharmaceuticals. I got very mixed professional opinions and people’s experiences seemed to run the gamut from some swearing by it and stopping all their meds to others experiencing paranoia and finding no relief. I decided to give it a try.

For me, cannabis, specifically Indica strains have helped calm my anxiety. I don’t believe it is curing anything but it is treating my symptoms. It has taken trial and error like any medication to figure out dosage and strains. I’m not stopping any of my other meds because for me cannabis alone would not be enough. I’m also careful to balance it in my life. I only use it when I need it and usually at night when I’m done with my mothering duties.

I’m not open with everyone about this choice. To some in my life it is a moral mistake, and I’ve lost a few “friends” because of it. I worry about some of the legality of it because I have children, but I closely follow the state law. My Psychiatrist isn’t an advocate or against it. My extended family isn’t thrilled about it but they accept it and I try my best to be respectful of this. My husband is very supportive of it because he has seen first hand the benefit, the peaceful nights I have now, the sleep I get now, I’m more live able.

I share this on my blog because it has made a positive difference in my life. I’m not preaching or saying you should try it, or stop taking your medication .. Please don’t! Any changes you make please do responsibly with the knowledge of a Dr.

I share this on my blog to tell you, the mental health system is there to guide, but it is ok to look outside of it and see what else exists. It is ok to question and seek answers. It’s ok to trust that you know yourself better than anyone and to realize you have to live with yourself … Strengths, aliments and all.

Lastly, I share this on my blog out of intellectual curiosity. I’m curious about others positive or negative experiences with cannabis and mental illness. Feel free to share if you want, I would love to hear your story. Please be respectful though, if cannabis is not your thing, just leave this page without printing your judgement, life is hard enough already. Thank you.

Robin William’s Legacy ISN’T Dictated By his Final Act

July 21, 2015 Robin Williams would have turned 64, sadly he missed his birthday because he lost his battle with Bipolar Disorder. I am grieved that he suffered, that he gave so much to everyone else, brought joy and laughter to children and adults for over thirty years but couldn’t find place of peace within himself.

I’m sad for him, for myself and others that suffer from this unkind disorder. It can bring such energy and unfiltered enthusiasm, an unattainable idealism that makes it hard to thrive under normal means. It can bring one to such places that normalcy is completely without merit, and then swing you to a place of complete darkness and despair. Neither of which, are healthy places to live mentally for any length of time.

I understand the strain of years of this cycle, of this emotional pull to be on top of the world, and to not want to return to the darkness. I believe Robin thrived and made his living off of his manic phases, he entertained us and made us laugh, we loved him when he was in this place that brought us out of ourselves and brought joy to our lives.

He had a gift definitely, and he was able to find a way to use the attributes of BD in a positive way. Sadly, it must have been exhausting both physically and mentally to try to sustain his life in one realm of this disorder. I know he struggled with substance abuse for years, like so many of us with Bipolar Disorder, where I’m sure he was able to numb some of this struggle.

I think perhaps acting became a burden to him when he was depressed and I’m sure relying on it to provide for himself and his family was overwhelming at times, when he had nothing to give, much less sustain himself with. Despite all this, I think he probably had many years of satisfaction vocationally, contributing to other’s lives, making them laugh … one thing I’m sure he wanted for himself.

I wish Robin could have shared his struggles, his other side, the depressed, grieved part of himself. I would have still loved him, and I would like to think others could have handled his honesty, but as I say that I realize that mental health stereotypes still exist and the public eye can be harsh.

To some his suicide was eye-opening, perhaps now they’re able to see that mental illness can affect anyone, it doesn’t discriminate, by wealth, talent or intellect and it can very easily take all of that from you if you don’t take care of yourself. Which is not to say that he wasn’t taking care of himself, he may have been making his best effort. I also know he had physical health problems and financial struggles which I’m sure contributed to his suffering.

Others, took his suicide as an opportunity to self-righteously judge that which they truly don’t understand because it’s never been in their arm’s length. Which saddens me. Mental illness in my life has caused enough pain that I’m able to have empathy for others when they struggle even when it’s with a battle I’m not familiar with. I’m not judging his final act, instead I’m grateful for the legacy he left, R.I.P. Robin Williams.

Anxiety Ridden

At 17, I was diagnosed and hospitalized with depression, at 40 I was diagnosed more accurately with Bipolar Disorder II, but I swear I came out of the womb with anxiety.

Anxiety seems like such a common word. It’s  thrown around with little appreciation of the true impact it can have on some people’s lives.

As a child I worried incessantly and obsessively, by first grade I was seeing a school counselor. I worried about concepts, everyday happenings, and my own performance even during menial, every day activities. My anxiety would manifest itself in the way of stomach problems, I constantly struggled with knots in my stomach, dreading that I would vomit, which would only make this cycle worse because I had vomiting and illness anxiety as well.

I would lay awake at night facing towards my pink  wall, worrying that someone would break in, that spiders would crawl out the of the jagged crack in my wall. I had to always have the covers on, no matter the temperature, so no one could get to me. I have always slept with some light, the thought of opening my eyes and not being able to see was so overwhelming that I just accepted that fact that night lights would be a permanent fixture in my life.

I feared death by the age of 8 and it haunted me. Anytime I heard ambulance sirens in the background my stomach would drop because I was sure one of my parents was in a tragic accident. Our family vacations while growing up consisted of driving to my grandparents’ homes in another state, a drive that took over eight hours. As we drove at night in our baby blue Scout, I willed myself to stay awake because I was sure we would be killed in a horrid car wreck and I wanted to be able to say goodbye to my parents. I never vocalized this concern to my parents, but it weighed on me as I would watch my younger sister peacefully sleep the whole trip. And camping was a nightmare, as fear and anxiety, always worse at night would haunt the little sleep I was able to get. I could not get out of my mind the idea that a bear would kill us or that there were spiders crawling all over me. My poor Mother would trek with me down to the campground bathroom about six times a night as I struggled with stomach aches and swore I was going to vomit. I could find no comfort in my little red sleeping bag with my ever dimming flashlight.

Living in the Midwest as a child, storms were another area of extreme stress to me. Thunderstorms, tornadoes, too much snow, cracking ice, etc.   I would creep into my parents room and make a bed on the floor and try my best to stop the thoughts of lightening coming through my window and killing me.

I pondered the idea of what an eternity was in relation to death at the age of 10. I became preoccupied with the idea of the concept, and not until I became a Christian did I find some comfort in the grandness of that allotment of time.

As an adult with life experience I have the wisdom now to alleviate many of my childhood fears and anxiety. But adulthood has presented its own set of challenges in regards to the big events in my life and the daily struggles.

The pregnancy and birth of my first son were extremely difficult and the fact that there were some medical issues just impounded that fear. From the moment I saw my beautiful son I worried for him. I cried when he cried, I cried when I couldn’t soothe his tears because I worried that there was something wrong. My son literally slept on my chest for the first year of his life. I wanted to feel and hear his little heart beating because I swore he would die in his sleep and if that happened I needed to be there to stop it or at least know that his death was peaceful. This was an incredibly hard time in my life because I was also experiencing post-partum depression and my son had colic … not a good combination but with God’s help we made it through.

I have spent many hours in prayer, trying to rationalize with God that I love my babies and I NEED him to protect them in a way that I can’t, I want reassurance that they will all out live me. I struggled when my first born started school, and thus began the habit of praying every morning while driving to school for each of my children’s protection, I could leave them at school knowing God was with them watching over them. After ten years I still do our morning prayer on the way to school, for my own well-being.

Anxiety effects my driving, I have a whole bunch of fears that generate in my mind, I especially hate semi-trucks, mountain roads, bridges, and anything that in any way can hinder my control over getting to my destination. I have to block out the images I see in my mind as I drive at certain times or it’s debilitating. Did I mention I hate flying? I developed a two Bloody Mary prescription before I board any plane, it seems to take the edge off and I have a praying ritual, which takes about 10 minutes and is a must before the plane takes off.

I have anxiety about entertaining, which still haunts me. I have an expectation that things need to be a certain way and then I completely loss myself in the anxiety of the details. Just this last weekend I threw my son and his baseball team their end of the season party. I started planning it a couple of weeks ahead of time and of course that’s when the anxiety started as well. The anxiety always grows as the event approaches. I told myself that this time I wouldn’t let the anxiety get to me, I prayed that it wouldn’t, I was able to sleep the night before,  but sure enough it got to me.

By morning, I screamed at my children as they tried to help me with helium filled escaping balloons, and wind-blown streamers. Tears ran down my face as I realized I had bought the wrong shaped table clothes. Nothing seemed like enough, I wasn’t happy with any of the efforts I had previously made for the party. I wanted it to be more, I wished I had more money to put into it, etc. etc. Logically, I realize of course that this is ridiculous, that a bunch of twelve year old boys could give a rat’s ass about tablecloths or steamers, all they want to do is swim, run around and beat the crap out of each other but at that moment there is no logic just panic, tears and anger. And sadly, this is pretty typical of what happens to me anytime I entertain.

This is my struggle with anxiety, even while taking anxiety medication. I have read a lot on anxiety, been in and out of counseling over the years. I have tried escaping it, tried drowning out the constant hum in my mind of all that I can’t control with alcohol which only landed me in AA for a time.

I currently take two medications; a mood stabilizer and an anti-anxiety med and I have a MMJ recommendation so at night or times of extreme anxiety I will medicate with MJ as well. I have three medications circulating through my body and mind at any given point just to get me through the day,  just so I can function like a NORMAL person.

I haven’t given up on the notion of internal peace, and there are moments of every day that I can find some of it. I’m willing to embrace those moments and the fact that despite the anxiety I feel I have been blessed with a good life, a beautiful family, and a faith that keeps me going.

Take Your Meds

I just recently read an article on FB about a 29 year old who lost her battle with mental illness (specifically Bipolar Disorder) and I grieved for the loss, both as a parent and as a person who struggles with BD.

The FB post written by her mother described this beautiful girl who was diagnosed while in college after experiencing a psychotic break. She went on to be diagnosed, hospitalized and then medicated. She did this cycle a few times over a couple of years and then tragically took her own life after deciding she no longer needed medication.

It saddens me that so many with Bipolar Disorder lose their struggle with the illness because of their resistance to medication. I understand the draw to go back, to continue on with the self you know, in the life you recognize, and I have had to do some grieving and soul searching and sacrificing and recreating of myself but I don’t see any other way.

I’m at a stage in my life where I have too much to lose if I don’t take care of myself, and live a more balanced life. I have a husband and children depending upon me, to be the best me I can be and that’s what I’m choosing.

My medication has changed me, it’s undeniable. I’m more flat, in my emotions, and my personality. I’m not as much fun or drama, some of my quick wit, sarcastic humor and loud mouth are gone. I’m more reserved, in my approach to life, to friends, in my openness, and I’m less social.   I’m a little slower mentally, tired a lot more, and sadly gaining weight because I don’t have the energy or desire most of the time to exercise. This doesn’t seem like much, but knowing yourself and attributes and then having them change after forty years is definitely an adjustment.

I stick with my medication regiment because despite the fact that I miss parts of my old self, I just can’t do the scattered chaos anymore. I am much calmer now, I yell less, I cry less. I am a more patient mother and much more loving wife.   The medication helps me relax more, emotionally and mentally, it has slowed down some of my OCD and perfectionism and has left me with more acceptance and less judgement for myself and others.

I wish I could have it all, but I realize with any kind of illness you have to pick and choose what you can and can’t live without. Since being medicated, I haven’t had the extent of mania or depression I used to have, no more days in bed struggling to function, and no more manic frenzy, crazy driving and racing thoughts of running away.

The days are more quiet and calm, I’m more of a homebody now, less inclined to be social at the drop of a hat. It’s a slower pace of life than I’m used to. No more jumping around mentally from vocational, entrepreneurial and college idea to idea. I’m settling in. To myself, to my life. I’m ok with letting go of my old frantic being that was constantly evolving in my mind. No more rush of mania to make me feel inflated, I realize now that the mania isn’t any more real than the depression that haunted me, I have to dwell in the middle ground like others. Actually, I don’t HAVE to but I NEED to for my own sanity and for my family’s semblance.

My point being, my life isn’t perfect with meds, but it’s more of a life. Please take your medicine. Don’t let this monster kill you, because on your good days, the deception is your better and you don’t need the medication. Don’t lie to yourself, be willing to see that this is a life-long illness that ebbs and flows, it will grow old with you, but let it, treat it, so you get the opportunity to have an end that is fitting. Take your illness and recovery seriously.

I know there are some that medication isn’t working or hasn’t worked in the past and my heart and prayers go out to them. I pray that they don’t give up in the meantime, that God gives them enough hope to keep them going and that there will be an end to their pain with some sort of advancement within the science and medical community that helps them.

I pray that prayer for all that suffer under the stronghold of mental illness, I pray for more recovery, more joy, and more sustainable well and long lived lives especially for those that are young and just starting out on this journey. Please take your medicine.

Privacy Laws & Disclosure

In response to the tragic German Wings copilot that crashed his plane intentionally into the French Alps.

I have always been a big believer in patient privacy rights, especially when it comes to mental health, due to the stigmas that it can carry. It’s hard enough when you struggle to function with Bipolar Disorder or some other diagnosis, much less live with your spread sheet of mistakes. There are credit reports, resumes, school transcripts and broken relationships that go before you in any new attempt, and the explanations that need to follow. It’s hard to have to start at a deficit and explain your way into credibility.

To make available another level of very personal medical information is almost damning, it’s a hurdle that many would not be able to overcome. An obstacle I would not want to have to add to any already challenging list of self-disclosure. The thought of having to explain to a complete stranger, for example a potential employer about my struggle with mental illness in order to justify an opportunity seems unfathomable and writhed with discrimination.

It is sure damnation, when an employer has two candidates in front of him and one has to disclose a mental health issue, you can be sure a red flag will go up.  To think at that point that it wouldn’t professionally be held against him, is complete naivete. We tell ourselves that an employer in that situation wouldn’t be biased but human nature being what it is, I wouldn’t want to give opportunity for discrimination unless it was out necessity. I want to be judged solely on my professional skills, and aptitudes, on my performance at past jobs not on the medication I take twice a day.

My “mental health” record would start when I was 16 years old, a junior in high school suffering with depression/bipolar disorder while my parents were going through a divorce, oblivious and too self-absorbed to notice. At 17 and still struggling I checked myself into Charter Hospital because I wanted to get better, I wanted help.   If privacy laws dictated that my hospitalization be public record and required that I report it would I have chosen the same route?  Perhaps not. Without privacy, individuals and families will be forced to suffer quietly in their homes and languish away any future potential.

There are just too many stereotypes to over-come with mental illness and not enough information in place to justify changing privacy laws. People hear a diagnosis like Bipolar Disorder and their mind instantly flashes to the latest tragedy they’ve seen where someone suffering from this illness lost their life. Meanwhile in suburban-ville many are living among you with this very illness, unnamed but successfully mothering, wiving, coaching, educating, and working. Some of them make the best teachers, nurses, writers, coaches, etc. and you don’t know or need to know their personal strife to benefit from the services or professionalism they provide.

Even as I claim and justify my point, I am left feeling like there is still a matter left unaddressed, there are still innocent lives that need to be protected. Are there certain vocations where there needs to be an exception?  I would argue perhaps, but it is such a slippery slope.

I would argue that there are two specific situations in which medical disclosure should be considered mandatory. One being, professions that require responsibility  for others lives, such as carrying a weapon, maneuvering large machinery or vehicles, some hospital work, etc. Secondly, I would argue that in these professions documented psychosis be something shared with employers. I never like to take anyone’s freedom and privacy away, especially when it’s an undeserved action and sadly no fault of the patient, but unfortunately innocent life must be protected when certain probabilities are in known existence. Odds are something we can only afford to take into account for ourselves, but not for others.

I argue this point, not just as someone who suffers from mental illness, I argue this as a parent who grieves for the children lost and all of the victims aboard that plane, including the co-pilot who might have also been saved from this tragedy had someone recognized and reported that he needed to retire his wings. Not in punishment or retribution but in care and for the benefit of others and himself. Praying for all of the families involved.