Tag Archives: medication

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.

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.

After Diagnosis

“Hard is trying to rebuild yourself, piece by piece, with no instruction book, and no clue as to where all the important bits are supposed to go.”
Nick Hornby, A Long Way Down

I’m past the initial discovery of being diagnosed Bipolar. I’m past the newness of it, the excitement of having answers to life-long questions. I’m into the now what stage. I’m into the now I have to live with this diagnosis stage.

This stage is difficult because it’s all the reality, its realizing that I’m sick and have been for years.  It’s rethinking my identity, looking at myself with new eyes, accepting a label I don’t fully understand.  It’s learning new strategies. It’s explaining to family, the one’s that want to know, and avoiding answers to the ones that don’t. It’s shielding myself from certain critics.

It means asking myself new questions. Why is answered now. This is the phase of why me? It’s a time of questioning my future potential, and hoping it won’t be limited by this illness and the stigma attached to it. I’m almost at a loss, because I just don’t know how this will all play out.

My therapist has suggested that I have a new way of viewing my choices. I’m supposed to view with them with a sense of stability and question, “is this the bipolar or the rational me making this choice.”  I kind of find this insulting, though I understand the point of it. In hindsight I know I’ve been bipolar since I was sixteen years old, and this is my normal. This is me, I’ve drawn from my experience for over twenty years. It’s what I know. It’s the things I love about myself and my weaknesses, it’s all intertwined and almost impossible to separate completely. I know I need to make changes, and I’m fine with that but I’m not going to totally disconnect from who I’ve been for most of my life.

It’s a time of medication trial and error, wait and see outcomes. It’s putting my life in the hands of a professional, and hoping their chemical cocktail offers some relief. It’s a time of both hope and grief. Where I just have sit with it for a while and try to really comprehend this new life I have in front of me.

It’s a time of praying and hoping that this illness doesn’t have negative long term effects on my marriage and children. Both in terms of genetics and the mistakes I’ve made with them while struggling.

I’m in the rebuilding phase, without the benefit of a blue print, but none the less moving forward.

 

My Yellow Ovals

I lay my yellow ovals on the sterile, porcelain counter
wondering how the day will transform
and when I should take my emotional temperature.
I don’t want to be bothered by it.
I want it to just be an unconscious
undertaking like it appears to be for so many others.
I want to just live.
I don’t want to have to be reminded of milligrams of stabilization.
Don’t want to report back
or have to ask others for mood feedback.
It strips me of my independence
and self-perception.
Makes me vulnerable in a juvenile sort of way.
Reliant on others opinions
and faulty neurotransmitters.
I’m too old, with too much life experience,spend too much time caring for others to be reduced to this sort of infantile bullshit.
But there are no alternatives.
I have tried
to exercise them away
to pray them away
to explain their existence away
from prying children’s eyes.
So I grudgingly start and end my day
the same way
by swallowing down
my broken reminders
My yellow ovals on the sterile, porcelain counter.