This is not an easy post for me to write. This will change what a lot of people think of me, and my self esteem is way too tied up in what other people think of me. Who am I, if I’m not true to myself?
I haven’t been shy about my struggles with anxiety, depression, and borderline personality disorder. I also haven’t been shy about the fact that I take medication to treat these issues. What I haven’t really been too forthcoming about is the fact that they stopped working.
About a year ago, I found myself taking as much as 20mg of Lexapro for my anxiety. Now, if you clicked on the Side Effects tab on that hyperlink, you’ll see some very unpleasant stuff, to say the least. I was dealing with all of it. The worse the side effects got, the more anxious I got. The more anxious I got, the more my doctor increased my dosage. The greater the dosage, the greater the side effects. It became a vicious cycle, and I had to get off of it. I couldn’t not take anything. I need something to help stabilize my brain chemistry. What, then, could possibly supplement my meds without harsh side effects?
I began considering cannabis as an alternative after hearing several success stories. I did my best to research the topic from the sidelines but didn’t have much luck. If I was going to learn anything, I needed to dive into the culture. So, I did, and I’ve learned quite a bit. I still have a long way to go, however, and I’m always learning something new.
One of the misconceptions I had to get over was “weed is weed.” I had that misconception because 20 years ago, I was buying $25 worth of whatever my “guy” could get me. I didn’t know there were options out there. I never heard of “sativa” or “indica” and couldn’t name a strain if you held a gun to my head. All I knew was that I was anxious all the time, but when I smoked weed, I relaxed. What I didn’t know was the science behind it.
Cannabis is made up of different cannabinoids which give the plant its unique properties. These cannabinoids interact with our endocannabinoid system and effect our bodies. Two of the most commonly-known cannabinoids are CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).
There are differences between the two, but to put it simply: THC gets you high; CBD doesn’t.
Our CB1 receptors are the ones that get us high. Since CBD doesn’t interact with those receptors, it doesn’t get us high. THC, however, directly interacts with CB1 receptors, which is what gets us “stoned”.
The term “CBD” has become an umbrella term for anything cannabis-related that doesn’t get you high. In reality, there are many forms of cannabis-related therapy that don’t involve the psychoactive high.
Don’t get me wrong; I am a big believer in western medicine. My family worked in health care for decades while I was growing up, and I’ve seen first-hand the good it can do. As I get older, I see things differently, perhaps clearer than I did when I was younger, and I came to a conclusion:
I came to this conclusion as I argued with my previous doctor about my anxiety medication. Instead of exploring options with fewer or even different side effects, she wanted to keep me on the vicious cycle of raising my dosage or switching me to another SSRI that has the same side effects, then throw more pills at me to deal with the side effects. Of course, these new pills would have side effects, which she would treat with more pills, and so on.
That is neither healthy nor sustainable for me. I cannot justify to myself pumping my body full of that many chemicals for any reason. I had to get off the pharmaceutical merry-go-round, or at least slow it down.
Trial and Error
Since I was trying this on my own and without too much aid from a doctor, much of my process was trial-and-error. I found that Leafly has some great resources that are easy to read and understand that helped me make informed decisions.
I’ve tried a number of combinations to try to find what works. I have found amazing products that put me right where I want to be both physically and mentally. I’ve found others that trigger anxiety attacks or other issues (such as depression) and have learned to avoid them. I’m still learning and experimenting, so it’s a work in progress. I’m learning new information all the time, which I incorporate into my treatment (if I can).
One thing I’ve learned is that I cannot use cannabis as a substitute for my anxiety meds right now. When I explored that option, my anxiety skyrocketed, and I was in a really bad place. While it was great to get the Lexapro out of my system, I became a ticking time bomb of nerves, and the smallest thing sent me from zero to nuclear immediately. Maybe someday, there will be a way for me to make the switch. Until then, I am able to at least reduce my Lexapro dosage and minimize the side effects. I’m currently managing my anxiety with 5mg of Lexapro and supplementing with cannabis. Right now, this seems to be working, with the exception of high-stress situations like San Diego Comic-Con. To prepare for that, I raised my dosage of Lexapro to 10mg until the event was past. I went over this with my new doctor, who seemed pleased.
I was so excited when I heard Penn State was conducting cannabis research, I just had to write about it. When I’m passionate about something, I like to write about it.
We’re learning new information about cannabis every day. Gone are the days when cannabis was just associated with kids smoking doobies in their parents’ basement. Now, a “stoner” could be anyone you see in the street. Cannabis has even been found to help pets with issues like anxiety and arthritis. I’m very anxious to see what will be discovered about cannabis in the next decade.
… is real. No, really, I struggled with writing this. But if you’re going to claim to know me, this is who I am. I’m fully prepared for lots of judgement and condemnation from this, and if I lose friends over this, so be it. As much as I love my friends and family, I need to take care of myself. I was hurting for years, not just myself but those around me, and I could not take it anymore. This is not easy for me to admit to you, and I’m afraid I’m going to lose people I love and respect very much.
So, now you know. Feel free to give me feedback via social media or comment below. Or unfriend/unfollow me. Whatever you feel moved to do.