When I was growing up, I was an intense extrovert. I thrived in situations where I was the center of attention, was involved in many social activities and was always enthusiastic about life.
I despised being immobile, was always on the go, and constantly set goals for myself to help pave the way for my future. My determination and motivation in my education was scrupulous. I was in every honors class my school offered and I even graduated high school a year early to start college. I was well-known and had many friends. I would attend parties where marijuana was always around but I never partook in smoking it. My ultimate career goal at the time was criminal justice-related so I didn’t want to be involved with an “illegal drug.”
I, unlike many people with mental health issues, had a wonderful childhood without any traumatic experiences. I had supportive parents that catered to me and loved me to their fullest capacity. I would have the occasional intensive emotional moment and lash out, which I attributed to just being a teenager.
It wasn’t until I turned 17 when I realized that I may actually have something deeper going on inside of me that had been trying to surface for many years. I never told anybody about how I was feeling. Mental health feels like a taboo subject when you are going through it. All you can think about is how insane you think you are and how there’s no possibility that anybody would understand, especially at an age where emotions like this are considered “normal.”
2008 was a rough year for me. I had lost both of my grandparents (who were like secondary parents to me) within 6 months of each other. I was involved in a relationship for years that I committed to whole-heartedly but soon found out was a one-way street and it ended. I felt very alone and began retreating myself from life altogether. During this time, I lost most of my friends, many of whom I’ve never reconnected with. I wouldn’t say that all of these factors caused the demise of my mental health but they all aided in me hitting, what I considered, rock bottom. I’ll admit that I had thought about suicide in immense detail, even though I would have never actually gone through with it.
After realizing that I may not make it out of my teenage years alive if I didn’t get a grasp on what was going on, I decided to go see my family doctor and, low and behold, I was diagnosed with depression. I was prescribed anti-depressants (Prozac) and continued to take them daily for a couple of years. I was getting out of bed more easily and began to have a better outlook on life.
I felt like my depression was improving but something else was going on. I was feeling clinically insane for 23 out of the 24 hours in a day. A slew of uncontrollable emotions would hit me in the most inconvenient moments. One day, I was sitting in a quiet classroom with 30 other people listening to a lecture and I suddenly felt as if my brain was going to explode right out of my head. The walls began closing in on me, my body was trembling and tears were running down my cheeks, even though I felt completely numb. I went out into the hallway and sank down against the wall. What was happening to me?
This demon I’ve become to know as anxiety was beginning to take over.
Fast forward to age 19 when I moved to Chattanooga, TN for a semester of college. I had a roommate that was originally from the area and she invited me to hang out with her and her friends; they were social smokers. Wanting to integrate myself into this area and enjoy my time while I was here, I ultimately gave in and smoked with them.
An article that I read recently, written by Elara Mosquera, discusses a study that was done involving 1500 medical marijuana users who smoked on a daily basis. The results found a 37.6% decline in antidepressant use and a 71.8% decline in anti-anxiety medication use once the users made the switch to marijuana full time (Salud Móvil). Not to mention the decline it had on prescription pain-killers like opiates.
I am very proud to say that I would be included in these percentages of declining use of pharmaceuticals. After a few of weeks of smoking marijuana 2-3 times a day, I quit my antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds cold turkey.
This newfound medication was supplying me with a positive perspective on life and my outlook on living began to change for the better. For the first time in a long time, I was feeling hopeful. Hope is something that is easily forgotten when battling a mental illness. I felt like I had the ability to think about my future again; something I hadn’t been capable of in a very long time. I soon realized that I had found the perfect treatment for depression and anxiety.
I have been an active user of marijuana for almost 6 years now.
The positive effects that marijuana has for me isn’t attributed to the fact that it gets me “high” but focuses more on the long-lasting effects that it has. Marijuana balances me out. It assuages my tension, anger, restlessness, irritability and panicky feelings. Marijuana heightens my interests in various activities and enhances my creativity. Marijuana eases my mind enough to allow me to fall asleep and stay asleep at night. Marijuana provides me with an appetite so that I can finish a whole meal. Marijuana gives me feelings that differentiate from sadness and anxiousness and allows those thoughts in my head to take a back seat. All of these are symptoms of clinical depression and anxiety and marijuana aids me in managing every single one.
Where I come from, marijuana is a stigma. Even though the US has many states beginning to decriminalize and legalize marijuana, my home state of Indiana still has some of the toughest laws against it. It is not as easy to tell this story to people from where I’m from, as it would be to someone from Colorado or California, because it would not be accepted as a legitimate argument.
My goal is to open the minds of the people who still look at marijuana as a criminalized drug. I want them to understand the benefits and safety of marijuana and how much it can help save someone’s life like it did mine.
I am aware that marijuana is not suitable for everyone but that’s why research is necessary before consuming it to familiarize yourself with which strain does what for your body. Some strains do in fact have side effects like paranoia, dullness, and laziness, but that strain may not be for you then. Anyone with a mental health problem that wants to smoke marijuana should focus on sativa’s. These stimulate the mind, increase inspiration and creativity, and allow you to feel balanced within the craziness of your disorder.
The sad reality is that nothing’s going to completely cure a mental illness. We can only do our best to treat it so that it’s manageable during our lifetime.
I am not afraid to stand up as an advocate and say that marijuana saved me.
I’m not sure where I would be without it.