I felt somewhat concerned sharing this post. Why? Well, at heart you could basically say I’m a prude, and I didn’t want anyone judging me for using medical cannabis; I’ve gotten enough judgement for having bipolar disorder as it is. Then I realized that I have nothing to hide. I am not doing anything illegal, and if I offend anyone with this article, with all due respect, that is not my problem. I also felt encouraged to be honest about trying medical cannabis after I viewed the new series “The Bipolar Panel Project” created by Jared Wilmer, founder of “I Am Not Crazy.org”. One of the panel members said that he uses medical cannabis under his doctor’s supervision, and that it is very helpful in his management of bipolar disorder.
To view the hour-long premiere show, visit the following link:
(Jared’s wonderful organization is: www.Not-Crazy.org and there’s a corresponding Facebook page.)
The pro-cannabis panel member is Bret Bernhoft of www.bretbernhoft.com. Bret is a Web analyst and he’s based in Portland, Oregon. Bret’s online community “Being Bipolar” is a wildly popular resource where those with bipolar can connect, and he creates podcasts as well. I was impressed by Bret’s frank, straightforward manner in discussing his use of cannabis. He made it clear that it really helps him and he’s definitely not a “pothead”. I thought, “Well, if he can announce his personal choice to God knows how many people, I can write about my own experience.”
My anti-cannabis stance began while I was growing up in Los Angeles. My first boyfriend was given the nickname “Stoner” in junior high school. He moved on from pot to harder substances such as cocaine and quaaludes. I witnessed how drug abuse affected him over several years. He had been identified as “gifted and talented” by the L.A. Unified School District, but then his grades failed and he eventually dropped out of school. I blamed pot for leading him to the stronger drugs that basically ruined his life. I know it may seem unfair that I blamed an innocent plant for destroying my boyfriend’s life, but I couldn’t help it.
I also felt that smoking of any kind was evil. I was very close with my grandmother and I observed her horrific, drawn-out death from lung cancer due to her smoking cigarettes. When I was a teenager the only method I knew concerning marijuana use was smoking it.
From that point on, cannabis sativa was non grata in my life. Years later I moved from Los Angeles to one of the cannabis growing epicenters in the world: Santa Cruz, California. College friends of mine partook of pot at every opportunity while I looked and breathed the other way. My buddies regaled me with tales of making $15 an hour just to prep the plant. I wanted to stay away from the whole scene and I did…until last year.
In 2013 during a session with my counselor I changed my mind. I trust my counselor, who has seen me through many crises and is a wonderful person all around. She believes in using both traditional and alternative methods to improve mood. During that hour I told her how anxious I felt and how my insomnia was through the roof. I had overcome a benzodiazepine addiction and I wouldn’t return to Xanax et al., and sleeping medications weren’t helping me much either.
She recommended that I get a prescription for medical cannabis. As soon as I heard her utter those two words I freaked out. Still a prude at heart, it seemed so corrupt to me! But I felt desperate and my desperation changed my attitude. I decided to ask my psychiatrist for a prescription, but since he was a specialist in addiction, I really didn’t think he’d write me one. When he did write it, and he said that he thought it would be fine to try it, I was shocked!
He felt cannabis would be safe for me to try in combination with my bipolar meds. At that point I had a “what the hell” attitude and I thought that since my own doctor was comfortable with my choice, I could feel that way too. I raced off to another medical doctor for an evaluation, which is necessary in the State of California to receive a medical cannabis license. Luckily that went smoothly, although my wallet squeaked at the $80 cost.
I knew I had to find out if the “noble plant” could help me. I was advised by that doctor to try the indica (calming, soothing) form of cannbis, not the sativa. Now where I live there are many medical cannabis dispensaries. One place was five minutes down the road from my home; I had always passed it with a wary glance, and now I was finally entering its forbidden doors.
The staff consisted of two young men who were twenty years younger than me. I was suspicious of their knowledge, but it turns out that they knew a great deal of solid, scientific facts. I told them I needed something for anxiety and insomnia. They advised me to start off not with inhaling the actual plant substance, but with a tincture containing active ingredients so I bought a tincture by the local company Forest Nymph Botanicals. The costly tincture helped improve my anxiety in a subtle way, but not with my insomnia.
I returned to my dispensary and this time I purchased cannabis in potent capsule form by KIND, a reputable company. The KIND pure indica capsules helped my insomnia a great deal and I was impressed. The cost, however, was extremely high and I looked for a more affordable, long-term option. I moved on to edible forms of cannabis, which was very dangerous for me, because there were so many chocolate products. Since I’m a chocolate and sugar junkie, I blew lots of money on cannabis-filled gourmet brownies, decadent chocolate bars, and designer cookies until I finally cooled it.
I realized that I had a very high resistance to the active elements in those yummies, so I didn’t feel anything except for the one time I ate an entire brownie. ‘TTwas foolish, foolish, move…I know. (Most people are only supposed to try one or two bites!) I had a major panic attack and I vowed never to make that dumb mistake again!
After meeting with the dispensary staff yet again, I invested in a $70 vaporizer pen by e-Joy, and I bought a cartridge to use with it that cost $30. A vaporizer pen is basically a smoking device that leaves behind all of the harmful effects that are associated with the combustion and burning process of smoking. These devices produce pure vapor without having to inhale any of the other toxins It didn’t really work well for me, so I resorted to the old-fashioned way of smoking it.
I felt that I couldn’t “do it right” and my burning lungs, coughing and tears were not pleasant. I splurged on another bottle of KIND caps to help with the insomnia, and they didn’t work as well as before. I have no idea why that was, and my psychiatrist wasn’t sure either. He had previously prescribed Seroquel to me to use for severe insomnia and I didn’t want to use it. I had an aversion to it because I had tried it in the past and it didn’t help me.
When I had two nights of little sleep, I was in terrible shape. I took 100 mg of Seroquel and it worked completely – I was relieved and thankful. It also helped to lift my depression! Since then, as much as I hate to take yet another psych med, I’ve been taking Seroquel on a regular basis. I am no longer anti-cannabis by any means. I know there are so many strains grown which genuinely help people with different maladies. The plant can transform a hellish existence into a decent or good quality of life. I could have experimented a lot more with these various strains and perhaps find something that could help my insomnia…that takes work, money and patience.
Most people with bipolar disorder are aware how critical sleep is for stability. I’m incredibly sensitive to even one night’s sleep loss. I’m may return to trying out different cannabis strains to help with my daytime anxiety, as Seroquel makes me tired and I only will use it at bedtime. In the meantime, it has been interesting to discover a world of medical cannabis lore in which this natural medicine is taken seriously as a viable healing option.