weed

Comorbidity – Anxiety and Depression  

It’s no secret that anxiety and depression often, although not necessarily, go hand in hand.  That is why the same treatment is given for anxiety and depression, and why your anti-anxiety meds are anti-depressants as well.

For me, there have been periods where anxiety has led to my feeling depressed or down.  But on the whole, I was aware that a majority of what bothered me was anxiety, and not really depression.

Caveat I: I’ve used medication (either meds or marijuana) for a majority of the time I’ve had anxiety.

Caveat II: I currently take Klonopin on, more or less, a daily basis.  But to me there feels like a fundamental difference between panic medication, taken as needed, and anti-anxiety/anti-depressant mood alterers.  One feels like I’m still me, but with an outlet for when I start losing my s#%t.  The latter is more like…not being me at all.

As I’ve discussed, I’ve recently stopped smoking weed and I was planning on replacing that with meds.  Lexapro to be exact.  But I’ve held out so far.  In spite of my last post, in which I tried to convince myself to disregard the stigma of Big Pharma (Prozac Nation, etc.), I can’t seem to shake it.

The results have been underwhelming.  No miraculous turnaround here.  In fact, I most certainly feel more depressed than I can remember.  

Maybe it’s sort of stepping out of the cloud…clearing out the weeds, so to speak.  Like reentering the world has this sobering effect, and my senses remain totally blunted.  OK…I’ll stop.

The painful truth is that it just hasn’t been easy.  There are a plethora of uncomfortable, unwanted, and unwelcome emotions to deal with.  I’ve been more introspective, less social, less energetic, and straight-up less happy.  More depressed.  Period.  The struggle is real.  But at least it’s that.  I’m not running at the moment, for what that’s worth.

I’m hoping group therapy will help deal with things as they arise.

I’m hoping that, as I gain clarity, I’ll be able to set some other areas of my life straight.  

I know that, while this is two steps back, maybe it’ll be several forward.  

Maybe this is an addiction blog at the moment.  Maybe it’s a rehab blog.  I’m hoping it won’t stay that way.

Not smoking weed is hard, but smoking it hasn’t been the solution either.  If I go on meds (at the moment I think I ultimately will), I don’t consider it a fail.  Although, in an ideal world, I – and probably anyone facing the option – would prefer to manage without.

The therapist says get on Lexapro if and when I’m ready.  I’m still not.

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Replacing Weed With Drugs (Part I)

The other day, somebody asked me: “What’s the longest period you’ve gone without smoking weed?”

I wasn’t sure. Not shockingly, my memory can be a bit….hazy these days. The past six years, I think two weeks may be the longest stretch I’ve gone without it. Certainly, I don’t recall a period significantly longer than that. The question sorta drove home the point that I have become entirely too dependent on the stuff.

So I’ve given it up entirely. The weed card is expired. The remaining stash being kept in trust by my best friends. All access denied. Last weekend was one of the first weekends I can remember that I didn’t smoke at all. This will be my second.

I had a realization too: My dependence on weed began when I stopped psychological medication for social anxiety.

I hate the stigma attached with meds. Meds are Big Pharma. Meds are a crutch. Seems like half the U.S. is on something…symptoms of a society that’s led itself astray. They’re unnatural. To be turned to as an absolute last resort.

Weed, on the other hand, is counterculture. It’s the hippies…and free love…and art…and expression. Weed is cool. Artists, musicians, the trend setters – they all blaze it up. Chronic, kush, purple haze….It’s SEXY.

John Mayer wonders: “who says I can’t get stoned? Turn off the lights and the telephone…” Nobody. The answer is – Nobody. Nobody says that. So you can sit home. Blaze it up. And there you’ll be.

For a long time now, I thought I was just another stoner – and not in any way unhappy or concerned about it. It was enhancing my life. Loosening my tight ass up a bit. Allowing me mental liberation like I’d never come close to experiencing prior.

But I’m not just a guy that likes weed. I’m not John Mayer. I’m not Snoop Dog…Or Lion…Or whatever. I’m a person with social anxiety.

NEXT UP: Replacing Weed With Drugs (Part II)

A Sweet, Illusory Escape (Part II) – The Turnaround

This year I have made a pledge to myself.  This way of escaping isn’t working for me.  It may for you.  And if it does, by all means, light it up.  But, after years of wishfully denying that reality, I have realized that facing life with anxiety, by escaping with weed, won’t work for me.

 

There may be a time, when I’m in a different place, that I can return to those glorious green buds.  Maybe if I use it in a limited fashion, I can incorporate it in my life.  But for now, it’s out.  Perhaps an occasional puff with friends, but having my own and using it daily is far too detrimental.

 

The rebound is too powerful.  The other side of the relaxation of a night stoned is the next day’s anxiety, which manifests more as a panic than as a general unease.  That feeling is more powerful, and I find it more detrimental to my well-being.

 

The upsides are numerous.  While weed relaxes me, it obviously makes me cloudy.  The cloud distracts the anxiety, and usually I won’t sweat at all.  Interestingly, if I do sweat, the secondary anxiety about others noticing doesn’t seem to be there, apparently also because of the anxiety.  As I’ve mentioned previously, this is proof, to me, that I don’t have a sweating issue, but an anxiety disorder.

 

With some additional anxiety, but without the cloud, I can focus on how to live a more productive life.  I can put more attention into the things in my life that add meaning, like this blog.  Letting go of weed is the primary reason I’m back posting here.  I also don’t experience nearly the same amount of panic.  Without the feeling of dependence, I’m more at ease knowing that, even if anxious, I am facing my life’s challenges.

 

I must admit I am using other substances to manage the anxiety, hopefully temporarily.  I take a small amount of Klonopin each day to reduce the feelings of panic I often experience.  I’m aware this too is a dependence, but I feel it’s necessary for the time-being.  More critically, Klonopin doesn’t undermine my mental acuity and my focus on the directions in which I want to take my life, and it allows me to build confidence that I can face anxiety without blowing my mind into a cloudy confusion.

 

Other people with anxiety have told me they can’t handle marijuana.  The high itself creates an anxiety avalanche.  But I also firmly believe there are many potsmokers out there that, whether they’re aware of it or not, are self-medicating with weed.  I’d caution against that tact.  The initial benefits can quickly turn on you, and the problem you’ve attempted to remedy is then far worse.

 

Next time:  Working Your Way Through It – Sweating on the Job

A Sweet, Illusory Escape – Cannabis (Part I)

Escape is an elusive sanctuary.  I can see it in a dream.  A safe place.  One to unwind, anxiety-less.  A long trip to the bathroom, alone in the stall for just a brief period in the midst of an overly-chaotic day. The calm in the eye of the storm.  I do this at work a lot (keep that between us).

To people with anxiety – with anxious sweating – the oppressive thought is that these feelings recycle. I may end a day feeling great about myself, satisfied with the way I handled some tough situations, and actually entirely relaxed.  Sometimes I think that end-of-the-stressful-day-relaxation is my body essentially running out of anxiety.  One quick look at the tank: “Anxiety on empty!”  Fantastic.  What a wonderful reprieve.

But it’s temporal.  The thought that of the next day – waking up with a re-awakening of anxiety, with a whole new set of anxiety-provoking challenges to come, more streams of sweat to pour out – that can be exhausting and, frankly, depressing over time.  Often that’s where escape comes in.  Some manner or way to distract our anxiety-obsessed minds.  These can be healthy, or unhealthy, and it’s by no means black and white.  The same escape may be destructive to some, while productive to others.

Escape comes in many forms.  “Avoidance” would be the psychological parlance.

I’ve been MIA.  I apologize.  I started this blog, and then….I escaped.  And avoided.  My primary form of escape is, and has been for years, what is now one of the most lucrative industries in the U.S.  Some have called it the modern-day “gold rush.”  Only green, not gold.

Cannabis has reached its tipping point.  At the time of my writing this entry, 23 states have legalized it, for medicinal and/or recreational purposes.  My state led the charge, but has limited legalization to those with “medical” reasons.

That said, it’s easier to get a marijuana card in California than it is to get high at a Phish concert.  You go through about a 30 minute wait at a “Doctor’s” office, mention that you suffer from: (a) migraines (b) anxiety (c) stomach aches (d) insomnia (e) weed addiction!  That’s a joke. But anything really will fly.  You pay $30-$60 for an annual card, and you’re set.  Able to purchase the best, most potent weed on the planet anytime you see one of those neon green crosses impossible for any pothead to ignore.  A toddler could do it.

My experience with weed has been mixed, but ultimately negative. I joined the weed-game relatively late, I’d imagine.  I really took to it during graduate school, when I found myself in a pressure-packed environment, where performance was of-the-essence, and my anxiety was kicking.  At the end of rough period, a small doobie did the trick like nothing else.

At the time, I managed to separate my life – my personalities – in two.  I was a duality.  Together, focused, organized, albeit anxiety-ridden around peers throughout the school week.  I was thereby able to manage interpersonal relationships, coming off professionally and put-together, all the while with a undercurrent of anxiety boiling up inside.

The outlet was the weekend.  The time with friends, and with my girlfriend at the time.  And those times couldn’t happen without weed.  It was the distraction that set my mind-straight.  In my head, that was me.  That was the true me.  I was funny, and bold, and not preoccupied with things that might happen.  Worries about how I came off to others were disregarded, and I got the distinct impression that it was precisely those times that I came off best.  Maybe I did.

Over time, as with all relationships, cannabis and I had a rift.  The occasional weekend escape had become a regularity.  What had began as the exception, was now the rule.  Dependency was the result, and I found rebounding the next day increasingly difficult, causing fits of anxiety and bouts of panic.  Like an astronaut returning to gravity, coming back to my anxious reality each morning could leave me weak in the knees.

Often, I’d handle the adjustment with a morning joint to stunt the inner-chatter.  But, of course, that simply propagated the problem further.  Eventually, inevitably, you have to come out of that cloud.  And while in it, it was simply not very possible to handle all of the other things life demanded, and move my life forward productively.  The day became a wait for the smoke of the evening, and everything truly was a bit of a cloudy confusion.  If I couldn’t figure an alternative, I was basically resigning myself to being a burnout.

Next Time: Part II – The Turnaround