Cannabis and Depression: Why this means something to me.
For most of my life I have experienced dark “spells”. It’s a major depressive disorder, but when I was younger I didn’t know that.
The spells would always start with me fixating on a single thought, like a scratch on a record. My eyes go foggy, seeing and not seeing. As the thought repeats, again and again, I physically feel a weight draping over my body, like a weighted blanket.
The weight is pain. It’s crying, screaming, rage. But it’s silent. It occurs only in my head, and while it’s going on I remain unchanged from the outside.
She appears composed, so she is, I suppose
Who can really tell?
She shows no emotion at all
Stares into space like a dead china doll
It could be triggered by nothing and everything. Coming out of nowhere and stopping me dead in my tracks. Like a headache, if I caught it early enough, I could sometimes keep it from getting too bad. But other times it would be too much to bear.
I was raised to think that therapy and psychiatry is ridiculous and totally unacceptable. Depression was a choice, a lazy, selfish choice. But in my heart, I never believed it. I always knew that me feeling this way was wrong, and not normal. I wanted so badly to talk to someone, but my throat closed up at the thought of telling anyone, anything.
I was sexually assaulted more than once in my childhood. I never told my parents and I never asked anyone for help. So there’s that.
It’s ok, it’s all right, nothing’s wrong
When you overreact to a child’s “mistakes” you create an adult who will conceal their mistakes above all else. When someone feels they must hide all of their faults, sad things can happen.
Understand this, when a child undergoes trauma there are changes in the brain, development stalls, coping mechanisms form and the stage is ready for mental illness to set in. That’s REALITY, so whatever anyone tells you about mental health not being a thing, feel free to tell them to fuck themselves. Our brain is a computer that feels, and when you fuck it up in pre production a lot can go wrong.
In my adult life, I was finally able to get educated and seek treatment. Welbutrin and Zoloft obliterated my anxiety attacks and balanced my moods. One on one therapy gave me a HUGE sense of self-awareness that I am so thankful to have today. It taught me the skills necessary to make informed decisions instead of letting my emotions and coping mechanisms dictate my life’s direction.
But. Even then I would have the spells.
Times when I would lay in my bed, completely immobile, silent tears falling from the corners of my eyes. I would think about suicide like it was a normal daydream to have. My children were very young then, thank goodness, so they never really saw me going through this. I’m sure their dad told them I was napping, he is a good dad.
But I was drowning.
The music of Elliott Smith gets pulled out when I want to connect with that version of myself. The lost one. The depressed one. The one that always wants to die. Why would I want to connect with that version of myself? Because it’s gone. Cannabis got rid of it completely, and I’m so used to spells of sadness that I have to allow myself to go back there occasionally.
The sequence at the top of this page is from Wes Anderson’s wonderful film The Royal Tenenbaums. In it, Luke Wilson’s character shaves his face and head, bald like a baby, and then cuts his wrists. He’s killing himself because he believes he is a failure in all aspects of life. It is sad. And over the scene plays Elliott Smith’s beautiful Needle in the Hay.
Smith’s brief life produced songs about severe addiction, severe depression, thick with allusions to abuse and suicide. In his most well-known song, Waltz no. 2 (XO) he sings about his mother and stepfather:
It’s ok, it’s all right, nothing’s wrong
Tell Mr. Man with impossible plans to just leave me alone
In the place where I make no mistakes
In the place where I have what it takes
Never gonna know you now, but I’m gonna love you anyhow
This song is so moving to me because he is telling his mom that despite the distance and the pain between them, he will love her.
But then at age 34, he killed himself. Finished the story.
I started using cannabis in 2012, and the difference between now and then is that suicide is not something I dwell on anymore.
But I know that feeling.
I can’t not remember what it feels like to want to die, even as your perfect children are laughing and cooing beside you. I know what it is to be locked alone with a voice telling you that they’d be better off without you. To be filled with shame for existing, breathing air, taking up space.
I don’t have those feelings anymore. Today it overwhelms me to think about what that loss would do to my children. You know. Sensible thoughts.
Cannabis saves people in so many ways, and many of us have ailments that are invisible. To find something natural like cannabis, that eases deep suffering, but being unable to share it, express it, talk about it, feel normal about it, is WRONG.
That’s why I get so upset when people are rude about my cannabis use and the fact that I’m a mom. What I know and what outsiders do not understand, is that my kids deserve a mother that is joyful, who loves being alive, who models self-awareness and deep empathy for others.
Not a mother unable to ask for help.
… a captive of memory.
I’m so glad that my memory’s remote
Because I’m doing just fine,
hour to hour, note to note
If it takes having a mom that smokes pot to have a mom that is truly there for her kids, mind, body, and spirit, well so fucking be it. I think the kids are gonna be just fine.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline