My natural state is depressed and anxious even though I’m an optimistic go-getter at heart. These contradictory sides of my personality tug at my peace of mind on a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute basis. Three things keep me sane: writing, cannabis, and exercise, and in that order. If I had to, I could live without cannabis and exercise though I’d be miserable. If I couldn’t write, I’d be dead.
I was diagnosed clinically depressed at the age of 25 but have never taken prescription drugs to treat my condition. I took Seroxat – prescribed by a psychiatrist – for five days and binned them – against medical advice – because they gave me horrendous headaches if I drank alcohol. When I took them, I felt the same way I did on MDMA. From the first pill, it was clear to me it was a drug, and if I were going to take drugs, I’d take the one I trusted: cannabis.
However, opting to self-medicate meant that I had no support system for my condition, making it more challenging to deal with. Over the next few years I made some really bad decisions that effectively murdered my wellbeing, and propelled me to immigrate to a new country. I was on the run with no idea it wasn’t possible to escape me. It would be another ten years before I’d discover the trauma that underpinned my depression, and another five to learn how to treat it.
Before I learned about how the body holds trauma, I assumed that depression was a head problem, and that if I tried hard enough I could think my way out of it. I read that it was often caused by a refusal to rise up and meet necessary changes in our lives and that fit into my life model. For years, I’d been thinking about taking my writing more seriously but could never do it, and as a result lived most days with an aching emptiness inside. It was when I made the commitment to write that I began to see small changes.
The biggest change writing brought me was a sense of Purpose. As an aspiring novelist with a work-in-progress novel on the go, I had a project bigger than me to propel me through time, and honour me with tiny rewards. It made absolutely no difference to the world at large that I learned the proper use of the conditional tense or how to capture the voice of a given character, but personally it made me shiver with joy. FYI I agree with Flaubert: when the writing flows, it’s better than sex.
Writing sustained me for years. I was never lonely. There was always more to learn, write, and edit. Ask any writer: the work is never-ending. I have no doubt I’ll be writing on my deathbed. That thought is both thrilling and terrifying to me. Thrilling because if I can keep going, what might I achieve? Terrifying because is that all there is: work? More recently I’ve learned that the terror is a godsend. Why? All negative emotions guide us towards what we want and away from what’s hurting us. They helped me realize that all these years I’d been confusing Purpose with Meaning, and my life is still empty. Listen to the controversial psychoanalyst Jordan Peterson talk and you’ll repeatedly hear him mention the importance of Meaning to a fulfilling life.
That sense of purpose sustained me for a period but it wasn’t enough. Two years ago I began working with a healer, and learned I needed to heal the trauma that caused the depression in the first place instead of distracting myself from it. I’d fooled myself into thinking the writing was a reason for my pathetic existence. It’s only through doing trauma work that I realize there is nothing pathetic about my existence. It’s helped realize the trauma is me. Without it, I’d have nothing to say. I might not even have the urge to write.
Cannabis has been fundamental to my healing process. There is no easy way to treat trauma without meeting it head on, and the process is inherently painful. Each person has to find the method that works best for him or her. I was lucky enough to find an online practitioner who uses a system that works for me, and honestly, I’m still working through the program, using cannabis as a support system, the only one I’ve ever known. On this podcast, ex-addict Russell Brand talks about addiction as a holding pen that protects a person from life until they’re ready to confront its pain.
I use cannabis to help me get to a place of questioning, and to ask the difficult questions with compassion instead of criticism. It helps me look at my hay-wired mind from a different angle, and makes me open to new ideas, things I might not readily understand, as well as the experiences and expertise of others. Cannabis softens the blow of remembered pain, letting me hold it without pushing it away, helping me to embrace and learn from it, to trace its path back to abstract sources, and follow its patterns through the course of my life. Cannabis connects me to my body.
To attribute my healing to cannabis alone would be a lie. My approach is holistic, including meditation, nutrition, and exercise as well as a willingness to learn, and forgive. But because cannabis allows my mind to conjure the impossible, I’m ready to rise up and meet the challenge my body was designed for: a life with meaning. It’s made it possible for me to see my trauma in Technicolor and understand its immense value to my ongoing growth. And for that, my freaky friends, I’m eternally grateful.
In future posts, I’ll delve into how cannabis works on your mind, and also explore the importance of identifying and releasing trauma stored in your body.