Hi! I’m Vickie and I have PTSD with the dominant symptom being anxiety. I am a 32 year old mother of 7 pit bulls who has an absolutely amazing boyfriend that is able to put up with all of us.
I decided to write this on this early Sunday morning, because I see so many people who are ignorant in the positive aspects of my chosen medication. I see how this ignorance is hindering research into how marijuana can really benefit people. (I was thinking of citing a bunch of research and articles to help this entry, but instead I think that I will share my personal experience. I’m hoping that hearing my story will help a non-believer see that it is more than “getting high” and being a “stoner” and that responsible patients are functioning members of society.)
Let’s start at the beginning of all my issues…..
As a child I as abused in many different forms. Sexual, physical, mental, emotional, you name it and it probably happened. From being told I was unwanted and useless to being hit and molested; it really did a number on me. Especially coming from my father; the man I was supposed to be able to look up to and be protected by, was the monster I needed protection from.
I buried myself in my schoolwork. That was my escape. (I also thought that if I did well in school and activities, that I would be able to prove my worth and it would end the abuse.) I made honor roll semester after semester, I was a pretty good musician and mastered flute and saxophone (and in high school played in the marching band, jazz band and orchestra all at the same time), and, while I was just barely decent at sports, I was on the swimming and track teams.
Still, I wasn’t good enough.
I started to see therapists in high school. While I grudgingly went to talk therapy sessions, the subject of meds kept popping up. I finally caved and figured since these people were doctors, they knew what they were doing. (This was the mid 90’s and before the internet is what it is today)
Prozac came first. Within an hour of taking the capsules, I would be throwing up then super jittery. Not to mention MAJOR mood swings. Following doctor’s orders, I kept taking them thinking the side effects would eventually go away. 6 months later, I had to stop Prozac because the side effects were worse than my condition.
Paxil was next. The side effects were the complete opposite. (The nausea was still there.) I could not stay awake on this one. When I was awake, the panic attacks were ruthless. I couldn’t get an appetite for anything. I switched to taking them before bed, but I was still always so tired and the panic attacks were still there.
Next, came Wellbutrin. Nausea, panic attacks, some days were awake days, some days were can’t wake up even if the house was on fire, add in severe paranoia and even more severe mood swings. Two weeks on this one was enough for my gut instinct to tell me it wasn’t good for me.
At this point, I was around 15 years old. The doctors I was seeing told me they wanted to try yet a stronger drug, Lithium. At this point, I refused (to my mom’s horror) and told them that I wanted a fix not a band aid. When I was told that this was their standard course of action, to rely mostly on medication with a back up of therapy, I walked out of the office never to return.
(A very good friend of mine was on lithium for her bi-polar disorder and after hearing all her horror stories how it only made her worse, when it was offered to me I knew they were past the scope of their capabilities to treat me.)
I began learning to cope on my own. By this time I had my own car and license and the permission of my mom to stay at a friend’s house after school until Mom was home from work. (She didn’t know about the previous sexual abuse at this point. Only the hitting. She believed the main reason I wanted to stay away was because of my father’s methamphetamine addiction.)
While everything at home was a nightmare, at this point in my life I had an amazing core group of friends. People who still to this day care about how I’m doing and check in on me. While everyone else our age were out screwing around and getting drunk. We would sit in RR’s room and play video games. They would go out and smoke some weed in the backyard. I would sit with them while they did but I wasn’t interested in it. (Even though the smell has always been pleasant to me.)
Then one day, when everyone was busy except myself and RR, we had been playing video games as usual. He went to go have a smoke break, as usual. I went outside with him, as usual.
(Side note: to this day RR still doesn’t know the scope of what I went through. I never told anyone back then. But him being my closest friend at the time, he knew me better than I knew myself.)
It had been just a bad day in general; high anxiety, father had left for work slamming doors and throwing things, and the weight of having to go home was messing with my head.
RR started asking what was up; he could feel my tension. So I told him the morning’s events and said how tired I was having to deal with that. I was already a cigarette smoker, so I lit a cigarette to help ease the fear. RR handed me the blunt and said this might help more. Based on the trust I had in him and the fact we were alone and no one would see me if I acted stupid, I took exactly one hit.
Within a minute, I could literally feel the tension leave my shoulders and back. As it kicked in more, I felt a peace of mind that I don’t think I had ever felt before in my whole life. I felt my heart slow down from its ever-growing pace. I think I even said out loud, “So this is what it’s like to feel normal.” At that moment, I was able to forget for a while.
(This is where the doubters are probably going to say that this is where addiction starts. They may be right. But, please keep reading, I’ll get to REAL addictions soon.)
Eventually, my time of peace had to come to an end because I had to return to my house aka my hell. While it was less painful to go home, I now had thoughts of, “OMG! I just took an illegal drug. Does this make me a druggie? WTF did I just do?” Those thoughts went away quickly as I did my homework, made and ate dinner and then went to bed early.
After that day, I’d partake in the smoke breaks every once in a while. Mostly when life was weighing the most heavy on me. My grades stayed on honor roll status, I graduated on time with a 3.5 gpa, and kept a job through all of this.
After graduation is when life finally decided to take a turn for the worst. Mom finally left my father after I was finally able to tell her about the sexual abuse and we moved into my grandpa’s. I started dating a guy that turned out to be a whole other level of monster than my dad was.
Unknown to me, my new “love” was a methamphetamine addict. I guess I didn’t notice the strange behaviors because I was used to them with my father. Eventually I moved in with him and his family and that’s when my world turned upside down.
After a couple of weeks, I started not being able to sleep; it was like I had just drank a bunch of coffee all the time. Then it happened: I caught him putting drugs in my soda. I screamed and yelled at him and tried to leave. I was in the car about to start the engine when he ran out of the house with a knife and slashed all four tires. I hadn’t locked the door and he pulled me out of the car by my hair and dragged me into the house. I got beat so bad. My eyes were swollen, my nose bleeding and he locked me in the back shed for a couple days with no phone or anything. I was brought food by his sister. The drinks were drugged but after day 3 I had no willpower to refuse the food.
When I was finally “freed” from that shed, I was so broken I thought I deserved all of that. I shouldn’t have made him mad. Shouldn’t have yelled. In hindsight, I realize at this point I was addicted to methamphetamine. He kept me locked in the room (at least there was heat) and continued to feed me the drugs.
After a couple weeks of my mom not hearing from me. She came over, saw my tires slashed, and tried to take me home. At this point, my mind was too screwed up to realize this was my way out. I had started willingly using methamphetamine to appease the monster I was living with. I lived there for almost 3 years before I finally got away.
I was recovering, with a few setbacks on the way, but I was getting better. I tried therapy, again. They recommended the antidepressants, again. So I tried them, again.
This therapist had told me that the drugs they had me on as a teenager were probably producing the opposite effect than intended because of my age. She told me how my brain wasn’t “old” enough for them to give the desired effect. (Imagine my rage hearing this) She asked if I’d be willing to give Prozac and Paxil another shot. (At different times, of course.) I agreed and had the same effects as before but this time I recognized the side effects gave me the same sensations as the methamphetamine. The only difference in side effects this time around was the addition of flashbacks to my addiction and abuse.
So, after more disappointment with “organized medicine,” I went to San Francisco and saw a doctor who approved me for medical marijuana. The look of horror when I spoke of all the drugs they experimented with on me was all the confirmation I needed to know my gut instincts were right. Her history in child psychology made me trust her when she told me that the previous doctors should have never put me on those drugs at that age. She told me that trying those drugs at that stage in my brain development could have done more harm than good.
Fast forward to 2013. Medical marijuana was working wonders for me. I finally was back to myself. I have an amazing relationship, my own home, and a good life. I felt that I was mentally and physically ready to get back into the workforce. The only problem: no one wanted to hire me because of my choice of medicine.
So, I went back to a “regular” (non pot) doctor to see more options. This doctor recommended Amitriptyline (Elavil). She told me she’s write the prescription and for me to look it up before I decided to take it. All the side effects etc were different than the other drugs I had tried, so I gave it a chance.
After two weeks, my heart was racing, my flashbacks were more frequent and stronger, my mood swings were terrible and I had a psoriasis-looking rash that was spreading down my arms, chest and appearing on my face. When I went back to the doctor, the doctor who prescribed it was no longer working in the clinic and her replacement said that my concerns on the side effects were unfounded and probably just stress. I went home and did more research and that’s when I found countless class action lawsuits against the maker of the drug because of the harm it can cause. I immediately gave up my search for a legal replacement for my medicine.
I know a lot of people make assumptions about me because of my medicine. I’m lazy, unmotivated, unwilling to work, ignorant, and a criminal drug addict. I am the exact opposite though. I want to contribute to society. I am a strong member of the neighborhood watch and have stopped quite a few of the real criminals from stealing my neighbor’s belongings. When I first told the neighbors I’m closest to my choice of medicine and that if the smell ever bothered them to let me know and I’d do my best to accommodate them, everyone was kinda shocked that I medicated with marijuana. “You’re so active and never seem stoned.” That’s the most common reply. That and their acceptance means the world to me.
It’s not about getting stoned to me. It’s about finding my own peace in life. I really think that after all my experiences with the chemicals in antidepressants, that they do not help, but instead keep you in the cycles of mental illness. Some doctors don’t do what is right but what will line their pockets fastest and most continuously.