By Beccy Gardham
Edited by Gemma Phelan
Although my initial reaction at being asked to writing a testimonial might have been ‘oh, goodness’ I am nonetheless in the fortunate position of writing about a true passion, that is, how using cannabis has eased the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. Far from holding cannabis responsible for my disorder I would go so far as to say that it has saved my life by preventing me from committing suicide on more than one occasion.
Bipolar disorder is something that I can’t really ever remember not having. Even as a young child I would experience rapid mood swings and was by all accounts very difficult! However, there were other problems compounding any difficulties I was already facing. My father was an untreated bipolar sufferer and as a result drank heavily, in an attempt to self medicate. The rest of his family were the same so it became normal and almost accepted. He was prone to being very violent both to my mother and I, which continued until I left home at eighteen Having been also sexually abused by a family friend., Arguably if I wasn’t born with a mental health problem I was going to develop at least one whether I liked it or not!
However to cut a long and incredibly clichéd and done to death story short; I met my husband in 2006 and have cherished nearly seven abuse free years.
Now I feel I can continue without having to give unsubstantiated claims and hopefully have gone some way to proving cannabis did not make me mentally ill!
To date I have been diagnosed with: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Emotionally Unstable Personality traits, and substance misuse ‘issues’. Okay that last bit is not unfounded, I did use a lot of other drugs. In fact, it may be quicker to give you a list of the ones I haven’t tried. However I do not feel that cannabis is an addiction and I have been known to go without it with no withdrawal symptoms.
There are mental health drugs available. None of them are very nice and to date I have had around sixteen different prescriptions, none of which were even a reasonable option in terms of efficacy. However I have smoked cannabis regularly for over 20 years. and fpr me there is no better medication. A nice sativa works wonders for my depressed mind it gets me up and out of bed and also works a treat for the anxiety that goes with it. Indica is great for sleep. If I feel hypo-manic there is nothing better than a nice heavy smoke to just make the eyelids heavy. Many doctors disagree and state that medication is the key. Why is using cannabis – a plant seen as profane? When did giving out toxic medications become normalised?
Although I have to keep taking toxic medications. Why? Prohibition. I can’t afford to medicate effectively. However without cannabis at all I require 800mg of Lithium and 800mg of Quetiapine to function at all. With a small amount of cannabis I only need 100mg of Quetiapine at night to help me sleep. So in many respects it works in many more ways for me than just helping bipolar disorder.
I wouldn’t be here if it was not for this plant. I really know that. People argue that it can act as a dissociative. Yes sometimes it is that for me but sometimes that is what I need. When the video reel of bad memories and physical feelings starts sometimes I need that. However, medicating with illicit cannabis leaves the patient unable to access specific strains. This means that you don’t know what you’re getting until you’ve smoked it. It can be unpleasant smoking high grade ‘trippy’ skunk when you’re already feeling a bit wobbly. However it works better than nothing at all. It is certainly preferable to the awful anethatising effects of mental health medication. I really hope the day will come when I can walk into a shop and say: ‘I’m feeling slightly hypo-manic, can you suggest a strain?’ I happen to like my liver and kidneys and at the age of 33 they aren’t feeling so good! People who take mental health medication on average can die 10-20 years younger than their non medicated counterparts. Yet this plant is illegal, A plant that helps me engage with the world and cope with it.
I am now at university as an undergraduate student studying sociology. My grades are first class. I have friendships and am close to my mum and sister. I may have a psychotic disorder but I can cope. I don’t have to feel huge and swollen and puffy and sweaty because of the side effects of pharmaceutical medication. I can have sex with my husband without flashbacks. I can support others. I can survive. I really don’t feel that would have been possible without cannabis. My only regret about smoking it is the fact that it is illegal. Hopefully one day someone will come to power who is willing to listen. Until then and despite prohibition I will continue to medicate as and when I can and enjoy those moments of sanity that I hold so dear.
NORML UK would like to thank Beccy for sharing her very personal cannabis success story.