Keep Calm and Carry On: My Life with Anxiety
Anxiety is a feeling of nervousness, worry, or fear that helps you cope with an event or situation. It’s a completely normal response to stress, but when it affects your everyday life, it can be disabling.
My anxiety began in my early twenties and at first seemed manageable, but over time it worsened and progressed into general anxiety, social anxiety, panic attacks, as well as depression and mood swings. A healthy level of anxiety helps me feel motivated and focused, however, too much anxiety causes me to feel like I am paralyzed. Sometimes my anxiety will cause me to focus on a particular thing – work, health, social life, or often a simple decision I have to make. Other times my anxiety hits for no reason, but it’s just as overwhelming and all-consuming. As much as I want to improve my situation and feel less anxious, the opposite will happen, and I become overwhelmed. It’s a toxic cycle: my thoughts become my worries and my worries become my thoughts. Anxiety has caused me to avoid having friendships, relationships, jobs, attending school and social events. It has left me with little self-confidence and feeling like I am not in control of my own life. Sometimes my anxiety will manifest itself physically; making it feel like it’s hard to breathe, increasing my heart rate, constant muscle tension, or tying my stomach up in painful knots that won’t go away. Other times, it is entirely mental and completely consumes my thoughts and behaviors.
Over the course of 15 years, I have been diagnosed with multiple disorders including generalized anxiety disorder, depression, panic disorder, ADHD, and mood disorder. As my symptoms changed and evolved, so did my medications. I have been on a range of different psychiatric medications and have also self-medicated with alcohol and marijuana, which only made things worse. After years of trying different medications with varying results, I decided I wanted to slowly discontinue all my medications or at least decrease the dosage as much as possible, as the side effects and dependence on the medications was something I was tired of dealing with. When medical marijuana became a therapeutic choice for me, I thought it was too good to be true. I have only been a patient for a month, so it is too early to say how effective the treatment will be in the long term, but having another “tool in my toolbox” to manage my symptoms is a significant benefit to me when it comes to treatment options.
I don’t believe medical marijuana will be the magic “cure” for my anxiety, but if used responsibly, I am confident it will improve my quality of life. I am finding that it has allowed me to further decrease the amount of medication that I take, specifically benzodiazepines. This alone is a huge improvement. There are other treatment alternatives such as therapy, exercise, and meditation that could also help tremendously. I hope to continue to try these different options as well to find what is most effective for me. Managing and treating anxiety has been a journey and I think for me, it’s a journey that will probably continue for the rest of my life. There is no one answer for how to cure anxiety, but by using all the options that are available to me including medical cannabis, I am hopeful I will be able to continue decreasing the severity of my anxiety and live a happier, healthier life.
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