MY NAME IS NATALIE AND I’M 25 YEARS OLD. I’ve struggled with mental health issues since middle school. It’s been a very taxing journey physically, mentally, and emotionally. At times, I’ve been on the brink of giving up. Living with a mental health issue makes life so much more complex, and every day tasks can seem impossible. It wasn’t until my adult life that I was able to find relief. I’ve been using medicinal cannabis for the past 1½ years, and words cannot describe the impact it’s had on my life. My first suicide attempt was at the age of 13. Preceding this, I had been experiencing depression and suicidal ideation, and engaging in self-harm as a way to cope. That attempt landed me in a psychiatric facility in Winnipeg, Manitoba. While in hospital, I was introduced to different therapeutic programs and acquired new coping strategies, and while they were quite informative, they were not effective for me at the time. My mental health continued to decline after leaving the hospital, and I began to experience other psychiatric symptoms such as anxiety and insomnia. Later, in my teenage years, I developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from a traumatic sexual assault. This led my mental health in a further downward spiral, and I began to self-medicate with illicit drugs and alcohol as a way to cope. By this point, it was difficult for me to be sociable, stay focused in school, and to maintain my relationships with friends and family. I also dealt with constant anxiety, which led to many panic attacks and flashbacks. To date, I have seen school counselors, community mental health workers, therapists, doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists. I’ve been involved in many in-patient programs, as well as out-patient therapy programs. Throughout the years, I have been prescribed a long list of medications, consisting of a variety of antidepressants, antianxiety medications, sleeping pills and ADHD medications. I spent almost a decade going through the trial and error process of different medications, with the combinations of a variety of therapies. It was frustrating because I wasn’t seeing any progress with my mental health state, and I started to lose all hope of feeling normal. In 2014, I started my own research into medical cannabis and its use for the treatment of mental health conditions. Most of the information that I found was from online sources, as well as other people’s personal accounts of how medical cannabis had worked for them. I brought it up with my psychologist, and she helped refer me to the proper channels for obtaining a medical cannabis license. I was surprised by how difficult the process was to find a prescribing doctor. Finally, I was able to get a referral to one of the only prescribing doctors in my province. In Manitoba, obtaining access to a doctor that will prescribe cannabis has been extremely hard. It continues to be a struggle for those who are suffering here. After doing research on the licensed producers (LPs) in Canada, I decided to go with Tilray as my medical cannabis producer. Throughout the first few months of my cannabis use, I had already started to notice a difference, and so did my psychologist. I was able to relax and open up more throughout my intense PTSD therapy sessions. This therapy involved working with the psychologist to replay the traumatic experiences, in order to accept and move forward from those events. Before starting medicinal cannabis, I was unable process these events. My therapy was at a stand still due to my flashbacks and high anxiety. I felt little progress was being made. After just the first couple months of using medical cannabis, I felt a switch in my therapy sessions. I would smoke cannabis before my meetings with the psychologist. I experienced less anxiety and for the first time ever, I was able to acknowledge the events that had let to my PTSD. This breakthrough in my therapy gave me hope that I could finally start to feel better. Now, one and a half years after starting medical cannabis, I can finally say with confidence that I am a happy and hopeful person. I no longer take any pharmaceutical medications, I have a permanent full-time federal government job, I am involved with many national and international charities, I have returned to church, I’ve become active, motivated and I have even lost weight. I have become a medical cannabis activist and have helped to inform many people who are suffering on the option of cannabis. I wake up each day happy and this is something that in the past I never dreamed was possible. Cannabis has changed my life; cannabis has saved my life. Anyone who knew me in the past, as well as now in the present, has also noticed the change. I am a different person, as well as a better person, because of my cannabis use. Yes, I also credit a lot of my success to my psychologist. Without her, I wouldn’t have worked through my deepest and darkest issues. Her understanding and support of the addition of cannabis along with my therapy was one of the reasons my end result was so successful. There are so many people with mental health issues that are suffering across our country and across the world. Some are hiding their use of cannabis because they fear discrimination from not only their peers, but also their doctors, psychologists, counselors, etc. If I did not find a psychologist who was accepting of cannabis, then I truly believe that I might not even be here today, or I can say with confidence that I would not have the quality of life that I currently do. If I can stress one point in this article, it would be that cannabis is a valid option for the treatment of mental illness. I am a living example of the benefit that cannabis can bring to someone suffering their darkest days. I am living in such positivity, happiness and hopefulness. We cannot continue to deny patients the chance to live happy and healthy lives.
Have you ever tried to explain the medicinal values of cannabis to someone who does ... Read more