Call me a stoner. Call me a weed freak. Call me a burnout, a loser, a hippie, a pothead. Call me a deadbeat, irresponsible parent. Call me a drug addict (though marijuana is generally non-addictive). Call me whatever you want — I don’t care.
Because I finally found a drug that always works for my anxiety, depression, and insomnia. It calms me down from panic attacks. It lifts my mood when I’m really bad off. And at night, just a little bit of it makes sure that I fall asleep when my head hits the pillow, instead of lying awake for hours. I have nothing to be ashamed of — as an adult or as a parent. Especially as a parent. Because this drug cuts through my illness to help me be my best self. That drug goes by the name cannabis, and it’s been a miracle for me.
I know you’re imagining the sketchy transactions of your college years. You had a dealer with a lot of blacklight posters and a python; you had to smoke him up before you could leave with the goods. I’m a 34-year-old woman with three kids, and that’s not how I roll.
I get my cannabis from a state where it’s legal through means best left unmentioned (it is still illegal to mail, and in my state, illegal to possess). And I’m not procuring the ditch weed of your misspent youth. This is genetically modified, immaculately bred, medical marijuana. Its genealogy is better documented than mine. And it’s been bred for specific traits: as a mood stabilizer and enhancer, as a soporific. The part that leaves you snarfing chocolate-chip cookies and finding the deeper meaning in Scooby-Doo has mostly been bred out.
I don’t buy the messy loose-leaf form. I use a clean, neat vape pen to deliver the goods, which I mostly only smoke at night, just before bed. I shut my bedroom door. My kids are asleep. Our fan is always running, and the vape pen has almost no smell. I’m not blowing pot smoke in my kids’ faces or toking up while they play blocks on the floor. In fact, they have no idea I smoke. Why would they? I’ll tell them when they’re older, but until then, I just put the pen up where they won’t find it.
Sometimes I need to use it in the middle of the day. I had a panic attack the other afternoon over something related to work. It wasn’t a big deal, but my fight-or-flight response thought it was a very fucking big deal, thank you very much. I was crying. I was breathing hard. So I slipped out, picked up my pen, and took a hit.
Two minutes later: relief. Everything shifted into perspective. I could breathe. I stopped crying. I realized what had upset me was just some small inconvenience. Cannabis works almost like a magic pill for my anxiety. I could return to the company of my family — not weeping now — and functionally parent because one hit isn’t going to make me stoned. It just makes Play-Doh a little more fun.
Of course, I have two other (prescribed) pills I could have popped for my panic attack. Both would have eventually calmed me down, though not to the degree the cannabis did. The first pill, Xanax, would have taken 15 minutes to work, but would have left me still anxious. The second, Klonopin, would have taken a full half-hour (of weeping, fist-clenching terror) to work. Neither drug would have totally taken away my fear, and they would have removed me from functional parenting for at least 15 minutes. Even after they kicked in, I would have been left with some flutters in my stomach. I’d have probably chewed my cuticles or bitten my lips.
Cannabis works 100% in two minutes. And I go with what works.
Since I started taking a hit before bed, I’ve noticed that not only has my insomnia disappeared, my depression has also receded as well. Sure, I take other prescription drugs for that too, but they’ve never quite hit on the combination to sweep the darkness from all of the corners. I still thought about dying sometimes. I still felt extraneous, a waste. Then gradually, I felt…better. I thought less about driving my car off a bridge. I felt more like an important member of my family and less like an odd appendage. It took me a long time to connect it to the pot — until I ran out unexpectedly, couldn’t get more for a little while, and started feeling intermittently miserable again.
When I got more, those bad feelings went away. It works better than any antidepressant I’ve ever taken.
I’m not some High Times NORML pot activist. Yes, I think it should be legal, but I’m not down there in the capital city holding a sign and chanting “Legalize it!” or whatever pot activists chant. I fucking hate Phish and The Grateful Dead. My house contains no black-light posters, or flowy skirts, or anything hemp that isn’t the drug itself. (And that’s not to say that any of those things are bad, so chill. They are not bad — this is to illustrate the point that not all pot smokers fit the stereotype that society has thrust upon us.)
Instead, my house looks a lot like yours: toys scattered everywhere, dishes in the sink, book bags and sneakers tossed by the door. There are too many Barbies and too many Legos, and I can never decide what to make for dinner. My house just happens to have a mama who gets depressed, and anxious, and suffers from insomnia. And who treats that all with pot.
If I didn’t tell you, you’d have no idea. I’m not driving around high or talking about the cosmos. I’m just an average mom who uses a cannabis vape pen to treat her mental illness. Call me whatever you want though. I’m over the stigma. This green stuff works, and I’m going to keep on smoking it.