No kid ever expects to grow up and an be a pothead. If you grow up like I did, with parents who had expectations for your success, a pothead is the last thing you expect to become. I was a decent student when I wanted to be, despite the ADHD I didn’t know I had, and the psychological stressors of growing up in a physically, mentally and emotionally abusive home.
People like to say kids are resilient, and that’s true. Kids are resilient. Kids will adapt to whatever environment they’re raised in, because they don’t know any different. The problem is, resilient kids don’t always grow into functional adults. The behaviors you learn to survive your abusive environment won’t help you out in the real world. (At least not the legal one.) The asshole triggering your rage or defensiveness at work isn’t the one who’s going to get fired if you can’t control your temper.
But if you live in the United States of America, there’s a good chance you can’t afford therapy, and even if you can, it’s tough to find one who’s a good fit. If you grew up in an abusive home, like millions of Americans have, there’s a great chance you don’t even know you’re suffering from a very real, very serious mental condition: PTSD. For long-term abuse at home, the condition is now known as CPTSD — complex post-traumatic stress disorder — because trauma that is ongoing over most of your life is different than coming home from a war zone. When your home is the war zone, the damage is deep and debilitating and difficult to treat. You might think of yourself as “moody” or joke about having “anger issues,” but really, it isn’t funny. It’ll be incredibly not funny if you snap and hurt someone else, or shorten your own life because of any number of stress-related illnesses.
Over the last thirty years, I’ve been on most of the antidepressants and one of the mood stabilizers, which helped me limp along in life, until I hit a brick wall, of sorts. The medications could mediate some symptoms, but left too many untreated. Eventually I burned out on trying to hold myself together. I’d always assumed if I could figure out a correct diagnosis, somehow my life would improve. But a diagnosis of CPTSD can mean a lifetime of battling depression, anxiety, shame, self-hatred and rage.
So, at the age of 45, I turned back to a drug I hadn’t used since college: Marijuana. Now I, like millions of Americans, am a functional pothead.
Perhaps the most important thing weed does for me that no antidepressant or mood stabilizer can is to make me comfortable to be in my own skin. Marijuana helps me remain calm and neutral in situations that would otherwise be “triggering.” Somehow, being high allows me to both feel appropriate empathy for others, while also dulling my “fight-or-flight” reaction. It also (usually) makes me less likely to argue with people online. Weed makes me want to block out the world and write. Weed helps me be kinder to myself and accept the fact that I’m okay just as I am, even though I’m unable to hold down a “regular” career in an office environment. It helps me connect more with my husband and my kid.
It’s hard to explain — but for me anyway — weed helps on several levels and with several conditions, whereas prescription meds tend to be more narrow and specific in their focus, and frankly, they weren’t enough.
Does that mean marijuana a fix-all for my CPTSD? Nope. I still struggle. But it’s become an invaluable tool in homegrown therapeutic toolbox for managing my symptoms: exercise, diet, time outdoors, writing and weed.