Anxiety, Cannabis, Depression, Menopause, Mental Health, Women's Health

Can Cannabis Help with My Mental illness?

So cannabis is finally legal in Canada. YAY! October 17th was a big day for us – as a forward-thinking nation, of course – but also for many of us with mental illness looking to either subsidize our pharma products with cannabis, or replace them altogether.

My doctor wasn’t ready to make that assertion nor was she ready to refer me to someone who would. Thusly, I took the matter into my own hands, doing my own research on cannabis as a treatment option for people with mental illness. And to be completely honest, legalization notwithstanding, I have been experimenting with various strains of cannabis and documenting my experiences.

If you’ve read a few of my blogs you’ll know that I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression in 2000, but have memories of dealing with anxiety and panic from around the time I entered puberty. Since 2000, I have been on two different prescriptions – both SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), both effective for a time. I consider myself one of the lucky ones – I’ve only had to use two… some sufferers are on veritable cocktails of pharma medications.

Since the onset of perimenopause three years ago, I’ve been all over the map with my symptoms. Most recently (the past 9 months), I have really been struggling with anxiety to the point where for the third time since 2000, I was put on a new medication – this time, an SNRI (Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors). (As an aside, I was also diagnosed with pre-hypertension and prescribed a low-dose medication for it). While this new SNRI medication has helped a great deal with the anxiety, it has caused two notable side effects; brain-zaps and exacerbated tinnitus (ringing/whooshing in the ears – which I’ve had my whole life but would only hear if it was either very quiet, or after being subjected to very loud noise e.g. a concert). The tinnitus is now loud and constant and the brain-zaps are happening several times a day (where before they would happen maybe once a month). NOT GOOD! Also noticed but unconfirmed by my doctor as being related (though I believe it is), my blood pressure is even higher despite the medication that was supposed to help lower it! Both tinnitus and hypertension (high blood pressure) are listed as possible side-effects of SRNIs.

My fear when changing medications again was that I would be faced with the very thing that has happened – side-effects that require further exploration (referral to an ENT (Ear/Nose/Throat) doctor – which could take months – to ensure there is nothing mechanically wrong with my ears) and even worse, more medications – I was told to double the hypertension medication! Neither of these will help the brain-zaps at all.

And so, I’ve come full circle back to the question – might cannabis help me with my mental illness? This last doctor’s visit has solidified my resolve to continue my exploration with cannabis to treat my anxiety (as a first step). Against my doctor’s recommendation, I am going to ween myself off the SNRIs and back onto the SSRIs (my baseline, before side effects). I am not willing to wait for an ENT to tell me that yes, I have tinnitus and no, there is nothing mechanical going on.  I do NOT want to double the hypertension medication that was supposed to reduce my high blood pressure.

It is my long-range goal/hope that maybe I can ween myself off of all of it. That’s lofty given the last time I went off my medications without a doctor’s supervision I ended up in a deep depression that lasted months. Then again – cannabis wasn’t really an option then. It is now. And the best part is that, since legalization, I can now do it out in the open without having to suffer the villainization that cannabis has suffered in the past.

If you are looking to start your exploration into cannabis, try the Strainprint app. I have found it an invaluable source for researching ailments, symptoms and strains, as well as tracking my sessions with cannabis. Strainprint is available in the Google Playstore as well as the App Store. Thank you Humble & Fred Radio for recommending this app and for all the great cannabis-related content you’ve provided.

Mental Health

It’s Mental Illness Awareness Week in Canada – Many Still Suffer in Silence


The difference in awareness of mental illness now as compared to even three years ago is astounding. Social media helps a great deal in spreading awareness. I follow several mental health-related handles on Twitter, including CAMH, Elephant in the Room, and Mental Health Platform, to name a few. They have been and continue to be great sources of not only information but comfort as well.

Why comfort? Because there is nothing like knowing that you’re not alone – that others are suffering, just like you.

Many of us who suffer from mental illness suffer in silence.

I was no different. While I have been writing about mental illness for several years (though few people knew about it), taking the step to vocalizing it was a whole new nest of bees. Of course, I had told my immediate family and some very close friends, but I had never gone beyond that – specifically, I had never told a colleague.

Several years ago, one particular colleague and I struck up a rather good work friendship. We would bitch about, and purge our work-related woes to each other (as work friends often do), finding that we had a lot in common. I keenly recognized her to be a high-functioning depressive, like me. I had begun to trust her, but still, I just wasn’t sure how she would react and, even more concerning, if she would keep my confidence.

One day, while walking back from getting an afternoon coffee, and in reference to some of the things we had been discussing, I took a deep breath and calmly stated, “I suffer from chronic depression.” We stopped walking, and she looked at me. This was it: the moment of truth.

We stood for another ten minutes while I shared with her my history of mental illness, both depression, and anxiety. And then something remarkable happened. My work friend shared some of her journey too. Not as much as I had, but that was okay. It was a start.

When we got back to our desks, she thanked me for opening up to her. I took a big step that day, and in some small way, I believe I helped her. It made us closer, and while she has since gone her way and I’ve gone mine, I still think ever so fondly of her and that indelible moment.

It was a risk. I understood it then, and I understand it to this day. You have to read the situation and trust your gut. Since that day, I have shared my mental illness journey with quite a few people, and it becomes easier each time.

Let’s keep the conversation going!

Depression, Mental Health, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

My Brain Chemistry Knew Before I Did

I am currently semi-retired from over thirty-five years in the corporate world. As such, the days tend to (blissfully) run into each other. Friday is no longer the anchor tethering me to sanity and the term “long weekend” means little more than an extra day when family and friends may be available to socialize. As such, I often ask my husband what day of the week it is and have to consult a calendar to learn the exact date.

Having said that, the first day of fall – the actual first day of fall (here in southern Ontario); September 22nd – came and went unnoticed until my brother mentioned it.

And then it clicked!

For several days prior, I had been feeling low… melancholy… yes, depressed. It was like my body already knew – shortened days, grayer skies, more frequent rains, colder temps. While in my semi-retired-induced date oblivion, my brain chemistry discerned the subtle changes in the environment that in my case, lead to those low, melancholy, depressed days/weeks/months of the Canadian winter.

Oh boy. I mean – I knew it was coming… of course, I knew. Winter is coming (shameless Game of Thrones reference) has a whole new meaning when it comes to people with depression. Given I’ve worked full-time for the past 35+ years, I’ve more-or-less been calendar-locked. I knew exactly what the date was and what it could/may mean, and so, in ways, would go about doing my depression-readying “homework” to prepare myself. But this was the first time it snuck up on me, and I find myself more than a little behind the eight ball.

There was one positive that came out of this – it gave the blah feelings I was/am having (for no apparent reason) some credibility. You see, part of the self-stigma attached to depression and anxiety is that you feel you’re faking it. You know better, of course, but still. There’s always that devil on your shoulder screaming “FAKER!” at you.

Ok – so, now for the depression-readying “homework”:

Anxiety, Depression, Mental Health

Anxiety Sufferers – KNOW THYSELF!

My journey with anxiety disorder has been a long one. The first anxiety attack (I can remember) occurred when I was around age 10. I woke up in the pre-dawn hours scared out of my wits. Pounding heart, sweaty palms, and rapid breathing through clenched teeth. I crept through the quiet house, opened the front door and sat on the step where I waited for these odd, scary-as-shit symptoms to abate – some very long minutes later.

I assumed it was a nightmare.

While on a school trip in grade eleven, the same thing happened after just having fallen asleep. In a panic, I went to my teacher’s room, explained what was happening and pleaded for help. This time, it wasn’t mere minutes before the symptoms abated, this time it was four long hours. To his credit, my teacher held my hand the entire time – wondering aloud with me, calming me, supporting me.

The entire eleventh grade assumed I was high or drunk.

It wasn’t until years later, after dozens of similarly terrifying episodes, that I learned I had anxiety disorder – a diagnosis that came at the same time as my chronic depression.

I was so relieved to know that I wasn’t going crazy! All those years I had battled the invisible yet oh-so-visceral imaginary demons on my own. Now, the demons had a name and finally, I would get help.

Help for bothanxiety and depression in the form of a tiny pill, talk-therapy (CBT or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and over the long haul, acute self-awareness. And this is the key to continued healing. KNOW THYSELF! Learn to recognize the signs indicative of a depression downturn. Know when your otherwise managed anxiety is evolving – changing its demon mask, sneaking up on you in a different form (different symptoms). SEEK HELP IMMEDIATELY! And whatever you do, do NOT let the demons win!

We are so much stronger than we give ourselves credit for.


Depression, Mental Health

With chronic #depression, you gotta keep trying

So yah, I’ve got chronic depression. Have had for almost 20 years (diagnosed). It truly sucks! Motivation is impossible! Trying to do any one thing when you’re depressed is near impossible, when depression is at its worst. How to describe it to a “normal” person: It’s like you’re trying to exist with a really heavy blanket wrapped around you. Not just draped over your shoulders, either. This heavy blanket is wrapped around your head, your arms, legs, torso. It has such a tight grip that moving (that’s the motivation part) is near impossible.

The thing is – and every depressive knows this – when you do manage to move (in a meaningful way; not just rolling over in bed, or getting up to go to the bathroom), the heavy blanket loosens ever so slightly. Enough to move some more? If you’re lucky… or maybe if the sun is shining that day. The more you move, the more gaps you can tease out of the blanket. It’s still there – boy, is it ever! But there’s some wiggle room.

And that’s when I walk my dog. Up until then, I’m practicing the art of convincing myself – talking myself into something I don’t really want to do (motivation’s a fucker, remember?).

I should walk the dog.

The dog really needs a walk.

I need to get up off my ass and walk the dog!

You’ll feel so much better after you walk the dog.

Sometimes I win this thought-battle, sometimes not. Sometimes the walk even motivates more activity. And sometimes, it’s about the only thing I can manage before collapsing under the weight of the blanket again.

They call is chronic depression because it’s persistent. It’s always there, to one degree or another. You just gotta keep trying!


Surviving Depression – Managing your New Year’s expectations

Oh, the promise of a new year. It can be intoxicating. That thought of putting all the crap from the prior year behind you and beginning anew. You make resolutions, promises to self and those around you. You raise a fist in the air. “This is MY year!” “This year is going to be awesome!” “This year I’m going to be happy!”

By FrameAngel, courtesy of
By FrameAngel, courtesy of

All good. Definitely things to work towards. But for the depressed person, despite the daily wellness we wish and strive for, the daily wellness that others take for granted, we are at the mercy of our illness. To steal a quote from a movie, we are “at the whim of a madman!”

For some of us, our resolutions sound quite different. “This year, my depression won’t own me.” “This year, I’ll try to be happy… I really will try.” “This year, I’ll try not to hurt myself.”

I implore you to reach out for support. It can be as simple as following a depression support handle on Twitter to reading a depression blog online to joining a support group at your local church or community centre. If you haven’t already, seek medical advice and while lacking motivation is a key and often debilitating symptom of depression – be your own wellness advocate. If one doctor doesn’t work, find another. Insist on the appropriate referrals. Read up on your illness and take charge. Take it from someone who knows, someone who has been on the proverbial ledge deciding whether to die or live, depression can be managed. There is light in your seemingly pitch black tunnel.

Here are a few coping tips for managing your New Year’s expectations:

  1. Do NOT make resolutions! Make small, daily goals that are realistic and attainable for you.
  2. Understand that you are sick, not weak! Seek support. Be your own wellness advocate.
  3. Laughter is cathartic! Watch funny movies, television and funny animal videos on YouTube.
  4. Get some exercise (I am really bad at this one). Exercise is proven to help every kind of ailment.
  5. Know yourself and your triggers. A depressive cycle may be avoided by steering clear of those situations that trigger them.

New Year’s eve can be especially difficult for a lot of people, especially those with depression. Reach out. You are not alone.

Depression, Menopause, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Surviving Depression – The Dark Months Begin

It’s been about 4 weeks now since the clocks were changed for daylight savings. It’s dark in the morning when I leave my house for work and it’s dark in the evening when I leave work to go home. For a person with depression, knowing that this is just the start of the dark months, is a truly daunting prospect.

I’ve lived a great many Canadian winters. Having just turned 50, I’m facing my 50th winter. As a person with chronic depression, I’ve also been diagnosed with SAD (seasonal affective disorder). It’s all part of the same chronic disorder, if you ask me. Chronic depression is merely heightened during the dark months. I’m also perimenopausal so I’m at an even greater risk of letting the darkness swallow me up. I must be cautious, and very aware of my symptoms. Depression symptoms can come on very quickly. I’ll be doing fine (well, “fine” for me) and then BAM, ignored symptoms will knock me off my feet.

So, I have a dark months checklist:

  1. Take vitamin D.
  2. Use my SAD lamp (see video below).
  3. Avoid oversleeping.
  4. Try (try) to get some exercise.
  5. Practice gratitude at least once a day.
  6. Go easy on myself.

It’s a short list. But so important. Especially that last one.

My husband laughed at me today because when I come downstairs in the morning, I open all the window blinds. He prefers to keep them shut. His reasoning – it’s so grey and ugly outside, why would I want to see that? My response? Simple. I need to see the daylight.

Anxiety, Depression

Surviving Depression – Help a Friend

I am recovering from depression. What I mean by this is that my chronic depression is well managed and provided I stay on my medication, I will remain in recovery.

Having had three major depressive episodes over the past thirteen year, I’m in a very unique position. I have lived through deep depression, gotten very close to committing suicide… and survived. In having survived, I feel blessed because I am now able to help a dear friend. She too suffers from depression.

This friend of mine is a “work” friend. Though we’ve known each other for over five years, likely suffering side-by-side in shameful silence, it wasn’t until about a year ago where I said the words out loud.

“I suffer from depression.”

It was part of my talk therapy, really. Talking about my depression. Which is hard enough with family and close friends but to admit to a work friend that you have depression can be daunting and scary and in some cases, career limiting.

But, as soon as I said it, I could see a calm, knowing look in her eyes. She has depression too. Finally, it was out there. Finally, we could talk about it.

The thing about being friends with people at work – you know when they’re off “sick” for a few days in a row. In my friend’s case, this has been a repeating pattern every few months or so – a pattern I know only too well having lived it myself. To her credit, my friend called me during the last absence and asked me for advice. She hadn’t done this before.

I openly shared my experiences with her and was happy to do so. It felt good to be able to help someone who is suffering as I have, though I wish the circumstances were different.

Recovering from Depression? Help a Friend.
By hin255, courtesy of

I have, and likely always will have, chronic depression. It can be really tough, particularly in the long, cold months of winter. But I survive. Day after day, night after night, I survive. As the months and years of my life fly by, I survive. If every 1 depression survivor, reached out and helped another person suffering with depression… and then they helped someone… and then they helped someone… we could build a tremendous web of support and love.

It doesn’t take much. Just reach out…