Cement

I gave birth to my daughter in January 2015. She was the most beautiful, little creature I had ever seen. You often read and hear from other mothers how the birth of your child is unsurpassingly poignant. How, in that moment, the emotions you experience are incomprehensible. Unlike my preconceived expectations, a disquieting feeling swallowed me whole in those first few moments of her life.

As someone who has struggled with generalized anxiety for the better part of my adult life, I recognized that I felt more negative emotions than positive. I was well-informed about the baby blues phenomenon and had assumed I was in the deep end of it. During the routine post-natal doctor appointment, I expressed my concerns around post-natal depression with my pre-existing anxiety. I was instructed to give it a couple weeks and if I wasn’t feeling any better to make another appointment. Two weeks later I was feeling worse than before, so I made another appointment. The next doctor echoed the first and I was instructed to “give it time.” At this point, I had little to no emotional restraint and began sobbing in the office. He tried to comfort me as best as he could in my ten-minute time slot, and said that maybe I should see one of the main doctors at the practice. So I waited. It was another two weeks until I saw the third doctor.

For those that have been lucky enough to not have a personal relationship with depression or chronic anxiety, allow me to attempt a metaphor that does it justice. Each waking moment feels as though you must trudge though waist-high wet concrete. I saw doctor number three the following week. I was prescribed an anti-depressant, anti-anxiety and sleeping pills. I left the office that day feeling optimistic that there was finally a light at the end of the tunnel and it came to me in a socially accepted method – prescription pills.

The prescribed medication caused additional, unwanted side effects. After being on the antidepressant for six weeks, I turned into an emotionless robot, going through my days in a haze. The cement I would tread through throughout my day was still there but now covered in a thick fog where it was difficult to feel any emotions – good or bad. The anti-anxiety medication numbed my emotional state but also my physical state which impacted my completing normal activities. Often it would feel as if I had bathed in superglue; it became difficult to move and my body desired as little movement as possible; not an easy task with an energetic six-month-old baby girl to care for. The scariest feeling occurred after taking the sleeping pills. It had an unbelievably dangerous amnesiac effect. If I didn’t immediately fall asleep, I would do things around the house and have absolutely no recollection of the event taking place. I could have hour long conversations with people and have absolutely no memory of it ever happening. I thought that these medications were supposed to make the feeling of walking through cement go away? Instead they compounded onto one another. All the while caring for a brand-new, beautiful, innocent human being whose entire existence depended on me.

With the passing days and weeks, my desire to survive drastically diminished. My depression was so severe that it consumed my existence. My life was no longer measured by time; time is a foreign concept to someone with depression. The sun would still rise and set, regardless of how I felt. That was when I realized that if I were to take my own life, the sun would still rise every morning and set every night. My daughter would continue to blossom into an insightful and brilliant little girl.  I felt that my only option was to pacify these thoughts from my waking moments until the sleeping pills would allow me to slip into the delightful bliss of unconsciousness. My daily survival method manifested in several forms; I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and I spent money that I didn’t have. All of these had long-term, detrimental effects on my livelihood and I knew that, even then, but it didn’t matter, these were vital to my survival.

I received a letter five months after my appointment, informing me I had an intake appointment with a psychotherapist. For the first time in six months, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I hoped that therapy was the long-term solution to my problem. Before the appointment even began, the psychotherapist told me that this was just an intake assessment, and that actual treatment may not be available for up to 10 months. That light at the end of the tunnel instantly turned into a black hole and sucked all the hope out of me and into nothingness.

When my daughter was 10 months old, we travelled to my hometown – a stereotypical, small mid-western town in the USA. While staying with my brother, he introduced me to a vaporizer and I’ll forever be grateful, because it saved my life. I had used Cannabis recreationally in the past, but never with any intent other than to “get high.” After that first night of using Cannabis, I was a changed woman. Yes, the high was enjoyable, but the most noticeable impact was the 12-24 hours afterwards. I woke the next morning feeling as if someone had replaced my batteries. I also realized that I had not taken my sleeping pill the previous night, so I woke clear headed and full of energy. It was like the easy-going, happy and fun me had returned.

The deep, wet cement was still looming, but seemed to be steadily sinking. My thoughts, although still negative at times, became clearer, and not as fatalistic as they once were.  It has been nearly a year now, and I finally feel as though my life is back on track. I am so thankful that Cannabis has helped me through what was quite possibly the darkest period of my life. Although I get angry that this mental illness robbed me of thoroughly enjoying the first year of my daughter’s life, I’m optimistic that through the help of Cannabis, therapy and yoga I will be able to enjoy the rest of my daughter’s life.