Living with Anxiety
Over the years. I’ve blogged about my history of PTSD, levels of anxiety and how this interferes with all aspects of my life. I’ve had years of therapy, had the usual rounds of the long term prescribed meds for anxiety, came off them because they didn’t seem to be working, white knuckled through as I grinned and beared it and used alcohol to help relax me.
After a recent trip to the ER because of stress induced arrhythmia, and a next day visit to see the crisis nurse – I was given a prescription of lorazepam to help me with my acute levels of stress induced anxiety.
This was my first time using this highly addictive benzodiazepine, and thankfully so – because of my history with alcohol addiction!
The effects of this tiny sublingual pill was life altering!
For the first time that I can remember, my mind stopped. My body relaxed. I was in another zone – the peaceful and relaxed zone! My incessant undercurrent of fear perpetuating irrational, fear based thoughts was all but gone, and if any did appear, I could actually regulate and rationalize them away! I could easily incorporate all the anxiety management tools I know of to regulate my fear-based, irrational thoughts.
Is Highly Addictive
And I understand why! Lorazepam was an easy go-to, quick fix to make uncomfortable feelings immediately go away. The minute something stressed me out, I popped a lorazepam under my tongue and I was instantly relaxed and calm.
After a week of a single 1mg pill in the afternoon, afternoons being when I struggled the most with my thoughts, I soon noticed 1mg wasn’t as effective and upped it to 2mg. Then added another 1mg in the evening….see the pattern! My tolerance to this pharmaceutical was rising at an exponential rate.
I wanted off the drug, but needed a replacement, something to help me manage my increased anxiety levels! I did not want to return to Effexor or any other typical prescribed medication for anxiety. It was when a fellow blogger, Joyful Change with Yvonne, read my below mentioned blog, and suggested I try CBD as a way of managing anxiety. I had heard of CBD, and this suggestion made me take a second look and inquire into this alternative treatment for anxiety.
CBD – Cannabidiol
CBD is one of the active ingredients in cannabis, also known as marijuana. It contains minuscule amounts of THC, the ingredient in marijuana that gets you high. One of CBD’s main applications is to help reduce anxiety.
With over-the counter marijuana now legal, and government regulated in Canada; I was easily able to purchase CBD caplets here in Campbell River, British Columbia. As well, I called my doctor here in Campbell River and he submitted a referral to a medicinal marijuana clinic in Courtenay, to receive a prescription of CBD and doctor support while taking it.
This referral and a phone-call conference (because of COVID-19) with the doctor from the clinic took about a week to happen. It was during this week that I started taking over-the-counter CBD, and played around for a dosage that seemed to work for me.
Over-the-Counter Purchase Vs Medical Prescription Purchase
My experience of buying over-the-counter is that I am responsible for knowing what type and combination of CBD and THC suits my individual needs. I am responsible to find my own daily dosage, as staff are not “pharmacists” and don’t really discuss how much will work for you – because the results are so subjective.
The products don’t come with instructional use or daily dosage minimums or maximums. The product labels tell you what type of cannabis it is, and how much CBD and THC is in the product. The rest is up to you. You have to find your “sweet spot” and what method of taking CBD works best for you, meaning oil or tablets or dried flowers or gummies.
Talking to a doctor specific to dispensing medicinal marijuana means I have a medical intake by a nurse and an at length discussion with a doctor about how anxiety manifests for me. The doctor and I discuss what will work for me; and she recommends a product and daily dosage amount. The doctor then writes a prescription for medicinal marijuana, equaled to a three month supply of the recommended dosage and frequency. I set up an account with their Canadian licensed cannabis distribution company. Once my prescription from the doctor is received by this company, the company sends me an email to complete the final steps of registering my account. Now it is time to shop! I go to the product section of their website, pick my desired products, pay for it, then it is mailed directly to me!
If I have any questions or concerns, I have the company as a resource and the medical staff at the clinic.
I also have a prescription that I can submit as a claim to my medical benefits, to help cover the cost.
CBD has been as effective as lorazepam. However, it does take about 40 minutes to start noticing the calming effects. Side effects told to me by the nurse at the clinic are gastric in nature: nausea and loose stool. I’m about two weeks into using CBD, and I’m starting to notice the gastro side-effects, especially when I take CBD on an empty stomach. Other symptoms I’ve experienced are the “munchies” that have now transitioned to a decrease in appetite; and lethargy. According to most of the information on the Internet about CBD side effects, the most common ones are lethargy, diarrhea, weight changes, and changes in appetite – either an increase of a decrease.
I’m recording my energy and productivity levels in the afternoons, to look for a pattern.
I’m in Control
I’m still adjusting to using CBD and finding my “sweet spot.” Yes, the doctor recommended a dosage and frequency, but I have the freedom to find what works for me.
That is what I like about CBD – I’m in control of what works for me – instead of the yo-yo rollercoaster ride of trial and error while finding the right dosage of mainstream pharmaceuticals for anxiety. CBD is much more gentle, not as hard on the head as Effexor was.
I like that I have a doctor for guidance and support for CBD, but in the end – I find what works for me.
My husband has noticed a significant improvement in my mood. Simply stated, I’m much easier to be around now, because I’m not constantly worried about something. I’m much more present, instead of distracted and ruminating on my thoughts.
I’m more loving and rational.
I’m able to “keep it together” when emotions run high. I’m not reactive, and as I mentioned earlier – I can implement strategies I know all too well, but struggled to use because my anxiety levels were so high.
I feel more comfortable in my skin, relaxed. Calm. My focus is sharper. I’m able to feel excited about future plans, rather than be distracted by worry because of so many unknowns.
I feel safer about my life and life in general. Because that is what anxiety is, isn’t it – irrational fear.
I’m much more relaxed on needing to have control of situations and outcomes. Because I’m not filled with fear, perpetuating my need to control an outcome.
Stops Overthinking & Taking Things Personally
One of the most amazing side effects is my ability to be more observant not only of myself, but of others – because I’m not in my head – controlled by my fear-based thoughts – overthinking EVERYTHING! I have the ability to be more compassionate, present and aware of the reality of someone else’s emotional state – because I’m not jumping to fear-based conclusions and taking everything personally.
I wrote the below blog a few years ago, because I truly noticed how anxiety gets in the way of personal connection:
Move at a Bob Marley Speed
There is another side – my energy level – especially in the afternoons – is slower. Everything about me moves slower, when my dosing is higher, to handle when my anxiety is higher – in the afternoons.
I still get stuff done, I just move at a chilled out pace.
My motivation isn’t lower, my incessant need to get everything done now has dissipated. When I feel the afternoon tiredness overwhelm me, I can more easily stop, and take a self-care break. As mentioned, I’m recording my energy and productivity levels in the afternoons – to find a pattern.
CBD and Exercise
I was worried that this new, relaxed me would lose my energetic edge to run and continue upkeep and training for my goal of running a half-marathon in October.
I admit that my desire to exercise has waned some, as it was my go-to in the mornings to manage anxiety. But, I’m also still adjusting to the product and am working hard during the day landscaping as part of home renovations. So, there are a mixture of variables that have delayed my exercise routine.
I recently set a new goal, to train for the next four weeks, to take a day and run along the Old Island Highway, from Campbell River towards Courtenay. The distance is about 40km. A half marathon is about 22 km. I will run for as long as I can, then message my husband Michael to come pick me up – because I won’t be running back!
Will I Ever Be Able to Control Anxiety Without Medicinal Help?
The greatest gift of CBD is my ability to feel more “present”, “grounded” and “safe” in my life.
Something, long-term, I feel I can never do on my own. I know, telling myself this means it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
But for now:
Meditation, using the Calm App, helps in the moment.
Running and exercise helps for a few hours.
Hot baths help at the end of the day – after I’ve physically exhausted myself after a day of lawn landscaping.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy – how I talk to myself – because thoughts create anxiety – is almost impossible without medicinal help – because I don’t believe it. I know all the cognitive distortions – and the scripted replies. It doesn’t really help, unless I’m medicated, and calm enough to rationalize through the cognitive distortions with the appropriate, scripted replies subjective to my issue.
I also believe that anxiety isn’t always thought-based. CBT therapists would disagree with me – but, I truly believe that having PTSD has somehow hard-wired me to have constant fear simmering beneath. I also believe there is a genetic component to anxiety as well.
For me, right now, to be without worry for an entire day without medicinal help, is just not possible. Anxiety always appears, as a constant fear simmering in me – just below the surface – waiting to latch on to something to worry about.
I practice enough self-care, that I know I need the additional medicinal help to lower my anxiety levels, to be able to successfully practice all the emotional-regulation, mindfulness and cognitive distortion tools I have in my self-care tool box!
And I’m okay with that.