Chronic Illness Medical Cannabis Personal Essay

For breakfast I had eggs with a side of panic disorder

This morning, while making my eggs, I had a panic attack. Heart racing, palms sweating, breath uneasy. Breakfast seems simple enough; toast the bread, scramble the eggs, butter the toast, peel the orange. So why the panic? Well you see I forgot to scramble my eggs before I turned on the frying pan. Yep, that's it, that's the whole story.

Panic disorder is not logical, to my body the sense of impending doom is just as real as if there were a rabid tiger in the room with me. To a person without anxiety this might seem extreme but I bet those who understand are smiling. The truth of the matter is, cooking almost always gives me anxiety - I deal with this on a daily basis.

In my work, I see a lot of discussion online about whether cannabis helps or hurts anxiety related issues. The truth of the matter is, it can be both - or neither. In my advocacy I have learned that it is ok to talk about the drawbacks of medical cannabis. There has not been a single medication that I use daily that has not come with side effects. This is the nature of illness.

When I started using medical cannabis daily to manage a different condition, I noticed my anxiety increase. My most noticeable memory of this was a giant, overwhelming food festival in Toronto. Crowds are like kryptonite to me, but I didn't know this yet. I also didn't know much about strains, tolerance, or really how cannabis affected me.

I have had panic attacks in crowds before but never high. The sensory inputs were overwhelming and I did my best to pretend everything was normal. Thank goodness for apps like Strainprint, I knew what I had consumed, and how much, so I could log that negative experience to ensure it wouldn't happen again.

After a long process of trial and error, I have developed a medicating regime that doesn't aggravate my anxiety. In fact, after years of being a medical cannabis patient, I have been able to better manage my anxiety and panic attacks overall. Days like today are so rare now that I can barely remember when I last had one like it.

There is still quite the learning curve to being a medical cannabis patient. Frankly, this is true of any new treatment. Luckily, in a legalized world, there is a ton of information out there on cannabis and anxiety. I can only speak to my experience, so if you looking for more information on cannabis and anxiety, I recommend the following reads as a place to start.

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