Saturday, September 26, 2015

Anxiety, Depression and Insomnia

In the years since my divorce and even a bit before, I've suffered bouts of anxiety and depression which in turn have lead me to periods of insomnia. With some cognitive behavioral therapy, and even some medications, I've learned to lessen my anxiety and depression, if only just a bit. Yet, the insomnia is still a frequent visitor. Especially when the anxiety and/or depression return. Or something else is running through my mind.

I've tried many remedies; lavender essential oil on my pillow, counting sheep or something else to distract my mind, focusing on my breath, white noise apps, Xanax, avoiding alcohol and caffeine at night, stretching, meditation, and Melatonin. I can fall asleep, but usually wake up anywhere from one to three hours later, and then can't get back to sleep.

Sometimes the remedies help and sometimes they don't. I'm not sure what brings it on and off, except maybe stress. A recent difficult period with a friend set it off, and when the friend and I stepped away from each other, the insomnia left. The friend has returned to my life, things have improved between us, yet a different type of stress has entered my life and the insomnia has returned.

My bedtime routine is this; around 8:30 I'm in my bed and texting with a special someone. Sometimes the television is on, sometimes not. Yes, I've heard all the research on electronics before bedtime and yes, I should quit the television, but I enjoy texting my friend. I've also read the research on reading, and maybe I should try that, (and as a writer I definitely should) but more the old-fashioned paper books, not the electronic kind. And I should read fiction as non-fiction requires too much thinking which then becomes a distraction.

But, I'm seriously considering another alternative...medical cannabis.  

I've been doing a LOT of research. Cannabis is actually healthier than alcohol and even caffeine. It is not chemically addictive, though one might argue it can become psychologically addictive depending on the individual. It is impossible to overdose on it. There are numerous medical benefits; it is being used to treat several types of pain-from arthritis to muscle spasms, reactions to chemotherapy, migraines, managing appetites for diabetics, anxiety, depression and, even insomnia. One of the chemical components in marijuana is even being used to treat seizures in children. Many indigenous cultures use it spiritually with the aid of a shaman to move some individuals beyond their emotional blockages.

There are some drawbacks; it is a vasodilator which ultimately increases your heart rate, similar to a cup of coffee. Pot has also been cited in possibly triggering heart attacks in some people. Depending on the strain involved, it can also increase anxiety and/or depression if the patient is already prone to either or both. Being I already have a slightly elevated heart rate, and am prone to both anxiety and depression, I would need to exercise caution.

Despite the benefits, I'm not ready to take this step. I grew up with seriously negative views of marijuana, due to the attitudes of the 1970s. It was the devil's weed, a gateway drug to harder stuff. The church and my conservative parents also looked down on anyone who used pot. The students I knew who smoked weed were troublemakers in school, and some of them I suspect were among those who bullied me.

In the early 80s, I discovered that a few close friends of mine smoked recreationally, yet they did not fit the image of marijuana users I grew up with. Did it change my opinion of them? No, they were still studious, hardworking and dear friends, but I also didn't necessarily change my opinion of the drug, as I saw weed back then. Plus, it was illegal, to boot. And with me being so afraid of doing anything wrong, I was not about to break the law.

And there's a couple of other things. 

Due to Federal Laws, the California Educational Code still considers marijuana to be a Class 1 drug, meaning a teacher found to be under the influence of it can have his or her credential revoked. As cannabis can remain in the system for several days after smoking or ingesting, should a teacher test positive that could mean the teacher would lose his or her job, even if the teacher hadn't partaken the day before. What is the likelihood the teacher would even be subjected to a drug test? Not very, unless said teacher was believed to be under the influence while on or near school grounds. Is it a chance I want to take? I'm working that out. And should I obtain a doctor's referral as a medical marijuana patient as defined by the State of California, would it hold up against any proceedings against me based on Federal laws? As Federal laws trump State laws, most likely not. But, it would all depend on the people conducting the hearing, should there be any, in the first place.

Secondly, can I see myself as a stoner, medically or otherwise? I realize, deep down, it won't change who I am as I see myself, but after years of having these feelings around weed, and  around those who used it and teaching drug education to my students, can I justify to myself this change of events and attitude, even for medical reasons? If only to sleep...perchance to dream...

One other reason I'm considering medical weed, I'm getting fed up with the big pharmaceutical companies raising prices of drugs to the point they are no longer affordable for those who are on a limited income. So, maybe I'm a bit of a social activist, as well.

Time will tell what I decide. 


  1. Insomnia. My mistress. What's worse? I love sleep. I relish it. But, like you, I just can't seem to fall asleep the way I'd like. Keith, my partner, is out within thirty seconds of his head hitting the pillow. OUT. It's like magic! As I've mentioned to you before, I take Ambien. Mind you, I hadn't used it in over a year before I decided to renew my prescription this month. I just got tired of "breathing" in bed, trying to relax myself, so I wouldn't have an overstimulated mind. I just wanted to close my damn eyes and get some sleep!! As for medical marijuana - you're an educator, don't take the chance!! In general, I don't think there's anything wrong with it. I've smoked in the past, I enjoy it, but it makes me feel loopy if I don't do it before bed. Anyway, that's my story. Hopefully you get the fix you need…no pun intended.

    1. Sean, thank you for reading and commenting. I will talk to my doctor about Ambien, though I'm reluctant to start yet another prescription. Regarding medical marijuana, I have contacted my own union who also advised doing nothing while the issue is being discussed-but where and with whom they did not elaborate. When I actually walked into a dispensary to inquire about the legalities, the clerk mentioned many of their clients were in fact teachers. And given the state of the profession today, who can blame them? So, someone must know something. I will keep investigating and somehow find something...