Wednesday, October 21, 2015

In a Haze

In a recent post, I shared my interest in trying medical cannabis for a number of conditions:
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Arthritis pain 
  • and above all, insomnia
And for a couple of reasons:
  • I'm tired of the big pharmaceutical companies price gouging us out of our medications;
  • I'd prefer to have tried something and regretted it, than regretting having never tried it.
But, I have a few logistical concerns to overcome:
  • In the state of California, it is possible for a credentialed teacher to lose his/her credential over a failed drug test as the State recognizes the benefits of medical cannabis, yet, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing still considers marijuana a Class I drug, per Federal Law, and as I understand, cannabis can remain in the user's system for up to 72 hours for a moderate user;
    • It is, however, unlikely I would put myself in such a position by smoking/using before going in to school;
  • And, I have discovered that a medical card would be tied to my driver's license and therefore any traffic stop might trigger a potentially tricky situation.
So, the general consensus is I shouldn't do anything while I have a valid credential, which expires in 2019, one year before my projected retirement. Yet, I still need to find a way to sleep within these next few years. And, Ambien has been recommended to me, as well as Benadryl, and I may look into them; but a dear friend tried to take his life with half a bottle of Ambien, and while I may not be of that mindset, the memories of that night are not pleasant. I'm very happy to say he is well and looking forward to a long and productive life. And Ambien can become chemically addictive, as can any medical sleeping aid. Taking Benadryl would medicate me for symptoms I don't have as it's used for mostly for anti-itch and allergies.

And one specific health concern I have already addressed in the aforementioned post is, because cannabis is a vasodilator, it does increase the heart rate of the smoker, and as I can suffer from a stress/anxiety-related elevated heart rate, this might not be my best choice as an alternative.Yet, I do enjoy a nice cup of coffee which also increases the heart rate, just not quite so much. Perhaps I should investigate other methods to reduce stress and achieve general relaxation, though my stress and anxiety seem to be much lessened as of late, and my blood pressure and heart rate are lower than they have been in years. Yet, I still can't sleep through the night.

I also need to get over seeing myself in the image of the stoner or pothead, that I grew up with which might not be easy, yet as I sat drinking a beer last night, I caught my reflection in a window, and realized if I can get over my own personal temperance/abstinence movement of my heavily Christian-influenced teenage years to where I can now enjoy a beer or glass of wine responsibly, then maybe I can do the same with pot. After all, I'm still the same wonderful. loving me after one (or two) glasses of a nice Shiraz.

All of that confusion has not stopped me from continuing my research on medical weed.

And I am lost in a fog...

First, I discovered there are two types of marijuana: indica and sativa, which are generally differentiated by the leaf of the plant. So, I'm thinking it's like wine, red and white, like the grapes.

Heck, no.

According to my research, indica produces a completely different type of high than sativa. I mean, to me, a red wine drunk isn't that different than a white wine drunk, except for the possible headache/migraine that reds can produce. So, these different types of highs led to my first cloud of confusion. As I understand, an indica high is much more mellow, producing a sense of relaxation and sleepiness while a sativa high is more of an energetic, creative, hallucinogenic high.

And as I understand there are even different strains within the indica and sativa varieties, all developed for different levels and types of high. Some strains are more/less potent than others and take more/less time to 'hit' and can hit harder, regardless of whether they are indica or sativa.

I also discovered there are two principal components of cannabis that contribute to its effect on us, tetrahydrocannabinol, aka THC and cannabidiol, or CBD. Both THC and CBD have psychotropic properties, though CBD is believed to be the lesser of the two. It is CBD, in an oil or tincture form, that is being used with children in reducing epileptic and other seizures and is believed to provide more of the medicinal benefits than THC. It is also believed that CBD is responsible for countering some of the psychoactive effect of the THC in marijuana, so the higher the percentage of CBD, the less the effects of THC on the patient. And medical strains are being specifically developed to have more CBD than THC for those patients not looking for such a psychoactive experience.

And then there's the actual method of intake; smoking, liquid, topical or edible, all of which can also effect the high, but to a lesser extent than the strain itself. And with smoking there's the popular pipe, bong, and now vaporizers. One can even purchase just CBD oil to take sublingually. I've read of topical creams and ointments, as well as candies, cookies, brownies and even, teas.

CBD oil
Oh, and flavors.

Flavors? Of weed?

Yes, flavors.

Some strains are described as fruity, others as earthy, or piney.

Well, different wines of the same varietal can have slightly different flavors depending on the vintner. I tried a Pinot Grigio from one label that reminded me of turpentine, and another so wonderful, I wanted to buy a case of it. So, why can't marijuana be different depending on the developer?

And on top all of this, different strains are recommended for different medical conditions...some are recommended specifically for stress, pain, insomnia, nausea, etc., while others are recommended for depression, migraines, etc. Still others are recommended for social anxiety, motivation, relaxation, etc.

Oh, and the names of some strains...Blueberry Cheesecake, God's Gift, Afgoo, and my personal favorite (for a name, not necessarily a strain I'd want to try) Alaskan Thunder F*ck.

So, should a first time smoker decide to take that step, how does he find out what and where to buy if he has no local friends he knows who smoke?

Believe it or not, there's an app or two for that.


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Comfort Zone

I recently stepped outside my comfort zone. Way outside. I mean, waaaaayy outside.

I got my first tattoo. 

No big deal, you might say. 

And for you, that might be true, but for me it was a huge step. And I mean, HUGE. I grew up with the image that tattoos were something drunken sailors did in strange ports-o'-call. Or drunken soldiers did on on leave. Or gang members did to identify themselves. Or people did to push social boundaries. 

And I am not any of those...

I see myself as clean cut, and socially conservative, and a bit afraid of what people might think of me...and I was like that until I decided to come out. And come out I did. Not giving a fuck what anyone thought. I wore what I wanted, and just lived my life... for a while.

And I wonder what happened to that nice young man who lived so authentically back then?

He became older and a bit too serious, too responsible, too worried about what others thought, especially his boyfriends. 

But, after some serious thought and some encouragement, he finally got inked.

At age 57.

But, first, let me also share this piece...

At age 90!
When I met my now-ex, he had two small tattoos, and I wasn't fond of them, even though he didn't fit the image I had of tatted people. He later had one of them covered with something larger, and quite expensive.  During our relationship, I'd begun mildly entertaining the idea of just maybe a small tribal band around a bicep, but never told anyone being too proud to admit I'd changed my stance about something so radical. But I gave that idea up, as my biceps aren't bulging enough for a band tattoo to look good, in my opinion. And I wasn't motivated enough to develop them just to get a tattoo. This feeling became motivation for a scene in my novel, Out of the Past.

One other very dear friend got several during the course of our friendship, yet it never changed my impression of her as she was always a bit of a rebel.

When the ex left, a new idea hit me, I would now get my tattoo, but to commemorate my new life without him and the transition of me and my new life into something bigger and better, I'd get one of a phoenix over my right pec. I even blogged about it, but one other friend pushed her way into my head, "No, don't! You'll get old and it will sag and look all saggy and wrinkly and gross!" And I listened to her. 

So, I put the idea out of my mind, until about five years later when I met someone special who has multiple tattoos. And, yes, he did push social boundaries, just a bit.

We'd talked about his, and I told him I had wanted to get one, but changed my mind, he asked why and I told him. He said I should do it if I wanted to, and for no other reason. And after a while the idea came back, but now I had a new design in mind; a four-sided Celtic knot, because I have Celtic heritage and one side each of the knot to remind me to nurture my mind, my body, my heart and my spirit. And he encouraged me to just consider it. After all, it was my body, my opinion, and no one else's, and  the tattoo would mean something special to me.

Then I started noticing several people my age with them, and seemingly respectable people too. And they looked good. Both the tats and the people.

I won't go this far
I began screwing up my courage; I found a nearby shop with positive reviews, and went in (with a friend for courage) with photos of what I wanted and was referred to an artist. We talked over my designs, he quoted me a price, and we parted, with me saying I needed to save the money. I got the money together and scheduled a final consultation and to leave the deposit, but nerves got the better of me, and I canceled. I later rescheduled and drove all the way down there refusing to let myself be swayed from driving on past the shop, once again. Deposit made, we scheduled a two hour session for both designs, with the artist saying it would save me money rather than booking separate sessions.

For days before the appointment, I could feel my heart racing, not only for the tattoo, but because of other changes I was considering in my life, some of which I've written about. All together it has been quite overwhelming. But, I digress. And the more I thought about it, did I want to sit through two hours and what if I can't handle the pain, the needles, the sitting there motionless? So, I suggested we do one at a time and start with the smaller one. And I'll worry about the money.

On tat day, I drove down, anticipating what was coming; the needles, the pain, the self-image post inking, the pain, the comments from others, the pain, the anxiety, the pain.

I survived it all...and the pain wasn't so bad; more annoying than painful, like someone repeatedly poking a small pin in me.

I think it looks great...and I'm very happy with it.

And then I faced reality as I had to go to work the next day. I deliberately showed a few co-workers my new tattoo as I'd discussed my thoughts with them. (And they have tats as well.) They were thrilled for me.

After that, I said nothing unless someone commented, and being the tattoo was on my inner left forearm, it wasn't that hard to miss since I wear short sleeve shirts to work in the Southern California heat. Those who did notice on their own were all very positive in their comments. One co-worker was surprised this was my first tattoo at all, as she suspected I was always a bit of a rebel and already had one, just not in a visible area. I'm not sure where she got that idea! Me being a rebel, not the non-visible tattoo. But, the most surprising comment I heard was that nearly every person mentioned they'd thought about getting one. Even the sweet, quiet ones. I guess still waters run deep.

Maybe I am a role model. Or indeed, a bit of a rebel.

But, for me the most interesting result was I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. My doctor has asked me to monitor my blood pressure as it's borderline high. After I got the tattoo, it fell into the normal range. My resting heart rate dropped almost a full ten beats per minute and stayed that way for almost three days. My anxiety levels dropped to where I felt more at ease than I had in a long time. I didn't care what anyone said, or thought. I had my tattoo.

I'm looking forward to getting the phoenix. And then, that will be it. 

Well, maybe I'll consider the tribal band...
Mine, on day 2