For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled through periods of crippling anxiety and devitalizing depression. Adolescence, a period of life already fraught with change and bewilderment, left me frequently unable to function. I tried several antidepressants such as citaloprams, SSRIs, and NDRIs. In short, conventional medicine didn’t work for me. Several therapists and years of treatment later, a psychiatrist finally diagnosed me with Borderline Personality Disorder at the age of 24.
I got to the point of being unable to get out of bed in the mornings because my anxiety had fueled bouts of insomnia. The exhausting nature of depression also further exacerbated my stunning fatigue. It was time for me to search for a solution, perhaps one considered off the beaten track. I decided to try microdosing cannabis.
January 2018: A friend suggested that I can get in touch with someone he had been liaising with: a grower, harvester and distiller of marijuana amongst other plants. He would sort me out with cannabis oil, he said. Although I have been known to smoke a joint every now and then, I was at first skeptical of using marijuana as a long-term treatment. But when January didn’t get any better, I decided to take the plunge (after pay-day, that is).
February: I received a petite, navy dropper-bottle in medical-grade packaging one Thursday morning. I was to allow for two drops under the tongue at night, between the hours of 6 and 8pm. The first night I tried the medication, I felt completely out of it. My body, ever-sensitive to foreign substances, didn’t know what hit it. This initial experience forced me to question my decision: did I want to feel this way every evening for at least six months? That night I slept like a baby for the first time in years. So, I decided to press on.
I did eventually build up some resistance to the cannabis oil so that I (mostly) felt relaxed. But there were periods where I noticed stronger effects. One evening while playing a particularly complicated board game with friends, I ended up in a fit of giggles and talking nonsense.
March: My body had time to settle. Work stress made it ever more important for me to get a good night’s rest, and to avoid stress-induced anxieties. The cannabis oil made this possible and then some.
April: I was doing so well and then the insomnia hit again, out of nowhere. My supplier had warned me this might happen, but reassured that it wouldn’t last too long. I spent almost two weeks getting barely any sleep and feeling fatigued and emotional during the day. My solution was to add another drop or two to my nightly routine. My body eventually re-adjusted and the rest of April passed with few hiccups.
I don’t regret my decision to try cannabis oil. Everything else I’ve tried for depression and anxiety has had nasty side effects. I’m just about halfway through the course trial and look forward to seeing what the next three months bring. Perhaps I’ll carry on with the treatment on a continual basis. Perhaps I will decide that my body has been rebooted and further dosage is unnecessary. I’m grateful that, with relatively few exceptions, I’ve had a positive experience with cannabis oil. It’s allowed me to experience what it feels like to be well-rested and placid—two unfamiliar feelings.
Nora Dourak is a writer who lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.