Editor’s Note: bud.com in no way coerced Juanita to try getting high for the first time, but we are honored to have provided her with the means (and perhaps motivation) to pop her cannabis cherry.
I am not just a square; I am the princess of parallelograms. I made it from kindergarten to high school without a single detention. I’ve had exactly one speeding ticket in almost two decades of driving. I didn’t start drinking until after I’d turned 21. I don’t even jaywalk because it makes me nervous. All this is to explain how I made it to the age of 33 without ever having tried the devil’s lettuce.
Part of the reason for this squareness is a longstanding history of anxiety. I’ve had panic attacks since I was five years old. What should be a nice evening out will at some point leave me struggling to breathe or swallow normally, and things that would give someone else an adrenaline rush just make me throw up—I can’t even get into a roller coaster line without gagging. I limp along on a combination of antidepressants, sedatives, and predictability, which generally works if I’m dealing with a normal amount of stress. But politically things have been anything but normal. And I’m planning my wedding. My default state in 2018 so far has been a raw and jangled mess, and it’s still January. Something had to change.
Then I saw a call for writers for this weed culture magazine. I knew almost nothing about the subject, aside that it was freshly legal in California and gives people the munchies, but figured I could do some research and write a profile about growers or weedtrepreneurs or something. I happened to mention that I’d never ingested the stuff. After clarifying that I’ve never tried edibles or smoked pot in any form, the editor called to grill me about my experience with illicit substances.
“…so you’ve never tried anything?” she asked.
I thought of the time I accidentally took too many puffs from my inhaler as a small child and hallucinated Camille Saint-Saens’ Danse Macabre being played by a circus calliope, and decided that wasn’t what she’d meant.
“Nope,” I replied.
I hate the smell of pot, so I decided to start with edibles. I also didn’t want to try anything too delicious, in case I ended up eating the whole thing by mistake and being glued to the couch inhaling every snackable item in a 2-mile radius, so I went with mints. Well, half of one. Okay, half of a half. Everyone I consulted said I could always take more later, but to start out with as small a dose as I possibly could. Since drinking a Coke Zero virtually guarantees that I’ll be awake until 4 in the morning, I decided this was probably sound advice.
I settled into my giant armchair with War and Peace and waited for something interesting to happen. After a few chapters, I felt the urge to pull out my work laptop and start editing grant reports. This was definitely not normal “me” behavior, especially in the middle of a long weekend. Tolstoy was not to blame for this, nor for the irrepressible grin that kept creeping up my face, but it seemed like too much of a change to pin on such a tiny first dose.
Until my thoughts started shifting forward in my head.
It felt like the center of my brain had scooted all the way into my forehead, and my ideas dangled like my legs do when I’m sitting on a sofa. The center of me felt a few inches higher in my chest than it usually does. Is this what it means to be high? I thought. I started to giggle, and then I decided to take a nap. Thus ended phase 1 of my experiment. (Experi-mint?)
I slept for a couple of hours, then decided to get tickets for a musical comedy show we’d wanted to see that night. Making plans at the last minute stresses me out, so I tend to fill in my calendar well in advance. My partner and I had all but decided to stay home, since I’d had a panic attack the day before. I tend to hunker down and burrow the day after an attack. But I was feeling good and wanted to see if the show felt any funnier in an altered state.
I ate another tiny piece of mint, then said fuck it and downed the remaining three-quarters. I was up to one whole mint, or 5 mg. We called a ride and made our way to the theater.
The ride started out as most do, with quick verbal confirmation that we’d gotten into the right car, followed by relative silence. I noticed that the driver was singing along quietly to the music, a selection of late 90’s rock. I smiled and found myself humming along, too.
Somebody once told me/ the world is gonna roll me. Steve Harwell’s voice suddenly transcended the boundaries of the car stereo to speak directly into my soul. No music had ever sounded so sublime. Every piece of instrumentation was PERFECT. So naturally I sang along, every word of “All Star” resonating with a poignancy I’d never found in Smash Mouth. And by the time we reached the venue, all three of us were shouting along to “Semi-Charmed Life.”
The show was amazing. I couldn’t stop smiling, and I sang along to every song I knew (and even the ones I didn’t). But even better was knowing that I’d made it outside in the first place. This was a far cry from my typical post-panic attack tendencies. Not only had I found something that helped me recuperate and want to go places, but I didn’t have any panic attacks that night. I went to a show at the last minute, at a venue I’d never been to before, and even went out to eat afterward. Any one of those things could have set me off on a normal day. But I was fine. And that was its own miracle.
I asked my partner later if he noticed anything when I conducted my experiments.
“You seemed happier,” he said, “and more relaxed.” He paused. “And more present. And less overwhelmed.”
I don’t know how often I’ll end up dosing in the future, but I’m definitely keeping a couple of my special mints in the pocket of my wedding dress, just in case.
Juanita is a grant writer in San Francisco. You can usually find her reading, playing video games, and not jaywalking.