For the past two and a half years I have devoted my blog to the physical benefits of taking the drug synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol dronabinol a form of thc. The unexpected and less understood benefits of taking thc for me has been how much it has healed my mind and spirit and lead me back from a suicidal ending of my life. This post is dedicated to those who are in a state of depression who may be open to the same help as I have received from this amazing drug. I never think about death or dying these days.
THC has saved my life. Without this drug I would not be here writing this log in my diary. My world has been transformed from pain and darkness and fantasies of dying, to a world of light and possibilities. Dronabinol has given me back a reason to hope. I cannot explain exactly how it works in a physiological sense. It has given me a space between the cause of my suffering and the light behind it. It is a perceptual depth that releases the same endorphin like response that I get after working out at the gym. To come so far from feeling so close to the edge of life, is nothing short of a miracle. In order to understand my journey I have written a brief account of it for you to read.
Depression was a condition I denied and hid as long as I remember. Twice in my life I went through a mental health crisis. Each time I was diagnosed with hypomania. I was encouraged to take psychotropic medications, but I was totally non-compliant on both occasions and instead got myself through by embarking on challenging projects that ended up being extraordinary successes. One being creating an invention that was patented by the United States Patent and Trademark Office in two thousand and eight (US 7421367). My body of work for it being produced from nineteen eighty nine until two thousand and three.
Now I found a drug that had a miraculous effect on my psyche. I have woken up with a song in my head every morning since the first week of taking dronabinol, two and a half years ago. My spirits are buoyed by the ability of thc to heighten my depth of perception to the world around me.I love my life!
My drive to be successful has preoccupied me from turning my fantasies about suicide into a reality. My self-image was compiled from self-loathing instilled into me from both parents. Their constant criticism and lack of praise for things done well, taught me to never expect praise or to expect any outside help, but to be totally self sufficient in all things. My achievements were personal, and shared with precious few. As small children my siblings and I were sometimes in so much mental anguish, we would hit our heads on the ground to take the pain out of our brains. For almost forty years I lived in a continual state of inferiority. When I was ten years old, my father in a drunken and drugged state once told me in front of my mother, siblings, and neighbors that I was unfit to have my name because I did not stand on my head as long as my friend and neighbor. This was part of the craziness of my childhood.
My depression did not end with my childhood, it worsened with each new major upheaval in my life. I was programmed from birth to think of myself as a second rate human being. My flaws were so overwhelming to me at times, I would shut myself in my apartment and not even venture out because I was afraid that someone would come up and tell me that I did not belong wherever I was. I thought I smelled and looked different to other people and I was not as smart as they. Just eight years of formal education culminating in a junior high level graduation from school did nothing to bolster my self-confidence. I felt very self conscious in the presence of my peers. I was sure I was different and did not belong to the world I found in which I found myself.
An avid reader from age eight, after reading D H Lawrence early in my twenties, I was relieved to find a kindred spirit. Someone else born in one world, to become successful and then had to navigate a life in a world he had to accept, born of his success. He wrote of his struggle to live in either and how he found himself not really able to fully immerse himself in the coalmining world of his childhood, yet no more able to acclimate to the nouveau riche trappings of his successful world of writing. I related to that.
As a person whose life revolves around words both verbal and written, I turned inward to the isolation of my apartment and my precious books became my closest friends. My reading focussed on Sartre, Kafka,D H Lawrence, Henry James, and other authors with a heavy emphasis on poetry and philosophy trying to seek meaning to my world and how I fit in it as an individual.
My friends were few but their friendships was deep and understanding.They were my lifeline and they are true and always there for me. They remain in my life. Everyone around me seemed to live their lives freely without too much depth or burden. By contrast, I spent every waking hour trying to improve myself in an attempt to become a person of consequence because I thought if I did, I would become acceptable to others.
My life of loneliness changed ,dramatically and for the best, when I met my husband. His laid-back and carefree nature was a perfect foil for mine. He was the ‘ying’ to my ‘yang’. We fell in love at first sight. He traveled from the big island of Hawaii where we met and we were married in my parent’s garden in Sydney, Australia,in nineteen eighty four. For the first time in my life he taught me that I was ‘normal’ and not a difficult person to live with, something that I had been accused of in my early days of apartment living. The changes resulting from my marriage, gave me happiness I had never known.
Around that time he introduced me to the world of cats by bringing a neglected kitty into our lives. Soon there were two and life seemed so much kinder, fuller and more fun with not one but three lives to shower with my deep well of love and affection that I had been hoarding for most of my life.
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These past thirty five years have been so much easier because this amazing man chose to share my life, but my inner demons never left me. I worked very hard to impress him, and his family and friends. Everyone I met in Larry’s circle of family and friends in Rochester, New York, was fascinated by my accent and loved to hear me talk. Most interactions ended with me still feeling lonely.
After living in Australia until age forty three, my husband and I moved to Rochester, New York. That was a cultural shock. His mother was at the end of her life and we cared for her until she passed in her own home of fifty years at age eighty. She was the oldest family member I knew.
On the other side of the Pacific, my mother was only sixteen years my senior. This adjustment to living in a circle of people almost twice my age was overwhelming and depressing. Despite their interest, I was always acutely aware that unless I was saying something they could relate to, I was not connecting. This isolation was made worse by being cut of from my friends back in Australia. Instead of sharing a cup of tea with them, my go to pacifier, I had to acquire a taste for coffee. This was understandable given American history and the Boston Tea Party. I accepted the social mores of American society, but it did not make it any easier to cope with my sense of alienation.
Separation from my family, the Pacific ocean between us, made me lonely. For the first time I could not hop on a plane and get to visit them and this factored into my sense of loss and deepening depression.
Those fifteen months were very stressful for both of us. My husband was shocked and saddened to see his mother slowly turn her mind away from all of us and spend her days just trying to reverse the inevitable. We did everything we could to keep her life as she had lived it. Organizing cocktails every other day at her house, now our home,and then visiting with the neighbors. We had a hair stylist come in and do her hair twice a week, and her seamstress come from time to time and make her new dresses.
The culture of bridge games, preparing the paraphernalia for the ‘fighting foursome’ tournaments, and creating the desserts for them to enjoy while they played their cards, was alien to me.
Larry helped out as much as any man could, but there were so many little things I had to learn by submerging myself into her lifestyle. Larry and I both became increasingly depressed by our situation and we had few outside resources to cope. That period of our lives, coming just five years after our marriage, left us each siloing our emotions. The result was that from that time forward we became increasingly distant to each other. With the passage of time and increasing stress, including setting up our lives in America we grew apart on a spiritual level. We became less and less aware of each other’s feelings. We were affectionate and clung together using our mutual dependency to keep us going but we both felt increasingly alone.
The harshness of that particular Rochester winter did nothing to alleviate my gloom. I arrived in the dead of winter. The trees were bare when I arrived, unlike my Australian gums that only got that way if a huge bushfire had stripped them of their foliage. The ground was covered in snow until the second week in May. I could not believe the amount of snow. Learning to drive and getting my license in blizzard was both terrifying and another reality check.
The toughest thing to get my mind around was the sudden immersion of our lives in the world of the elderly. During that time in our marriage we rarely saw and communicated with people of our age. Larry’s mother’s frends were the center of attention because we chose to help her live her life to her capacity. We knew we had our future ahead of us and that we all we could think was to meet her needs before considering our own.
This sudden change of culture had a long term negative effect on my depression. I became more of an insomniac than I had been in the past, sleeping no more than two or three hours a night. I was constantly self conscious. Living in a house surrounded by very well educated people my inferiority came to the fore once again. It was exacerbated by being unable to work as a registered nurse for two and a half years while I went through my ‘green card’ process, and then sitting my NCLEX in order to transfer my skills and experience to New York State.
The stress and loss of his mother sent my husband into a deep depression, and I found myself heavily reliant on the two wonderful neighbors who had shared his whole life. Those amazing women gave us so much love and acts of kindness. If not for them I’m not sure what would have happened to us.
That was my introduction into American Life and on the outside I assimilated well. We began our lives in Rochester with Larry returning to college to get his massage therapy certification and I began my American nursing creer back in the operating rooms of Genesee Hospital.There were lots of changes and adjustments to our lives. We brought our kitties with us and they were a constant source of joy and comfort but things were difficult.
When the hospital closed in two thousand and one, we had to act quickly to keep ourselves solvent. We found work in the South. Another huge adjustment on every level. We moved here just one week before the twin towers disaster on nine eleven of that same year. Suddenly what security I had managed to store in my psyche to cope with American culture, almost disappeared. Even my dear sweet patriotic husband felt deeply disillusioned about where the country was heading. We held each other close through the next seven years.We felt like outsiders and never really broke through the cultural boundaries that separate the North from the South. It has been so much harder to break through here than it was for Larry to overcome the cultural barriers in his decade in Australia, or for my to to settle in Rochester.
Just when we began to feel settled and get some form and structure in our lives, I became very ill. In a three month period I had a major stroke, a heart attack, and was diagnosed with breast cancer. Sadly the mastectomies I underwent in two thousand and eight did not stop the cancer from spreading. I spent two thousand and twelve in chemotherapy and radiation that cured my cancer but left me worse off than before the cancer. I felt devoid of femininity to the point that I couldn’t even enjoy putting on makeup. Every time I did I looked in the mirror I saw an image no amount of makeup could change. Without my breasts,my body lost all its femininity. I felt invisible. In a house filled with mirrors, I could not stand and look at the person looking back at me because I no longer recognized that person.
Larry did everything he could to take care of me and lift my spirits, but my depression just got worse with every passing week of increasing symptoms of nausea, pain and fatigue. I continued to fantasize about suicide. My thinking along these lines had now progressed to a clear plan of action. Eventually the manner of my death finally came to me. Suffering the after effects of chemotherapy my taste buds were inhibited by the overpowering taste of metal. This dulled my appetite to the point where I only ate when I forced myself and then I could only tolerate a few mouthfuls of food before throwing up.
Added to our woes was my addiction to hydrocodone. This situation arose as a result of my cancer treatment related pain. After a referral to the pain clinic I was quickly up to a dose of sixty milligrams of hydrocodone a day. I continued this high dose for two and a half years with no relief from my pain or my nausea. Hydrocodone had a horrible effect on my system, especially my brain. The degree of impairment was much greater than dronabinol has caused! It made me extremely depressed and filled my life of pain with darkness. While I have been happy to stop driving in order to be able to take dronabinol, nobody ever questioned my impairment while taking hydrocodone, even though I was much more dangerous behind the wheel.I frequently felt a strong urge to drive the car into oncoming traffic. Something that would never occur to me now that I am taking dronabinol!Thoughts of death or dying never enter my head these days.
My instinct to do no harm was much greater and kept me from ever carrying out that urge. I realized how dangerous taking hydrocodone had become and the only path out was to quit that terrible drug. When I approached the pain clinic that had put me on it, to help me withdraw, I was not even granted an appearance of a doctor on that final visit, because the rules of the clinic were that one only saw the doctor with an empty pill bottle to be filled.
After signing off I came home and proceeded to reduce my dose rapidly going from sixty milligrams to zero in just three weeks. Two weeks later, totally broken, I was admitted to a behavioral health unit for two weeks. My husband by this point was concerned and confused by my behavior.
His love never faltered, but he stepped back just far enough to make me feel very isolated and alone. Our cats were a salvo to my spirits during those dark days. No one came and rang my doorbell in the long twelve hour absences while my husband worked in his own private hell. His work environment was both negative and demoralizing but he soldiered on. I have no idea how he survived the stress of that terrible time in our lives.So many falls and so many calls for him to drop everything and go to Emergency where he would find me near to death.
Two and a half years ago everything changed. When all hope was lost and I had begun to starve myself to death, my oncologist came up with the alternative of using Dronabinol, synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol. At first my instinct was to refuse further treatment. With some coaxing, she convinced me that I had nothing to lose.
My thoughts were that it would fry my brain, the last remaining intact part of my being. The possibility of being free from the depression that has haunted me my whole life was the last thing I imagined possible when I started on Dronabinol .
My sense of well-being is simply astounding. Through taking Dronabinol my age has become less of a dead number and more of a powerful regeneration of self. There are no limits or sign posts ahead. Just days filled with new and beautiful experiences My husband and I are now free to rediscover the pleasure of each other’s company and enjoy our lives together..free from pain..free from depression..and free from loneliness and isolation.
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