Weed Helped Save My Mental Health, So Why Is There Such A Stigma?

Okay, story time: I used to work as a front desk girl for a popular “boutique” spinning studio. Not gonna name names because you’ve clearly figured it out already, and I lasted a month there. The place prided itself on being super open-minded and all about getting in touch with yourself, overcoming challenges, and following your soul.  Once, we played an icebreaker game where we went around the room, said our name, the studio we worked at, and something we do to relax. Every. Single. Person. said alcohol is their way to unwind, along with watching a TV show or, of course, working out. I was last, and I said, “taking an edible and tanning.” The CPR woman looked like she was in shock, and was all, “Okaaaayyyy, moving on.” So much for being a liberal as your brand markets itself being, huh? Remind me why weed is worse than alcohol again?

Marijuana is the fastest growing industry both nationally and internationally. There’s luxury marijuana getaways, weed treats, marijuana spas and bath bombs, people are literally putting it in their green juice. And don’t get anyone started on the benefits of CBD because, honestly, I don’t wanna endure listening to them pontificate about its benefits as if I don’t know them already.

But that doesn’t mean there still isn’t negative connotations around marijuana use.

When I was 14 years old, I got diagnosed with the most severe case of ADHD possible—I was in the 99th percentile. I was prescribed a dosage of meds that they would give someone the size of Lebron James, literally the maximum dosage. What it did to my brain is an entirely different story. I was made fun of in high school and college for how erratic my meds made me. I believed the pills would make me feel like a normal person, which I thought was someone who didn’t experience anxiety or depression. But I didn’t feel normal. Whenever I told my doctors that I was having trouble sleeping or that I was anxious, they’d just prescribe new pill after new pill or increase my dosage. I was treated like my brain was the problem, and I needed to take anything I could to be like everyone else. But deep down, I knew something was wrong, and because of that, I was indoctrinated to believe I’d never be normal.

So my conception of the self-help industry was: you’re the problem, so take a pill to make yourself just like everyone else. I was brainwashed to believe that my ADHD was a bad thing. Did you know that it was seen as an evolutionary advantage? Even during the Industrial Revolution, many inventors actually met the criteria for ADHD. I feel like that’s not talked about enough. The system did nothing to help me embrace that I think differently than others. I wasn’t using therapy or pills in a way that gave me the opportunity to evolve or to have healthy coping mechanisms at all. 

Eventually, I got sober. I had to time off from college (where I was partying way too much—weed, alcohol, mixed with the prescription pills was a recipe for disaster) and learned how to cope with my ADHD, anxiety, and depression without controlled substances. I didn’t smoke weed or really drink for about a year. I learned how to look internally in order to reacclimate to society without the use of controlled substances, to get back in touch with myself, and to learn how to cope with reality. Between meditation, yoga, and extensive therapy, I began to come into my own. Why weren’t these resources suggested to me before shoving copious amounts of legal meth down my throat?


As time went on, my doctors and I decided that it was okay for me to start indulging in mind altering substances like alcohol and weed again. Last year, my doctor gave me a prescription for Benzos that I use sparingly because I would never want to become dependent on them or go through the brutal withdrawals ever again. I check everything I do over with my doctors. No, seriously, a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “How stupid am I going to sound to my shrink once I tell them I did *insert reckless action here*?” So I started using mind altering substances again at my discretion because through the extensive work I’ve done, I now know how to indulge in it without making it a crutch to completely detach from reality.

Without going into the gory details, I went through one of the most difficult times of my life last year. I endured a lot of trauma and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Waking up in the morning and instantly crying is the worst possible feeling, feeling lonely and utterly helpless is heartbreaking, and not feeling safe in your own city and apartment is horrific. I unfortunately turned to alcohol for a month or two because, even though it wasn’t the answer, I thought it was the easy way out. I learned over time that it just made things worse, and I’m glad it didn’t develop into something far more serious.

Over time, I turned to weed instead, and it was actually my saving grace in a lot of ways. Journaling, therapy, yoga, meditation—all that New Age sh*t—works wonders. But if you’re in a position where you need a quick fix or you simply want to expand your consciousness and see things more lightheartedly, weed is incredible.

I first was open with my shrink about how I wanted to switch from Benzos to medicinal weed and he was all for it. I got prescribed with Benzos to take sparingly in the event that I needed a quick fix to calm the f*ck down. I came to find that being in a Klonopin Cloud wasn’t as comfortable as it used to be, and in retrospect, I don’t think it ever was a comfort zone. It was just a way to detach from reality completely and a chemical way to become apathetic. Weed, on the other hand, loosened the vice grip I have on my issues and helped me see things through a more panoramic lens. While I’m still cognizant of my problems, I definitely don’t feel like a zombie like I  did with Xanax or Klonopin. My shrink and I are working towards getting me a prescription for weed right now, thank God.

I recently went to L.A., and I was totally shocked by how normalized it was out there. Like, of course I knew it was legal and all that. But when I walked into MedMen, which is one of the most notable dispensary chains, I was totally taken aback by how open they were about the benefits of weed. I was awfully tightly wound about the whole thing because I was in such shock that they were all so open-minded, and it was then when I realized that I had internalized the negative stigma against weed too. The intention behind MedMen, one of the employees said, was to show people that weed use and dispensaries shouldn’t be this clandestine and sketchy thing. It should be the embraced. The place looked like an Apple store, I swear! When I mentioned that to the employee, they said it’s because they want people to know that they embrace the industry and they don’t want them to feel like buying weed should be this uncomfortable, shameful process that you need to be so secretive about by going to one of those shady looking dispensaries with, like, no windows.

I ended up purchasing products from them and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in terms of my psychiatric journey. The products they sold me were way more regulated than the bud I buy from NYU grad students. It was like taking an anti-anxiety medication that helped me take a step back and live more light-heartedly when need be. It was also a form of embracing my ADHD and thinking differently without being hyperaware of conforming to norms or pacing around because I couldn’t sit still to do my work. A lot of people think that weed makes you flighty, loopy, and totally out of it. That can totally be true, but it’s not always the case. For my ADHD, I use it to stop pacing around, keep my anxiety at bay, to calm down, and embrace that I think creatively.

Even before MedMen, I’ve always maintained that weed helped me on a philosophical level, helped expand my consciousness, and look at my life and myself without harsh judgment. A lot of people scoffed at that and saw it as a BS excuse to get high and watch Workaholics. Full disclosure: smoking weed while watching Workaholics is dope, but it’s not the primary way I use it. Now, I definitely believe that it is a form of medicine for me. I did have my struggles in the past with mind altering substances that obviously did more damage than good and I wasn’t instructed on how to use them properly in the first place. But I’m in a place in my life where I can drop a tincture of THC mixed with CBD under my tongue the same way someone can take an Adderall. For the record, I do believe that Adderall can work for some. However, 2 in 3 adults outgrow ADHD, and my doctors told me that I would never be a part of that group.

But it absolutely sucks that people still side-eye something that my doctor and I see as my medication. Although Adderall was horrible for me, you don’t see me judging people for taking it if that’s what their doctors think is best for them. It’s difficult enough that people assume anxiety is just being nervous and that you need to “suck it up,” or that ADHD is just immaturity because I have trouble focusing and staying organized. It’s not like I sit in a corner and cry because things don’t go my way or because I’m nervous. It’s not like I’m all, “Oooooh, look at a shiny red ball!” when I’m writing an essay. It’s not like I’m a lazy, careless bum because it’s a struggle to keep my apartment clean. Those things are tough for me, and it completely worsens my struggles when someone tells me that my afflictions don’t matter and that the way I believe is the healthier route is just an excuse to be lazy and indulge in munchies.

I think for the sake of society, we really need to start listening to each other and not only support each others’ differences, but also endeavor to encourage these differences so people can be more open. So the question is: why is society so myopic when it comes to these differences? Why is the immediate answer in the form of a capsule in order to “normalize” them? And if that capsule doesn’t work, why the next best option is another capsule, and another?

Not everyone should function the same way and fit into this mold that society created. A New Age approach helped me embrace my differences instead of stifling them, and marijuana absolutely changed my life for the better too. If it’s not for you, that’s cool. But if it could help someone, but the stigma of being associated with weed use is making them afraid to seek out that option, that’s a problem.

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