I have suffered from anxiety for as long as I can remember. As I child, I was plagued by intense stomach pain and lack of sleep due to anxiety. Throughout high school, sports competitions, exams, and college applications contributed to overall fatigue, body aches, lack of sleep, and irritable bowel syndrome.
I always thought that I was just “sick”. My friends knew me as the girl who was always getting sick and joked about it. Anxiety disorders, while extremely prevalent, are not often spoken about, and therefore well understood. I entered a top Ivy League school for my undergraduate degree and repeatedly would “get sick” the night before intense exams. All the while, my parents worried that my immune system wasn’t strong enough and that the weather on the east coast was making me sick.
After college, I started in the professional world, working for a very well known hedge fund in New York. The stress of the job made me feel “sick” constantly – body aches, head aches, fever, vomiting.
It was during this time that I described to a fellow colleague at the hedge fund the type of symptoms that I had for over half my life and she said, “do you think you have anxiety?”
I was shocked… I immediately insisted that I didn’t have anxiety as I didn’t even know what it was like to have anxiety or what that meant. I didn’t get the shakes when I presented; I didn’t have a trembling voice when I was in meetings with 30 of the senior managers of the firm; I didn’t get sweaty palms… so, how could I have anxiety?
My symptoms continued… the more successful I got in my career, the more my symptoms persisted and it became evident to me that perhaps being “sick” right around any major event or presentation was not just a coincidence.
With a strong recommendation from a friend, I went to see an anxiety specialist. Turns out… I have anxiety. The doctor called me a “high functioning individual with anxiety”. In fact, there are a lot of us out there who are tremendously successful, and no one would ever imagine that we have anxiety.
There are many different medications that doctors can prescribe for anxiety. There are what I call daily meds and tactical meds. Daily meds are taken, as it would seem, daily, while tactical meds are taken when there is a specific anxiety inducing event that is about to occur and that pill is taken for just that moment in time. Those medicines, from my understanding, can generally last about 5-8 hours.
My anxiety skyrocketed at a certain point after a very stressful period of time during which I went through some very challenging personal changes. During this time, I took 20 mg of Lexapro daily and combined that with 0.5mg of Ativan as needed. On top of the Lexapro, with 20 mg being the highest prescribable amount by the FDA, I was taking Ativan 2-3 times daily to feel OK and not anxious.
Unfortunately, my anxiety continued to get worse. I had hyperventilation, hysterical crying, body aches and heart beating to the point where I felt I was going to faint. I would take the tactical Ativan constantly. However, at this point, I started to get scared. My memory and recollection of events and happenings was almost nothing. I would remember going to an event or a dinner, but I wouldn’t recall anything that was said. This was not due to alcohol, as I do not drink.
I had always been very against “smoking weed”. I’m not a druggie, I would say. My older sister had been a drug addict and ended up in rehab multiple times. I didn’t want to turn out like her and I felt that smoking weed put me in the same category as her.
“That’s right, CBD; it is the non-psychoactive component of marijuana,” a friend told me over coffee one day.
I was extremely hesitant at first to try Cannabis, but I finally gave in as I was taking too much Ativan and remembering too little of my life. My friend assured me that it was possible to medically benefit from cannabis without getting high. He also educated me on the scientific research that is now being conducted on cannabis and various conditions, including anxiety. Nervous but hopeful, I began to test CBD-rich cannabis as a potential alternative to my prescription drugs.
I received a Charlotte’s Web Vape Pen as a gift from this friend. From my first puff, I immediately felt the benefits. In all truth, it changed my life for the better. My shoulders were relaxed; my chest was able to breathe. It had such immediate calming effects and, the best part, I remember everything. I feel better, have more energy, and remember my memories again! I immediately stopped taking the tactical Ativan. When I began to feel anxiety coming on, I would instead reach for the vape pen. I continued on daily Lexapro due to the advice of my doctor, but I want to eventually decrease my use of it if possible.
The Charlotte’s Web pen is small, not smelly and easy to carry around in my purse. I can bring it anywhere and know that if things start to get rough, I can just take one puff and it will all be better. Additionally, because it doesn’t emit any smell, I can take it into the work bathroom or be right in my office. It is discreet and readily accessible in case I ever need it.
Recently, I switched prescription medication from Lexapro to Trintellix as my daily anxiety medication. Unfortunately, medications generally have side effects, especially anxiety related medications. I gained over 15 lbs and felt miserable. I’m extremely irritable, have strange vivid dreams, itchy skin, intense crying, and no decrease in appetite as I had hoped. The only saving grace that I have at this point is that the CBD-rich vape pen keeps me calm and on track.
I’m grateful to my former co-worker who first let me know that I do have anxiety and grateful to my friend who introduced me to cannabis. I am now an advocate for CBD-rich / low THC products as many of my friends suffer from anxiety, and it’s possible to benefit from cannabis without getting high. It’s interesting as once you know that you have anxiety, it is easy to detect others who also suffer from it. The population is changing and marijuana is not just known as a drug that gets you “high”. It has so many other components and health benefits. I’m a proponent of CBD-rich products and have shared this with many of my friends. I hope that my story will continue to benefit others to try the products out there. It has changed my life.
My hope is to ultimately be off prescription medication entirely. Whether possible or not, that is the goal.