Featured image is me from June 11, 2016 (my first full day without psych medication, particularly Lexapro) and today (I weigh ten lbs less, while also jettisoning 5% of my body fat).
From 2000 until mid 2016, I was prescribed 16 different medications designed to treat the following diagnosed disorders in my head: clinical depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and clinical depression with anxiety. I saw a series of different doctors, rarely did I have the same doctor prescribe me more than two meds until I moved on.
In mid 2009, I tried to stop taking both Adderall and Lexapro cold turkey, but the withdrawal symptoms from Lexapro (Adderall withdrawals feel similar to smoking, a seven-year habit of mine I’d ended 18 months prior, so I knew what I was in for) became too severe.
In 2013, I started to have rage blackouts. I studied how and why they were happening, and started to use cannabis intentionally to ward off some of that anger. It worked, most of the time, but I’d miss dosages because I’d hate myself too much or not have enough money to get the correct kind and amount.
In late 2015, I started to have what I understand as repressed memories and emotional flashbacks. I’d be in negative situations full of verbal and physical violence, and I’d get just as mad as I was then, but in an adult’s body sans my higher reasoning skills.
I often blacked out at times during these disassociative (usually depersonalization, where I’d yell and scream, but sometimes derealization, where I’d have to hurt myself in some way to make sure my world wasn’t evaporating) episodes, adding to my fear and confusion in the moment. In early 2016, after multiple devastating arguments with my family and wife, I started to question if my psych medication was working for me.
In April of that year, I was given 99 grams of organically grown cannabis from living soil to sample as a judge of sorts for Willamette Week’s first Cultivation Classic. I sampled 3-5 strains a day, and then made infused coconut oil with the vaped leftovers.
In May, I started to have visual memories that associated with my previous highly emotional reactions. Near daily, I’d have some sort of negative feeling in the present, and then was able to connect that memory with at least two other negative experiences, usually from back when I was 4-6 years old and again in my later teen years and early 20s.
I lost 12 pounds that month, after losing three per in the previous two months, while reducing my exercise load and increasing my food intake.
In June, I knew it was time to get off Lexapro for good, as I felt the chemicals were limiting my emotional range, which prevented me from feeling and remembering all that my brain was trying to tell me. I also knew that it would take time for my brain to heal, as it had been depending on outside sources of chemicals for nearly half my life.
With a 60-mile round trip bike ride partially alongside a state highway on my schedule, I waited until that had been completed, and woke up June 10, 2016, without Lexapro in my system and no backup prescription.
The brain fog was immediate. The brain zaps took a day to start, then were constant. My emotional range expanded to the point of not being able to handle even off-screen TV violence, and I started to love shows like The Muppets that I’d watched as a kid.
A couple of days into my recovery, I met the Hermetic Botanicals team, who supplied me Mind Joules Nootropic and Calming Frequency with Hemp Infused Gummies. These helped me establish a sleep/wake pattern, as I typically couldn’t sleep more than 2-3 hours at a time without help.
In addition to that as a complement on tougher days and nights, I used infused coconut oil made from 84 grams worth of already vaped bud from my vaporizer. This mix, consisting of a half gram of the 99 competition strains and sample cannabis straight from near-legendary grower John Bodhi, was 10% CBD and 70% indica strains. I took the oil three times a day, with a dosage ratio of about 1.5:1:3 starting at 5mg (this eventually went up to 30:30:90).
For midday runs or when I could feel myself getting agitated, I used a 7:1 Earth mix from Luminous Botanicals. Its instant, when taken sublingually, relief helped me overcome two specific situations in which my body had frozen in fear during a morning flashback…like the Tin Man getting oiled.
In addition, I smoked/vaped/dabbed as much THCv as I could find, usually in the form of Durban Poison, Girl Scout Cookie, and Cherry Pie flower. The high THCv helped me stay in the present when my body reacted with spasms connected to emotional flashbacks, and allowed me to sort of lucid dream visual flashbacks as they happened.
Like surfing, this was a skill that felt like both art and science, as I never had pure THCv to work with so I could get a better handle on dosing. But oh man, did nights with THCv feel a lot better than all the other ones.
I couldn’t afford to replace all the hemp and CBD products I’d been using (it’s far easier/cheaper to obtain THC-laden cannabis than high CBD options, typically) and my recovery slowed down from the first few months.
Nearly five months later, in early November, I felt my brain start to turn back on again. I became aware of an emotional range and sensitivity I hadn’t known about previously, and started to feel like I was living in the “real” world.
After that, my recovery slowed until I started yoga in March 2017, tried ayahuasca in May, and then reconfigured my CBD:THC ratio this month to help better support my healing brain.
I have a lot more work to go, but goddamn, has it been one helluva positive experience over time.
To follow along, check out the Burning Bush podcast, which documents my recovery from May 2016 on, check out some reviews at DOPE Magazine, and see some of my earlier cannabis work with Willamette Week.