“Borderline Budgeting” is a column by Mercedes Killeen about the intersection of mental health and spending habits. Mercedes writes about her own experiences with mental illness, and how she manages to practice skills like self-care while staying on budget. (This piece deals with the topic of suicidal thoughts — please only continue to read if you feel it is healthy for you to do so.)
DISCLAIMER: The information provided in this article is solely drawn from personal experience. This article is not meant to be used, nor should it be used, to diagnose or treat any medical condition. For diagnosis or treatment of any medical problem, consult your own physician.
With a growing number of countries legalizing and decriminalizing recreational cannabis, the popular plant has seen a surge in public interest. For example, CBD oil has become extremely trendy, with proponents claiming that it’s the fix for any and every modern ailment.
While CBD oil and other cannabis-derived products are far from cure-alls, they can be quite useful for some people. And in my own experience, medical pot has been a powerful tool for my overall wellness and mental health. I’ve been using cannabis in some form or another for several years — I started before I was given an official prescription, because I realized early on that it helped me with my mental health issues. Thankfully, about a year and a half ago, I was actually referred to a doctor specializing in medical cannabis. Since then, I’ve been able to use marijuana in a methodical way, instead of trying to figure out the right dosage on my own.
The cost of my medical marijuana usage
I pay for my medical cannabis out-of-pocket, although it is a tax-deductible expense. It’s also helpful that most licensed producers offer a “compassionate pricing” program for those who are on social assistance/otherwise low income, so I get a 20% discount on my purchases. On a monthly basis, it typically costs me $60 USD, which works out to about $15 per week.
For me, it truly is a worthwhile cost (and I’m grateful that I can afford it).
Here are 10 reasons why it remains one of the most crucial parts of my monthly budget:
1. It helps me manage my anxiety.
As I’ve written about several times here on TFD, I suffer from anxiety. I was first diagnosed when I was six years old, so it’s really been a life-long struggle. Trying to manage my symptoms is a constant effort, and one of the most powerful strategies in my toolkit is vaporizing medical marijuana. It’s a very quick-acting method, so it gives me timely relief from my symptoms.
2. It allows me to function at a more basic level.
I also deal with other mental health issues like depression, BPD, and PTSD. I have extreme symptoms that have impacted me for many years — low energy, massive mood swings, suicidal thoughts — you name it. Those issues have often prevented me from performing basic tasks, like eating, sleeping, showering, or even getting out of bed. I’ve been hospitalized on psychiatric units countless times, and there were periods of my life where I was pretty much constantly suicidal.
As I’ve made progress in my recovery over the past year and a half, medical cannabis has been a tried-and-true piece of the puzzle. By using it strategically throughout the day (along with other coping skills), I’ve been able to start working again, and have stayed out of the hospital for over a year.
3. It provides me with a real alternative to traditional psych meds.
I’ve been on many different psychiatric meds — antidepressants, antipsychotics, benzodiazepines, the list goes on and on. I’ve constantly been on some form of medication since I was 17 years old. The side effect profiles — even of the meds I’m currently on — have been extremely difficult to live with. The meds have caused everything from extreme sedation to massive weight gain.
On the other hand, my body has always tolerated cannabis extremely well. I’m not one of those people who uses marijuana and proceeds to lie on the couch watching TV, zoned-out and eating chips for hours on end. After I vape, I actually feel relaxed enough to do the things I need to do — like exercise, meditate, and do work. It helps me stay productive and motivated. Aside from a bit of dry mouth, I have virtually no negative side-effects. And as my doctor and I work to gradually wean me off psych meds, that is a great thing to have.
4. It enhances my meditation practice.
Meditation is another hugely-important part of my recovery process. Since discovering mindfulness, it’s been completely transformative. One bonus? I find that using medical cannabis goes really well with my meditation practice, allowing me to relax more deeply and find stillness.
5. It complements my yoga practice.
Yoga is another important part of my toolkit; I try to practice it every single morning. It helps me stay active while also practicing mindfulness skills. While I certainly don’t need to use medical marijuana every time I do yoga, when the two happen to overlap, I find myself better able to engage with my practice.
6. It aids in creativity.
As a writer — and especially as a poet — creativity is a big part of my life. I’m always trying to find new ways to grow as an artist, and I’ve found that cannabis helps me boost my creative output. The relaxing effects help me find the inspiration and motivation to write.
7. It helps me abstain from alcohol.
Another part of my recovery process over the past year or so has been quitting drinking. I’ve had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol since I was a teen, but lived in denial that it was an actual problem. I’m now finally 10 months free from alcohol, and it’s had a huge impact on my overall health (not to mention my wallet!). My mood has been far more stable, I’ve found healthier coping skills, and I’ve generally become way more committed to my overall wellness. Medical cannabis helps me stay on track so that I can avoid alcohol.
8. It provides relief from many of my PMS symptoms.
As I’ve mentioned here on TFD before, I also deal with an extreme form of PMS called PMDD. So, every single month, I get debilitating symptoms during the week before my period. All of my mental health issues get amplified, and it’s hard to function at all. Medical cannabis helps me manage day-to-day with those symptoms, and also provides relief from menstrual cramps. So, even if things are tough, I’m still able to stay out of hospital, keep doing my job, and get through the week.
9. It promotes general relaxation.
This has been a common theme throughout the list, but medical cannabis really helps me slow down and breathe. It’s a tried-and-true way for me to calm down, think a bit more clearly, and stay on track.
10. It helps me find more pleasure and enjoyment in my daily life.
And of course, there’s no doubt that marijuana has a fun aspect — it’s why so many people use it for recreational reasons. Overall, cannabis has been an effective way to find a bit of joy in my daily life while also treating my mental health issues.
Mercedes Killeen is a Toronto-based freelance writer and editor. You can learn more about her work, and order her freelance services, at mercedeskilleen.com.
Image via Unsplash