Inhaling to breath

Inhaling to breath

By Molly Priddy
Illustration by Meredith Anne White

We were driving in Northwest Montana, my wife and I, when my body suddenly allowed me to breathe again.

It had been a week of fits and fury, when anxiety and depression had toppled all my plans and rendered me nearly useless, a worthless blob, unable to eat or sleep well, let alone work. It had been torturous—no matter how many times my wife countered my apparent worthlessness with loving words, I couldn’t see how they could possibly be true.

Anxiety and depression are very skilled liars; I wish I could be half as good. In the cold grip of panic or under the dull weight of depression (or a super-neat combination of both), I am convinced I’m a person of moral failure, who wasn’t strong enough; someone who couldn’t deal like everyone else.

My personal paradigm shifted, however, when I started on a medical marijuana program to complement my other medications. On their own, Wellbutrin and Cymbalta made it easier to regulate my emotions, but I would still end up swallowed in waves of anxiety and depression.

The day I first tried the weed, I was trying out a collection of indicas from the dispensary. One, called Endless Sky, had just kicked in as my wife and I were driving in late spring to eat lunch by Flathead Lake.

I remember sitting in the passenger seat as we moved, and suddenly experiencing the feeling of a weight lifting from my chest and my brain. If before it had felt suffocating, as though someone were holding a blanket of depression and anxiety over my head while I struggled to break free, this was as though the blanket was lifted, just enough, maybe six inches, and I could breathe again.

Not only did I have space to sit for more than three seconds without thinking about what a failure I was, but I also had the chance to look at the anxiety and depression as separate from who I am as a person.

In lifting that smothering feeling, I was able to distance myself from the feelings enough to see that they are merely that: Feelings created by a brain under strain, waves of self-disgust and worthlessness washing over me for no reason that had to do with my actual situation.
Distance allowed me to go through a checklist, as I’ve worked on with my therapist: Personal life? Work? Home? Animals? Everyone okay? Going through that list out loud helped me see that the anxiety and self-hatred weren’t actually connected to anything, that I wasn’t drowning, that I wasn’t being suffocated, that I was going to get through this.

By the time we got to the lake and to lunch, I had smiled in the car, even laughed. And wouldn’t you know it—that weed also helped with my appetite. A burger in the sunshine by the water became a joy, an indulgence, instead of a chore.

In the months since, I’ve figured the exact strain combination that works best for me, with the help of my dispensary and working with my doctor to make sure she knew all the medications going into my body.

I’ve made advances in therapy as well, because I’ve been able to look at emotions that are normally too difficult for me to stand. Weed helps give me distance from them, so I can see them for what they really are: not the end of me.