Diagnosed with a personality disorder and experiencing debilitating anxiety which left him housebound, Craig*, had exhausted all treatment options and was losing all hope. He reveals how medical cannabis has helped him see the light.
My health issues started around 2014, when I was two years into studying to become a nurse. I ended up having a nervous breakdown, which resulted in me choosing to leave the course and return home. I entered the mental health system from that point onwards.
In 2016 I was diagnosed with mixed and other personality disorders. I tried Cognitive Analytical Therapy, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) [types of talking therapy] and exposure therapy to deal with the anxiety, but after that I hit the end of the road.
My GP considers me treatment resistant, as NICE (National Institute of Health and Care Excellence) guidelines don’t recommend the prescription of mood stabilisers or antidepressants for people with personality disorders. The NHS basically said they couldn’t help me anymore, I just had to learn how to deal with things.
I wasn’t able to work due to my anxiety and was relying on benefits, I was in a really bad place. I ended up becoming a social recluse, I wouldn’t go outside at all and was left feeling completely hopeless.
Around 2018 I started researching how CBD could help with anxiety and then I became aware of the medicinal benefits of THC. I’m the type of person, who in school would have not said ‘boo to a goose’ – people would never have associated me with cannabis – but I began accessing it illegally and medicating on a daily basis.
Seeing in technicolour
For me the world is a very scary place, I constantly feel as though I’m shrouded in darkness, but when I medicate it’s as though I see in technicolor. It helps to empty my mind and there’s no longer a voice in my head telling me it’s not safe. I’m able to engage my DBT skills and tolerate the world, whereas before cannabis I just didn’t see the point.
Cannabis has made me realise how much of my life I have actually lost over the last 30 years. Before I wasn’t living, I was simply existing. Even my family have commented on how much more talkative and happier I am, rather than closed off all the time. I’m actually excited to be able to go outside again.
Earlier this year I got a legal prescription through Project Twenty21.
I never thought getting a prescription would be an option for me with my mental health conditions. I remember calling the clinic the first time and repeating that I had a personality disorder over and over again, because I could not accept that they were still willing to see me.
The clinic listened with such care and compassion and now I see a brilliant doctor. I know what he’s prescribing me and I’m in control of what I’m taking.
There are many other people like myself, with mental health conditions, who don’t realise medical cannabis is an option for them because of the stigma associated with cannabis and psychosis.
When I tell people that not only do I have cannabis prescribed for anxiety, but a psychiatrist actually prescribed, it shocks them.
I don’t think there’s enough awareness about medical cannabis in generally, and definitely not that opportunities such as Project Twenty21 exist.
Accessing cannabis treatment has made me feel empowered, as though I am taking control of my own destiny. I’m seeing a therapist privately as well, which is one of the best things I’ve done.
I tried every avenue in terms of accessing mental health care through the NHS but it’s very one-size fits all – most likely down to a lack of funding – and I didn’t fit into that box.
If I hadn’t of been able to get this prescription I don’t know what other treatment would have been available for me and I think I would have lost all hope.
It has shown me that I can experience joy and the world is not the miserable, dark place I thought it was.
*Craig’s name has been changed to protect his identity
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