Depression and Weed – A Girl’s Story

I was ten years old and living at the Jersey shore when I heard the song “Someone Saved my Life Tonight” by Elton John. I curled up on my bedroom floor and cried my eyes out. For a long, long time. Too long for a little girl who didn’t even understand the gravity of the lyrics. I knew, even then, something was wrong.

Due to the passing of my father several years before, I also became obsessed with death and the supernatural, thinking ghosts were constantly around me. Darkness was terrifying, so I slept with the lights on until I was a teen. I was perpetually afraid of being left, in any manner. Bleak thoughts seemed to chase after me like hungry dogs.

It was the beginnings of depression.

You almost had your hooks in me, didn’t you dear?
You nearly had me roped and tied

As a young adult, I tried several anti-depressants. I desperately wanted to live a normal life and thought that was the path. I experimented with four different kinds in total, each with their own specific insidious side effects (including one that caused my face to twitch when I discontinued it. Fun stuff.)

Sure, on some levels, I felt better on them – but I didn’t feel like me. Instead, I felt like a cartoon version of myself, existing about a foot above the earth. When I found out that my happy pills could affect my sex drive, I parted ways with them. My sex drive defines who I am. I refused to live life without it..or have it altered in any way.

So instead, in my twenties, I self-medicated and disassociated with the best of them, via hard drugs and alcohol. I was surviving, not thriving. Marijuana had been in my life since my early teens so I can’t say I used it effectively to treat depression. It simply helped in the numbing out process.

Sitting like a princess perched in her electric chair
And it’s one more beer and I don’t hear you anymore

It took some time (and therapy) until I figured out ways in which marijuana could help my depression. (I stress “my” for a reason: I don’t think it’s a solution for everyone.) I suffer from anxiety-based depression, where I can get stuck in “thought loops” as I call them. These loops can leave me standing in the middle of a room, unable to take a single step forward for fear that I’m going to do the wrong thing. (Crippling indecision is a nasty and often under-discussed aspect of depression.)

After a particularly bad break-up about 10 years ago, the thought loops were growing worse. Just as some people envision a warm beach to relax, I pictured a shiny gun in my mouth. Seriously. That’s what I did to relax. Something had to change.

I never realized the passing hours of evening showers
A slip noose hanging in my darkest dreams

I still remember the afternoon I used marijuana – not to escape, not to “party” – but to help me.

I lived in San Francisco at the time, a beautiful city. I smoked some pot and forced myself outdoors. The sun was crystalline bright, the breeze so light. Everyone was bustling about Castro Street. I couldn’t help but smile, something I hadn’t done in months.

Then I hit the yard sales. (I love yard sales – a therapy in and of itself. Another blog entry.) Soon, I found myself chatting it up with my neighbors, laughing, telling jokes. When I came back home, loaded with bags of who-knows-what, I let out a deep and profound sigh of relief. The spell had been broken. The loops had stopped. I actually enjoyed my afternoon!

I’m sleeping with myself tonight
Saved in time, thank God my music is still alive.

I don’t advocate weed for everyone’s depression. As a matter of fact, I think there is a tendency to use it too much as a form of escape from pain or an inability to sit with one’s “ugly” emotions. I’ve worked hard, via traditional routes, to move past depression: therapy, creative expression, meditation, exercise, nutrition, etc. They all work. (As an aside, I’m constantly shocked by people’s resistance to therapy in this day and age. It’s just weird that there is still such a stigma attached to it.)

And I don’t smoke weed every day. It’s very important for me to spend time just “as is,” with the loops, the sadness, the dark and heavy thoughts. On those days, I cry as I did when I was a little girl, hearing that song. My life has not been easy and it deserves its due. It deserves tears and grief occasionally. It deserves some sobriety.

So save your strength and run the fields you play alone.

But I won’t suffer needlessly either. If I find myself spiraling, I will smoke pot to stop the cycle. Suddenly, instead of worrying, aching, dreading, I simply notice the clouds. Or that cheerful, focused way a dog walks. Or the rustling of leaves on a gray day. I can live in the moment and feel relieved of depression. My mind and body are given a break. And when I do feel depressed, I have a little more perspective, because I remember what its like not to feel that way. But that’s just my story.

You’re a butterfly
And butterflies are free to fly
Fly away, high away, bye bye

Someone Saved my Life Tonight – Elton John

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Beth Mann is a popular blogger and writer for Open Salon and Salon. She is also an accomplished actor and director with over 15 years of experience, as well as the president of Hot Buttered Media. She currently resides at the Jersey shore where she can often be seen surfing or singing karaoke at the local dive bar. Contact: maryjane {at }

Other blogs:

Silly Lists of Nothingness

The Most Boring Blog Ever

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