Bipolar Disorder by Anonymous

I am a 35-year-old male.  I was first seen by a psychiatrist, at the insistence of my marijuana-phobic parents, when I was 14 years old.  He diagnosed me as having unipolar depression caused by abuse of marijuana (in fact, it was depression being treated by marijuana).  At the age of 15, I was hospitalized against my will (I'll spare you the details of how I ended up in the funny farm) for dual-diagnosis depression/chemical dependency.  The hospital physicians assured me that if I attempted to leave the hospital "AMA," or against medical advice, then they would promptly go to court to have me civilly committed (although they were happy to see other patients leave the hospital when their insurance coverage ran out).

I am, as it turns out, bipolar rather than unipolar, although that diagnosis was almost a couple decades late in coming because I do not have the florid psychotic manias commonly associated with manic-depression.  Rather, I have hypomanic episodes that include all of the typical symptoms of mania EXCEPT for the florid psychosis ... and I also often have so-called "mixed states" and/or "dysphoric manias" in which symptoms of mania are present simultaneously with symptoms of major depression and/or anxiety.  I also have been diagnosed as having generalized anxiety disorder, although I ordinarily do not suffer the symptoms of GAD except when I am in a mixed state or a dysphoric mania.

About 5 or 6 years ago I began to self-medicate with St. John's wort, which alleviated the depression but resulted in a prolonged period of edgy and anxious dysphoric mania.  I was unhappy and very irritable, to put it mildly.  The folks for whom I then worked lavished praise upon me for my stellar work ethic -- I had lost interest in socializing, had great difficulty falling asleep, and had became somewhat obsessive about my work, so I was often at the office until around midnight, for lack of anything better to do with my time.

The St. John's wort did not alleviate (and I think it to some extent increased) my feelings of dysphoria and anxiety, so I sought help from a physician, who took me off the St. John's wort and prescribed Zoloft and Ativan.  The Ativan was a godsend, and so was the Zoloft -- or so it seemed at first.  My emotional state greatly improved within a mere few days of starting the Zoloft therapy, and I began socializing a lot, and I regained my lost libido ... and recklessly had sex with about three dozen partners (mostly one night stand pick-ups) within a couple of months.  I remained intensely focused upon my work, so to continue the long hours at the office but also make time in my schedule for my new interests in socializing and sex, I slept even less than before, but I nevertheless had boundless energy and felt like a million bucks (and it seemed like I spent about that much, too ...).  In short, a typical hypomanic episode.

When the Zoloft stopped working, I went into one of the deepest depressions of my life.  The quality and quantity of my work plummeted, I ceased almost all social activities, and I began using massive quantities of alcohol, heroin, and cocaine, just to get me through the day.  Some caring friends expressed their serious concern that I would not survive for much longer, dying either by suicide or by accidental O.D., so -- more to assuage their concerns than due to any care for my own well-being -- I told my doctor that the Zoloft was not working and that I was in a deep funk and needed some help getting back on my feet.  He switched my prescription from Zoloft to Effexor.

The Effexor temporarily brought me out of the deep depression, which enabled me to stop shooting dope etc., but -- as did the St. John's wort -- it set off a prolonged period of anxiety and dysphoric hypomania.  It also caused unpleasant sexual side effects which the Zoloft had not (such as loss of libido and inability to experience orgasm).

During most of the past 10 or 12 years, I had not been using cannabis:  at first, because I am a lawyer and did not want to get in trouble with the bar and risk losing my license, and then later when I no longer cared about the consequences of my actions, because my heroin and cocaine expenses left no money in my budget to pay for the herb.

I decided a few weeks ago to go off all prescription medications, because (1) they weren't working very well, (2) the side effects were unpleasant, and (3) I got laid off from my job and lost my insurance coverage -- and Effexor is quite expensive.

However, I recently have been smoking a bit of herb on occasion, and as it did when I smoked it in my teens and early- to mid-twenties, it has really helped to smooth out the bipolar cycles, to ease the dysphoria, and to give my spirits a boost when I get depressed. 

I live in California now, which has a rather progressive medical marijuana law, so I plan to arrange an appointment with an open-minded physician and seek medical authorization to smoke -- not daily (which I haven't done for about 18 years), but on those occasions when I need to smoke, in order to maintain my sanity. 

I have lost friends, alienated family members, been unable to maintain successful long-term romantic relationships, screwed up relations with employers, and in general lived an often miserable existence for many years now.  But I am optimistic that by returning to using cannabis instead of those nasty pharmaceutical pills, I will be able to get my life back on track.