Bipolar Disorder by Anonymous

My nickname is "Lola".  I'm 35 years old. I'm single, working at an animal hospital.   I'm a college graduate, a musician, a singer, a dog-rescuer, a medical transcriber and a psychology graduate student.  I was diagnosed with bipolar type II disorder about a year ago, but I've been "self-medicating" with pot for about 3 years.  I first tried marijuana when I was 16 years old and liked it right away.  However, I had dreams of becoming a singer and never wanted to "mess up my vocal cords".  I never tried any heavy drugs, not cocaine, not ecstasy, nothing.  I would have a drink from time to time, but couldn't tolerate alcohol very well. 

I became severely depressed in 2002 when my band broke up.  I'd been pursuing a singing career in Los Angeles, while supporting myself as a medical transcriber for about four years.  Then my job was outsourced overseas.  My roommate was smoking pot, and I started to as well.  I found that it made me calmer, less neurotic, less worried, more able to "go with the flow" and cope with the little things life threw at me.  I honestly felt NORMAL!

However, it was illegal.  I was worried about lung cancer (but they just proved in May 2006 at UCLA that there is no link between lung cancer and smoking marijuana!), so I started seeing psychiatrists.  I was put on antidepressants.  Eventually, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  I'd always suffered mood swings and anxiety attacks since I was about ten years old.  However, my mother's diagnosis of bipolar type I with schizoaffective disorder was so much more debilitating that my symptoms were overshadowed growing up.  My symptoms manifested themselves through relationships.  I had trouble concentrating my whole life. I always felt like I couldn't fit in the "box".  Working 40 hours a week at a desk throws me into a manic state.  I'd cry in the car on the way home and throw temper tantrums when I got home unless there was pot around.

In 2005, I went through dozens of mood stabilizers, passing out at my desk at work at my new job, pissing off my co-workers, feeling like a zombie.  I had to check myself into a hospital to get my medication straightened out.  I was put on lithium and at first I loved it.  I told my psychiatrist I felt exactly how I felt when I smoked pot. She said to me "That's funny; everyone I put on lithium has been saying that!"

However, the side effects of Lithium were devastating. I had to go on thyroid medication because my thyroid function was lowered, I gained 35 pounds and I'm only 5'1".  My face broke out.  I had no energy.  I had to go off the lithium.  I tried other mood stabilizers.  Nothing worked.  I became suicidal.

That's when I started smoking pot again.

To me, it makes no sense. It feels exactly the same as lithium without the side effects.  And now they just proved at UCLA that pot smoking does not cause lung cancer!

Conventional drugs, I have found, have been "too strong" for me.  They strip me of my personality.  One thing, particularly for me, that pot has given me back is my libido.  I am still on Topomax (mood stabilizer) and Effexor (antidepressant), but I needed another mood stabilizer stronger than the Topomax. I found that marijuana counteracts the fact that the Effexor lowers my libido.  Also, I was on Seroquel, only 25 mg, and couldn't get out of bed in the morning.  I cut it in half, and then in quarters and still it was too strong I DO have trouble getting out of bed with the marijuana sometimes, but nothing like with Seroquel, or Geodon, or other mood stabilizers.

I smoke either a bong, pipe or a joint at night, after work.  On the weekends, I smoke in the afternoon and at night.  I try not to smoke before I go to work, unless I feel way too manic, as if I won't be able to focus at work (I sit at a desk all day) I go through about an eighth a week of very strong, medicinal-grade marijuana.

Luckily, I have never had legal troubles.  I do need to get a prescription card soon, though, since I live in California.  I know I can get one for bipolar disorder.  However, they cost $175.  I would have to sacrifice two weeks of my "medication" in order to afford the prescription card.  So, I don't have the card yet.  I do worry about getting in trouble.  The stigma bothers me.  I struggled with it for a long time.  I even went to Marijuana Anonymous for a while.  But, I couldn't relate to marijuana as a "problem".  It felt more like the medication I'd been looking for.  I felt like it made it easier for me to cope with the world, instead of hide in my room.