In June of 1995 I tried very seriously to kill myself. I took a packet of diazepam (sleeping pills, Valium) and a packet headache pills and washed them down with a large bottle of vodka mixed with lemonade. My idea was to wait until I could barely walk then head down to the beach. We were having "king tides" and it was winter here in Australia. I had heard that one of the stages of hypothermia was passing out, and all I had to do was swim toward the lights of the cargo ships out on the horizon until the combination of pills, alcohol, and cold would make me pass out and drown. I got out past the huge whitewash, but by then I had swallowed a lot of salt water and stared vomiting. After a long time I got caught in an undertow and ended up closer to the shore. I was disoriented and swam for the lights, but huge waves picked me up and tossed me about. After a time I felt my hands touch sand and I staggered out of the water. I decided to go home and build up the courage to jump of cliffs. On the way home I walked in front of two cars. They stopped. When I got home it was 3 AM. Being very dutiful and considerate, I decided to go to work the next morning and try again that night. I had severe abdominal pains. A friend at work noticed my general demeanour that day. My eyes and mannerisms reminded her of her twenty-something daughter who had been successful in her suicide attempt 11 years earlier. My friend put me in the car and took me to a mental health crisis center. I was assessed as severely depressed and asked to stay for 10 days. This was a positive thing, in that I did not try to kill myself during those 10 days. In every other respect it was a disaster. I hated the staff and the other residents, and the hatred became worse when I was prescribed drugs that made me feel listless, apathetic, and still depressed enough to kill myself, if only I could find the energy. For the next two years I was told over and over "not every medication or combination of medications works for every patient; we just need to find your correct combination." During this time I was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder, which I now believe to be a mistake. I have always had very mild manic episodes in which I feel productive and cheerful, don’t need much sleep, and am slightly more self-confident than usual. When I took antidepressants (primarily) Prozac, Zoloft, and Xanax, these episodes became violent quickly. I couldn’t sleep, believed I was an alien, hated clothes or water on my skin, came up with plans to kill people who had been rude to me, etc. When I stopped taking the drugs these episodes abated to their usual harmless levels, but the depression would come back and not lift for 2-3 months. The drugs that cured the depression also caused bad side effects including nausea, headaches, blurred vision, shaking, lack of appetite, and a horrible taste in my mouth. I was also very tired of the attitude of the doctors that I was overplaying the significance of these side effects.

In February 1997 I stopped taking Zoloft and felt the mild elation that signaled a manic episode looming. I was feeling nauseated and headachy and my hands constantly shook. However, I was stable enough to socialize. At a 21st birthday party I met my current boyfriend, who is a very patient, thoughtful, intelligent, and compassionate person. After six months he suggested I smoke cannabis to help me relax in preparation for social situations and also to help me sleep. My GP, two psychiatrists and one psychologist had told me that people with depressive or anxiety disorders should never smoke cannabis because it would only make the problems worse. But I was willing to try anything. I made my boyfriend promise to take me to hospital if I became depressed or hallucinated.

My first experience with marihuana was amazing. After two cones I sat on my kitchen floor with a profound sense of non-specific joy. Everything was a source of wonder. I felt more alive; colours were sharper, smell and taste more vivid. I looked into a mirror and found myself vividly beautiful. I believe I was truly seeing my reflection, freed from a distorted self-image for the first time in ten years. (I was 14 the last time I had looked into a mirror without loathing what I saw). This intense effect lasted about half an hour. The longer-term effects, which lasted for about 3 hours were a sense of well-being and compassion towards myself and others. I suddenly found other people charming and interesting. Instead of the mistrust and suspicion I constantly fought, my main attitude was one of wonder and tender amusement. I had insights into my own behaviour and the behaviour of others. I realized that some of the things I had taken to be negative comments were actually just observations. I was only hearing what I assumed people around me meant and not actually listening to what they said. When I smoke marihuana I still have insights into why I do and think negative things, and these insights stand up when I am not stoned. My psychologist even commented on how good I was becoming at recognizing and neutralizing negative thought processes. I have suffered from panic attacks and mild hallucinations in the past, but I would like to stress that I have never, never had either of these things happen whilst smoking pot. My theory is that stress and depression bring on panic attacks and hallucinations, and when I smoke I am not stressed or depressed. The only paranoia I currently suffer from is the fear of being branded a criminal and thrown into jail. This is a possibility, so is it actually paranoia?

I would also like to comment on the myth that marihuana makes you unproductive. I have found this to be false. I am much more productive now because I am not filled with fear and indecision. I am not overly concerned about making mistakes and much more forgiving of others. I can analyze my personal and professional failures without feeling overwhelmed and useless. Yes, I care less about making errors, but not because I am apathetic. Now I see errors as learning experiences, not opportunities for the universe or other people to punish me. Marihuana has enriched my life beyond measure. If I could, I would grow it and give it away to anyone who asked for it.