Asperger’s Syndrome. As a seven year old, I had no idea what this meant. All I was told was this meant I was special. I thought differently and acted differently from the other kids. It made me unique. However being unique has a downside, I stuck out like a sore thumb. Being acutely aware of this, growing up I was reserved as a child, I barely spoke a word to anyone, I wouldn’t interact with the other kids in a normal way, and I singled myself out. It was almost like I was denying my true self. In retrospect, it was possibly the worst decisions of my life, it made me feel like I should go along with the crowd, like I needed approval from other people.
The real problems started when I began secondary school. This is a nervous enough time for the kids anyway, but the thought of 1000 other kids judging me, petrified me. My fear was well placed, and before I knew it, there were names, bullying, every kind of abuse you can imagine, and it got worse as I got older. Now puberty is a challenging time for mot people, but at the age of 15 I snapped. A potent mix of hormones, anger and repressing emotion for four years had taken its toll. I entered a horrible downward spiral of depression, fighting and just being obnoxious. I was in trouble with the police, my home life was crumbling around me and I felt isolated.
Now I had been seeing counsellors and psychiatrists since I was diagnosed, but none of them understood, you can have all the training in the world, but unless you have it or live with it, as with any disability (or special ability, as I call it!), you never really understand the difficulties on a day to day basis. Every night I was going to bed and praying I wasn’t going to wake up the next morning.
My saving grace was being introduced to a very close friend, who also suffers from Autism. After getting to know him, we discussed similar symptoms and certain behavioural patterns we recognised as familiar. I then noticed a grinder and rizla on his bedside table, and being a curious, albeit naïve 16 year old, asked him if he smoked cannabis. He told me that smoking cannabis had massively improved his quality of life.
He then proceeded to explain about the similar symptoms of anger, shyness and repressing his feelings. He told me that it helped level out his moods and allowed him to lower his inhibitions and talk about how he felt. To me, this sounded like Manna from heaven, the answer to all the riddles.
I wanted to try it so bad, but I had two major problems. The first was my parents. They were the least open minded, most anti drugs people I had ever met. Admittedly my knowledge on drugs at this point was minimal, but I didn’t dare broach the subject with them. The second was the medical professionals that were meant to be “supporting me”. I spoke to my GP and psychiatrists about potentially trying cannabis as an alternative therapy, which was shunned immediately. They just wanted to fill me full of pills, which I now know are far more dangerous.
I went back to my friend with the concerns I had, and he assured me, that the quacks were wrong. Still a little dubious, I threw caution to the wind and tried it. All I remember from my first use of cannabis was choking. I had never smoked before, and I freely admit, I’m sure I coughed up a lung. However, I persevered; I felt that this was a much better option than having to pop pills constantly. I also started reading about cannabis, having Asperger’s does have its upsides; I love maths and science, especially chemistry. I read as many books and as much online material as I could find. My “chemistry research” I called it, to stop my parents getting suspicious.
The more I read, the more confident I became that this was the right medicine for me. I learnt that cannabis was not a paranoia inducing route to insanity, but a life giving plant. I started to notice that I was changing, I wasn’t feeling depressed or angry, and it was like I was living in a dream. I noticed my personality began to change. I became more extroverted, more sociable.
When people started to notice the change, they kept asking me what made me so different. With some people I could be completely honest, and tell them, look I started smoking cannabis; some people looked at me with surprise, some with disgust, being labelled a “druggie”. To my surprise, the most supportive people are now my parents. I finally told them after hiding my usage for 5 years. I was scared they would judge me on what I did, but after explaining it to them, and showing them the beneficial evidence I had compiled, they too began to understand why I use cannabis.
Now, 7 years on from first trying cannabis, my quality of life has flipped itself. I am happier than I have ever been both with my life and with myself. I understand this is a condition that has no cure, and I will live with it forever, but cannabis is the main weapon in my arsenal to combat the symptoms it causes which made my life such a hell. Anyone who says that cannabis is an evil drug is ignorant, brainwashed by popular propaganda and fear mongering. It’s these people I pity.
I am now looking towards the future. I want to promote responsible drug use for people with Asperger’s and autism in general. There are some great facebook groups I found, many of which have had similar experiences to me, and they are a great support and have lots of information on the subject. My main goal is to challenge the perceptions people have of cannabis, and the stigma attached to it. Ignorance breeds stupidity and knowledge is enlightenment. If people bothered to find out about cannabis themselves, instead of being fed a subjected view, then the world would be such a better place. I hope other people have the confidence to speak out about this issue, or to explore it as a possibility to enhance their lives. I’m confident that if I didn’t have cannabis in my life, it would be so much worse for it.
By Nicholas Bull