Reflecting on how cannabis has changed my life, I can honestly say it has had nothing but a positive effect. I am thoroughly a more grounded person, so much better able to deal with stressful or upsetting situations than I ever thought I would be. I can think about situations clearly, see and empathise with other people, where before I would have been clouded with unwanted emotion. I have also noticed that the amount of bipolar ‘episodes’ I have has become a lot less frequent, a rarity even. I would be lying if I said I haven’t felt depressed a single time since I started smoking because I have. But the point is how differently I have dealt with it, I haven’t felt out of control, cannabis helps me think rationally, my depression doesn’t take over; it is so much easier to handle. It relieves my anxiety, which used to plague me, I am just generally happier. It also brings into perspective the negative effect drinking alcohol was having on my life- something which I no longer take part in- alcohol led me to act in such a harmful way. Of course I was drunk when I attempted suicide, often after a night out drinking I would find whatever I could to hurt myself with, usually smashing a glass bottle to use the glass to cut my hands. When I think about myself during that time, it is like looking at a different person, if I had continued that way who knows where I would be now.
Smoking cannabis has changed all that, despite what the government and the media would have you believe, getting ‘high’ has actually helped me become much more stable. It certainly does not make me have no ambition or want for success and has never hindered me in securing and holding down desirable jobs. It pains me to think that I, or anybody else in the UK for that matter, are committing a crime every time they light up a spliff, yet could go and buy a bottle of potentially lethal vodka without any questions asked. It is preposterous, that something so dangerous can be very much legal, and something so beneficial, very much illegal. Every day now when I get home from work, I light up my first spliff of the day. Instantly the stress of the day melts away. It certainly doesn’t feel like I am committing a crime when I do this, although technically I suppose I am. Everyone has their ways of unwinding in the evening, I am sure that for many people it might come in the form of a glass of wine and it seems so unfair that they have no need to worry about their way of relaxing, no need to hide it. Sadly that’s not the case for cannabis smokers; I am forced to hide, afraid of how people would react if they knew. In fact I expect that if it was found out that I smoke cannabis by my work colleagues, I would find myself in a very difficult situation. In a previous job I was naïve enough to believe that it would not be problem; one day in idle conversation a colleague mentioned that they had been to Amsterdam and hinted at enjoying the delights of the city’s coffee shops. Thinking that I was speaking with a fellow open-minded person, I foolishly indulged in talking about my own experiences of the coffee shops. This was a mistake. The individual proceeded to tell my manager of the time (despite admitting that they had smoked too, which seemed to be ignored) that I was a ‘weed’ smoker. It turns out this person was not open minded at all, it had only been a one-off trip and their real opinions of cannabis were the kind you would find embedded in newspapers like The Daily Mail. I have seen this kind of hypocrisy before, a boast about smoking the plant on occasion to appear ‘cool’, when in fact they have no idea about the benefits – cannabis is fine out in distant Amsterdam, but not here in the UK. Consequently every problem or ailment that I experienced whilst working there was blamed on cannabis, I would go as far as to say I was bullied, frowned upon and treated like all and any problems I had were all my own fault for smoking. Little did they know that it was cannabis that helped me get up in the morning.
I sincerely hope that things will change. It is a fact that all kinds of people smoke cannabis, there are millions of us all around the UK, and, far from being the stereotype portrayed in the media, a huge proportion are just normal, hardworking, successful individuals, whether they smoke to treat a medical condition or whether they just choose to do it recreationally. Cannabis is a wonderful thing, to so many different people, for so many different reasons. It is hard, as someone diagnosed with bipolar disorder, to explain how truly beneficial smoking the herb is for me. With no outward signs of my illness I have found that many find it harder to relate to the idea that for me cannabis can actually be a medicine. Thanks to the media it is the popular belief that the plant can actually cause mental illness – a claim that I simply do not believe! I hope that by sharing my experiences I can prove that far from causing mental illness, reefer really can cure madness.
By Alice Ayers