With the holiday season comes a chill in the air. Well, a physical chill, because emotionally? The holidays are nowhere near chill, am I right? In fact, from November 15 – January 2, you can count on me to be a tangled ball of stress at all times. Don’t get me wrong; I love the holidays. I love bundling up in cozy sweaters and visiting family and friends to exchange gifts, food, and good times. Christmas movies, pecan pie, flavored mochas, sledding, Mariah Carey — count me in. Love the holidays. I just have anxiety.
That’s just how it goes when you get older, isn’t it? We put so much pressure on ourselves to make every year the best year yet and often end up not even enjoying ourselves. Now, to get a little personal with y’all, I don’t have anxiety just around the holidays. I’ve been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder since my early teens. It’s not seasonal for me, and my anxiety is almost entirely social. I have trouble in crowds, at parties, in large meetings or classes, etc. And what’s more social than the holidays? Family coming into town, work parties, Friendsgivings, Black Friday shopping — one million instances to say or do something stupid and feel silly, if you ask me! This year, I was tired of ruining my own fun.
When I was issued my Medical Cannabis Card originally, I was interested in treating my anxiety as well as pain. I’d been prescribed benzodiazepines at the time and hated the way they made me feel. Unfortunately, my QMP, Tim Pickett, informed me that anxiety isn’t a qualifying condition in Utah. But he did give me a few helpful tips to successfully manage my pain while not triggering my anxiety. During my most recent visit, I was dealing more with anxiety than pain, so Tim and I came up with a treatment plan personalized to what I was going through. I’d been using vape cartridges primarily, and they never helped with anxiety. Tim mentioned that it was the high THC content and that I should steer clear of that while anxious. We went over some of the “chill cannabinoids” to look for, like CBD and CBN, and Tim suggested a few products to try during this extra stressful time.
As any cannabis user will tell you, finding your perfect medicine takes some trial and error. In the spirit of experimentation, Tim suggested I try three delivery methods: 1:1 THC:CBD edible gummies, a 1:10 tincture, and flower. Excited to try some new things, I agreed. Twist my arm, Tim. So, last weekend, I headed to my local dispensary to pick up the goods. I snagged a 100mg bag of 1:1 cherry Hygge chews, a bottle of 1:10 THC:CBD tincture by Zion Pharmaceuticals, and a few jars of Standard Wellness flower. Now, because anxiety isn’t a constant symptom for me and is brought on by triggers, for the sake of this article, I was set out to trigger myself. Seriously. First stop: the mall 10 days before Christmas.
One thing about me: I refuse to shop alone. Ask my husband, ask my mom, ask my best friend — I just won’t do it. If I’m in a position where I have to, I’ll call someone to chat with while I’m there. If I don’t, my mind starts to race (and my heart) and I’m just focused on getting the hell out of there. I’ve always been like this. With social anxiety, my biggest fear is looking stupid. That’s the simplest way to put it. So when I’m in public alone, in my head, I’m thinking people are watching me, judging my outfit, judging the things I buy, rolling their eyes at me for taking too long to pay, and generally just hating my guts for even existing in the same space as them.
I’d hoped gummies would help. I struggled with when to medicate, though. On one hand, I know that this will make me anxious, so pre-emptively medicating with a slow-release delivery method, like an edible, seemed like a solid plan to gear up for a few hours of fighting the crowds. (NOTE: I have been using cannabis for many years and am very familiar with my own tolerance. I do not recommend taking edibles before going in public to anyone who is not equally familiar/comfortable. You never know with edibles, folks.) So that I didn’t have to medicate and drive, I grabbed my husband and we headed out.
*SpongeBob narrator voice* Three hours later… I’m back in my car with a trunk full of gifts and taking a moment to be mindful of how I feel. I did not experience some of the physical representations of my anxiety while shopping this time. But, I wouldn’t say that was for lack of anxiety rather than lack of awareness. I didn’t feel stoned, per se, but I was pretty unbothered and unfocused. While that distracted me from anxious feelings, frankly, I just didn’t like the feeling and wanted to feel sharper in public. While I probably wouldn’t reach for an edible when anxious, based on the nap I took when I got home, I’d likely come back to edibles for sleep aid.
Next up, my 1:10 Zion Tincture. I’m more familiar with tinctures and how they work, so I decided to microdose a little one day before a very busy workday. I decided on a full dropper with my morning coffee once I got to the office.
The crazy thing about tinctures is that you almost don’t notice they’re working. I didn’t feel stoned, floaty, or high in any way, but if I stopped to take an internal reflection, I was so calm. On my commute home, I surveyed how I was feeling throughout the day. Moments that would have made me anxious, nervous, or filled with dread were tolerable. I spoke to strangers and asserted myself in meetings. I even had a bit of an awkward moment with a coworker that I didn’t dwell on all day long. I felt like a person. While I’m not sure I’d reach for a tincture in a panic attack due to the long onset (about 40 minutes), I am planning on implementing a dropper of 1:10 in my daily regimen. I can’t put into words how nice it is to feel like, finally, you can comfortably do things that others do without trouble every single day. Anxiety can make you feel so weak and fragile sometimes. It was nice to have a day without that feeling to be my very best self.
Now, to test out the flower, I had a bit more of a difficult time deciding when to do so. I thought, what’s something I need to do this week that would normally set me off? And it hit me: long-distance family phone calls. I always like to check in with the family around the holidays as much of mine lives out of state. Anyone with a family should understand this sentiment: I love them, but oh boy.
So, I called a family member who, bless his soul, cannot get through a conversation without bringing up politics or COVID-19 (aka the most stress-inducing topics of the past few years). He likes the debate and just wants to make conversation, whereas I’ve been avoiding the news entirely for years for my mental health. After about 20 minutes, my heart is beating fast and I’m all “mhmm” and “uh-huh” just to get through it. By the time we hang up, I am a wreck. After looking over the strains I had on me (Do Si Do, Ice Cream Cake, Outer Space), I opted to load my Pax with Standard Wellness Do Si Do. It had the highest CBD content, as Tim told me to look for, and a relatively low percentage of THC.
About 5 or so minutes after I finished medicating, I perched up in my favorite spot in the house with our coziest blanket and focused on my breathing (something I’ve found helps me ground myself when anxious). I noticed very quickly that, more than anywhere else, I was feeling it in my body. It was like I was wearing a weighted blanket. It actually reminded me of an episode of Utah in the Weeds I listened to about PTSD and cannabis. The guest said something about cannabis being his nerve blanket when all his nerves felt raw and exposed. That’s what I got from Do Si Do. And frankly, it was lovely. Within a few minutes, I was significantly calmer and less riled up about the increasingly tragic state of our world. The head change was slight, but there. I felt a little out of it, mentally, but at the time, this was the goal.
If I had to sum it up, I’d give my 1:1 gummies a 6/10. In the end, I didn’t like how they made me feel while out in public. I’d probably recommend these to someone with sleep issues or nightmares more than anxiety.
I’m giving the 1:10 tincture a 9/10 for anxiety. This was such a pleasant surprise for me. It’s not often I get to spend entire days feeling light and breezy like that. I am excited to see where I’m at after a few months of daily use. Plus, the bottle is so small and so discreet, I feel completely comfortable adding a little to my drinks in public or putting a few drops under my tongue. The smell is very minimal, too — bonus!
As for my flower, I’ll rate this as 7.5/10. It added a thick layer of calm over my life and I absolutely loved it. However, I did rate it just below the tincture because flower is just risky. We have to be very careful where we use flower. It’s hard to vape on the go, and even if you’re home, you’ve got to worry about landlords, HOAs, nosy neighbors, city codes, etc. For an already anxious person, even the most calming strains can send me into a spiral if I can convince myself the knock at the door was the DEA rather than my Amazon package. And obviously, I can.
However you choose to medicate or stay sane this season, please make sure you’re doing so legally. If you haven’t yet, schedule now to get your Medical Card with UTTHC. If you’re headed out of town for the holidays, make sure you know your rights as a Medical Cannabis patient in other states. For more information about cannabis delivery methods, check out this episode of our educational series, Discover Marijuana. You can also find videos about treating mental health conditions with Medical Marijuana and so many other topics, so go ahead and smash that subscribe button while you’re there. And don’t forget, those solstice scaries have got nothing on you! Not when you’ve got Medical Cannabis. Happy holidays.