BRITTNEY OPENS UP ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH, THE NEED FOR CANNABIS EDUCATION IN COMMUNITIES OF COLOR, & WHY SHE CREATED EDEN'S LAIR: AN EXPLORATION OF CANNABIS.
BY: BRITTNEY WYATT-RUSSELL | OCTOBER 26TH 2018
Hi, I’m Brittney, and I choose to use cannabis as a wellness tool. Phew, there I said it, which makes me officially out of the cannabis closet.
Like a majority of the population, I was raised to think that the flower was pure evil, yet as I grew older, I also grew more curious about the plant. I had heard so much about. And, like any woman drawn to things others might be afraid of, I’m on a journey to educate myself and my community about this sacred plant: cannabis. For me, it’s personal.
In 2017 I made the decision to seek treatment for an ongoing anxiety condition. The truth is, it was disrupting my life and causing me excessive distress. Traumatic events from my past, life long battles with insecurities, and career-related stress combined to create the internal storm of my lifetime.
Intrusive, repetitive, and obsessive negative thoughts about myself ate me alive. I was left in a constant state of worry that perhaps others were thinking the same terrible things about me, too?
Going out, even with friend’s I had known for years, was a nightmare. I’d be paralyzed in a corner, my mind obnoxiously screaming at me in my own voice.
If I was going anywhere other than my routine drive from home to work, driving a vehicle became one of the scariest things I’d ever been asked to do. Each time my husband left the house, worried about his safety, I’d be stricken with paralyzing fear. Worst of all, I was completely unable to see a future for myself.
There was no way I could answer the question, “Where do you see yourself in a year from now?” because I had no vision. None.
That’s life living with anxiety. Torture.
It takes courage to seek treatment and to come to terms with what may be ailing us, and luckily I was finally able to do so when I checked into an outpatient mental health program. While going through the initial assessment I was asked a question about cannabis use, so I answered honestly. At the time, I’d occasionally consume with friends and sometimes enjoyed a hit at night, before bed, if I was having trouble falling asleep. That’s it. Once the intake survey was done, however, apparently the nurse left the room to speak with a psychiatrist over the phone. It was then decided that I would be part of an all day outpatient group-session in their dual-diagnosis group. Thinking I was finally going to receive the help I needed, a relief came over me.
Dual Diagnosis meant I needed mental health help and addiction services. I didn’t understand how in the course of one afternoon, and according to a psychiatrist who spoke to a nurse in a 5-minute conversation (over the phone no less), and heard my response to one question I answered about cannabis use, yet here I was needing to identify as an “addict” in a treatment program to get the help I so urgently needed.
It took an entire week of petitioning the psychiatrist, the group psychologist, and the program nurse for me to get moved to the appropriate treatment group... for anxiety. I explained how different the attitude about cannabis is on the western coast of the country; a coast I’d spent lots of time traveling to while working as a corporate trainer for a Fortune 500 company. I attempted to discuss the research going on that indicates cannabinoids, like CBD, may be effective at treating anxiety disorders. All of it was ignored.
Looking back, identifying as an addict only caused me further anxiety. If this could happen to me, I know it’s happening to others of the 40 million American adults affected by an anxiety disorder. Thankfully, I completed the appropriate treatment and am in a much better place now. Yet, I can’t shake that this is the current state of medicinal cannabis use understanding.
Contrast that with an experience visiting a doctor in Washington State, where I live now, where at an our first appointment we spent over an hour discussing race, injustice, and get this…cannabis! In the conversation that I still can’t believe happened, he only had nice things to say about cannabis, including his hope to one day see it used in place of anesthesia in operating rooms.
That experience happened almost one year to the day after a psychiatrist labeled me a drug addict in need of addiction treatment. The choice to medicate with cannabis or pills is one we all should be entitled to make individually, no mater where we happen to reside in the country. That’s just not the case.
For millions of Americans, including myself, cannabis is a wellness tool.
We defy the stereotype that cannabis users are always out to get “high” or “stoned” and are lazy, unproductive members of society. This is simply not the case. More and more, discussions about the abundance of wellness benefits that come with micro-dosing and conscious consumption are taking place. This is a movement, now.
Along with meditation, daily activity, exploring the outdoors, and aligning my actions with my values, cannabis is a helpful addition to my anxiety tool-kit. I’ve found anxiety relief by using natural CBD products, learning more about secondary compounds and how to choose the best strains for me, as well as keeping track of my consumption in a patient journal. Cannabis has enabled me to go off of my anti-anxiety medication entirely, something I’m extremely happy about for numerous reasons. It also relaxes me in social situations, helps when I need to focus, and lowers my reaction to stress. Topical cannabis products soothe my achy muscles after a workout and have drastically upped my Sunday self-care game. These small tweaks opened the doors to my creativity, passion, and a life I finally enjoy living.
Cannabis is not necessarily a cure for me, it is a tool; a powerful wellness tool that can be beneficial when used with intention and purpose. That’s why I’m making it my mission to educate others and myself about cannabis and its potential benefits. Education— proper, honest, all encompassing education is especially important to me.
As a black woman, I will strive to make sure my community is knowledgeable about this wellness product that has the potential to help with ailments that African Americans are more susceptible to experience like high blood pressure and diabetes. For example, research suggests CBD may be very effective at lowering blood pressure and controlling blood sugar levels.
Further, education is crucial to breaking down stigmas associated with cannabis use, and it’s the key to unlocking the full potential of a powerful flower. Equally important to me, is spreading awareness of the social injustices that have occurred in America stemming from prohibition and how they’ve disproportionately effected communities of color.
I created Eden’s Lair as a space for anyone interested in learning about cannabis. I seek to explore and learn what there is to know about cannabis-its benefits, storied past, the science behind it, and everything in between. It is my hope that sharing this exploration journey helps others who are curious about the wonders of cannabis. I hope to support anyone in feeling comfortable to embark on his or her own personal exploration of cannabis. I invite you to connect with me and come along on the journey!
Brittney is a Seattle based writer, educator, and graduate of The Sativa Science Club.
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