Pot Envy

Trigger Warnings:  Drugs,  Written while in a dark, jaded mental state

It’s 4/20.  That’s right… four–twenty, and I am sitting here staring at a bottle of Zoloft.  I just returned from an evening jog through town on my way to the pharmacy to procure said Zoloft, with my kids in the jogging stroller.  I live near a university, so there are many graduate students in our town (I used to be one of them).  But tonight I was passing so many groups of students, some carrying cases of Corona, others with large bags of Thai take-out, some decked out, others casual, but all with a bit of a spring in their step.  What is going on tonight, I kept thinking – the weather has definitely gotten warmer – and then it hit me, four-twenty, and I thought about my plan for the evening which included showering and deciding whether to take this Zoloft.  After a serious pang of jealousy, I realized, I have pot envy.

Back in college, 4/20 would have been met with an eye-roll followed by staying in my dorm room alone while my friends (all much cooler than I) went out to some party I wouldn’t have approved of.  It wasn’t so much the pot itself that I had a problem with, it was the peer pressure.  Ever since I can remember, I’ve responded to peer pressure by spitefully refusing to do whatever I’m being pressured to, even if that refusal defies all logic and reason.  This same phenomenon lies at the root of my utter obliviousness toward pop culture.  No, I’m not really too dumb to remember the names of celebrities, television shows, and movies.  I’m simply so oppositional that I will myself not to know.  The more people that are doing something, the less likely that I do it!  Every-time I heard, “Oh, come on Cicero… Cicero’s gonna smoke tonight… tonight’s the night… Smoke! Smoke! Smoke!” my will to never smoke became stronger.  I would NEVER give them the satisfaction!!  So I dug my heals in, and they’ve pretty much been dug in ever since… except I’m almost 35 years old and no one’s pressuring me to smoke pot anymore.  In fact, the peer pressure now is quite different.  Not only am I supposed to totally overdo this mothering thing, but I’m supposed to love every minute of overdoing it, obliterating my soul in the process!  Mindfuck.  Enter Zoloft.

As a therapist, I am forever suggesting that patients go consult with a psychiatrist.  It’s part of my job.  I can’t prescribe meds, and for some people psychotropic meds are the only way to maintain functioning.  For many others, they relieve unnecessary suffering.  Despite this, I have always been vehemently against taking anti-depressants myself.  I rode out a serious depressive episode in college, my mother’s fight with and death from brain cancer, and a lifetime of anxiety without them.  I have resorted to sleeping pills (“benzos” as we therapist-types lovingly refer to the class of drugs including Klonopin, Zanex, Ativan, etc.), starting after mom died, and on and off since then.  The last few months have been one of those times.

So I finally found a psychiatrist I can get along with.  This is no small feat as my interactions with psychiatrists (as well as most medical doctors) typically end with increasing levels of hostility followed by me refusing to return, then having to find another doctor who I know will be an even bigger asshole.  But he is strangely immune to my provocations.  So I told him at our first session two months ago that I’ve always been anxious, that I’m have post-traumatic stress symptoms most likely related to my own childhood and triggered by being a mother myself now, as well as by the miscarriage I had in December.  Like any respectable psychiatrist, he suggests an anti-depressant.  (For those non mental-health nerds among you, anti-depressants work fairly well and are the first-line pharmacological treatment for anxiety).  I politely refuse.  Shortly after that, my best friend (also a shrink) tells me I need to go on an anti-depressant, after I tell her for the millionth time about how emotional I’ve been over my marital problems.  Well this gets me thinking, but I decide to give it a few more weeks.

So today I saw Dr. Strangely Reasonable, and I had to admit to him that on top of everything else I’d mentioned before, I’ve now resorted to sleeping in a tent in my backyard to try and get rest… and here I am with this prescription.  The thought that if I could be less anxious it would probably be better for my babies has also crossed my mind.  Plus, he was just so damn nice about it.  He didn’t try to push me at all… unlike those pot-pushers in college, he knew just how to draw me in!  Subtle bastard!

Which brings me to my primary question as I sit here on 4/20 staring at a bottle of Zoloft – should I be using pot to control my symptoms?  After repeatedly telling anxious patients to go see a psychiatrist and hearing how well pot is controlling their symptoms and how they’d rather use a natural remedy than psychotropic meds, I’ve started to wonder.  Another anxious mother.   A young man with bipolar disorder who is able to keep a job for the first time by smoking pot whenever he can tell he’s in danger of a problematic outburst at work.  A transgender patient who is saving his marriage by smoking pot every night so he doesn’t lay awake wishing he was a woman – do they all know something I don’t?  Physician heal thyself… with weed?

I even have colleagues who subtly advise patients toward marijuana over anti-depressants, especially for anxiety.   Some of those colleagues also prefer pot for their own symptoms (we shrinks are an anxious bunch, hence choosing a profession where you’re basically paid to be anxious and obsessional about other people’s problems).  I always prefer natural solutions, and I’m not at all sure putting my money into the drug trade is any less problematic than funneling it to the pharmaceutical companies.  So instead of popping pills should I be embracing the ganja?  Is this what I’m missing?  Is this how the other grownups are dealing with toddlers, twinsanity, marital problems, work-life balance, the general absurdity of existence, the fact that we’ll still be paying off our student loans when our kids start college, and the recognition that the government is spying on us even with Obama in office, while big agra and big pharma work together to keep us fat and sick as the FDA looks the other way?  Am I just an arm of the corporate machine pushing pills that will numb my patients out to the reality of the modern condition thus preventing revolution?  Is Zoloft the new opium of the masses?

Even my best friend’s DAD smokes pot.  He is some kind of expert in it.  He knows which kinds pick you up, which bring you down, he’s a regular weed-kipedia.  I feel like I’m doing things backward sometimes.  What was I doing in college when everybody else was experimenting with drugs, and apparently learning how to manage their mental health symptoms in the process?  What was I doing while everybody was experimenting with different sexual partners and in some cases, orientations?  I was distracted by righteous indignation.  I was trying to save my mother from my father, and later from a brain tumor.  I didn’t trust people enough to have sex and I didn’t trust myself enough to do drugs.  So can an old dog learn new tricks?  My friend’s Dad has.  Ani DiFranco’s latest album features a song which hails the benefits of promiscuity, but ends with how she’s monogamous now and happier for it.  If Ani can choose monogamy, can’t I choose pot?  Why does the trajectory have to be from wild to restrained, kinky to vanilla?  Is it too late for me to go through my rebellious phase?  Promiscuity could be tricky at this point what with the marriage thing and all… but I never vowed not to become a pothead.

Ani’s a mother now too.  At her shows this winter she bemoaned the fact that she tried to raise her kid gay, but it wasn’t working.  Even HER daughter is obsessed with princesses.   Does Ani herself struggle with unrealistic expectations of mothers?  Does she feel closeted and invisible as a mother, married to a male?  Does she struggle with how to stay true to her feminist/radical/queer ideals?  Ani, how do you balance work and family?  How do you balance being a mother with being the fucking coolest person in the world?  I bet you pick up a joint from time to time.  Or are you too staring down Zoloft bottles?  What’s a girl to do, Ani?  There are so many questions.  Where would I get the pot, there’s the whole legality issue, what about my lungs, I guess I could get a vaporizer, or I could do the baked goods thing, but that combined with the munchies could prove really dangerous for my ass.  Please, Ani, I’m sitting here in my tent waiting for a sign from goddess…

 In the meantime, I guess I’m going to go ahead and take this fucking Zoloft… bottoms up!  God Bless America!

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