cbd and mental health
19th June 2020
I remember the feeling so well…
I was 19 (11 years ago), sitting in a local coffee shop in my hometown, and I felt choked. I felt a strange sense of panic that I’d only felt before when I was caught smoking weed out of my bedroom window or bunking off school – but this time I’d done nothing wrong.
I jumped up from my seat, telling my partner I was going to get some air, but when I got outside the air didn’t help – that same choking feeling was still there, strangling my throat. I started to panic more, gasping for air but none came. This was the first of many panic attacks I’d encountered. Many more came in the months and years to follow. It wasn’t until I’d been getting panic attacks for over 6 months that it really started to affect my life.
Waking up in the middle of the night to panic and a sense of dread and not being able to get back to sleep, finding myself crying in the toilet at work; feeling utterly lost and out of control, feeling like I couldn’t go to big public spaces in fear of having an attack.
After confiding in my mum, we went to the doctors; they wanted to put me straight onto a prescription of antidepressants. I reluctantly took them home but every time I went to take them I’d panic at the thought of what they might do. I’d heard horror stories of people gaining weight, getting even more low moods than they currently had and that coming off them was even harder than not being on them at all. I put it off for a couple of weeks, but my panic attacks and low moods started turning into a deep, dark depression. I would sit on the edge of my bed staring at the wall with a sense of numbness and nothing else. It wasn’t a feeling of fear anymore, but of complete deflation, wanting to give up on it all. I’d become a victim to my own negative self-talk.
Fast forward through a few months of despair, and I came across a book called ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckart Tolle. I was never that into reading, in-fact the only book I’d read from front to back was Bif, Chip & Floppy the Dog (if you know, you know), but this particular book got me hooked. I’d found it so hard to concentrate on other books before, but there was something about this one. I later realised I just loved self-help non-fiction. This realisation spurred me on, to take control into my own hands. If I were to fight this battle of panic and depression, I was going to find my own ways. I didn’t do it alone though, I found guidance and wisdom from friends who were kind and patient enough to listen, along with the many books I went on to read. Books written by motivational speakers, alternative medicine doctors, therapists and psychologists, including titles such as Wayne Dyer; ‘There’s a spiritual solution to every problem’, M Scott Peck’s; The Road Less Travelled, Marianne Williamson’s; ‘Tears to Triumph’ and ‘The Untethered Soul’ by Michael A Singer. Each of these books, in their own way, talks about the importance of self-work. They taught me about being the ‘observer’ – a state of mind that is the watcher of thoughts, not the thoughts themselves. This was a breakthrough realisation for me as it stopped me from over analysing my thoughts and helped to quieten the ongoing narrative of the mind, by selecting which thoughts gave value to my life and letting the ones that didn’t, pass like clouds in the sky. One of my teachers used to say “you need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select what clothes you wear every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control.” – Elizabeth Gilbert
‘But what started to happen was some kind of unexplainable magnetic force’
After this, a strange turn of events started to unravel, events I could only describe as miracles. Jobs started falling into my lap, friends started asking my advice, I felt a sense of purpose. Now, I wasn’t religious, my parents never went to church, I’d never prayed or believed in a God as such – but what started to happen was some kind of unexplainable magnetic force. The more I read and learnt about spirituality, the more amazing things started entering my life, or perhaps my perspective had just changed. “When you expand your awareness, seemingly random events will be seen to fit into a larger purpose.” Deepak Chopra (Author and Alternative Medicine Doctor)
One day, I attended my first yoga class, suggested to me by a stranger I’d met in a coffee shop. During the class, that tight-knot feeling around my neck, that lump in my throat which had been there since my first panic attack had completely vanished. Was this magic? A miracle? No. It was my decision to put in the work to get better; taking time for myself to sit and be. Was it scary? Yes. Uncomfortable? Hell yes! I was so far out of my comfort zone. I felt ridiculously embarrassed going into that first class. Did it at first heighten my anxiety? Of course. But However, I realised it couldn’t get much worse than it already was so I didn’t have anything to lose.
Thankfully those first few steps were the road to healing for me and it hasn’t stopped there – I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy road but it was definitely one worth walking on – much better than sitting on the edge of my bed feeling empty, unworthy and sorry for myself.
Since that first year, I have gone through countless high and low moods, much like the rest of us. I have gone through many changes, lived in different countries, fallen off the road and clambered back on again, but one thing that has been constant is this healing process, ‘The Work’ as Byron Katie would say; “Peace doesn’t require two people; it requires only one. It has to be you. The problem begins and ends there.”
In more recent years, in terms of self-help and work – I’ve read as many books as I can in healing, I meditate once or twice daily, practise breathwork, yoga and mindful movement. I’ve put my faith in natural plant-based healing, placing CBD oil in my hot drinks and taking regular salt baths infused with it too. I don’t switch my phone on until I’ve had alone time in the morning and I am continuously seeking new ways to practise tools, in order to water the mind. But the most important thing? I don’t stop these rituals when I’m feeling good (like I used to) I use them as prevention rather than cure. There’s no quick fix for anxiety, stress-management and depression, it’s something you should implement into your daily routine like brushing your teeth, you just wouldn’t skip it. You don’t get strong by going to the gym once, or healthy by eating one bag of kale, it’s much the same for our mental health – the more you do it, the healthier it becomes.
You must find the place inside yourself where nothing is impossible. Don’t go it alone, get support, but the journey starts with you.
Rosie Battimelli (Project and Marketing Manager)
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