How cannabis abuse aggravated my borderline personality disorder to the point of medical intervention.
Marijuana is a controversial topic when it comes to mental health. I have friends who have been self-medicating for years, insisting that weed cures their anxiety and helps them cope with their depression. I also have friends who refuse to touch it, telling tales of intense paranoia, derealization, and projectile-vomiting.
Me? Well, at one point, I was convinced that cannabis was the answer to all of life’s problems. I was your typical die-hard stoner, ignorantly insisting to anyone who would listen that ‘weed isn’t a drug, it’s a plant.’ For a while, it was my saving grace, but I quickly learned the dangers of smoking cannabis when you have a pre-existing mental health condition.
Borderline Personality Disorder
I was a troubled college student when I started self-medicating with weed. At that point in my life, depression’s grip on me was firm, and my panic attacks were growing more frequent, but it wasn’t the sadness nor the anxiety that drove me to drug addiction.
It was the intense, explosive mood swings followed by periods of crushing emptiness. It was the toll of my string of toxic relationships and the guilt I felt for my constant co-dependency. It was the anger, frustration, and suicidal despair that erupted out of me every time I didn’t get a text back.
I didn’t know it back then, but I was suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD).
To cope with my emotional turmoil and unstable self-identity, I did what many people with BPD do and engaged in self-destructive behavior. I spent excessive amounts of money, took dodgy pills in clubs, and drank to excess, but nothing seemed to calm the storm – that is until I started smoking weed.
The first few months of heavy smoking was blissful. My relationship with my boyfriend blossomed, free from the daily arguments, suicide threats, and co-dependent clinginess. My bad thoughts lingered barely long enough for me to acknowledge them, and whatever anger I had seemed to evaporate with the smoke.
I welcomed the brain fog with open arms, but it lulled me into a false sense of security. My mental health was gradually deteriorating, but I didn’t realize it until I was fully entangled in a web of paranoia, delusions, and depersonalization.
Paranoia and Hallucinations
Paranoia is a common symptom of BPD, and it is something that I experienced well before I started smoking weed. However, my quiet suspicion that everyone secretly hated me inflamed into full-blown delusions and auditory hallucinations once I started smoking cannabis regularly.
It started small. If I heard my housemates talking when I was high – not even the actual words, just the low rumble of conversation, I would be absolutely convinced that they were talking about me. My brain would fashion this muffled nonsense into elaborate insults, and I would stand with my ear to the wall or door for what felt like hours in a state of panic.
It only got worse. If I went outside, I was certain that strangers could read my thoughts, and they snickered behind my back as I passed them in the street. When I was hanging out with my friends, as soon as my back was turned, I would hear them whispering together, ridiculing me.
Even when I isolated myself, I wasn’t safe – every person passing by my window taunted and jeered at me, calling me names as I curled up underneath my bedsheets with my hands over my ears.
My boyfriend bore the brunt of my delusional suspicions. Despite him telling me time and time again that “no-one is saying anything” or “it’s way too muffled to hear,” I would declare him a liar and scream at him for conspiring against me. Not only that, but my fear of abandonment (another BPD symptom) heightened to the point where my boyfriend could barely move a muscle without me accusing him of planning to abandon me.
Another symptom of borderline personality disorder is an unstable self-identity. I’d always struggled with my sense of self, frequently changing friend groups, aspirations, romantic interests, tastes in music– even my sexual identity fluctuated as I battled with a constantly wavering self-image. However, after a few months of heavy smoking, my symptoms took a dark turn into depersonalization.
It started with ‘brain fog,’ a heaviness in my head that made it difficult for me to think clearly. This foggy feeling progressed into a sense of detachment, where I felt as though I was an outside observer of my thoughts and emotions. I struggled to connect to anything, even my own memories becoming abstract and alien.
Eventually, my precarious self-identity crumbled, and I became plagued by such a debilitating emptiness that I was convinced I didn’t exist at all.
What To Take Away
Things got so bad that I required medical intervention for cannabis-induced psychosis. Even in my unwell state, when I was diagnosed with this, I laughed out loud as though it was the funniest joke in the world and said, “But weed doesn’t cause psychosis! Weed is safe!”
And I think that’s the most dangerous thing about it.
While medical marijuana may have its benefits, weed’s reputation as a ‘safe’ drug means that many people aren’t aware of the debilitating effect that it can have on people with mental health conditions. In the case of BPD, pre-existing symptoms like paranoia, anxiety, and chronic emptiness can be seriously aggravated by cannabis – but our impulsivity means that we are more likely to reach for it under the assumption that it is the ‘safer option.’
After a few failed attempts at experimenting with different strains and methods of administration, I made the decision to quit weed completely – and it worked wonders for my mental health. The auditory hallucinations stopped as soon as I sobered up, and after a month or so, my paranoia and depersonalization were back to whatever can be considered ‘normal’ for someone with BPD. The experience even lowered my impulsivity, making me extremely wary of inhaling so much as a wisp of second-hand smoke!
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About the Author: Kie Rutherford is a mental health and self-care blogger fighting to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. On her blog Beyond The Blues, she shares her on-going experiences with depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and borderline personality disorder. You can also check out her Pinterest!
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