“Daddy, do you want to go outside and smoke?”
When my son was first starting to become cognizant of my medication routine, I knew that it was in my best interest to address it early and head-on. See, I use cannabis as medicine for anxiety and depression multiple times every day. My personal preference is smoking with glass (either a handheld bowl or a medium sized bong), so my routine typically involves me carrying said glass piece and a grinder from my laundry room to the outdoors and the covered patio. With this constant back and forth throughout the day, I knew it was a matter of time before he started asking questions. I would laugh early-on as I made the walk because I would catch him glancing at it quickly, but looking away when I would make eye contact with him. As time went on, his glances turned into looks and eventually into stares with a look of confusion on his face. When I noticed the look of confusion, I knew it was time…
“Buddy, do you have a question about this?”
He looked at the half-pint mason jar about halfway filled with some anxiety relief medicine and my freshly cleaned glass bong right next to the jar on the side table.
“Daddy, what is that?”
I remember him asking me as we were both outside enjoying some time on the patio. He had been dribbling a basketball prior to picking it up, thinking for a moment, and asking me his question. It only took me a moment to reply;
“That’s my medicine”
It was a quick response to a question that I was quite ready for. I followed that up with a conversation about how some medicines, like his gummy vitamins or my daily Trintellix, we take by eating or swallowing. Some medicines, like cannabis, we take by smoking. I was quite thankful in the moment that he didn’t ask me what I was using the medication for. That was a conversation I wasn’t quite ready to have just yet. How do you explain to a five-year-old the ins and outs of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideations? We did briefly talk about how sometimes daddy’s head just doesn’t feel good. Sometimes I need a little help from the medicine to make myself feel better. As a safety precaution, we also talked about how as a little boy this medicine would make him sick, and that it was only safe for adults to use. He seemed to grasp what I was telling him, and if he had any further questions he didn’t bother to ask me as he ran off back towards the basketball hoop in the driveway.
This all leads me to just a few weeks ago when I was smack in the middle of a rough month at work. At the time, it was feeling like my boss was making it his daily mission to make sure that I felt absolutely no job security. On top of having my ability to provide for my family threatened every day, the environment and culture at the place I was working was absolutely detrimental to my mental health. It was a job that sounded great in the description, but unfortunately was more negative than positive upon deeper investigation. I remember making the 20 minute ride home from work one particular day with the radio off, complete silence in the car. I pulled into my driveway with a deep inhale and exhale. I was home, but I was still in a mood and I still wanted silence and solitude.
I opened the front door to the house and remember hearing our couple-of-weeks-old baby girl crying from our bedroom towards the back of the house. My wife was back there with her, certainly trying several different methods to get her to calm down. I hadn’t even had time to put my water bottle, keys, and lunch box down on the kitchen table before our son comes running up to me with joy and excitement in his eyes.
“Daddy, daddy! Do you want to [do X, Y, Z, and 1,2,3]?!?!”
I can’t remember exactly what it was that he wanted to do but I had my hands full, a baby crying in the background, a deep inner feeling of worthlessness, and I just wanted to be alone. Here in front of me was an excited little boy who wanted nothing but to enjoy some quality time with his dad. But I snapped. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I yelled at the poor kid. Something about having too much to do and not being in a good mood probably. I’m not usually an irritable person, and I think he knew that. He looked at me and didn’t even look bothered by just having been yelled at. His response to my frustration completely saved my evening.
“Daddy, do you want to go outside and smoke?”
The first thought passing through my head was something like “oh shit, my kid is telling me to calm my ass down”. For whatever reason, I found that hilarious in the moment. I chuckled, self-evaluated, and realized that he was probably right — I did need a smoke. So I went outside and the more I thought about it though, the more I felt pretty unsure about myself and how I handed the situation as a whole. What does it mean about me as a man and father that I allow myself to show my negative feelings so outwardly towards my child? I mean damn, my five-year-old son can identify when I’m having extra anxiety and that I need medication to calm it. But…maybe that’s a good thing — he didn’t take my frustrated episode personally. Somehow, at only five, he was able to recognize that I wasn’t actually mad at him — I had an ailment (non-typical frustration caused by anxiety) and I needed the help of my medicine for relief.
Children are smarter than I think a lot of people give them credit for. Some of the things that he says, does, and understands as a five-year-old just astounds me sometimes. Not only are they smart, but as we all know, they’re extremely curious. Extremely. So because of that, I thought of my cannabis as a treasure chest. If I try to hide it, bury it, and keep him from it, it’s only going to spark his interest more. He’ll only become more curious. I was a kid once and if I wanted to do something that I wasn’t supposed to do, I’d get sneaky about it. Having a young boy sneaking around my house looking for things that aren’t necessarily good for him is not something I wanted to deal with. By being honest and up front with my son about using cannabis as medicine, I think I’ve avoided that issue.
Anxiety and depression are a constant battle that I’ve been fighting for a long time. With as big of a role as they both continue to play in my life, there’s going to be some runover into my parenting ability. There’s no way around the fact that I won’t be a perfect parent, and I‘m fully aware of that. But what I can do is try my best every day to be present and engaged in the lives of my children. Cannabis helps me do that. Cannabis helps me fight the negative intrusive thoughts, feelings of worthlessness, and self doubt. It keeps me involved, and enables me to focus on and enjoy the little moments. For that, among many other things, I am thankful.