Note from Leaf411 Co-Founder and CEO/ED Katherine Golden, RN: I am incredibly appreciative and humbled by this powerful story shared by one of our hotline nurses. Many of us at Leaf411 have our own firsthand experiences with healing through CBD hemp or marijuana, or have seen how cannabis has helped family members, friends, and hotline callers across the country. Remember that the Leaf411 hotline is here for you, no matter where you’re at on your cannabis journey!

Hi, I’m one of the Leaf RNs that staff the Leaf411 hotline. If you listened to the CPR “On Something” podcast episode featuring Leaf411, you know my history within the cannabis industry. However, what you did not hear in that podcast was my personal journey with cannabis as a medicine and how it has helped me manage multiple mental health diagnoses of OCD, dyslexia, anxiety, depression and PTSD.

Sunny playground with children playing happily

Looking back, my early childhood was relatively normal. I was born the youngest of three kids in a middle upper-class family in the Midwest. I was a gymnast, basketball and baseball player who had high hopes of becoming a veterinarian. 

But the train fell off the tracks when I was 9 years old, and then again when I was a teen and in my late 20s.

Upset child sitting against wall, with shadow of arguing parents behind them

My parents divorced when I was 9. It was a rough time for our family, with a lot of drama. I was separated from them and moved to Oak Ridge Military Academy at the age of 12. At the end of the school year, I moved back in with my Mom in North Carolina, and was diagnosed with OCD, dyslexia, anxiety and depression. At this point in my life, I was started on Prozac and Zoloft. I was told this would help, end of story, but all the medication did was make me feel numb, like a zombie. 

I smoked weed for the first time shortly after starting antidepressants, and THAT actually helped! The first time I smoked, I finally felt like myself. Granted, I was 13 so I really didn’t know what “feeling” I was searching for. But when I was high, there wasn’t a sense of doom or gloom hanging over my head. I didn’t feel like I had done something wrong and for those four glorious hours, my brain was quiet from intrusive, repeating thoughts. However, cannabis was totally illegal in North Carolina at the time. I was putting myself and Mom at so much unrecognized risk! I was told I would never get to smoke weed again and I needed to “get it out of my head” that cannabis “helped” me.

Pills laid out to make unsmiling face with “x” for eyes, the numbing effect of psychiatric meds

At the age of 15, I was removed from middle school and shipped off to another boarding school  in Alabama. I continued taking antidepressants while attending the all-girls boarding school until I was 18, legally old enough to make my own decisions around my medical care. At that point, the doctors offered me antipsychotic medication, saying this would “do the trick.” I was insulted, knowing that I was not psychotic! I was anxious, depressed, and had a brain that liked to play tricks on me with numbers and letters! I refused to take any more medication and completely took myself off all of them. At the age of 18, I was, for the first time in my life, feeling what it was like to be human.  

My 20s were sober. I lived in Oklahoma with a very controlling boyfriend who increased my anxiety and depression. I longed for the days of feeling normal again but I couldn’t access cannabis, and I refused to go back on antidepressants. 

College graduate in cap and gown facing toward the sky, holding diploma aloft

At the age of 26, I graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma with a degree in Biology and moved to Colorado for a job in the cannabis industry with my brother! Once settled in Colorado, I had fantastic days with no intrusive thoughts, anxiety or depression. I was happy and getting to know my brother again in a beautiful, active state! I loved my job growing cannabis for those who suffered anxiety and depression, just like me. It was a great, fulfilling feeling. I rode this feeling for quite some time.

Dark room with door cracked open, letting in blue light, indicating fear and isolation

However, I suffered a setback at the age of 29 when I was raped by a fellow skydiver. After this incident, I was scared of everything: loud noises, things behind me, things touching my back. All I wanted to do was slowly fade into the darkness and be unknown. I quit skydiving and lived in a constant state of fear, wondering if this guy was going to find me and do it all over again.  I went to talk to someone and was diagnosed with PTSD. Again, all that was offered were antidepressants or benzodiazepines, like Xanax. I refused because I didn’t want to feel like a zombie again. Instead, I chose cannabis and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help me heal.

Woman standing on top of mountain peak, arms raised in victory

Now, at the age of 37, I am married, living a happy fulfilling life without the use of pharmaceutical medications. Don’t get me wrong, it has been a long journey with many setbacks. It is still a daily struggle to choose happiness over other, easier feelings. However, my battle has been made easier by utilizing the resiliency tools I learned in CBT and surrounding myself with those who understand and support me. 

I also love that I have cannabis, a patient-empowered medication, at my disposal to meet my mental health needs, instead of one-size-fits-all medications like Zoloft, Xanax or Prozac. I get to immerse myself in plant medicine and cater it to my needs rather than the needs of someone else, like the pharmaceutical industry or therapist. My current interests lie in terpene content and finding which essential oils from the cannabis plant that work best based on the desired effects. What other medicine gives the consumer that freedom?


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