From buying a one-way ticket to San Francisco to explore the cannabis world to abruptly leaving my job, my life has been on an emotional roller-coaster ride in the past three months. Feeling depressed, I ventured into a new world of unknown wonders and uncertainties, I became disenchanted with life, waking up every morning feeling like death. My relationship with cannabis has also taken a bizarre turn.

Here are five lessons from using cannabis as depression relief:

1. Labeling problem
Depressed? “This is the medicine!” It is so easy to give yourself excuses to smoke excessively with this new label in mind, especially when you are in California where cannabis is so accessible. Sure, it is undeniable that the plant carries medicinal properties to relieve anxiety, but without diving deep to diagnose the true cause of suffering, you will be constantly looking for ways to escape reality by calling yourself a patient. Next thing you know, your habit becomes your latest drug addiction; your core issues still remain unresolved. I am glad to have realized this before I went further down the spiral.

2. Pick your strains wisely
Although sativa strains may be helpful for self-introspection while you are depressed, I was often caught up in a loop of rumination and obsessive thinking, dwelling on existing worries and past events for hours and hours. Pick your strains with caution with careful dosing. CBD-rich strains produce a calming effect that eases your mind and body, which may be a better choice if you are aware of your overthinking tendencies.

3. Why am I in munchies mode 24/7?
During depressing times, our mind signals us that we need relief to feel better. Even when I was off “medication”, my mind just automatically goes into munchies mood, thinking obsessively about tacos and nuts. Food became another form of relief for me and I had developed an unhealthy habit of stress eating. If you find yourself in a similar situation, it may be best to stay off the plant for a short while before your depressed self has new weight issues to worry about.

4. Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself
Feeling depressed while cutting peppers for dinner in the kitchen, a pepper seed, unfortunately, fell onto the counter. “You are worried that this pepper seed will hurt somebody in the eye? You know that’s really fucking stupid, right?” I thought to myself. As a chronic worrier with mild obsessive-compulsive disorder, thoughts like these would consume my mind all the time. Sharing thoughts with friends has been a huge part of my journey of recovery. (Thank you, Richard) They challenge me to laugh at myself and see that my obsessive stories are just too bad to be true. Writing down encouraging or funny thoughts on a post-it and filling them up on your wall is therapeutic, too. Try smoking a little sativa to make your DIY (do-it-yourself) therapy session more enjoyable. But again, be careful with the dosage.

5. We cannot control what happens to us, but we can control our responses
Losses are tough, but we will not learn resilience until we run into setbacks in life. As strange as it sounds, I am grateful that I was in such a low state of mind. I couldn’t truly understand cannabis without experimenting it on the other side of the emotional spectrum. Thanks to my depression, I have gained deeper insights with the substance. Now, I am using cannabis with more discipline and responsibility, treating it more as a reward to relax and unwind and an aid for creative tasks or meditation. More importantly, I took away a bigger life lesson: At the end of the day, life really is not that serious and it is okay to not be happy all the time. The worst we can do to ourselves is not accept our emotions to heal, let go, and move forward.

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