On selfcare #3: CBG Oil Review

There are days when you will do literally anything to stop the fear and anxiety and lack of self-anything churning away in your gut. On Saturday, I had one of those days. My brain was pounding out of my skull, I was taking regular breaks in the kitchen to slump my head between my forearms in despair to hide my uselessness from my daughter, the hate and anger and wretchedness wreaking a merry dance of havoc in my broken mind.

In frantic desperation, I stared at my husband in tears, willing him to call down some thunder and lightening, bunnies out of a hat, anything to bring a halt to the spiral of destruction.

‘Weed?’ he quipped.

I rubbed my eyes, perplexed, but distracted enough to push aside momentarily the worse of the self-hate.

‘You know I don’t like drugs.’

My loathing for ‘recreational’ drugs is almost as great as my loathing for the legal drugs I have sitting in the kitchen cabinet. Long story. Suffice to say, if it’s smokeable, pill-poppable or requires some invasive procedure to enter my body i.e. a ten-pound note or other foreign object, forget it. Doctors always stare at me in surprise (and suspicion) when I tell them I hate drugs, because apparently with Bipolar, BPD and CPTSD I should be a walking junkie, but addiction is one issue that passed me by. Thank God. I have enough to contend with.

Drugs are gross. They’ve never appealed to me and they never will. I’ve lived in the Netherlands for six years and I still do a double-take when I smell weed on the street, clutching my imaginary pearls until I remember that it’s legal here. My husband also knows this. He knows that weed makes the paranoia and anxiety multiply x1000.

‘I don’t mean you should get stoned. There’s medicinal properties to cannabis too.’

We’ve just watched an episode of Ridiculousness where Chanel has her medical marijuana card. That must be his lightbulb moment.

‘The one time we tried it together it was a disaster.’ (My husband is teetotal and has only tried eating spacecake once soon after we met each other, in a failed attempt to help me with PMT.)

‘I had a great time,’ he replies mildly, turning the laptop towards me. ‘If you ever want me to sing Cliff Richard songs to you and solve the world’s water shortages through supplying every village with a tap, feed me two pieces of spacecake and I’m your man. But anyway, this is what I’m talking about. CBG oil. It’s extracted from the plant but doesn’t have the THC, the chemical which produces the high. Loads of people have recommended it for anxiety and panic and to regulate emotions. And,’ he frowns at one blog entry on his phone, ‘with Temazepam in horse-strength dosages apparently, if that’s your thing. But that’s not quite what we’re after with you.’

(I should add that I have a month’s supply of Temazepam sat in aforesaid cupboard. My husband has checked interactions with lithium and the -pams already. He is organised.).

After reading through the info online, I felt a surge of hope. It was 5.15pm and there was a ‘health shop’ only a bus ride away, open till 7pm which we could get some of my potential new best friend.

Well, you couldn’t get me out of the house faster. I will literally do anything to not be the person I am, anything to be a better mother and regain a modicum of control over my life. Reading up on the journey, I felt some apprehension. The last thing I wanted to do was get stoned, or find myself ‘hooked’ or dependent on another drug. Then again, if there are no side effects and it does the job, how is it any different to me taking lithium every day?

CBG oil is not the same as oil from weed. It doesn’t have psychotropic effects, and because I am fortunate enough to live in the Netherlands, there’s some really top quality oils available to try. I wanted to also try out vaping but, having quit smoking 17 years ago, I didn’t want to also go back to anything resembling smoking.

That’s the bottle, above, which cost us 50 euros. Three times a day, three drops a time, the man from Appolyon advised. With a bright smile, we were out of his shop in a trice, clutching my muddy brown liquid mental gold. Once my daughter had gone to sleep, I dutifully opened my mouth for my husband to deposit three drops under my tongue, where we’d read would be the most effective place. I waited ninety seconds then swallowed.

The taste is very, erm, weed-y, unsurprisingly. But it’s perfectly palatable. The major question is though, does it work? 

Yes. I’m on my fourth day of these now and, I can safely say hand on heart, especially given that I’m in the latter half of my cycle and I am awaiting referral to a specialist PMT clinic, the effect is astonishing. I feel……neutral, balanced as I remember what it was like with smoking weed without the high I hated.

One of the ultimate tests was out walking the dog. Now, while I still get anxious when I see other dogs, it’s so muted as to render me a normal person. I don’t have the hysterical PTSD flight, the paranoia and fear that something bad is going to befall my dog if two dogs meet. I’ve tried this out several times and I can actually walk my dog and enjoy it, rather than permanently being on edge and terrified. This is PROGRESS.

I’ve also noticed my sleep has improved, always rough in the latter part of my cycle. The other thing I noticed so far is the ability to not have a meltdown over situations I find unbearably stressful. I am having a benefits review and I have an appointment next Tuesday. While I found talking on the phone really hard, I was able to do it and go lie down afterwards and recover, not sit with my head spinning firing off in all directions as I spun disaster scenario after disaster scenario out of nothing.

It’s early days but honestly, compared to the absolute mess I was on when given Topimarate, Haldol, Serquil and Fluoxetine, this is a real revolutionary step for my mental healthcare. I don’t see CBG oil as some wundercure, but it definitely has had a positive impact on my ability to cope and remain more neutral throughout the day.

We’re going to also get me a vaping kit – the oil gives you a longer term effect while vape is more of an immediate, short-term impact. This will help when I come out of stressful situations and need a little boost.

If you also want to try this, make sure you:

  • check the quality of your CBG oil. The place I purchase from makes it themselves, which I like. But I’ve read online from many people saying the quality can be crap if you’re not careful.
  • check what the regulations and laws are in your own country. It’s legal for me in then Netherlands but many places are still rather backward in the view of cannabis (which I see as no worse than alcohol but yeah, debate for a different day!).
  • check whether CBG oil/vaping will interact with any existing prescription medication you take.
  • Read up on this. There’s a couple of links here, but keep reading around the subject because there’s various different oils out there – for example, the difference between CBG and CBD oil, wtf is that?  If you’re like me, it may take a bit of getting used to the idea. That said, if Holland & Barrett sell CBD oil then there’s probably not much to worry about.

The main takeaway? If it helps you get through your day and feel a bit better, it’s worth it to have a break from the sometimes relentless grind surviving mental illness can be. CBG oil definitely achieves this, and then some, for me. I hope it does for you too 🙂 


On selfcare #2

I went to see the UVW doctor today with regards my benefits and whether I can work. I don’t get a decision for two weeks but my husband thinks it went ok. Doesn’t stop the frantic of my head zooming from start to finish, so I went walking about town today instead. Photos to follow.

Anyway, to distract myself from worrying and spinning into a downward spiral of doom, it was with some excitement that I used the latest things to arrive from Korea, on top of my usual BB Cream and other makeup. I have a new mascara from the Face Shop and a gorgeous wine lip tint from Labiotte. I put Eight Hour on top to stop my lips from drying out in this chilly winter weather. I love them both and so much nicer and more effective than expensive Western cosmetics!

So I might be panicking like mad but at least I can go about not feeling like a total wreck. I never used to care about my appearance, but now I kind of do? Little things…..

On selfcare #1

I’m going to be writing an awful lot on self care as an integral part of a mental health recovery strategy. I’ve got some tidying up and sorting out of this blog to do ahead of that, but after a really awful day can I please just get a head start and give a massive shout out to the ten-step Korean skincare routine, and how much it’s transformed my life for the better?

I may be staggering round zonked out on the latest round of new drugs (currently Temazepam and Topiramate), in between having complete meltdowns and crashes of confidence and self worth combined with the ever prevelant suicidal urges, but there’s an underlying kernel now which demands I look after myself thanks to the ingrained Korean skincare routine I adopted back in October.

Even when I could barely move this afternoon, I still made it downstairs to shower, brush my teeth, cleanse, moisturise and then felt so much better I napped peacefully and in comfort for the rest of the day. Now, tucked up in bed with my teeth brushed and flossed and my skin double cleansed and moisturised, I’m calm and more relaxed as a result.

One of the major issues I have in a manic or depressive phase is that I don’t take care of the basics. Because of Borderline Personality Disorder, I don’t believe I’m worthy enough to invest in myself, even for the smallest of things. Showing, yes, but as fast as possible. Anything to do with looking after myself was not something to waste time on.

In three short months, that’s completely changed. Thanks to following a Korean skincare regime. I’m going to write about it much more in the future, but let’s just say it’s about so much more than having great skin. Investing in myself is paying dividends, on the days when I need it the most.

Screaming into the void: representation in mental health

I just read an interesting piece in The Guardian on the disgraceful actions of Logan Paul. Aside from pointing out the bleeding obvious, that Logan Paul is a total moron who needs to grow up and learn the concept of boundaries it makes mention of how, after decades of campaigning, those of us living with mental health conditions are being heard and the tiresome, exhausting process of destigmatisation is underway.

In the six years or so since I started to unravel the knarl of knotted wool which is my brain, I’ve discovered that, far from being empowered, I’m instead shunted into a corner. The voice of people with mental health conditions are not at all being heard.

  • Depressingly, young people feel free to bandy around expressions like ‘oh that so bipolar’ as if it’s the ‘schitzo’ of their generation. I watch an awful lot of Kdrama and I’ve lost count of the amount of time I’ve told off people in Viki’s timed comments section for using such erroneous language. Being young is no excuse. You’ve got the internet at your fingertips. Educate yourself. Logan Paul, drag your ass to the head of the queue.
  • I was looking into how to get published on the HuffPost and stumbled across Thrive Global. It’s all about ‘community’ and ‘reconnecting’ and Arianna Huffington’s declaration to prevent the world from succumbing to burnout. Indeed, a laudable goal – I’m still in recovery from burnout myself. But where, in Thrive Global’s Experts section, are the people actually recovering from burnout? Or is a multimillionare such as Arianna Huffington seemingly representative enough? Because right now, as it is with a whole heap of eminent psychiatrists and psychologists with more letters after their name than a Welsh village, it’s just another bunch of people in white coats telling us what we should or shouldn’t do.
  • In 2015, the UK-based gaming developer Ninja Theory released a video discussing the mental development of the central character Senua (who has psychosis), in the 2017 release of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice . The video itself I watched when the game was released. Great, we saw workshops with people with mental health issues, and the usual professor was trotted out, some dude from Oxford speaking about mental health. Whoop, awareness and real, meaningful engagement? It’s gaming, there are some things that industry gets right. I waited, patiently, for the people who actually had psychosis to also be interviewed. But no, I was doomed to disappointment yet again. Apparently a doctor has far more credibility than anyone actually living with a mental health issue to speak on the issue. So many comments, old and recent, in the YouTube section, asking why they didn’t actually have someone speaking with the issue, and no response from the developer.

These are just the immediate examples I have. The more I’ve researched this over the past few months, the worse it is. Do NOT get me started on the run-in my husband and I had with my now ex-psychologist either. Service design and provision is shocking.

There’s no excuse. You can’t even say ‘oh it’s because people want to be anonymous’. Well of course some do, but there’s some very well known advocates out there too. Why aren’t they at the forefront?

Why am I not at the forefront? Why is no one listening to me?

It’s dehumanising. Like, I’m not intelligent or clever or coherent enough to actually talk about what life is like. A doctor or psychologist only can relate to the clinical treatment, not the reality in your head. I’m so sick of being preached at. I have a degree, seventeen years of work experience, raising a child (who so far seems to be bouncing along merrily), and yet because I have all these labels stuck on my record I’m incapable of telling you how you should be shaping your products and services so you actually make the difference you’re supposedly trying to achieve?

Apparently so, me along with the millions of others who are effectively silenced by those who should know better.

I’m afraid, writers at The Guardian, the progress you’re so busy touting is a mere drop in the ocean. Real, meaningful change has yet to happen for those of us in the real world.


2018!! could this be…..

  • the year I grow up
  • the year I finally get the mental health treatment I desperately need
  • the year I dedicate to doing things for me rather than everyone else
  • the year I transform my life
  • the year I discover my true potential
  • the year I kick the internalised misogyny I’ve subjected myself to all these decades firmly to the kerb
  • the year I explore the inner me
  • the year my body becomes a temple

Or, it could be the year I spend staring at the dregs in my wine glass, watching in horrifying fascination how my waistline seems to expand on its own accord, the dreaded 4-0 looming towards the end of summer like the proverbial dead end I’ve been promised my entire life.

As I sat alone on the sofa, swigging my Minions Apple Party Fizz while singing to Dire Straits and idly watching the firework madness at midnight, my husband consoling a terrified three-year old downstairs, two things dawned upon me.

  1. Every holidayish occasion is nothing but marketing bullshit designed to part people from their hard-earned cash, a sop thrown to the slaving masses to keep them in their place in the misguided belief they’re happy, while literally exploding millions of Euro in the sky in the name of celebrating every 365th time the clock hits midnight. Billions will be made in the name of New Years Resolutions, only to be broken by the sobering reality that January brings, the hangover well and truly kicking in. The bank balance you resolutely ignored in December stares accusingly at you throughout the remainder of the long, black winter months with not even a public holiday in sight. All in the name of goodwill and cheer.
  2. I am an utterly cynical, miserable bah humbug sod, with a festive spirit worthy of Scrooge himself.

Of course, as the world exploded in an orgy of delight at 12am, I thought on all the usual blahblaha that people and media parrot. I flirted with all the intentions I have for the coming months, listed above. Sure, most of it is a load of tosh. But there’s a part of me that’s wistful and jealous. I desperately want to be like those people gathered on the street, waving sparklers, toasting each other with real fizz and hugging and shaking hands, convinced, this time, that I’m going to stick to what I’ve committed to doing. I’ve tried, countless times. Worked, holidayed, been to parties, hung out with friends, family gatherings, all that jazz people take for granted.

Staring down at the happy throng, it finally hit me that I’m not like them. That’s not going to be my life. I’ve got walls in my head so high and impenetrable I often wonder how I’ll find a sense of balance ever again. Year after year after year is rushing by, out of my grasp, whistling through my fingers and I’m frantic in my attempts to stop the passing of time while trying not to become encompassed by bitterness that four decades of my life have been stolen from me because of childhood sexual abuse, failings by my parents and the system, and serious mental health issues.

So, what to do, when things are spinning out of control? Sit down and write. One step at a time.

Lovely readers, it has been years since I properly updated on this blog and participated in the wonderful community here, to my detriment to be honest. It’s a very long story, one that has seen me nearly hospitalised, and my husband also becoming very sick as a result of my mental health, new diagnoses, treatments, medication, struggle, slog, heartache, paralyzing fear, but also moments of brilliance, laughter, blinding clarity and an abiding love for my child so deep I’m left humbled by the fact this perfect little human is in our lives.

I have ideas, grand plans, thoughts, designs to develop this blog and make it an amazing place. Then I remember to be realistic and not promise too much then feel crippled by my failure to not even maintain a blog. So. Little by little. What I can say, though, is that I’m going to be around more. I think I’m beginning to figure it all out. There’s so much I want to say, share, help others with. Through the fog and the anxiety and the terror, there’s also hope and excitement. That’s my lifeline I’m clinging to.

Right now, my daughter is napping next to me. She made me promise to nap too, so that’s what I’m going to do. Spend the first few days of 2018 catching up on sleep. That’s not a bad start, is it?

Experts – who needs them?

We’ve witnessed in the political landscape the lack of credibility ‘experts’ have these days. With Brexit they were deemed unnecessary and we all know we’re living through the Trump Administration’s ‘post-truth’ and ‘alternative facts’ era. Feeling has, in many cases, become more important than actual fact.

The same can be argued about mental health, although for completely different reasons. Because we lack the ability to have our conditions diagnosed through a range of diagnostic tests, I often have felt quite hit and miss with regards a) identifying what I’ve got and b) how the feck I’m supposed to learn how to live with it all. Depending on the clinician (all excellent can I just say from my own experience) I’ve been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), General Anxiety Disorder, Postnatal Depression, Bipolar Disorder and PTSD. 4 years ago I received a concrete diagnosis of Bipolar 1 and only 18 months ago I received a concrete PTSD diagnosis, alongside the Bipolar.

And still at every meeting I’m questioned over whether I have bipolar or BPD. It gets exhausting. I have regular cycles of mania and depression and sure I may have BPD traits but it is the bipolar that gets me. It just goes to show how, from definite diagnoses by two psychologists and three psychiatrists can be so different. Sure as hell doesn’t help me with the paranoia – like are you sure you know what you are doing/is there really something up with me/oh dear lord I just figured out this condition now you’re telling me it could be something else…

Over the  years since my pregnancy my knowledge of my condition has grown. I’ve experienced the crushing darkness of postnatal depression, the despair and horror of not being able to hold my own baby. I’ve experienced the psychosis of both Bipolar and PTSD, imagining huge green globs of mould floating in the air because of the damp conditions we were living in, and my daughter suffocating as a result – not to mention the regular suicidal images that permanently would repeat in my lowest moments.

Now I’ve also learnt about burnout, which I am currently off sick for. Did you know that the symptoms combine with Bipolar and PTSD to make you absolutely off your rocker? I  was hallucinating at train stations of being hit at high speed by one so that it could all just END. Burnout aggravated my friendly gremlins that I live with every day, and made things 100 times worse.

I am in therapy again specifically for burnout with a therapist who I don’t think has graduated yet. I think my psychologist (who has graduated) is doing her level best to keep me off work for as long as possible i.e. till my contract expires in June and I can go onto benefits again. It’s soul-destroyingly crushing to admit I can’t work any more but that’s another blogpost. The thing is, I don’t get signed off work by my own doctors. Here I have to go through something called the ARBOdienst in Dutch, which is essentially occupational health, and they make the decision about what I do.

So I have my psychiatrist, my psychologist, my therapist, my ARBO doctor and I just found out today that that occupational health doctor may be changing. (Needless to say, immediate freak-out.) I’m not complaining about the level of care I receive here, by the way, which is fantastic, but just – how many times do I have to go through piles of paperwork and people to tell them I’m sick? How many experts do you need to see that I clearly can’t function in a roomful of people? Am I the expert, to tell them what I have – over and over again?

Again, I’m not complaining, just having a whinge at the amount of bureaucracy. At least I get to see qualified doctors. In the UK a friend of mine just had to go to court to plead his case that PTSD was, indeed, worthy of being on benefits for after a penpusher at an outsourced Department for Work and Pensions, with about as much qualification to make a decision as my Jack Russell, decided that he was well enough to work. I mean, come one, that’s someone full-on writing alternative facts!

Post-truth society again, eh? Wonderful thing.

It’s interesting, watching the clash of fact vs delusional thinking in some countries that’s going on in the world. Perhaps we’ll see the redefining of the word ‘expert’ at some point?

Coming and going 

I thought a year ago I’d be back. I thought a year ago I had my life sorted and on track. I thought a year ago that I could juggle the impossible and come out on top, beaming, smug and satisfied. This illness doesn’t own me, I said to my husband, I am in control. I’m over my postnatal depression, I need the stimulation that work brings, the pride in having done a good day’s grind. 

I thought a year ago I could be the main earner, that I could set an example for my daughter that, look, mummy doesn’t spend her whole life on the couch, she goes out there every day and kicks ass so the whole family can be fed. That she as a girl can aspire to anything she bloody well wants to be. 

I thought a year ago I’d take over the world, on my high from having starved myself in my mania, ready to power dress my way through meetings across the globe. I thought a year ago I could forget how horrendous I found my chosen profession, how dealing with the slightest bit of confrontation without scuttling, terrified, into the darkest corners of my brain, feeding my paranoia daily until I couldn’t talk, just stumbling and stuttering over sentences like a drunkard. 

A year is a long time to fail. A year is a long time to accept that what you thought you could be is actually ashes around your feet. Perhaps failure is the wrong word. But the 25 year old me would scorn the 38 year old me for having lost my zest for life and adventure. 

I find myself having to redefine everything I thought I was. Everything I thought I could do turns out to be a lie. I have this pent up energy and frustration that, because I don’t fit into life’s little square boxes I may as well be on the shelf. 

Some days, I rail against it, filled with plans for changing the world. Other days I slump on the sofa, terrified to step beyond the front door. 

One thing is certain though and that’s change. I have changed and I don’t know what to do about it. Do I like the person I am becoming, as I leave my youth behind and start the narly traverse to middle aged? I don’t know if I want to know. 

One thing is for certain though. What I thought a year ago no longer is applicable. A brave new world! we all cry, setting off into the sunset. 

With me, literally crying. How am I going to survive this next incarnation? I’m too exhausted, defeated by the demons and the drugs. But there’s a little hand reaching out for mine that is my guide. I cling to it, desperately in the hope that one day I might be enough.