**Pot does NOT replace SSRIs for any mental health condition. If you have an untreated mental health condition, please, please, please speak to a doctor about all of your options.**

I have had joint pain and arthritis for a long time. I also have a hormone disorder and a mental health condition to manage. After years of trying to manage on my own, I sought medical help. Unfortunately, while I was prescribed Paxil as well as other medications, they don’t treat the pain or discomfort that PMDD and arthritis cause.

My GP was reluctant to discuss medical marijuana, stating pressure against it from the Canadian government. But I had friends who knew pot and pushed me to try good stuff, meant to help not just get me totally high. So I started smoking when I hurt. And it worked wonderfully. Then I tried smoking first before taking something ‘as-needed’ for my mental state. And sometimes it worked wonderfully and other times it didn’t. So my ‘as-needed’ drugs aren’t going anywhere, but they’re the last resort—as addictive chemicals should be.

But what about my Paxil prescription? Again, marijuana isn’t a replacement for SSRIs to treat mental health conditions, but I was taking Paxil off-script—because it can make hormonal pain and pressure manageable, not for a mental health condition. Pot has been taking care of my pain for a while; it was time to try this scary last step.

At 11:30pm December 3rd, I should have taken twenty milligrams of Paxil. I didn’t. Instead, I rolled myself a joint. The last step in my Pot Experiment.

When I made that choice, I expected to be less social because I wasn’t hopped-up on serotonin. Nope. I can leave the house, secure that I’ll be able to get home again without complete physical system collapse from pain. Laughing around a table with a few friends is just as good as ever, and happens more since I’m not emotionally numbed. And a couple of drinks at the pub on top of a joint isn’t disastrous, while even minor drinking combined with Paxil is liver damage in the waiting.

Best of all, with my pain under control and the extra energy I have from no longer worrying about it, I began to move again. And as I move, minor non-arthritic joint pain happens less. Walking during the day, dancing in my living room, even simply playing with free weights in front of the television are back in the list of things I can do.

In the last month I have taken zero Paxil. I should have started another round of the stuff January 3rd, but I didn’t fill my prescription. And while my hormones are still way more active than they should be, not being in pain and not having the worry of pain in perpetuity mean no more longing for it all just to stop. It’s simply another part of my life. A life made much better because of medicinal use of marijuana.

—JS