Keeping up with the Joneses

By Michel Hébert

The day I first returned home from my stay at the hospital is one of those days that I will always remember in vivid detail. It was a nice clear summer day and Christine had already spent half of it with me suffering the process of being signed out.  I had survived the heart attack, angioplasty and two critical days that followed in the Intensive Care Unit. One day of observation and I was free to go home. My anxieties were high as I was “on my own” without the luxury of a doctor or nurse at a mere push of a button.  The list of things I couldn’t do anymore (some temporarily, some for life), the things that had been added to my normal routine, all the prescriptions and paperwork compounded with the constant warnings from the cardiologists left me feeling overwhelmed and scared.

The hospital is in the busy commercial sector of our town and we live in a peaceful rural area surrounded by dairy and grain farms. There is an overpass that we cross almost daily, it has always been this point that I see as the transition from the town to the country. As we crested the rise and the view of the farms and the wide expanse of fields came into view I started to cry. It was one of the first reminders of how very close I had come to never being home again.

I was thinking of this as I was helping my neighbor negotiate his wifes wheelchair into their home this week. We have a close/neighborly relationship with them and we were hit hard when we learned that Suzanne (not her real name) was diagnosed with breast cancer last fall. For those that do not know, my wife is a survivor and we are understandably very sensitive to their situation.   Naturally we grew even closer to her and Gilles (also not his real name) and they questioned Christine and I often during Suzanne’s chemotherapy treatments.

Suzanne had just finished her chemotherapy and was preparing to start her radiation therapy when she had a stroke. All the evidence tells us it happened early in the morning shortly after Gilles had gone to work and it was him that found her when he returned home around 6pm. I am harrowed by the thought that I was going about my business right next door as Suzanne was laying paralyzed and helpless on her bedroom floor. The demons in my head erected a monument to their soulless gods that day and were paid off with a new way to torment me. My mind goes right to the heart attack and the feeling of helplessness and fear that I now know so well.

The news of her stroke caused one of the most vivid flashbacks I have ever had. Honestly, I couldn’t focus on anything and a black cloud of hopelessness and despair that was all-consuming was engulfing me. None of the tools my therapy has equipped me with would help. I was a crying emotional wreck.

“Smoke a pipe”, it was my wife’s voice that was guiding me. Almost as if she was speaking to me from somewhere distant. I know she was with me through the whole episode trying to calm me down, but for the life of me I can’t remember many of the details. “Where’s your weed?”Christine’s voice again, soon I was filling my pipe and starting to medicate. A few minutes later I was calming down and my mind was starting to focus. Once again the sad facts of Suzanne’s ordeal washed over me but this time I was able to process the emotions. You see the marijuana doesn’t “numb” my anxieties or fears. They don’t temporarily go away because I am high (though I can tell you it would be a welcome break). It permits me to conjure up the tools I acquired through many hours of therapy and apply them to the situation at hand. Mindfulness is the strongest weapon I have to fight the demons but it is fickle and I need to be able to focus to wield it. When the focus is there I can clearly see why the situation is triggering my demons. I can understand that my fear is one that is founded because of my own history but that at the moment I am safe from harm. I can allow myself to feel sad for two people whose lives drastically changed in the blink of an eye.

I can allow myself the freedom to live in the moment.

I’m back to the moment when I’m helping Gilles maneuver Suzanne’s chair up some temporary ramps and in through the front door of their home. The only modification made to the house at this point is the old bed sheet that has been laid out on the floor so that the chair doesn’t mar it. It is winter here after all and the wheels are dirty and wet from the snow. Gilles is explaining to me that she’s only out of the rehabilitation centre for the day and it is at this point that I realize the obvious. It is her first time back home. It’s a sacred moment. Suzanne was facing away from me as I said ” This is your first time back and I understand that it’s an emotional moment, I’ll leave the two of you alone.” She nodded her head and rolled her tear filled eyes.

Suzanne and Gilles are now facing new challenges. The right side of her body is paralyzed and she is blind in her right eye. She has lost the ability to speak with the exception of a handful of words that she strings together. She has quickly become proficient in the use of body language and paired with a string of repetitive words she finds ways to communicate. She can laugh (a little) and she can cry (often). Her hair is starting to grow back from the chemotherapy. She was a brunette before the cancer and now it is of the most beautiful white.

I am looking forward to the day she returns to her home permanently; good neighbors that we have grown to love are hard to come by these days.

 

 

 

Things That Make Me Happy 1.0

By Michel Hébert

As I go through the routine of life I often find myself thinking of things I would like to share with my readers but not necessarily spend 2 hours writing about. Musings, music, cool stuff……a hogpodge of things that make me smile. With any luck some of you will enjoy these also. I will share this mosaic with you periodically.


 

I want to shout out to the owner of the specialty smoke shop I frequent in my hometown of St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu. Dominic runs a beautiful store named Boukana, you can visit his Facebook page here. The first thing that hits your senses when you walk in is the sense of friendly openness. Dominic isn’t hard to spot…..he’s the giant behind the counter with a warm smile greeting each customer with a friendly hello.

Smoke shops today are a far cry from the head shops I frequented as a teen in Montreal. Cannabis is big business now and people who work in the industry are  well-educated. A good shopkeeper will question you on your reasons for using cannabis and how you use, if at all. They know their inventory and how the goods they offer can match your wants and needs. Be straight up with the shopkeepers and you will probably be surprised at the level of knowledge they will happily share with you.


 

I finally found a strain of cannabis that has given me the best sleep yet. Strains of Marijuana have names that are really quite creative, the strain I am currently using before bed is called Alien Dawg. It’s a strong indica with a high THC content, around 20%. It gives me a very strong whole body high and a very relaxed soupy feeling in my head. It’s the kind of high that makes me want to listen to music like this Click here for smooth music.

There are two main species of marijuana, Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Sativa. This is  the best way I found to remember what their basic effects are when consumed.When you hear Indica think “In Da Coutch” because that’s where you’re headed for the next two hours. Sativas are quite the opposite, more like a potent energy drink that makes you happy and creative. In the daytime I smoke sativas as they keep me motivated and energetic. Both species have positive effects on my PTSD and the demons in my head. A good analogy is Nyquil and Dayquil. Where it can seem confusing is all the strains in each species and all the Hybrids.   If it’s all new to you HERB  is a great reference site. It has become one of my go-to sites for solid information as well as Leafly that has a great mobile app. Once you start trying different strains, and track their effects on you, a whole new world opens up. It’s like going to a wine tasting but not only do you savor the different tastes, smells and colours. With marijuana strains you savor all the same things but also the different effects they produce in your head and body. Drunk is drunk no matter what level of drunk you are at……being high is nothing like being drunk and different strains will give you a different high. The actual number of strains out there will probably never be known but the best numbers at this time is 779. Oh and BTW cannabis doesn’t cause hangovers.


 

Now that I know more about different strains and their effects I always think of those people who say things like ” I tried once but all I did was sleep….it was no fun at all.” The key to these types of remarks, in my opinion, is the mention that they were disappointed that the experience wasn’t as fun as they thought it would be. Almost everyone that tries marijuana for the first time does so with the intention of having a good time. Why do we have such high hopes? Because as a species we have been using marijuana for millenia and it is the kind of knowledge that is ingrained in all of us. If you are a first time user or someone who hasn’t tried cannabis in a very long time but want to try, reach out to a veteran smoker. They will know how to set a good atmosphere for your experience and guide you through it. All you have to do is ask, most will be happy to share the moment with you. 🙂


 

Speaking of high hopes this song by Kodaline is awesome and speaks to me deeply.

LISTEN TO HIGH HOPES BY KODALINE HERE

 

Follow along with the lyrics:

High Hopes by Kodaline

Broken bottles in the hotel lobby
Seems to me like I’m just scared of never feelin’ it again
I know its crazy to believe in silly things
It’s not that easy
I remember it now it takes me back to when it all first started
But I only got myself to blame for it and I accept it now
It’s time to let it all go, go out and start again
It’s not that easy
But I’ve got high hopes
It takes me back to when we started
High hopes
When you let it go go out and start again
High hopes
When it all comes to an end
But the world keeps spinning around
And in my dreams I meet the ghosts of all the people who’ve come and gone
Memories they seem to show up so quick but they leave you far too soon
Naive I was just staring at the barrel of a gun
I do believe it
But I’ve got high hopes
It takes me back to when we started
High hopes
When you let it go go out and start again
High hopes
When it all comes to an end
But the world keeps spinning around
But I’ve got high hopes
It takes me back to when we started
High hopes
When you let it go go out and start again
High hopes
When it all comes to an end
But the world keeps spinning around
Yeah this world keeps spinning
How this world keeps spinning around

 

At times high hopes is all we can grasp on to……….

 

Take Two Hits and Call Me in the Morning

By Michel Hébert

My sleep disorder was the first symptom I was looking to alleviate with cannabis. Every night, when I lay down to sleep, the only thought that goes through my head is that I will not be waking up in the morning. Every night, without fail, I believe that I will die in my sleep. The demons use this strategy like a tactical punch to the face in the same manner that a boxer will set up an opponent with a jab. That jab doesn’t really do any damage but it accumulates over time and just watch out for that right hook that will certainly be following close behind. Without the cannabis my nights are composed of anxious sleeplessness or medical nightmares that torment me. The nightmares are mostly flashbacks of the heart attack, they get so bad my wife has had to wake me in the night as I was screaming out in fear.  I was already on 187.5mgs of Effexor and 150mgs  of Trazodone daily, powerful antidepressants that have some of the shittiest side effects ever. I knew that at my next doctors appointment my doses were going to be augmented and I wasn’t happy about it. I already take a concoction of 6 pills a day  (almost 2 200 pills a year) for my heart and I know that these meds, even if necessary, are taxing my liver and my kidneys. Each time a doctor adds a new medication to the list my pharmacist always worries about how the drug is eliminated from my system.My heart pills plus the antidepressants equaled 9 pills per day or 3285 pills per year. I’m ALWAYS at the pharmacy renewing prescriptions.

Now I was searching for alternatives and all the attention cannabis was receiving pointed me in that direction. The initial thought wasn’t daunting for me as I wasn’t new to cannabis. I had certainly smoked my fair share in the past and even if it wasn’t a regular part of my life anymore I still partook once or twice a year in a recreational way. I have always been of the opinion that cannabis is not a harmful substance when used responsibly and having worked in clubs and bars for a good many years I can testify that stoners rarely cause trouble and drunks are nothing but trouble. Actually the stoners that caused problems were the kind of people who would have given anyone a hard time even when sober.

I obviously turned to the internet for information. How hard can it be….. just Google “How to treat my PTSD with cannabis”. I should have just Googled  “How stupid am I that I think the answer will be mapped out for me”. The amount of information on the subject seems to be equaled only by porn and cats. I started by eliminating the sites that were biased to an extreme on both sides of the debate. By concentrating on the middle ground I found so much direct evidence shared by others that I was almost convinced that there was hope for me yet. There were  still a few hurdles to be overcome in my decision process though.

The first person I turned to was my medical doctor. He has known me since the age of about 12 or 13 and in those many years he has always proven his value as a physician and confidant. This was my first dose of what I’ll call Cannabis Bureaucracy. Canadian citizens have the lawful right to use cannabis and it’s extracts to treat a medical condition. Also, medical doctors in Canada have the right to prescribe cannabis for medical conditions. Yet, each province has separate medical regulatory boards and the province of Québec is no exception. The Collège des Médecins du Québec only allows doctors to prescribe cannabis to patients that are partaking in a study.Their rules basically make it really difficult for the doctor to even think of discussing marijuana with a patient.

So here I am in my docs office and I tell him that I’m still having real bad flashbacks and nightmares. I bring up the fact that all the meds I have to take are worrying me and that with the discussion we are having today I know that he will be raising the amount of antidepressants I already take. When you get really sick you learn all about how doctors dispensing pills is mostly based on a protocol. I tell him that I want to try adding cannabis to my therapy and we had a very good discussion that lasted about an hour on the subject. Some questions he wasn’t legally allowed to answer and he was very cautious as to how he advised me. He may care but he certainly wont risk his practice for me and he made that perfectly clear. I asked if there were any adverse affects with the meds I was already on and I was happy that there were none of any significance. I explained to him what information I was basing my decision on and he took the time to question me about it. We ended our time together with him telling me that normally he would be raising the Effexor but that he was going to wait a month before deciding if he would do so. He also mentioned to me that many of his patients have decided on their own to use cannabis for their aliments. None of these patients have ever told him that they weren’t satisfied with the results. It was all cryptically clear.

My next hurdle was my parents and my family. The response was positive all around as many of my family members are also concerned about all the meds I take. I will be writing more about the discussions I had with my parents, my wife and my children. Those moments are already mulling around with other thoughts waiting to make their appearance at a later date.

The day I took the decision to see what cannabis could do for me started a process that has changed my life.

Finding weed was as easy as asking the kids if they knew anyone that could hook me up. Some things just haven’t changed in the last  50 years. On day one I smoked a very little amount of cannabis in a nice new shiny glass pipe I had purchased that very same day.  Within a few minutes I was feeling that familiar high and went to bed. The next thing I remember was waking up feeling refreshed and realizing that I didn’t have any nightmares; that I had slept the whole night without waking. On the first night….I couldn’t believe it. If the pattern continued I would be forced to break the law as my doctor couldn’t legally prescribe this medication.

As everyone well knows, I now have a prescription and I purchase my cannabis from a legal supplier. I pay my taxes and even get redeemable points on my credit card for the purchases!  Why the hell wouldn’t I? Yet this wasn’t how I thought it would be at first. Visions of manpons were flooding my brain. If I wasn’t sold on the advantages cannabis held for me I wouldn’t have persevered. It saddens me to know that there are people out there that could reap the benefits of this plant but will never know about the possibility. I say possibility because all I can testify to is the benifits that I am rewarded with. I prefer to educate myself as to be able to educate others on this possibility. People can make up their own minds as to whether or not they want to explore the it.

 

 

 

Hiroshima in my mind

By Michel Hébert

Old friends are good for the soul. I know it sounds like a cliché yet there is comfort in being surrounded by people who know you so well that your motivations are questioned on a deeper level. Their intimate knowledge of your life experiences and values permits them to cut right to the chase when they listen and advise you like a therapist that already knows your background.

I was happy to receive some very good critiques from friends and family concerning my first blog and all have been motivating and helpful. Some comments will lead to future musings on my part. My friend Pam Goyette mentioned that she felt that I was reaching a new beginning. To quote her ” I like that I get a sense of celebration, as well, of you coming to terms and making peace.” Pam has always been a strong and intelligent woman with a quick wit and a sharp tongue. We were teenage sweethearts for a while.One of those first experiences that are all about learning and stumbling through the minefield of relationships.She lives in Nova Scotia and our only contact now is Facebook, I value her insights.

In a way I am starting to feel a celebration as I am at a critical point in my journey. For the first time in 5 years I’m starting to feel like I can now start keeping  the demons in my head at bay. As for “making peace and coming to terms”……that will probably never happen. PTSD is not something that can be cured, each person that suffers from it must learn to manage it and it is one of the hardest things to do. Managing the demons is like herding cats. Actually herding cats is certainly easier as they could be fenced in, building walls in our minds is rarely a healthy thing.

One day I hope to write about the actual experience of dying and the moments right before death. I can talk about the event yet I find the emotion of dying very hard to express in words. There never seems to be words strong enough or specific enough to convey to others how I felt as I was dying. When I do try to explain it, it always comes out in a very jumbled pot-pourri of thoughts and emotions. Rarely is there any structure to the tale. Simply because the intensity of the moment is like a nuclear blast of fear.

On June 25th 2012 I suffered a major heart attack that has left the apex and the facade of my heart dead. The cardiologists seem to agree that approximately 20% of the muscle is dead tissue. My wife prefers to say that 80% is still alive. Speaking of my beautiful wife, my heart attack was 105 days after Christine was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer, and 10 days before she was to start 18 weeks of chemotherapy. She had already had a complete mastectomy of her left breast and endured an Axillary Lymph Node Dissection (read more here). My wife is the second most important person on this planet right after me and I was already in an emotional state that was fragile. I will write more about the event and the role that my wifes cancer obviously plays in my trauma. I’m relieved that Christine is still here with me and that I am still here for her. I love her immensely.

The way was paved with the crumbled remains of my emotions.  Straight from hell into my brain. The demons just walked right in and set up a permanent camp.

 

What it’s all about

by Michel Hébert

In 2016 I took the decision to manage my PTSD using cannabis as a compliment to my therapy. My initial thought was to keep private records of what strains of cannabis I am trying and how their effects have helped or hindered my progress. I adhere to the philosophy that cannabis can help some ailments, both physical and mental, yet I do not believe that it is a cure-all. Therefore if you are the type of person that leans to the extremes of either side of the debate you might not appreciate every aspect of my views. I will invite anyone who has an intelligent opinion and an open mind to discuss with me. I am also an advocate for legalization for recreational use. In the same way alcohol is legalized and regulated.

It wasn’t a big leap in my mind to keep these records and musings in a published blog as I am hoping to help others through their own journey. If you have PTSD there is a strong chance that you feel the need to redirect your priorities in life. This is one of the ways that I have chosen to satisfy some of my needs. My readers will certainly become familiar with not only the factors that caused my mental health issues and the process of living with them, but also who I am as a person.

I am a musician so naturally music is a key factor in my life and it is a large part of my quest for mindfulness. It is in everything I do at all times.

I also intend to share interesting news and information relevant  to PTSD, cannabis, and information that will concern anyone choosing to medicate with cannabis. Being quite outspoken I will certainly veer off topic at times. It`s a good thing that I have to take the time to write all this out because usually my mouth is faster than my brain.

 I must add that I am a Canadian citizen with a prescription for Medical Marijuana  issued by a licensed medical doctor. I have a constitutional right to use and possess cannabis in my country. I purchase my medication from a licensed grower registered with Health Canada.  Therefore any advice/musings/and anything on my blog you decide to incorporate in your life is your sole responsibility and I will not be held accountable for anyones misfortunes.  I find it unfortunate that I felt the need to add a disclaimer because I am a firm believer in common sense. Unfortunately it is a declining commodity in this day and age. See, you are getting to know me better already.

May you enjoy my little slice of the internet. I hope that I may reach out to someone who needs help. If you are suffering from any form of mental health issue please reach out to someone you trust. Help is out there and healing is possible.