Getting Down and Out with Depression

A Review of the Problem and A Nurse’s Personal Map Toward Healing One Day at a Time

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States among people ages 15–44. In 2015, 16.1 million American adults over the age of 18, or 6.7% of the total adult population in the United States, had experienced at least one depressive episode. A recent report issued by the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that depression is the leading cause of illness and disability for children aged 10 to 19 years old. And according to the WHO, 350 million people, or 5% of all human beings struggle with depression globally.

Depression is a mental illness that impacts every walk of life, regardless of social status, race, age, ethnicity. If you’re human, chances are you’ll have a go with depression at some point during your lifespan. If you’re a woman, those chances increase. In fact, 1 in 8 women will experience clinical depression at some point in their lifespan, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. According to the American Psychological Association, 1 in 7 women will suffer from postpartum depression or some type of perinatal mood disorder. All of these figures and statistics are based on reported diagnosis, and don’t account for the un-reported cases in which stigma associated with mental illness plays a serious role. So these figures realistically may be higher across the board.

To say that we have a pandemic of depression is an understatement. The problem is only projected to increase according to the WHO — by 2030 the amount of disability and loss related to depression will exceed any other condition including stroke and cancer.

Photo from Google Images

Depression is a multi-faceted condition that may or may not cause full disability. Regardless, it certainly encumbers and dampens life for those who do suffer from this condition. Diagnosis usually hinges on symptoms perpetuating for more than a couple weeks. Those symptoms vary greatly from person to person and may include a persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood, feeling helpless, feeling worthless, lack of energy, fatigue, feeling restless, inability to rest, oversleeping, increased or decreased appetite, pain, digestive issues, difficulty focusing, memory issues, ineffective decision-making, loss of interest in typically pleasurable events and activities, suicidal ideation, intrusive thoughts, and thoughts of death.

Causes of depression are as varied as the people who suffer from it, and the symptoms that comprise the condition. There are genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors involved. And the effects of the condition may permeate into every facet of the struggling person’s life.

Indeed, I am one of those struggling persons, and depression does impact just about every aspect of my life. Depression causes me to have insomnia, causes me to lose my appetite completely, to have absolutely zero focus, and basically fight all day long to stay on task and stay present. In addition to the above, I get to battle the fatigue left from not being able to sleep. Interactions with my family are not exactly sitcom silly when I’m depressed, and the guilt I feel for being a sad Mommy is more than I can bear most days. It’s a sick, sad, not-so-merry-go-round. A ride that I’ve ended up on too often in my life and one that I am slowly but surely learning how to get off of more efficiently.

So what does this nurse do to help herself with bouts of depression? First of all, I have to cultivate awareness for where I’m at because being stuck in a depressed mood makes everything clear as mud. It also amplifies stressors and in the face of depression, I have no energy to deal with unnecessary stressors. I start by getting quiet and detaching from the electronic world. A holiday from my phone, from social media, from my laptop where most of professional life resides is just what I need to start fresh. If you are struggling in any way shape or form with stress, I recommend trying this! Detach. See how you feel. Also note how many times you go on autopilot to embrace your little glowing box of power, light, and information — you may be really surprised how often your brain asks for that device. Admittedly, I go through a little detox each time, but it’s not uncomfortable because I realize how much time I have to care for myself. Plug in the good things that your devices take you away from — spending time with a child, taking a walk, taking a nap, journaling, drawing, creating art, creating music, practicing yoga. If you gave up your phone for even a few hours, what would you do with those hours? For me, detaching from electronics literally frees me up for self-care. It may do the same for you.

Next — move! Move your body. Most people who are struggling with depression also struggle with tension and pain. The physical body literally becomes depressed, slow, sluggish, clumsy, not well-functioning. Thankfully, we have built in healing chemicals that help to relieve all these icks. When you move (or for those of you familiar with this four-letter word “exercise”) your body releases it’s own kind of morphine called endorphins. These endorphins bind to the same receptors that opiates do, but they’re created for your body, by your body. So they’re completely safe and guess what? They will make you feel better. Start with a walk. I am a yogini, a practitioner of yoga and I am also a teacher. I tend to work stuff out on my mat, but when I’m really depressed and fatigued, I push for a walk outside for 10 minutes. This 10 minute walk always ends up being longer, but my soggy brain seems to agree that a 10 minute walk is feasible in a depressed state. Trick your brain, it’s okay. When you have endorphins flowing through your body, you will have effectively used your own body’s healing properties to relieve symptoms.

Lastly (but not least), I prefer to medicate with cannabinoid therapeutics to stimulate another healing entity in my body — the endoCannabinoid System. This network of receptors is found throughout the body in the nervous and immune systems. It is homeostatic in nature — its purpose is to regulate all of the other physiological systems. Just like our bodies create its own supply of morphine, our bodies create its own supply of cannabinoids too. My endoCannabinoid System does well when it’s nourished and upregulated with whole food nutrition, meditation, yoga, movement, and sweet sleep, but when I’m depressed, it really benefits from plant-based cannabinoid supplementation. I find that cannabidiol (CBD) oil provides a calming effect that allows me to be present. CBD turns the volume down and allows me to focus. I typically vape quality CBD oil, or administer CBD oil under my tongue — sublingually. Tetrahydracannabinol (THC) helps too in very low doses— It lifts my mood, helps my brain process pain differently so it’s no longer the focus, and allows me to smile which is no easy feat in the face of the depression I struggle with. I use THC sparingly when depressed because I don’t want to escape my symptoms, I want to treat my symptoms. And in the past, THC was certainly an escape. (There’s that awareness piece again!)

In closing, it’s important for me to note that everyone is different and everyone who is struggling with their own depression needs to choose the methods of healing that best serve them. Perhaps that’s the best piece of advice I can provide here — There are many avenues to healing from any chronic condition, including depression. What may work for me may not work for someone else. But healing won’t happen without effort. If you are struggling with depression, I implore you to take out your own map and try walking down the avenues that interest you. Maybe conventional medicine holds the key to you feeling better. Maybe cutting out sugar and process food would help. Maybe meditating at a silent retreat for ten days is what you need. (Worked for me at one point.) Keep trying different things until you find the elements that make you feel better, that help you feel whole again. After a while, you’ll have your map memorized and you may come into another obstacle of depression, but you will remember that you can find your way home. You’ve done it before. It’ll get easier. One breath, one step, one decision to prioritize self-care at a time.

If this article resonates with you and you’d like help from me, please reach out via email — marissa@greennursegroup.com. Or check out GreenNurseGroup.com to learn more about how we can help you find your way onto your own healing path.

If you or a loved one are struggling significantly with intrusive thoughts, suicidal ideation, or thoughts of death — please know that there is help, you are not alone. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1–800–273–8255.


Our Under-served Patients Need Your Help

At the GreenNurse Group, we encounter patients every day who NEED our services, but cannot afford our services. Even if they can afford a consultation, accessing and affording the cannabis products and holistic services we recommend is not a possibility for these patients. These patient are our under-served patients.

Under-served patients exist in every community. They come from every walk of life. down-2995957_960_720 They are the sick and suffering children whose parents will do everything in their power to improve quality of life for their kids. In some cases, these parents are fighting for their child’s rights to heal and live. In some cases, these parents have to give up everything just to keep such a fight going.

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Under-served patients too often cannot afford the basics, let alone care services that would help to improve their quality of life. They are the disabled adults who are unable to work due to their chronic conditions. They may be struggling to live well, they may very well be facing death. Making ends meet is difficult, such people may go without adequate necessities such as food, housing, and heat. Daily tasks for these patients are difficult at best, impossible at worst.

Under-served patients are the elderly who struggle to advocate for themselves. Too often, our elderly community members are isolated and lack the technological know-how to connect in this modern age of social media, online shopping, and texting.  The ailing elderly grandma-2657142_960_720tend to be over-medicated and left to struggle with the side effects, adverse reactions, and trappings of poly-pharmacy. Daily tasks for these patients may be all things challenging or not feasible at all. And basic resources may also be lacking.

 

Under-served patients are our Veterans. Twenty-two Veterans will commit suicide TODAY because PTSD, mental health conditions, and other psychiatric disorders related to their time and experience in the military are under-treated, or poorly treated by conventional medicine. Our Veterans are struggsoldier-708711_960_720ling to live presently. Our Veterans are struggling to find their place back in civilian life. In some cases, our Veterans have been struggling for decades. Our Veterans have given so much – they deserve much better.

 


We know cannabis and other holistic therapies will improve the lives of our under-served patients, but we need your help to achieve this mission!

Please visit our website to learn more about what we do at the GreenNurse Group. And if you feel so inclined, reach out to me via email to learn how you can help the under-served members of your community. Together, we can make a difference. Let’s do it!

NECANN_GNG

The GreenNurse Group


Leading Together – Introducing Elevate New England

It’s not uncommon to find educated, talented people doing their thing in the cannabis space. Indeed, it’s a new industry with a lot of impassioned people coming together to develop the various components that comprise what is, and what will be the local cannabis industry. Leading the charge are three women who not only represent the movers, the shakers, the game-changers in this budding new industry, they are invested in helping others lead shoulder to shoulder with them, especially populations of people who have experienced less than equitable opportunity in New England communities previously.

Who are these trailblazers that you’ll need to know about? They are the founders of ELEVATE New England, an organization created to support the New England cannabis industry’s need for workforce and community education, advocacy, and networking in a professional, inviting atmosphere. Ready to be impressed? Meet the women who have developed this incredible platform designed to be inclusive, educational, and above all, empowering for anyone who wants to get involved.

Leading ladies of ELEVATE New England

Beth Waterfall, the Executive Director of Elevate New England, is a creative marketing and communications mogul with an extensive background in highly regulated industries. She is a Managing Director for the New England Cannabis Conventions – the largest gatherings of cannabis and hemp professionals in the northeast. She is also the former chairwoman for Women Grow Boston. This is important to know because Women Grow Boston acted as the springboard these women needed to develop and launch Elevate New England. Women Grow Boston was a wonderful success, but as a national platform, it proved to be restrictive for developing the local cannabis community network. A more open and inclusive platform that gave back to the local community was needed. As a result, Elevate New England was born. And the local cannabis community is fortunate!


TaShonda Vincent-Lee is Elevate New England’s Treasurer. She is a leader with a diverse background ranging from the behavioral health field to community outreach, political initiative/grass roots campaign development. Most recently, Tashonda was the political campaign manager for Tito Jackson’s Boston mayoral campaign. Beth will be the first to tell you that Tashonda was the first volunteer for Women Grow Boston and she continues to be an empowering force in her current venture with Elevate New England. Tashonda lends her leadership skills as well as her passion for political education, advocacy, and activism to the Elevate New England platform.


 

Cara Crabb-Burnham is Elevate New England’s Secretary with a broad background in cannabis education. To say she is a cannabis educator is an understatement. Indeed, Cara is a pioneer in her profession and field. She has developed cannabis education programs for local and online organizations. She has served as the elected President and Director of MassCANN/Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition. With her oversight, Elevate New England will serve the community on the educational front by making sure cannabis consumers are well-informed and cannabis business owners, operators, and employees are trained properly to ensure that this industry sets, meets, and exceeds standards of quality and integrity.


Elevate New England opportunities are abundant and boundless

Elevate New England launched early in 2018, but the opportunities flowing out of this networking platform are already quite extensive. Look for educational programs and networking events to pop up all over New England for starters. Some of the markets that will enjoy an Elevate New England affiliation include Connecticut, Providence, RI and Portland, ME.

If you are interested in participating in the local cannabis industry – marketing partnerships, sponsorship opportunities, focus groups opportunities, and opportunities to have products reviewed by Elevate New England’s leadership and advisory boards are just a few offerings on the table to help you connect your product or service with your targeted audience.

Ready to sign up and become a member? Individual memberships are being offered for just $99 until May 2018. And business membership offerings are reasonable which is a testament to the inclusive nature of this soon to be nonprofit organization.

Not ready to sign up but want to get involved? Volunteer opportunities exist too.

Don’t miss this chance to be empowered and encouraged to lead in this exciting new industry. Elevate New England exists for the good of the cannabis industry. Indeed, Elevate New England’s mission is to empower underrepresented populations to work and lead in the cannabis industry, and to empower our communities to be educated customers and responsible consumers.

To learn more about Elevate New England, visit ElevateNewEngland.com

Special thanks to Beth, Cara, and Tashonda for taking the time to speak with me about this wonderful organization. Stay ELEVATED ladies!


Healing is a Constitutional Right

How Alexis Bortell Could Improve the Lives of Medical Cannabis Patients by Suing AG Jeff Sessions

Alexis Bortell — Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Alexis Bortell is a medical cannabis patient, an activist, an advocate, and an author. She also happens to be a 12 year old girl who will stand up to the unconstitutionality of current federal cannabis laws in a really big way on February 14, 2018. But first, some background on this remarkable young person.

According to her book, “Let’s Talk About Medical Cannabis” which is co-authored by Alexis, her sister Avery, and their parents — Dean and Analiza Bortell — Alexis started to experience seizures that were resistant to every treatment recommended and prescribed by her doctors. She was 7-years-old when the seizures began. For two years, she struggled with poorly controlled seizures, awful side effects from the litany of pharmaceutical medications she was prescribed, regular testing, and frequent emergency trips to the hospital. Traditional medical treatments failed to keep Alexis’s appropriately named “seizure monster” at bay. So her family turned to the last “safe” option on the table — medical cannabis. The other option was an experimental lobotomy. Her family opted to go with the cannabis therapy instead of the partial brain removal procedure.

Fortunately, the medical cannabis worked. Cannabis immediately relieved the symptoms of Alexis’s intractable epilepsy. Unfortunately, the CBD-only products that were available in her home state of Texas were ineffective in preventing the “seizure monster” from rearing its ugly head. While taking the CBD-only products, Alexis would not experience a seizure for a few days, but then her seizure monster would show up. Turns out, Alexis required whole- plant medical cannabis to eliminate her seizures completely. She required a full spectrum of cannabinoids, including THC — the well-known psychoactive cannabinoid, to adequately treat her condition. She has not suffered a seizure in over three years as a result of using whole-plant medical cannabis.

Unfortunately, whole-plant medical cannabis is illegal in the Bortell’s home state of Texas. The state makes no distinctions between patients who need this medicine like Alexis, and drug-offender criminals. The aptly named war on patients is very real in Texas. Because Alexis is a minor, her parents risked being arrested and prosecuted for drug possession of an illegal substance. They also risked losing their parental rights. But without whole-plant medical cannabis, Alexis would have a seriously compromised and limited life. Her seizure monster would always be threatening its return. She would not be able to thrive in the way that medical cannabis allows her to do. The Bortell family had no choice but to uproot and move to the state of Colorado where Alexis could access the whole-plant medicine that she needs to live a full and functional life. And so, the Bortell family became medical marijuana refugees.

Medical marijuana refugees endure great sacrifices to access medical cannabis

Medical marijuana refugees comprise a growing community of people who move to states that have legalized or decriminalized cannabis programs. Not because they really want to leave everything they know, but because they, or their loved ones require cannabis to treat chronic conditions that are resistant to traditional treatments. The sacrifices they endure are extensive. Many families in the Bortell’s situation have to agree to not only start over in a new location — new jobs, new schools, new communities — they also have to agree to protect their family by abiding by federal law that greatly prohibits them from living a completely free life. In fact, many families are broken up in separate locations just so a struggling family member can access the medical cannabis that they need to function.

Due to the federally illegal status of cannabis, medical marijuana refugees are often unable to move about the country without breaking the law. For one thing, medical cannabis patients may not be able to access the whole-plant medical cannabis they need to control their symptoms in other states, even if the states have medical or adult use programs intact. The other issue, traveling across state lines with cannabis is illegal. So medical marijuana refugees and their families are forced to stay in the state they’ve sought refuge in, essentially imprisoning them.

Nixon-era laws that don’t make sense

According to the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, cannabis is a federally illegal substance. The CSA specifies that cannabis is a Schedule 1 substance with no medical benefit that is also highly addictive. Cannabis shares this schedule with heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. It is federally illegal to use, sell, or possess cannabis for any purpose. However, there are over 2 million state-legal cannabis patients in the United States according to the Marijuana Policy Project. A significant figure for a substance that supposedly carries no medical benefit.

Marvin Washington et. al. versus Jeff Sessions et. al.

Here’s where Alexis Bortell will really impress you. Because of her limitations — not being able to travel out of Colorado, potentially not being able to access free college tuition offered through her home state of Texas’s Department of Education, and not being able to take advantage of her veteran father’s military health benefits due to the medicine that sustains her being federally illegal, Alexis is one of several plaintiffs who have filed a lawsuit against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Department of Justice, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the United States of America. She is joined by former NFL player Marvin Washington, a 6-year-old boy with Leigh’s disease, a disabled combat veteran who cannot use his federal medical benefits to access medical cannabis to treat PTSD, and the Cannabis Cultural Association — an organization that represents people of color who have been negatively impacted by marijuana policies as a direct result of the Nixon-era CSA being steeped in racism. Their main claim? The Controlled Substances Act and the Schedule 1 status of cannabis is unconstitutional, citing the no person can be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process. But according to the CSA, using whole-plant medical cannabis is against the law which effectively deprives people like Alexis and her plaintiff cohorts of this constitutional right.

Her day in court

Alexis Bortell will not be in the New York courtroom on February 14, 2018 because of the aforementioned travel restrictions. Her father Dean Bortell will represent his incredible daughter in her day in court. A day that could improve Alexis’s life, as well as the lives of millions of people who require cannabis to live a quality life freely. If anyone can make the United States of America rethink and amend the antiquated cannabis laws, it’s Alexis Bortell.

Learn more about Alexis and the rest of the Bortell family — https://www.alexisbortell.com/

Read about Marvin Washington et. al. v. Jeff Sessions et. al. –https://www.scribd.com/document/355368626/Marvin-Washington-et-al-v-Jeff-Sessions-et-al