Treating Postpartum Depression (PPD) with Cannabis

Celia Behar runs a life coaching service, focusing on moms struggling to move forward with their lives and maintaining their goals. Celia also has an interest in postnatal/postpartum depression (PND/PPD) and various other pre- and post- natal conditions. She is also, of course, a medical marijuana advocate. So, without further ado, here’s Celia Behar in her own words …

When and why did you start using cannabis?

I was diagnosed with postpartum depression after my first daughter was born. At that point, they put me on Prozac, which was really bad. I couldn’t even get out of bed and I was always sobbing, and it took me a little while to realize that it was PPD. Which is kind of crazy, because I’m a therapist!

I probably should have known, but I think I was in denial. Honestly, when you’re in the middle of PPD, you just don’t realize it a lot of the time. I went on Prozac and stayed on it for a couple of months. Once I was up and functioning – because I couldn’t even get out of bed when I had my first daughter – I stopped using it. I wasn’t depressed or crying anymore and I could definitely function, but my anxiety  – and I always had a general anxiety disorder – went through the roof.

I mentioned this to my doctors, and they would prescribe me valium and stuff. But I didn’t like that and it didn’t really help. I just sort of decided, “This is what being a mom is supposed to be like” and “this is being a parent.” I ended up being able to have a second daughter after two years of struggling with infertility, and I had her and didn’t have the same kind of PPD, so I thought I was in the clear.

After I stopped nursing her, my hormone levels just changed drastically. The anxiety became overwhelming. I could barely sit down, I had cycling thoughts, I cried all the time, I was enraged and had insomnia. It was awful. I ended up taking a trip to Connecticut, where I grew up and hung out with a bunch of my old friends. One of them, a guy by the name of Tom Grubbs, ended up confronting me and asking what was wrong. He could tell I wasn’t myself. I told him what was going on with me since I had my kids. He suggested that I use cannabis because he had several friends who had used it for anxiety with really great success. I really balked at the idea. I used to smoke pot when I was in my teens and twenties, and I stopped before becoming a mom because I thought “Moms don’t do that”. That’s what I said to Tom: “Moms don’t do that!” Tom said, “Well, I think you should try it.”

I went back to New York – where I lived at the time – and I really thought about it. Then I mentioned it to a friend of mine from California who grew his own. He ended up sending me some, but it took a couple of weeks to convince myself that I should try it. I did one night and I slept 8 hours for the first time in probably 6 years by then. I woke up just feeling like a different person.

I secretly started using cannabis at night once my kids would go to bed. And it made all the difference! Something really changed in me when I had kids, chemically, and I think that happens to a lot of moms, and they don’t talk about it. Cannabis just has a way of really levelling me out. It helps me relax and feel connected. I don’t feel “stoned”, I’m not trying to get high when I’m around my kids. That’s not the point.

I use cannabis as a medication, and it works better than anything else has.

medical marijuana card for anxiety

So how do you take cannabis, and do you have any particular strains you like?

I don’t really have a particular strain. It sort of varies with my mood between a sativa or an indica. I tend to use a vape pen more than anything else. I also use edibles. Very small dose edibles these cookies a woman named Jill makes with her company She Don’t Know Snacks, which are amazing.

I actually come to Oregon about once a month to help my sister, who’s battling cancer and uses cannabis for that. Tom [mentioned above] actually ended up being a partner for a cannabis farm here called Moto Perpetuo Farm, and I really trust that brand. I usually get stuff from them specifically because I trust it so much. Actually, along with me being a counselor, I’m a life coach now as well. I also run a mom blog called We just became the first mainstream mom-focused blog to publicly endorse a cannabis farm because we believe that cannabis can help and specifically help moms. By endorsing it, we hope that it encourages moms to demand their medicine, and cannabis is one of them.

So when did your “marijuana is medicine” light bulb moment hit, then?

So that was, for me, the first night I started to use it for anxiety. Almost 5 years ago now, I think.

Have you heard of many other people – mothers in particular – who have had much success using cannabis for their own issues?

Yeah, it’s really interesting. I first told my story publicly on an Austin station, because there were moms secretly using cannabis in Austin, and it’s not legal there. They could not find a mom to go on camera and talk about how much cannabis helps. They actually found me through Tracy Ryan of CannaKids, who you’ve had on the show and who is a really good friend. She knew I had used cannabis for PPD, and encouraged me to come out about it publicly. She said, “If you don’t do it, who will?”

So I started talking about it with them, and then Yahoo! News found me and they did an article and video about me. I got so much hate publicly for that. On their website, the comments were horrible, not just about cannabis, but also about having PPD, which a lot of people like to explain away as, you know, “You should never have had kids if you have mental health problems.” But also about the cannabis use.

One owner of a convenience store near where I live and where I go into all the time recognized me, and actually yelled at me in-person, which was really hard. I wasn’t expecting that! But behind the scenes thousands and thousands of moms – and dads, for that matter – started writing to me and thanking me, telling me their stories and relating it to mine. They never felt brave enough to talk about it, and they often felt guilty for using it and hiding it. Just letting me know that I was their voice.

And as soon as that started happening, I realized that I had to keep talking about it, regardless of the hate.

medical marijuana and children

You are representative of one of the fastest-growing groups of people who are now exploring cannabis as an alternative therapy. They are still very much underrepresented in terms of who out there speaks for people who use cannabis as a medicine. The transparency you speak with is difficult to find, so it’s great that you do that.

Thank you, that’s nice to hear. There’s a lot of bad along with the good, but you know it’s interesting … As soon as the Yahoo! article came out, Tom wrote to me right away and said, “I bet you never thought you’d be a cannabis crusader!”

So I wrote right back, saying, “Yeah, can’t say that I did!” But once he called me a “Cannabis Crusader”, I thought, “I’m going to embrace that title!”, because that is how I feel. Because a lot of women who never tried it started to write me back and ask me, “How can I try it?”, “Where can I get it?, “What states is it legal in?” and all that kind of stuff.

Again, I hope that people are listening. I’m not a doctor, so I can’t give them specifics, but I can advise them as to where to get a card and find a doctor and so on. But I really do hope that more and more moms can reach out and find reputable places to get their cannabis because it’s really important to have that. When I was prescribed Prozac … I didn’t know where that came from, I don’t know what’s in it. Same with Valium and any other medications. So, it’s like, we have this natural resource that has been completely vilified, but it really helps. But it is like you said, moms are really underrepresented here.

But I also think that it’s always moms that turn the tides on people’s public opinions, on almost anything! You know, on any movement. We are judged for everything that we do, yet at the same time, we are the ones with all of the power in so many ways. We are usually holding the purse strings and raising the families. If mom says, “It’s OK”, people listen. If mom says it’s OK, then so does dad in many cases!

It’s important that we take that role and say, “Well, we’re saying it’s OK”. The whole sort of cultural thing where that’s happened where, you know, “Mommy drinks wine” and “Give me all the wine,” is sort of implying that there are a lot of moms drinking a lot, which is not good, and on the whole not medically beneficial. The drinking rates in women specifically, and especially moms, has gone up drastically over the past 10 years or so. A lot of road accidents as well, and I think that’s something people should pay attention to.

You were talking about Prozac, Valium and so on. Have you seen many families torn apart by these prescription medications?

Not the SSRIs, as they’re not addictive. They’re really hard to regulate in people because everyone’s different and there’s a lot of trial-and-error, which can be really, really hard and frustrating for anybody. There’s a lot of side-effects that come with SSRIs. I think SSRIs and mood stabilizers are really necessary at times, but it is hard.

As far as Valium and Xanax and all those things, absolutely. Absolutely. They’re so addictive and moms aren’t judged for taking those. There’s a lot of jokes surrounding that as well, you know, like “Mommy needs her pills to perk up”. But these pills are not good, and it’s part of the reason why we have such a huge prescription opiate problem in our country right now. People are dulling their pain and reaching for prescribed pharmaceuticals, and yeah, that can completely tear a family apart.

And again, cannabis is not addictive, and it’s natural. Look, I don’t want to completely bash big pharma, and some prescriptions are obviously needed, but you know … If big pharma had a stake in it – and we all know that in future it will [and does to an extent now] – would this be the case? It couldn’t be!

So what other post-pregnancy issues can cannabis be used for, other than PPD and PPA?

There’s a lot of things coming out now about cannabis treating MS, autism and so on. My sister’s suffering from stage 4 colon cancer. It was so bad by the time they caught it … She’s only 41 now, and she was diagnosed when she was 40 … She has 4 kids, and she had just had a kid, so they missed it. The symptoms of cancer are very, very similar when you’re pregnant and PPD.

We were so lucky because she had just left Arizona and moved to Oregon. Which, you know, I don’t believe in coincidences, but that’s where Tom and the farm is. And so, as soon as we found out that my sister had cancer, Tom was one of the first people we told. We got her some cannabis. When they first caught it, doctors weren’t even sure she’d make it to chemotherapy, because it was that far gone and the cancer had metastasized.

We all know that a doctor will officially recommend marijuana and say that “yes, cannabis may slow the cancer down and may reverse some of the damage.” We found a good doctor who recommends her, and she was able to start chemo. And now she’s doing much better than anyone expected her to. Whether or not the cannabis helped save her life, who knows? But I firmly believe, and so does my sister, that cannabis helped her get to a place where she could receive treatment.

So is the cancer under control now?

Well, I mean, no to the extent that the cancer had already so far progressed, that she really has a long road ahead of her. But she’s actually in a federal trial right now, where she has a pump set in her liver, which could help extend her life by 5 years. If it does the best possible job that we can hope for, her liver will be 25% cancer-free. At that point, they will take out the pump and they will resect her liver, and she will possibly go into remission. Those are a lot of ifs, but if she goes back into remission, her plan is to go onto a cannabis regime ASAP.

What other concerns did you have when exploring cannabis for the first time?

I was, of course, worried about the Child Protective Services (CPS) and losing my kids. That was the very first thing. I was raised in the era of “It’s wrong to use any cannabis product,” and federally it’s a schedule I drug, and I was living in an illegal state at that time. I’ve moved to California since then. I was completely nervous about getting caught or something getting out and losing my children. That was a huge fear of mine at first, for sure.

How did you find out which strain and ingestion method was best for you? Did you find out straight away, or was it a struggle?

It was completely trial-and-error at first! I started out with smoking the flower, which I knew that I was never going to stick with, as I don’t let my kids around smoke of any kind. It was hard to figure out how to microdose that, which is why at first I only used it at night. I was always worried about having too much and being under the influence around my kids. So it was figuring out what was working and what wasn’t working, and at first, I couldn’t experiment with many strains. Of course, this is partly because I was in an illegal state and I didn’t have access to that.

Once I moved to California, I got a vape pen pretty fast, and that was much easier to learn to microdose with. You can take a small amount, and there’s no smoke. About a year ago, I disclosed to my children that I use cannabis and that on occasion I will use the vape pen in front of them. It’s a normal thing to them that this is happening. I described it as the same rules of if I were to have a drink or use Tylenol or Advil  – they are never to touch that drink or pill – so this is the same. I’m trying to raise them without that stigma, so it’s normalized.

I also tried little edible cookies. I had never done any edibles before, but the ones I found through She Don’t Know are low doses, about 5 mg. They were created by a mom for that exact reason. She made an edible that you could eat and not feel totally out of it. She felt that this was something that can be used for anxiety. I started out just eating half the cookie, and it was great.

I had taken Valium before, but this was much better! I don’t feel stoned or high. I just don’t have that horrible, pit of your stomach, butterfly feeling, racing thoughts telling me “What’s going to go wrong next” … Not being able to relieve anything and just takes you out of that moment with your kids. That’s when I realized that I was missing so much when I was under these other medications. I was there, but I wasn’t present.

That’s one of the concerns about using cannabis as well …

That’s why it needs to be legal. CannaKids, for example, has a great service where you can call them up and book an appointment with a doctor or nurse. And they do an entire evaluation on you, and give you advice on what you should take and what form and how much … For medical purposes, that’s brilliant!

Also, I’m not opposed to people using cannabis “recreationally”. People drink and have fun with it. I have no problem with people using cannabis recreationally, and more power to you, but it is a medicine. And we need to remember that. We need more medical professionals to step up and say, “This works”. To get more research and funding into it, so that people aren’t afraid of being stoned.

And, by the way, you’re not totally with it when you take a Valium!

Are there any particular cannabinoids or terpenoids you find useful in particular?

Sorry to keep dropping their name (not really, because I love what they stand for), but Moto Perpetuo Farms make a cartridge named “Cascade” [a sativa blend], which is fantastic. That’s been working for me really well. There are strains that can cause more anxiety, or itchy, or give you a slight headache, just like other meds do. These things happen when you take other medications like SSRIs and so on, and it’s not really any different. You have to find the right dosage and strain for you. The only difference is it’s a lot safer than many other medications!

How does cannabis help with life coaching?

I mean, I think it helps me feel more connected and more relaxed and more able to listen to what’s going on with my own clients. Find out their own roadblocks. I’ve certainly had a few clients come to me once I came out about my cannabis use and asked for help there. I send them to CannaKids for an evaluation, and I find out from them that it helps as well. I haven’t heard anyone coming back to me and saying, “It didn’t help at all”.

More than just the life coaching, my being open about my cannabis use allows my clients to see that, “Oh, if she can do something scary and keep moving, then so can I.” I’ve always felt that you should lead by example, and I hope that’s what I’m doing.

Do you think cannabis can help keep a person goal-orientated?

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Yes, I do! I think that’s a funny thing, because most people have this vision of stoners and movie culture, that they’re really lazy and don’t do anything. I have three different jobs and run or help run two different companies, on top of freelancing and being a single mom. I kind of never stop, but I feel the cannabis helps keep me focussed and helps me get more done.

Everyone I’ve met in the cannabis business is amazingly driven. It’s just crazy. Tom and I had this conversation before, that there seems to be this perception of “Wow, he’s so lucky getting to work with weed all day, smoke pot and do nothing.” But I’m not kidding … That man and the rest of that farm work harder than anyone I’ve seen. Because it’s a full-time job, around the clock and they want to make sure they’re doing the best job possible and that their products are safe.

That’s the case with everyone I’ve met in this business. They work their butts off! And they all use it, too, for the most part! My friend runs a business named Empower Body Care, and they have a topical line that’s amazing. There’s back rubs, muscle rubs, and even a sensual spray for women to use during sex. Because what cannabis can do for women’s sexual health is phenomenal, as that goes by the wayside after becoming a mom.

Empower is really good at what they do. They are so focused. They really believe in this and do it because they feel they have a mission. I absolutely think cannabis can help keep one goal-orientated and focused because those cycling thoughts take up more of your day than anything else. And when they stop, you can do what you need to do.

Well, that ends our interview. We also talked a little bit about plant consciousness, plant intelligence and how it’s the female cannabis plants that we tend to use most for medical marijuana (although male plants have their own amazing properties as well, and tend to be high in CBD – something we shall write on in future), but that’s a discussion for another time.


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