Mary’s Medicinals is a company that makes transdermal patches. It’s a concept most people became familiar with after nicotine patches gained popularity, but transdermal patches are used for all sorts of medications. The patch that I’m using delivers 10mg of CBD over the course of 10-12 hours (although I cut my patch to break up the dose – see below). Mary’s makes other products, including a patch that delivers 50% CBD and 50% THC (I’m going to try that next), but for this post I’m going to concentrate on the CBD patch.
I have anxiety issues. After a traumatic event in 2002, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, PTSD, and Panic Disorder. That sounds pretty ominous, I know, but overall, it’s okay. I do pretty well. There have been some rough weeks, months, and even years, but as it stands right now, in the spring of 2015, I would describe my anxiety problems as difficult, but not life-destroying.
What has been rough over the years is that my my nervous system is reactive, to say the least. In terms of medication, anything new tends to trigger anxiety. My doctor, a kind GP at my local hospital, is aware of this. Whenever she prescribes something new, she starts with a half or quarter-dose, to avoid side effects and/or triggering anxiety. It’s really fun being me.
All this is to say: instead of starting with a whole Mary’s Medicinals patch, I started with one quarter. The patch is 10mg, so that means my quarter-patch is 2.5mg of pure CBD. There is no THC, which means no psychoactive effects.
The patch begins to work within 15-20 minutes of placement. For the first hour, I can sense it….”loading”? It isn’t a high. It’s a sensation, in my body and in my head, that feels a bit like a very mild brain fog. It’s extremely mild. It causes no significant issues; I can still drive, run errands, etc. I’m guessing most people wouldn’t even have this sensation or any sensation at all, but since I’m Ms. Delicate Snowflake, it happens to me. After 45-60 minutes, the sensation is gone, and I begin to feel continually better, mentally and physically, over the next few hours.
The first quarter-patch:
The first quarter-patch I tried, I didn’t leave on very long, only a few hours. I placed the patch on my wrist. During this time, it seemed as if my fibromyalgia pain was better, but when my family asked how it was going, I wasn’t willing to commit to any specific result. Maybe I was just having a good day. They do happen.
While wearing the patch, I cleaned most of our bedroom, and did some laundry. Normally this level of activity would sap most of my energy for the day. Before I developed fibro, I loved to clean out my drawers or closet by dumping all my clothes onto the bed, sorting them in one grand sweep, and then putting back the items that made the cut, tossing the rest into giveaway bags (I know, it sounds like a book you just read, right?).
Since I’ve been sick, I do it differently: one drawer at a time. The key to getting anything done with fibromyalgia is to break big, overwhelming tasks into smaller, low-commitment ones. And yet, while wearing that first quarter-patch, I kept going back to get another drawer. I still felt fatigue and pain. And yet, I just kept going. Something had shifted, I felt like I had more endurance. I wrote down the experience in my notes, but didn’t get too attached to it. After I took the patch off, within an hour, I felt my usual level of pain come back. There again, I noted it, but tried not to attach too much meaning to it.
The second quarter-patch:
I placed the second quarter-patch on my ankle, at 9am, before my housemate and my daughter and I left to take our dog to the beach. This was a truly stunning day. I’m still looking back on that day in awe. Here are some notes I made later:
- I was able to spend as much time at the beach (2-3 hours) as they were. I wasn’t wiped out, asking to go home, at any point. In fact, I could have stayed longer than we did. Normally a trip like this would wipe me out in an hour or so.
- I was standing nearly the entire time. I sat down on a log for perhaps 20 minutes, in total. Normally I would be looking for a place to sit down after 10-20 minutes of continuous standing.
- I had very little pain when we went back to the car. This was just incredible. A basic fact of my life is that whenever I have spend time walking and standing – for instance, grocery shopping for even just a half hour – getting back into the car is very painful. That motion of sitting down and then moving my feet into the car has to be taken in two steps, and often it takes me a full minute of sitting and just breathing through the pain coursing down my back and hips to be able to then lift my legs into the car and get settled. On this day, I just got into the car. And then I sat there, stunned, before turning to my housemate and saying, “Did you just see that? Did you just see what I did?”
- When we got home, I got out of the car with, still, about 75% less pain than normal. This also never happens. I usually am in a lot of pain coming back to sitting, and then once we get home, turning and getting out of the car and to standing is also very painful and takes me a minute or so to complete.
- I made the entire trip that day without any significant anxiety. This is also very rare. Fibromyalgia pain is a big anxiety trigger, and an outing like that should have caused a lot of pain. It didn’t, and subsequently, I didn’t have any anxiety. Later that night, I was making tea, and I looked at my husband and said, “Hey, you know what? I haven’t been anxious today. At all. How is this possible?” I felt less hyper-vigilant about sensations in my body. I felt like I had more mental access than usual to calming thoughts. I didn’t feel as anxiously reactive to things.
- The whole rest of the day day and evening, I was able to get in and out of chairs with relative ease. My normal way of leaving a chair or couch – especially in the second half of the day – is to stand up, stop for a second, get my balance and let the pain subside, and then put one foot out, make sure I’m still balanced, and then another foot, and then usually I can get going like a normal person. Often, I’m grunting a little through this process. Everyone is used to this, it’s just what I do. And that night, I wasn’t doing it. Even my husband and housemate noticed. During a movie, I got up and began walking, with no hesitation or pausing. I looked back, and they were both staring at me. I said, “Did you SEE that?” They had. “Is that the patch?” they asked me. “I don’t know for sure,” I said. “But it sure seems like it. Because this hasn’t happened in four years.”
- When we got home, we rested for awhile, and then went out to dinner with family, at a crowded and loud restaurant. Normally this would be a very draining experience, especially after an already busy day, but I handled it bizarrely well. I was tired and less talkative than usual, but it was a reasonable level of tired. Normally I would be actively managing a crisis-level lack of energy, through frequent bathroom breaks, anxiety medication, and having to explain to my loved ones my obvious lack of social energy. I would also need to leave before dessert, citing exhaustion. I had to do none of those things.
Later that evening, around 10pm, the kids were in bed, and I was just standing around. My housemate was getting positively nervous about this. “What are you doing? Just sit down. Rest.”
“But,” I told him, bouncily, “I have actual energy! This never happens. I want to do something! I should clean something…..”
“No, you should rest. You did too much today. You should be tired. Why don’t you go lay down?”
My husband joins in. “Yeah, take it easy. Don’t overdo it.”
“Guys, I’m not going to run a marathon,” I said. “It’s just so weird to just be standing here, and not be exhausted. It’s kinda freaking me out! I could actually stand up longer! Heck, I could clean the counters or something!”
My housemate was not pleased. “I think you should rest,” he said again. “You don’t know how you’ll feel tomorrow.”
Their discomfort with my unusual level of energy really brought home to me how very unusual it was. They were glad I felt good, but clearly they worried that, despite my seeming so much better, I might really be overdoing it, and suffer the next day. I was curious about this myself, so I decided that at the end of the day, instead of removing my patch after its 12 hours was up, that I’d just put on another quarter-patch, and sleep with it to see how that went.
The third quarter-patch:
I wore the third quarter-patch all through the night. My sleep seemed deeper than usual, but I wasn’t wearing my fitness monitor so I don’t have any real data. Our dog woke us up at 2:30am coming to bed to sleep with us, and then he woke up again very early to use the rest room.
Despite these interruptions, that would normally wreck my sleep and subsequently the next day, I woke up with an unusual level of energy. Normally I wake up feeling like I’ve been hit by a truck. This is standard. It’s also a hallmark of fibromyalgia. That morning, instead of feeling like I’d been hit by a truck, I felt like I’d been hit by a slow-moving bicyclist. I was sore, but I could move. I sat up. I felt into my arms and legs. Everything actually responded back in good time, instead of taking awhile (or on worse days, not responding at all for a minute or so).
In the kitchen, while buttering my toast, I began lifting my arms up and down, and doing little squats. My husband looked at me curiously.
“I feel so weird,” I explained. “You know that feeling, when you do a workout or two, and then, like, 24-48 hours later you wake up and you can sort of feel those muscles that you worked out, and they feel good? They feel just a little stronger? And it kinda makes you feel like you want to keep working out?”
“Well, I feel like that. It’s so bizarre! I haven’t had that feeling in years. Usually I just feel awful all the time, and exercise makes it worse. But I feel sort of…wiry, like I can feel my muscles and they want to do something.”
He just looked at me. “Whoah.”
Within an hour or so, I was feeling a decline coming on. More pain was coming in, I felt very tired, and my hips and shoulders and back felt stiff again. I checked my watch. It had been 13 hours since I put on the patch. The patch is supposed to last 10-12 hours. You can guess what happened next.
At this point, I’d worn a quarter-patch for 24 hours, I applied the 4th one for the last 12-hour stint.
This day was more mixed. I had an appointment at an office located in the top of a downtown skyscraper. I hate heights, and just taking the elevator up to this place makes me anxious. In several years of coming here, I’ve never not taken Klonopin, an anxiety medication, at some point during my visit.
Today, I took nothing. I even left the office and walked down the hallway to the bathroom, without my purse – i.e. my ability to soothe myself if I had a panic attack. In my purse is my phone (to text my husband, who is very helpful during an attack), my anxiety medication, my lucky bracelet, and several other talismans and totems to help me get a grip when I’m unraveling. I’m rarely in a public space without them nearby. Comfortably leaving them even a few rooms away, especially in a place that was anxiety-triggering all on its own, was noteworthy.
That said, I did had a mild anxiety attack later in the day. It was hard to tell exactly what triggered it, and my guess is the food I ate at the restaurant the night before; I’m not supposed to eat wheat or dairy, and I had a lot of both. Wheat causes a severe increase in fibromyalgia pain, and both things cause delayed anxiety – usually about 12-16 hours later. So I was right on time. Surprisingly, I didn’t have to take Klonopin to get through the attack. It was mild enough that I just waited it out, another rarity, and it was only 10-15 minutes long – also unusual for me. My attacks can be quite vicious.
I was also in more pain than before, but less pain than is normal. I also chalk this up to eating so much wheat, which is a big fibro flare trigger.
Mary’s Medicinals CBD patches have a very real, positive effect on my body. My fibromyalgia and my anxiety issues are both about 30% better, which is astounding. I’m going to continue trying a quarter patch, and then eventually will try a half-patch. At $16 a patch, using a quarter-patch every 12 hours, I’m looking at roughly $240/month. If I work up to using a half-patch every day, we’re looking at $480/month. I’ve spoken with my husband about this. He says it’s worth it, and fully supports me continuing. I’ve purchased two more patches, to last four more days, to keep this experiment going. I’ll write up the results of that when I’m done.