Chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and insomnia are incompatible with motherhood. I don’t let any of these conditions define me, but I do struggle will all of the above.
TMJ dysfunction is a disease characterized by headaches, stiff neck, popping or cracking in the joint that connects the jaw to the skull. There are a lot of other symptoms that comprise TMJ dysfunction, but these are the symptoms that I struggle with most. On most days, I have some kind of head and neck tension. Sometimes the range of motion of my neck is severely limited, so turning my head is challenging. And sometimes I have a headache that feels like a vice grip squeezing my entire head, pulverizing my brain. These symptoms are aggravated by hormone changes; my greatest pain days happen right around my period. These are the days that I wish I could just be present and available for my beautiful daughter. But I’m often in so much discomfort that it takes all of my energy just to take care of her basic needs (and mine too.)
Then there’s the mental illness that I battle. Depression runs heavily in my family. It’s a condition I’m intimately acquainted with in ways that I wish I wasn’t. Depression sneaks up on me when I’ve gone for too long with unchecked anxiety, which causes insomnia. My sleep-wake cycle gets turned upside down and I cannot rest. So then this depression shows up and steals happiness, joy, peace, and presence of mind. Again, these symptoms prevent me from being the Mom I know I can be, and especially from being the Mom I want to be. I have a hard time being present and focusing on the things that matter most. And worst of all — depression means that I’m irritable, reactive, and extremely fatigued. The depressed days are spent slogging through the muck in my head and trying to give any remaining energy I have to my daughter. All while knowing fully in my heart that she deserves better. My family deserves better. I deserve better.
As a patient, I’ve had the following recommended or prescribed to me by doctors for the purpose of treating my symptoms — over the counter pain killers like ibuprofen, prescribed narcotics like Vicodin, benzodiazapenes like Valium and Ativan for anxiety, muscle relaxants like Flexeril, Prozac and Paxil for depression, Ambien for insomnia.
At one point in my twenties, I had four of these prescriptions available to me. I filled a prescription for Flexeril and decided I would take it after my work day in hopes that it would reduce the tension in my head and neck. It was effective in reducing the tension, but it also numbed me to the core. Just one dose. I remember sitting on my couch, unable to move, face completely numb. It took a great deal of energy just to bring myself to bed. And worst of all, the next day was spent in a fog. I questioned exactly how I was supposed to function normally with all of these meds in my system if this was the impact that just one of them made.
Years later, I observed similar themes in my career as a Registered Nurse. I noticed that many of my patients who were prescribed cocktails of medications, not unlike the cocktail I was prescribed, were greatly debilitated. Their disability was not only related to their condition, but was drastically compounded by their medication regimen. Very few of my patients’ disease states actually improved and healed. The ones who did were actively weaning off of their meds. The ones who did not improve just ended up with more medications over time. A testament of our broken healthcare system. I knew that these medications were not for me.
So what was for me? A serious bout of unwellness crept up on me just as my daughter turned one. I was a breastfeeding Momma struggling with pain every day. I suffered regular anxiety attacks related to the lack of sleep that only parents of young children understand. Depression sat on me like a lead blanket. The one thing that I turned to in times of need in the past was cannabis. But I had given cannabis up when I became pregnant.
I knew I needed help, so I dove into the research. And folks, I’ll just say that the research is seriously lacking across the board for women’s health, breastfeeding, and cannabis. I also consulted with friends who happened to be medical professionals. I consulted with mommies who were out of the cannabis closet. And with a fellow nurse friend’s suggestion to weigh the benefits versus risks associated with using cannabis to treat my symptoms, I determined that being a minimally functioning mommy, wife, human-being consistently placed my daughter, my marriage, and myself at risk. So with this understanding, I forged ahead and started using cannabis to treat my symptoms.
My first time using cannabis as a therapeutic medicine made a very strong impact on me. Within twenty minutes of administering three puffs from a handheld flower vaporizer, I realized that my face didn’t hurt. My headache was gone. And something my husband said resulted in a deep belly laugh. It took me a second to realize that it was me laughing. It was me enjoying the moment. It was me relieved of pain and anxiety and unwellness. It was me who slept well that night. It was me getting back to me.
Over the next few weeks, I learned how to microdose cannabis. I learned how to medicate therapeutically and responsibly so that I could benefit while maintaining the breastfeeding relationship with my daughter. Much like breastfeeding Mommas enjoy a glass of wine, or wait to take medication, and still manage to nourish their babies in a safe way by waiting until they are not under the influence. In the end, my daughter got the Mommy she needs and deserves. My husband got his wife back. And I took the reins to my life once again. A miniscule amount of cannabis, used one or two times daily, helped me to relieve symptoms from four significant conditions. No serious side effects — just a little euphoria, an occasional dry mouth easily treated with fresh water, and some munchies easily treated with dark chocolate. I never have any hangovers from cannabis. And perhaps the greatest perk of using cannabis therapeutically is that I can stop administration any time without withdrawal symptoms or untoward adverse reactions.
Beyond my own experience, I noticed that my patients were experiencing positive impacts from their own cannabis use. I’ve witnessed patients struggling with severe neurological disorders improve the quality of their lives. I’ve seen patients who are terminally ill enjoy peace and bliss as they made the journey to their final moments in this physical world. I’ve seen pregnant Mommas racked with nausea, vomiting, and fatigue resolve all of their symptoms (and prevent a hospitalization) with a single inhale from a vaporizer. I’ve seen patients emaciated from the ravages of Crohn’s disease enter into remission. As a result, I proudly advocate for the therapeutic use of cannabis any chance I have as a Cannabis Nurse. Cannabis not only helped me to help myself, it also became my passion. Because…Cannabis heals. And healing is a right, not a privilege. So there you have it, my therapeutic cannabis story and how I became a Cannabis Nurse!
Dear readers – Much love, many hugs. Namaste ❤