Several times I thought about writing a blog post on this. Each time I came close, I pulled away because I was unsure what kind of judgment and scrutiny I would receive. But the more I thought about it, I realized that writing a blog post on my medical marijuana journey may help someone. It may help those who are suffering needlessly in pain. Someone who may have thought about trying medical marijuana but because of the stigma and lack of support & information, they decide against it.
Chronically getting on my nerves
I have not been shy when it comes to sharing my struggles with pain management. Since 2016, I have been trying to manage some of the worst nerve pain I have ever experienced, nerve pain that most people do not understand. I can't blame them, I didn't understand the severity of it until I suffered from it myself. It is something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.
My journey with my back surgeries as well as my chronic pain started in 2016. My chronic pain went uncontrolled until August of 2019 until one day I had enough. I cast my judgment aside and researched medical marijuana. Using medical marijuana is one of the best decisions I made for myself. I am not 100% pain-free but I am able to function and live this new life of pain the best way I know-how.
Putting myself and my pain first
When I decided to look into obtaining my medical marijuana card, I first needed to talk to my husband about it. That was not an easy conversation. He initially was not onboard AT ALL. He likes to say that he wasn’t being judgmental, but part of him was. I can't blame him. He had a lot of questions that I could not answer. Such as - are you going to be high taking care of our kids? How do they figure out your dose? Is there anything else you can try? Will you build up a tolerance and then need more to manage your pain? Will you become dependent on it? I didn’t have the answers he was seeking. All I knew was that I had literally tried every prescription medication under the sun and I was still suffering. I could not do it anymore.
Starting the process
I knew that if I was going to explore the marijuana route to manage my pain, I wanted to do it the right and legal way. For those of you who aren’t aware, there is a process you have to go through to get your card. They don’t hand them out like chocolate at a candy store. You need to register for your card, see a licensed marijuana provider, and bring all of your supporting documentation with you. The doctor you see then looks over everything and decides if you fall in one of the approved severe medical conditions. When I went to my appointment I had over three years worth of supporting documentation.
Up to this point, I had undergone extensive therapy and surgeries to try and control my pain. I had tried multiple nerve medications & narcotics, most of which made me unable to function and take care of my children. I was constantly exhausted to the point where I could not keep my eyes open. To date, I have been put on Gabapentin, Lyrica, Ativan, Baclofen, Cymbalta, Tylenol #3, Trazodone, Gralise, Silenor, and countless other medications to try and manage my chronic pain. I have been on most narcotics you can think of including Dilaudid, which is a highly addictive and dangerous Opioid.
My husband came with me to my appointment because he had a ton of questions, as did I. We met with the licensed physician and went over my history and he felt that medical marijuana could help me and thankfully severe nerve damage and pain were on the medical marijuana treatment list. He gave me a list of dispensaries near me and told me I should receive my card in the mail in about 10 business days.
None of what I was prescribed helped my nerve pain, they knocked me out and made me sleep. None of what I was prescribed allowed me to successfully care for my children and it did not relieve my pain. So I stopped taking everything all together. Being a mother and caring for my children was my top priority, so I suffered in pain while doing so.
Changing the narrative
Our society has somehow conditioned us to think there is nothing wrong with a cabinet full of prescribed narcotics. As long as a physician has prescribed it, it must be safe and effective. That could not be further from the truth. Not only were NONE of my prescriptions effective, but most of them also have horrible and dangerous side effects. I had a phone conversation about my older sons IEP that I do not even remember it. That is a huge problem. I never once abused any of the medicines I was prescribed but being someone who is in pain every second of every day, I can see how someone would.
Cannabis, Nerves, and Uncertainty
When my card came in the mail I went to a dispensary. I am not going to lie, I was nervous and felt very out of place. I wasn’t quite sure what to ask for or what I was even looking for! The one thing I loved was the fact that they have a pharmacist on site. I was able to sit with them and go over my history and my pain level. They asked what medicines I have been on before and if they ever helped control my pain. I stressed to them the importance of being able to function and take care of my boys. That was and still is always my main concern.
After speaking with them for about a half-hour they gave me a few different options of things to try, along with a book that I could log my doses with. The book had a spot for me to track which type of marijuana I was using, how many doses I took, and what the effects were. I would not be being honest if I said I wasn’t nervous to use marijuana. It’s interesting when you think about it. Never was I nervous after a doctor's appointment when I was handed a script for a new med. I was never nervous to have a few extra glasses of wine to help numb my pain - yet we all know the road medicating with alcohol can lead you down. Yet, as I was leaving the dispensary I felt incredibly stressed out.
False Sense of Security
I was stressed out because I was in uncharted territory. I had no idea how marijuana was going to affect me. But then again, what is the difference between going home with a script from my doctor for a new nerve med or a new narcotic? Nothing! Except it was prescribed to me in a doctor's office. Every time I went home with a new script it was for medicine I had never tried before. Yet somehow I was not nervous how that new med would affect me. I wasn’t nervous to pop it any time during the day. Why do prescriptions give us such a false sense of security, especially when they can be so harmful and addicting?
Shredding the stigmas
Since starting on the medical marijuana program my pain is much more controlled. I can care for my children without falling asleep and I am in much less pain while doing so. Medical marijuana allows me to function much more appropriately than I did on Dilaudid or any of the other meds I took.
I want to shed light on the stigmas of marijuana users. People assume they're always getting high. That is not the case at all. I use marijuana every day and people would never know it. You would be shocked at the different types of people that come into the dispensary - businessmen and women, your normal every day looking mom, an adorable little old lady in a sweater she probably knitted herself. So many people are using it appropriately and effectively, they're just not talking about it.
I hope that with more education and more people talking about how helpful marijuana is, the pothead stigma that comes with it can be erased. There are so many benefits marijuana has for people who are suffering. There are even benefits for communities such as autism. No one should suffer when there is something that can help them. Something that can ease the suffering and still allow them to completely function and go about their everyday life the best they can.
Taking my life back
Marijuana has helped me get a part of my life back. Am I pain-free? No. I never will be. Permanent nerve damage is just that - permanent. But I can manage it much more effectively than before. I can take something that doesn’t give me any nasty side effects or put me at risk for drug abuse. I can take care of my children and I can function much more than I could before.
You would never judge someone who is on antidepressants, or who takes prescription medications for pain. So before you judge someone for using marijuana do the research. Look into the benefits vs the risks. Educate yourself! You will be surprised at what you discover!
*For more information on medical marijuana watch here as Sarah-Jaana, a Cannabis educator talks about marijuana and its benefits.*
If you or anyone you know have questions about medical marijuana you can contact
Patient Advocate & Medical Cannabis Educator
IG - @sarahjaanamarijuana