For almost a decade, headaches have been a pretty constant, ever-present foe in my life. The severity flairs and subsides at times, but my pain is always part of me now. I’ve been to at least 15 different doctors—from naturopaths to TMJ specialists to neurologists—and tried 20+ medications and multiple injections in the past two years alone. It can be exhausting. Some days, I struggle to get out of bed and others I’m able to make it through a productive day at work only to collapse as soon as I get home. I’m not able to have the kind of social life I had before because I’m often in pain or just exhausted.
When cannabis was legalized here in Oregon, it really changed how I was able to find ways to thrive with chronic pain. Like many people, I had smoked a bit when I was younger, but I didn’t realize the full potential of finding the right strains, and educating myself on the benefits and options suddenly available to me. With legalization, I was now able to identify strains that didn’t cause paranoia, and I could really focus on body relief. Cannabis isn’t a magical cure-all, but it certainly helps reduce my pain experience. It won’t always fully make the pain go away, but it does give me a little bit of distance from the pain so that I can relax and find ways to recharge myself. That is an incredible gift for someone with chronic pain.
I had not really considered medical cannabis earlier on my pain management path because I had some preconceived notions and stigmas that kept me at a distance. I also have asthma, so smoking has never been a good fit for me. Lastly, I had experienced some negative effects of being paranoid when consuming cannabis in the past, so I thought it just wasn’t for me. It turns out, I was wrong. Legalization gave me the space to find the right consumption methods for me. I now use a vaporizer which is easier on my lungs, but allows me to get the full flavor and benefit of flower. I also use edibles because the consistency of the body relaxation in careful dosing has been a game changer. With the help of a little research and knowledgeable budtenders, I also was able to find the right strains that offered cannabinoid and terpene profiles that really eliminated any paranoia I had previously associated with smoking.
One of my first realizations that cannabis could improve my quality of life came after my first inner ear surgery several years ago. My coworker at the time made me a batch of infused cookies for my recovery. I wasn’t sure about them at first. But as the pain, dizziness, and nausea from all the medications and surgical trauma came on, I was grateful to have those cookies. They offered me a sense of calm in the storm of my recovery.
A couple of years later, I found myself needing a more intensive brain surgery to repair some of the damage done by the first surgery. It was one of the harder points in my life to prepare for such a big, scary procedure, but I knew that I wanted cannabis on hand for that recovery process. After a few days in the ICU, I came home. With Frankenstein-esque stitches down the side of my shaved head and loaded up on medications with tricky side effects, I was dizzy, aching, and exhausted. I was grateful to have some loved ones who helped me find the right edible cannabis dosages so that I could again find a bit of calm in that storm. The edibles helped me eat without the fear of intense nausea for the first time in a week. They eased the hard edges of the pain in my head, and they calmed me enough to get much needed sleep. I made surprisingly quick recovery, and I do credit part of that to access to cannabis.
After the neurosurgery, the headaches are worse. The scar tissue on my skull added a new layer of complication, but I move forward on the path of pain management. It’s not an easy path, and there are days when I struggle to get out of bed. But I’ve found myself in a place now where every day I get to get up and work in an industry that helps other people find some relief and improve their quality of life. That motivates me to keep going and keep pushing.
Since getting into the cannabis industry last year, I’ve found new ways to support my pain. I’ve also had the amazing fortune to connect with others who are passionate about cannabis education and sharing their pain management stories. I learn something new every day in this industry. That has been a driver for me to keep going, and I’m grateful for the relief and sense of community cannabis has given me. I’m lucky that I get to be part of this industry to help other people find the life-changing benefits I’ve found through this experience.