Chronic Illness Medical Cannabis Personal Essay

A love letter to Mary Jane

*Note - I am doing a series of narrative pieces as a part of a new therapy program, writing as a form of processing things. Despite how incredibly vulnerable it feels to share this ‘love letter to cannabis’ with you all, I know that it may resonate with other patients and normalize medical cannabis as a legitimate medication. So here I am in all my mushy glory, writing to a plant, for a therapist - enjoy!

Dearest Mary Jane,

You, my beautiful miracle, have saved my life. Not in the ethereal way people will assume - you saved me rather literally. In 2017 I almost died, and while no one really noticed, it changed everything for me. That year wasn’t all bad, afterall it was when I lost everything that I found you. I turned to cannabis as a patient in 2016 after hitting a wall with pain management. A genetic disorder causes me chronic pain and fatigue and while most people can’t wrap their heads around functioning in my body, I simply have no other choice. 

At 33, after over a decade of chronic health issues, a doctor told me the best I could hope for was functional (whatever the hell that means). The side effects of conventional treatment were insurmountable, doctors don’t talk nearly enough about the life debilitating contraindications of some medical treatments. Illness forced me to walk away from everything; I had spent time and thousands of dollars in loans trying to build this idea of a ‘better life’. I relied on you heavily that year, I used cannabis every day alongside my other medications. When life gives you lemons, you make infused lemonade?

Who would have thought we would end up here? Certainly not me, if you told me 10 years ago that I would restructure my entire life around “marijuana” I would have laughed in your face. You see, I had a lot of misconceptions about you and how you fit into ‘decent’ peoples lives. I grew up with common opinions like ‘what kind of grown adult owns a bong?’ and tons of other narratives that come from stigma. 

I hid you at first, plagued by guilt and shame for needing a drug to function. Even though I used daily pharmaceuticals drugs too, they didn't seem to illicit the same shame filled reaction in me - so why was I so much harder on myself for needing you? At first I feared my dependence on you was addiction behaviour, a placebo effect that I must be gaslighting myself with. As time passed, I needed less and less of my other meds and with their lower doses came more energy and autonomy over my health. I see what you did there you clever girl, it’s hard to gaslight myself with all these affirming results.

How did you work this magic? Suddenly I am able to run to catch the bus again, instead of barely being able to walk. As I learned the science of the human endocannabinoid system and how cannabis works within the body, I understood the profound relief from pain I was having and started to actually believe it. Now I spend my days working in the cannabis industry, advocating for medical patients and writing educational, fact-based content. 

What I love about you Mary is that you’re so versatile! Sure, you’re still the same plant I shared with friends down by Swan Lake when I was a teenager. Laughing until our faces hurt and being generally young and whimsical. But I like to think our relationship is a little deeper now that I rely on you to help treat my exhausting list of conditions. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy overindulging from time to time. For me, you’re a much kinder buzz than alcohol with far less impact on my health. Sure, we still make a great party couple but honestly though most nights we just Netflix & Chill (and that’s the way I like it). 

I’ll conclude this love letter to the formidable Miss Cannabis Sativa with my deepest gratitude. I didn’t think my life would turn out like this but somehow it seems ok now. There is still daily physical pain and fatigue, I’m honestly not sure that I will ever be able to work a full time conventional job again. Despite that, you haven’t given me back the rest - the social visits, the energy to get dressed, the work functions, the long walks, the concentration to read a book, the ability to carry on a conversation with the endless pulsing of my inflamed nerves. If I ever get well enough to need you less, you’ll still always have a special place in my heart (it’s not like you see me writing a letter to my Lyrica prescription). Thank you for holding the space for me to learn, to grow, and to heal.

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