No More Pills: My Cannabis Story
I’m a 22-year-old female from the Pacific Northwest. I’ve suffered from migraines since I was a small child, my first documented episode at age 8. My condition for the past 14 years has been worsening, and for the last 6 years it has been chronic.
This disease has two different parts: On one side, you have the HEADACHE, which is the severe pain. On the other side you have the MIGRAINE, which are all the symptoms that aren’t the headache: visual changes, body ache, nausea, vomiting, vertigo, and fatigue. A FULL migraine day involves having the whole gambit. I get 6-10 of these a month, during which I’m home from work with my head resting on the toilet seat with the lights out for most of the day. The rest of the month is split between HEADACHE without the extra stuff days, and MIGRAINE without the headache days. If I get 5 symptom free days in a month, it was a good month.
Despite my condition (or perhaps because of it, since I spent so much time at home), I finished high school at age 13 and started college full time at age 14. My parents just happened to live 2 miles from one of the top colleges in the country, so I was able to live at home. I graduated from college at 18, but almost didn’t make it due to how much school I missed.
My family never had patience for my condition, and my parents are the kind of people that will only go to the doctor if a lot of blood or broken bones are involved (even then, it was hard to get my dad to go to the ER after he CUT OFF HIS OWN FINGER), so I’ve never had a lot of support in finding a solution for my condition. They took me to my GP, got an MRI and prescription for Imitrex, and that was the end of it.
It wasn’t until I was 18 that I discovered I have an allergy to gluten. I went gluten free and was able to reduce my FULL migraine days to once or twice a month, and my HEADACHE days to 1-2 a week. This lasted about 2 years, and then everything came back full force and my migraines became the worst they’ve ever been. I have remained gluten free.
This last spring, I went 106 days straight headache, no breaks, with full migraine 5 out of 7 days. I lost my job and was forced to withdraw from graduate school. My boyfriend, now husband, was a huge support through that time, and is helping me get the medical care I need. I’ve tried everything: antidepressants, anti-seizure, all the preventatives. At this point, I’ve been told to work as little as possible, eat and sleep as much as I can, and have been prescribed Imitrex injections since I have such a hard time keeping pills down. I hate it. They are painful, EXTREMELY expensive, and I’m incapacitated for the rest of the day.
After I was forced to withdraw from school, my husband and I took a road trip to Seattle to visit his sister. When she found me in the bathroom puking, she sent me home with a few grams of Cannabis to see if it would help with nausea and pain.
I’m not going to jump on the “miracle cure” bandwagon. I grew up in a state where Cannabis is still illegal, and any attempts to legalize it, even for medical use, are just “drug seekers infiltrating the administration.” I’ve always been cool with legalizing it for the seriously ill: cancer patients, hospice, chronic pain sufferers…
Oh wait…that’s me.
So I gave it a go.
I still tear up every time I think about the relief I felt the first night I tried it. Within 20 minutes I felt better enough to eat a full meal, and I was able to sleep through the night without getting woken up from the pain. As my system adjusted to it over the next days and weeks, my migraines became less severe. If I have a bad migraine, I can eliminate the nausea symptoms and cut the pain in half. If I manage to notice an aura before the headache begins, Cannabis STOPS THE MIGRAINE.
I still spend about half of my waking hours in considerable pain, but I’ve been able to restore my life. And when I’m medicating, even though I still have pain, the pain doesn’t bother me as much anymore. I basically forget it’s there. After being underweight my whole life, I’ve finally been able to eat enough to gain weight and get my menses back. I started a little home business teaching music lessons to kids and am pulling in $3500 a month while still having the freedom to nap between students if I need to. Weed is also considerably cheaper than traditional prescription medications, so that’s an ease on financial stress. I’m waiting to see a new migraine specialist in my area, but the wait is 3 months.
In the mean time, I feel like I have my life back. I still have the disease, but I now know that I can make plans and have a way to treat them that won’t ruin my day.