I was 25 the first time I smoked pot. While most of my friends had been indulging in the occasional high long before that, I grew up in a home where my dad was a narcotics officer. “Say no to drugs” had been drilled into me relentlessly for most of my life.
I was honestly never interested in marijuana — until one night when I was drinking with friends and they were smoking. I decided, why not?
To be honest, I wasn’t impressed. While alcohol had always helped with some of my more introverted tendencies and allowed me to socialize more comfortably, this just made me want to hide in a room away from everyone.
Over the years I tried it a few more times, mostly to the same results. I decided pretty definitively that marijuana was not my thing ...
Then I was diagnosed with Stage 4 endometriosis and everything changed.
I’d try anything to take away the pain
In the years since my diagnosis, I’ve experienced varying degrees of pain. There was a point about six years ago where I was so debilitated by pain that I was actually considering going on disability. I wound up visiting an endometriosis specialist instead and had three surgeries that really did make a drastic difference in my quality of life. I no longer suffer from the daily debilitating pain I once did. Unfortunately, my periods still aren’t great.
“I don’t enjoy being out of it. I don’t enjoy feeling out of control or fuzzy, but don’t want to be confined to my bed in pain. So what options do I have?”
Today I have two prescriptions to help me manage that pain. One, celecoxib (Celebrex) is the best nonnarcotic I’ve found for dealing with a bad endometriosis period. While it takes the edge off the pain, there are plenty of times when it just isn’t enough to allow me to continue to live my life. I remain in bed for several days at a time, just waiting my period out.
That would be an inconvenience for anyone, but I’m a single mom to a 4-year-old. I love being active with her, so the pain feels especially frustrating for me.
The other prescription I have is supposed to help me manage those days: hydromorphone (Dilaudid). It’s a strong prescription narcotic that absolutely takes the pain away. It doesn’t make me itch like acetaminophen-oxycodone (Percocet) and acetaminophen-hydrocodone (Vicodin) do. Unfortunately, it also renders me mostly incapable of mothering.
As such, I only very rarely reach for that bottle — usually only at night and only if I know there’s someone else nearby who can help with my daughter if an emergency were to occur.
Those instances are rare. Instead, I’m far more likely to opt for enduring through the pain so I can remain fully aware of my surroundings.
Losing all control
The truth is, even without my daughter to consider, I don’t enjoy being out of it. I don’t enjoy feeling out of control or fuzzy.
Still, I also don’t enjoy being confined to my bed in pain. So what options do I have?
Unfortunately, not many. I’ve tried acupuncture, naturopathy, and cupping, all with varying results. I’ve changed my diet, worked out more (and less), and been willing to try a variety of supplements. Some things help and have remained in my routine. But I continue to have the occasional (or even semi-regular) period where the pain is so bad I just don’t want to leave my bed. It’s been a struggle for years now.
Then my home state (Alaska) legalized marijuana.
Not just medicinal marijuana, mind you. In Alaska, it’s now totally legal to smoke or ingest pot whenever you want, so long as you’re over the age of 21 and not operating a motor vehicle.
I’ll admit, the legalization is what made me start to consider trying marijuana to curb my pain. The truth is, I had known it was an option for years. I’d read about plenty of women with endometriosis who swore it helped them.
But my biggest problem with medicinal marijuana remained: I never enjoyed being high before and I didn’t exactly like the idea of being high now — while trying to also raise my daughter.
Finding the right pain management for me
The more I talked about this concern, though, the more I was assured there were different types of marijuana. I just needed to find the right strain for me — the strain that would ease the pain without turning me into an antisocial hermit.
I began doing research and discovered there’s some truth to that. Certain varieties of marijuana actually seem to have a similar effect to caffeine. I spoke to a few moms who assured me they regularly rely on pot for both pain and anxiety relief. They believe it actually makes them better, more joyful, and involved mothers.
So … there’s that.
In the midst of all this research, though, I came across something else … CBD oil. This is essentially a derivative of marijuana without the THC. And THC is what causes that high I wasn’t exactly excited to experience. Various studies have now found promising results for the use of CBD oil in treating chronic pain. This was exactly what I was looking for: Something that might be able to help without rendering me useless to a high.
I purchased my first CBD pills last month on the second day of my period. I’ve been taking them daily ever since. While I can’t say for sure if they helped with my last period (it still wasn’t great), I’m curious to see how this next period goes with a month’s worth of CBD built up in my system.
I’m not expecting miracles here. But even if this could work in conjunction with Celebrex to make me more mobile and available to play with my daughter while on my period, I’d consider that a win.
If it doesn’t work, I’m still not opposed to further exploring the benefits of medicinal marijuana in the future. It may be that there really is a strain out there I wouldn’t hate, one that would only be mildly mind-altering and extremely pain-reducing.
At this point, I’m open to any and all options. All I really care about is finding a way to manage my pain while still being the mother I want to be to my little girl. The kind of mother who’s able to carry a conversation, respond in emergencies, and run out the door for an impromptu game of soccer in the park — even when she’s on her period.
Leah Campbell is a writer and editor living in Anchorage, Alaska. A single mother by choice after a serendipitous series of events led to the adoption of her daughter, Leah is also author of the book “Single Infertile Female” and has written extensively on the topics of infertility, adoption, and parenting. You can connect with Leah via Facebook, her website, and Twitter.