Hey, Chronically-Ill, Sad Girls— We Found Your Lane.
LAURA COULDN’T FIND SPACE AS A SAD, SICK BROWN GIRL, SO SHE CREATED ONE.
BY: LAURA OZUNA | SEPTEMBER 20TH 2018
I was born and raised in a small town in the state of Sonora, Mexico, where my family and I lived with my abuelos. My Nana Amalia was my favorite person in the world. She grew beautiful cannabis plants, which she used to make her own tinctures and oils.
Her garden was her medicine. She was a nurturer, a healer, an empath, and a luchadora.
My family immigrated to the US when I was five, and it took a huge toll on me. I was away from my nana— and she was my everything. The move was overwhelming to say the least. I was immersed into school and I spoke absolutely zero English. It was terrifying. Then from the ages of six to seven, I experienced severe trauma that would forever change me. Shortly after that, my family began our citizenship process, which meant we weren’t allowed to return to Mexico (and wouldn’t be able for many, many years to come). I was alone with my trauma.
From that point on, I was plagued by night terrors that made me relive that trauma. Growing up I always felt… off.
I cried a lot. I was never social— I was a lonely kid. And I never seemed able to relax, or be comfortable— in any environment.
Nobody knew I was already suffering from severe depression and PTSD. Not even me.
My Nana Amalia passed away before my family and I were allowed to return to Mexico. I sunk into a deeper, darker hole, where I stayed for some time. I didn’t socialize and had no friends in high school. I was anxious, terrified of crowds, and miserable. I despised school so much that I managed to graduate a couple of years early, just so I wouldn’t have to be there. It wasn’t until I started college that I learned about mental health.
It was eye opening because it’s something my cultura doesn’t talk about.
“A stigma surrounds the words “therapy,” “psychologist,” “psychiatrist.” There is a misconception that visiting a mental health professional means that the person is crazy, loca.” Daisy Novoa Vásquez
I immediately recognized symptoms of mental illness in myself. That’s when I went to see my first therapist, and then my first psychiatrist. Over the next few months, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As a way to cope with my trauma, I’d also developed obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). I was prescribed a cocktail of about 15 prescriptions, which I took up until my pregnancy.
After I had my son, I began experiencing severe fatigue, neck/back/ pain, headaches, muscle and joint pain, and memory loss. I stopped sleeping and doctors blamed all my symptoms on the side effects of my psych meds. I was prescribed more medication to deal with the side effects of other medications. I visited chiropractors, doctors, specialists, trying to get to the root of my pain and no one could tell me what was wrong.
This went on for about five years.
Then, one August, I began having flu-like symptoms. I couldn’t keep food down, I had frequent fevers, and my fatigue was worse than ever!
It took all my energy just to get up in the morning. This continued for months and doctors couldn’t tell me what was wrong. Then one morning in December, after arriving home from a long business trip, I woke up unable to move. The joints in my arms, legs, and neck were locked and stiff. My skin burned like it was on fire, and I had a migraine so bad I lost my vision. I later learned that what I had experienced was my first severe flare-up.
By the time I got to the doctor and my blood work came back, I was told I should’ve been hospitalized days before. Three different doctors/specialists all diagnosed me with my first autoimmune disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE.
Receiving a lupus diagnosis was more than devastating. I was in shock.
You see, I knew all about lupus. Three of my cousins were already battling it by the time I was diagnosed (and another one has been diagnosed since). I’d seen them hooked up to machines, slowly lose their mobility and independence, spend weeks at a time in the hospital, and I’d seen the toll it took on their bodies and quality of life.
I couldn’t believe it was lupus. Before I was able to fully grasp how much my life was changing, more diagnoses kept coming.
In the months that followed, I was also diagnosed with fibromyalgia, psoriasis, allodynia, raynaud’s disease, and chronic fatigue syndrome. I also learned I have irreversible heart and kidney damage. With each new illness, my mental and physical health deteriorated further while the prescriptions continued to increase.
I felt helpless, defeated, and betrayed by my body.
It was another extremely difficult time in my life. I was constantly in and out of doctors’ offices with absolutely no relief. Cannabis had just been legalized in my state, and one of my doctors told me I was a great candidate, so I became a patient.
I carried Nana Amalia’s wisdom, knowledge, and teachings with me and immersed myself in the medical cannabis industry. I began learning as much as I could about how to maximize its healing qualities in chronic and mental illness patients like me. Within a year of self-medicating with cannabis I was down to only 3 prescriptions.
My autoimmune flare-ups didn’t stop, but as I continued learning to medicate, they became manageable. The impact cannabis had on my mental health was also tremendous. Cannabis even helped curb my obsessive compulsions, something I wasn’t expecting. I finally felt hopeful and my quality of life improved exponentially.
As I continued to educate myself and learn more about the medical cannabis industry, I noticed that there is little representation for Latina’s like me.
I’m an immigrant. I’m a mother, partner, daughter, career woman, and a boss. I have mental and chronic illness.
Cannabis benefits and greatly impacts all those facets of my life. But I couldn’t talk about any of those things because of the stigma surrounding them. I was afraid of the judgment because I’d already begun experiencing first-hand the stigma and discrimination that surrounds cannabis use in people of color.
I wanted to find those mujeres who understood what I was going through. I craved an outside support system. But as I searched, I saw mental health stigma, ableism, cultural and historical misogyny and trauma tearing through communities of color.
I saw my beautiful people suffer in silence and go without the proper mental and chronic illness care and treatment they need.From there, my desire to help fellow sad girls and support femmes of color grew until it ultimately inspired Chronic Sad Girls Club. It took almost two years to get over the crippling anxiety, terror, and self-doubt— but I finally created the space I craved where fellow femmes can be ourselves, unapologetically, without stigma or judgments.
I’m passionate about sharing the knowledge I’ve gained (and continue to gain) throughout the years while normalizing chronic illness, mental illness, and cannabis. Through CSGC, I created my own lane in the cannabis community for chronically and mentally ill femmes of color.
Sharing my experience and knowledge through Chronic Sad Girls Club has also helped me heal tremendously. That’s another thing I wasn’t expecting. I guess I just didn’t realize how much I’m still hurting. But even after everything that I’ve been through— everything that my body and mind have endured is nothing in comparison to the impact losing my nana had on my life. But she’s the reason I’ve made it this far. She is my guide. Her knowledge, love, and wisdom are always with me. And just like her, I’m a nurturer, a healer, an empath, and a luchadora.
I’ve found my purpose.
Laura, Founder of CSGC
written for Cannabis for Breakfast
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