Patient Story: Mary
Anxiety, panic attacks, nightmares, desperate fear …PTSD controlled Mary’s life. Combine that with the chronic pain from Lyme’s disease and it took a severe toll on her life. Mary found relief when she found medical cannabis. Here’s her story.
Mary is all personality. Her friends know her as the crazy chicken lady or the roller derby queen, or as a foul-mouthed Jersey girl with too many dogs and too many tattoos. All that’s true. But she also has had a chronic condition, Lyme Disease for 20 years and suffers chronic pain from both the Lyme and many bad sports choices. But what she has hid from many is that she also suffered from severe PTSD and has since 2012. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health problem. It can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. It has been estimated that approximately 8% of Americans or 24.4 million people have PTSD at any given time.
2012 was the year that Mary spent trying to extricate herself from a man she was married to who had inflicted extreme emotional abuse upon her for almost 7 years. In 2012 she was unaware that he had spent the previous 2 years of their marriage cultivating a fake online identity that he had used to befriend her, gain her trust, extract ‘information,” stalk and spy on her. Before Mary even found out about the spying, she had summoned the courage to move a thousand miles away from him; he followed her. She moved another thousand miles away; he followed once again. in addition to the information he had access to as her fake friend, he had secretly installed spyware on her computer, hacked her email and hijacked her business website—so wherever she went, he found her. Whatever she did and whomever she spoke to, he knew. It was terrifying.
A year that began with him faking a suicide attempt to get her attention, ended with her cowering in a corner of her bedroom holding a very large gun as he circled the block ominously, again and again— simultaneously begging her via text to come outside, and threatening to harm her and everyone she loved if she did not. She was trapped in her home for 2 days, all the while “confiding” in real time to the person she thought was her old friend, but was actually the same man who concurrently stalked and terrorized her. So that’s Mary’s story.
What followed was 6 years of anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, sleep terrors, nightmares, and a desperate fear of crowds, exposure, and open spaces. Airports were scariest of all. She was able to mostly function through therapy, roller derby, medication, and stubbornness. Marie found some things that helped her sleep – Ambien, Benadryl, bourbon – but even they could not touch the nightmares. In fact, they made things worse because once sedated, she could not awake from the nightmares and simply had to endure them to their mostly grizzly ends. Every night, while she craved sleep, she also dreaded it
Last spring, at the end of her tether, Mary decided to seek additional help and in so doing, got her medical cannabis card and began using cannabis as medicine. Today Mary says, “the difference in my emotional health, physical pain and quality of life is beyond description. I haven’t had a nightmare since, not one. It has truly made my life better than I ever thought it would be again. My dispensary, PDI Medical, has shown overwhelming kindness and compassion, as well as patiently teaching me about my new medicine and the proper ways to use it. To say that I am grateful is an understatement.”
Mary is living her life again. She is no longer so terrified of crowds. She can attend movies and concerts without fear of him watching/waiting. Same with airports! Mary says, “I No longer have panic attacks and was brave enough to accept the nomination to be president of my Rotary Club, which involves travel to many other clubs in the region as well as to conferences that I would have been terrified to attend before. I even sat with my back to the room when I had dinner with a friend at a restaurant the other night – sounds like something small, but I was really scared of having my back turned to the door of any public places before, lest he creep up on me.” Mary is getting her life back because of Medical Cannabis. However, even sharing her story is scary for her. But Mary realizes that hers is a story that is all too common and that it is important to share with people so that they have hope and can find treatment that will help just like she did.
Mary sought out medical cannabis to help with her PTSD. She found relief not only for that but also for her chronic Lyme Disease. When asked how cannabis helped her Lyme Disease, Mary smiled and said, “Cannabis has helped me so much! It has helped my chronic joint pain and muscle spasms! For the past 20 years I’ve had tiny hammers tapping away all over my body, all the time. Spasms that mostly felt like little bubbles popping underneath my skin but would sometimes turn to stabbing knives. I rarely ever notice spasms anymore…my twitchy muscles have gone mercifully quiet.” Mary had many years of pain from Lyme and then the added anxiety and PTSD kept her body in a constant state of high alert. Mary says, “my neck and upper back went into crisis constantly from the tension and my propensity to spasm from the Lyme. The two problems fed off each other and they both were made worse. But now that cannabis has helped me learn how to relax my mind as well as my body, I rarely have pain now, unless I’ve done something dumb to deserve it :)”
PTSD is an approved medical condition for cannabis in Illinois. If you or someone you know is suffering from PTSD, medical cannabis may help them. Lyme Disease is not an approved condition but we hope that one day soon it will be.