Saturday, May 19, 2012

In which I wish my neighbours would go camping.

Granite under skin: gratefully, sun-warmed. Chill mountain water dries off fast, the print of my hand soon shrinking away. Around my hand, the glints: if I close one eye they come into focus, freckles of mica. As cold lake water evaporates from my warming body, dominant scents shift from wet skin and wet rock, back to Jeffrey pine. The breeze carrying it raised goose bumps when I was soaked, brings relief now that I'm dry.

Suddenly the granite slope, the pines and the breeze, vanish.

Next door, the loud neighbour is tormenting the little kid again. When hollered at to stop crying, naturally the child cries louder. I wish I could tell them, not just to please keep it down, but to raise it up: to raise the level of everyday life to something worth recalling in detail, should they ever become chronically ill and spend hours with nowhere to go but their own minds.

If you're well enough to go into a forest or up a mountain or whatever place makes your heart glad, go now. Soak in every sensation and store them up. Brush your hand across the granite and keep that texture. Keep the pitch of the hawk's cry and the particular gold of the marmot's fur.  Whether the Jeffrey pine reminds you more of vanilla or of butterscotch, keep its exact interaction with your own singular senses, because that may someday be the very thing you need to recall.

Fantasy too can be a shelter from pain, but it's a bittersweet treat, because it presumes a someday in which dreams can come true. If your condition is deteriorating, you know in your stubbornly desiring heart the somedays you create in fantasy can never have a place in reality, and that realisation can be more disruptive than the loud neighbour. No matter how perfect the detail of your imagined world, it crumbles when confronted by reality, and aren't there already enough tears, without weeping for the things that can't be?

Then there are all the things that can happen, the things that need to happen, the list of things to do when the energy to do them returns. I can spend some time thinking ahead to them and doing whatever part of the future it's possible to do now in my mind, but that's a small part and usually amounts to endless lists and needless worry.

So I go back. A moment here or there, sometimes a moment I can place exactly within the framework of past events, sometimes a moment typical of a period of my life, or sometimes a moment that stands on its own---it doesn't matter as long as it's full.

I love my mind and its way of lingering on details, making each one perfect. I've stored up so many riches to get me through this time of poverty. When present reality shrinks to the size of my bed, and me alone in it, and the pain in me, I can recall an infant asleep in the curve of my arm, the sound of her gentle breathing, the downiness of her hair and the sweet smell of the top of her head, like honey and warm kittens. I can pore now over the details of then and know how fortunate I am.

I would far rather be up and working hard, doing the things that will help launch that same daughter into an adulthood full of the best possible moments of her own, but in these stuck times when I can do nothing of help to anyone, but survive until energy returns, it's only me and my mind.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Here's to Your Health

Not feeling like a zombie: it's so glamourous, dahling.

And you know, feeling marvelous is only for the healthy or the wealthy -- preferably, both.
Gurgling laugh and the sound of champagne pouring.


We, the sick, and especially the sick-and-poor, spend a lot of time feeling like zombies. Not only do our bodies feel like living death, painful and exhausted, but our minds are numbed.  Some illness, like mine, cause cognitive problems, and any chronic pain interferes with clear thinking. And of course, dealing with the fallout of illness further saps our energy.

Available energy is the difference between living, and living death.

That's why I'm emitting a puff of vapour in the photo above. It's cannabis vapour, and it's helping reduce my pain. Pain reduction makes more of my energy available for doing things, for being a living person and not a zombie.

Now, five years ago when I became ill, I didn't think that I was going to try medicinal cannabis. I had of course heard of it for cancer and glaucoma and a handful of assorted conditions, but I knew it wasn't for me.

Why? Because I knew it made people groggy and stupid. In my personal experience, back in the day, it made me, personally, tense and hypersensitive, and a bit groggy.

Having an illness that makes me slow, low on energy and foggy-brained, I was sure that cannabis was exactly what I did not need, so when a doctor brought it up during a visit with my daughter, we nixed the notion. Even if it relieved some pain. I knew it would just make me worse off in other ways.

Well, I was wrong. A few months ago, I tried cannabis and felt less pain, more energy, and could even see better.

Cannabis has changed a lot since the days when it made me slow and stupid. Breeding from pedigreed stock and experimenting, growers have developed strains that provide different effects for different patients. You can learn a lot about the strains by searching cannabis strain guide.

If you search for example for cannabis cancer or cannabis AIDS, cannabis MS or cannabis chronic pain, you're probably going to come across the terms, CBDs and CBNs. I'm far from being an expert, so I won't try to tell you all about these, but they're a whole range of active compounds.

Most of my readers probably already know more about this than I do. But if you don't, then you can learn from articles that explain that various compounds in cannabis, psychoactive THC and anti-inflammatory CBDs and CBNs, have been found effective not only against pain but against inflammation and even reduce viral load in AIDS patients.

Since becoming a medical cannabis users I've met people who have found relief via cannabis from conditions ranging from epilepsy to depression, anxiety, chronic back pain and more. The cannabis is not making them lazy and stupid: it's making them able to be at least part-time contributing members of society.

It's rescuing them from zombie-dom. They're alive again and that's glamourous.

Why do I bring this up now? May is ME and Neuro Immune Disease Awareness Month and after three deaths in my family in three months, several other calamities and major life events, plus with an impending house move, I was feeling more Zombie than ever. So Zombie, in fact, that I had to cancel my Zombie Action event I had scheduled for May 12 in San Francisco.

Nevertheless, with rest and cannabis and acupuncture and a dash of antivirals, I'm able to go grocery shopping, prepare meals, wash most of the dishes most of the time, care for my kids, and write a little blog post.

Tonight especially, I wanted to write a post that offered some sort of hope.

Today the news came out that yet another member of the Myalgic Encephalomyelitis community has been lost to suicide. He was 31 years old. He stood in front of a train.

Imagine that. It's not at all glamourous.

You don't have to ask yourself what might have saved him: it's obvious. Relief: real care for his pain and exhaustion. That could have saved him. Having his life back. Maybe not via cannabis in his case (although maybe) but there are many other things I'm willing to bet his doctors didn't try, because they were experimental and not approved, because they were expensive and not covered by insurance, because they weren't legal where he lived, or all too common: because his doctors didn't know.

In other news today, yet another medicinal cannabis user, a friend of friends, has gone to prison for treating his pain. Judges can be as ignorant, as in need of education, as can doctors.

I'm fortunate to live in California, where I can legally grow, or obtain organic, high-quality cannabis in a variety of strains and forms from a licensed dispensary. It works so well, I have to remind myself to rest, and continue weekly acupuncture to keep my energy levels closer-to -even with my pain-free-ness.

Some people serve jail time for using the only medicine that helps them, and in some countries some are put to death, and yet people continue to risk its use because for them, it works. There are even studies showing cannabis prevents some diseases.

Again, I'm not saying I'm sure it will work for everyone. But why not make it available to everyone, and let everyone find out for themselves? After all, drink can kill, yet every adult is free to try alcohol and see what it does for or to them. Cannabis doesn't kill, there is no established lethal dose, yet we aren't free to use it. Why not end prohibition of cannabis?

And just like with studies on Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, why not waste less money on psychosocial studies --- cannabis studies tend to have words like "disadvantaged youth," "at risk," and "predisposition" in them instead of "inflammation" and "remission" and "antiviral" --- and why not spend the money instead on biomedical research?

For May Awareness month I'd like to offer all neuro-immune disease sufferers the hope that you might find something out there that can help you, as I have with cannabis and acupuncture. It could be worthwhile doing a little more research, asking around, trying one more thing, waiting one more day to see what might turn up. The only thing deader than the living dead is the dead dead so please try to stay with us and find out what happens next.

As the move to end prohibition grows to include more and more patients, doctors and even law enforcement people, I want to lend my voice to the cause. I can't tell you much about the science behind it yet but I can tell you that cannabis is helping me tremendously, that I've gone from being certain it wouldn't help to knowing it does, and that there's no harm in letting people try. Please support compassionate laws.

That's all. This is dedicated to Win, Steam and AJ, MM and Phil and Stuart.