words by Skyla Patton
My life changed when I started experiencing pain, like real pain, when I was about 13- which, if you’ve ever been a 13 year old cis-gendered girl, is the worst time for just about everything. On a vacation to Washington to visit family, the dreaded mother nature finally visited. My periods were horrific, and I learned quickly that while they are unpleasant for everyone, I had particularly bad luck. For the next several years, I suffered through one week a month where I could barely get out of bed because of the fire in my gut or missed whole days of school because my skin was so bloated and sensitive it hurt. The worst of all, though, was my breast pain – I couldn’t sleep if I wasn’t on my back, and the pain didn’t stop when my period did. It was there, all the time, every day. I had to wear heavy-duty sports bras to dull the pain down, couldn’t participate fully in PE and had to have special permissions to carry ibuprofen around in my backpack.
“You’ll be fine, sweetheart. Discomfort is normal for growing girls,” hummed my women’s doctor during one of our first appointments. This was far from the last time I heard these words. Practitioners across the board ensured me that my blistering breast pain was over-exaggerated and something I simply had to deal with, a curse of womanhood. For years of my life, I believed them; I suffered through the discomfort, I took the prescription medication and I pushed through yoga classes everyone swore would eliminate my pain.
I discovered cannabis several years after mother nature wreaked havoc on my bodily happiness. Growing up in a community that was heavily immersed in cannabis culture already, even in the early 2000s, it didn’t feel like an entirely alien path, but it was absolutely considered a leisure activity. I took my first puff in a way I imagine to be similar to everyone else’s: on a camping trip, surrounded by good friends and (luckily) a lot of delicious snacks. However, that first puff changed a part of me I will never forget: my aches faded, my mind relaxed and for the first time in years, my boobs took a chill pill. I slept on my side that night on my air mattress for the first time in over four years and it felt. so. good. Weeks later, a family friend offered me a CBD/THC combination salve, Rub by Whoopi and Maya (yes, the Whoopi Goldberg and Maya Elisabeth—shout out to powerful women in business), designed specifically for menstrual pain, and I was sold. The ability to live a day of my life without continual discomfort or constant thinking about that discomfort was an overwhelming feeling of relief and gratitude. I was not interested in letting this new freedom go: I was hooked on cannabis.
This introduction to cannabis was also my introduction to a culture and world that was so much more complex and interesting than passing a blunt around while watching Survivor. I immersed myself in the intricacies of the growers around me, the labor of love of gardening medicinal plants, and the varying differences between recreational and medical cannabis users. I have been a declared journalism major since the age of 8, and started writing for The Emerald in my freshman year after being connected by a friend. The neurons in my brain lit up when the idea of a cannabis magazine was brought up during our weekly meeting for Emerald Essentials; and thus, Green Eugene was born. This was an opportunity for me to connect my interest with cannabis culture to my passion for journalism, and I jumped on the pitch right away. Writing stories for Green Eugene opened up my mind to new possibilities and the massive potential that a cannabis magazine could have; I want to erase the stigma of cannabis use, enlighten the public and blaze the trail of cannabis journalism.
When I became a regular consumer of cannabis, the stigma of cannabis use pushed back, hard. I felt the harsh connotation of being a cannabis user: suddenly I was lazy, unmotivated. The door to other “hard” drugs had somehow magically opened through the gateway of smoking pot. These stigmas confused me as they were so different from the stoners I had grown up and interacted with; business owners, loving parents, talented artists and many more. I’ve been a proud and active member of Rotary International since the 6th grade, and suddenly I was fearful of these huge, older-generation role models in my life turning mutinous because of my choice of healing. The same Rotarians who insisted that their stereotype (stale, male and pale) was inaccurate (it is) continued to believe that the stereotypes about cannabis users were fact (they’re not). This tug-o-war of stereotypes hurt me and took years to overturn in my own mindset.
Stereotypes are harmful, inaccurate and oftentimes born out of a fear of the unknown, a fear of change. A huge goal of mine and many others in the cannabis industry is to push the stigma against reefer madness out of the limelight and replace it with a sentient of healing, growth and innovation. Cannabis made me feel better, and that was a simple enough reason for me.
For all of the period-havers, young or otherwise, out there who are grappling with intense pain: your pain is not something you have to live with. Your doctor should listen to you when you say you hurt and they should not dismiss it because of your time of the month. Listen to your pain, seek out your answer (cannabis related or not) and do not take no for an answer during the pursuit of relief.
I live for producing this awesome publication for y’all, and it’s an honor to be able to share my story on a platform I’m so proud of. Cannabis, for me, was transformative, offering pain relief and the ability to live my life without daily discomfort. It was also a launchpad into a career that I love and truly feel I can stand behind. My hope is that other female-identifying ladies like me can learn to do the same: demand that the world believe your pain, push past stigmas that hold you back and use that same attitude to make a path for yourself. You can do it.
(Disclaimer: I was able to shrug off stereotypes and make it to where I am today due to my undeniable privilege as a white, middle class woman. Mass incarceration for cannabis possession, violence and discrimination affects people of color every day in our country and is being lost in the waves of legalization and commodification. We cannot endorse legalization without demanding decriminalization. Visit http://www.drugpolicy.org/issues/marijuana-legalization-and-regulation for information on decriminalization and how to get involved in your area.)