An editor had me switch formats so the following poem will not be published anywheres. But, I couldn’t just delete it! It’s a love letter to cannabis, inspired by my transition to needing it medicinally. I think my fellow herb lovers will get it… So, here:
My dearest Cannabis,
I know my love’s grown temperamental since our relationship has taken on this medicinal tone, and I’m so sorry. Now I lean on you like Snoop taught me, and that’s everyday. I’ve started to look to your faults, pointing out where you make me lose track of thoughts—and overlooking how you make my imagination ace, helping to form a thought worth capturing in the first place.
I take you for granted, it’s not enough that you melt the pain in my aching body; I just want you to rid me of more, and I want you to keep it away forever. You distract my mind from pain via whimsical and varied trains of thought, but I get frustrated when the same locomotives hamper my ability to express them.
I love how you give even boring food pizzaz, but bellyache that you’re to blame when I munch too much. You ease my worried mind, you coax anxiety out the door—and yet still, I ask for more.
I judge you by your appearance, and even take a sniff to see if you’re up to par. I reserve photos for when you look your best, sharing only your gorgeous purple tones and crystals; and resort to name-calling when your game is off—I call you schwag that smells of hay, and you don’t deserve that, not even on your worst day.
But, my dear marijuana; my pakalolo, my herb, my sensi—the truth is that I love you, that you truly are a kind bud indeed. Since our last vote you’re always there when I need you. (Though, I’ll admit, the price increase totally blew.) Whether we meet via vape pen or pipe, or by rip or a toke, if you grew up indoors or out; you’re always someone on whom I can count.
So I vow to appreciate you, my beloved ganja, to see you for all of your goodness; and there is so much to see—for you even make smelling skunky a good thing! I love you so much, I’d even declare it with a ring.
What’s the longest you’ve ever been alone? Last fall, I was diagnosed with an illness that had progressed to the point of absolute debilitation, and I’ve been homebound for the last 10 months. As a result, the longest I’ve been totally alone is around five weeks straight, with about seven brief interruptions by grocery delivery drivers — who’d wind up inching back from me as I babbled away about anything, anything at all.
I’m recovering from severe B12 deficiency, which destroys the protective myelin sheath around my nerves, brain, and spinal cord. This process causes damage all over the body, but the most pertinent symptom here is trouble walking. On bad-ish days, I walk like a pregnant robot, my movements stiff and my legs bowed out.
I live alone at the bottom of a condo complex that slopes down into a gorgeous tree-covered canyon. Peaceful? Oh my goodness, so yes. But also completely inescapable since I can’t drive. The renowned transit was a big reason I moved to Portland, but my bus stop lies at the top of that big ole hill. It might as well be Everest.
My close local friends are mighty in quality, but very few in quantity — and they have busy lives of their own. I was also in so much pain this winter that I usually didn’t want to see anyone. It just hurt too bad, and I just didn’t have the energy.
Things have been improving lately. I’ve been “able to people” about 15 percent of the time. (Woo!) But since that hill became my peaceful prison nearly a year ago, I’ve been alone more like 95 percent of the time.
It was really difficult. There’s no need to tiptoe around that. Some days I felt abandoned, and rational or not, it felt like I had no one at all — like I had disappeared and the world was just fine and dandy without me. (I’ve definitely decided to put down some real roots when I get out of here.) It was one of the darkest times of my life, and on some days, I honestly didn’t know if I’d get out the other side.
But as I get further away from the dark times, it’s becoming clear that this experience has actually been wildly beneficial. Facing darkness brings truth, and has helped me to see more clearly. I was able to really think about what I want from life and relationships. I made some really solid goals, and I was able to gain a healthier perspective on my past. (Plus, I finally got to grow my eyebrows out to find my “natural arch” sans anyone seeing the furry stage, huzzah.)
Another fun result of all this alone time is a definite increase in silliness. I’m singing at the top of my lungs, I’m talking to myself, giving self-fives (which I realize I stole from Liz Lemon), I’m writing without censor, I’m tanning in my underwear — I’ve actually had some really good days!
But the biggest aspect of it all has been reflection. I’m a spiritual person, a meditator, a writer. I like to reflect. You could even call it a hobby, but this was fucking intense. During the worst times, I was lucky to sit upright for an hour. Sound often irritated me intensely, and I was in too much pain and too weak to even hold up a book. Very literally all I could do was think. (And I took up bird-watching. I’m going to keep it.)
At some point in all the reflection, I realized that I’ve often bounced off of everyone in my life instead of moving from my own center. Other people’s reactions, and more specifically, my fear of them, had taken over my interactions, creating a distance between me and everyone in my life. I saw how this affected my relationships, and I wondered if others struggled with their own version of a similar problem. I mused on the façades we all wear.
Then I wrote a book about it. And I even found an agent, a good one. We’ll see what happens with it all, but I’ve never felt closer to having a work life that satisfies me. My relationships have become much more authentic (for better or worse), and I feel more connected to myself than I ever have.
I don’t recommend that anyone spend 10 months alone in their apartment by choice. It’s not as spectacular as that — but it’s really made me see the value in developing comfort with being alone. I feel like I’m gonna be a force when I finally bust out of here, and it’s exciting indeed.
This fall, after a lifetime of odd health experiences, I became too sick to do literally anything. Lifting up a book to read or my phone to scroll was too painful for my arms. Sound frequently and intensely irritated me, making binge-watching out of the question. Every time I stood up, blackness would cloud my vision, and I’d be sure I was going to faint. Once I was up and the darkness lifted, I couldn’t walk right. My legs were too weak, and it felt like something was tugging hard on my nervous system, pulling it upward like I was a marionette.
I thought I was dying — and I kind of was. Without a diagnosis, I would have died. I had a total of 33 miserable-making symptoms.
It came on slow. It was tiny aspects of my experience — a cyst here, a rash there. Or other random things, like being clumsy and having to pee all the time. Sometimes it was bigger things, like a mental break or endometriosis symptoms. There were also the ever-increasing changes in my demeanor and level of energy and an electric pain that started as innocuous pins and needles.
I didn’t want to admit something was wrong. So for a while, it was easy to pretend I was fine, but it turns out I’ve been ill for a very, very long time. It’s hard to say exactly how long. I can’t go back in time to give a 10-year-old me with ulcer symptoms a blood test, but that period of pain went unexplained and was consistent with what’s made me so sick now: vitamin B-12 deficiency, of all things.
My symptoms have progressed to funicular myelosis, which is the combined degeneration of the spinal cord. It’s probable that without treatment I would have been paralyzed by now. MRI scans revealed that my brain looks much older than it should, with white foci sitting where they ought not. And six months into treatment, I still can’t walk more than a few minutes without dire punishment.
And because of a vitamin. A vitamin. It’s fucking nuts.
So why wasn’t I tested before the age of 33? Why didn’t they figure it out before it got so bad? I’ll leave out big pharma’s role and pin it two big things: misdiagnoses and misconceptions. Vitamin B-12 deficiency mimics many other diseases, and it can look like almost anything, making misdiagnoses rampant.
Doctors have also been taught to consider serious B-12 deficiency an old person’s disease. When people get older, their stomach often stops working right, and they can no longer absorb B-12 through foods, eventually creating a deficiency and an array of symptoms. Although that’s when it’s caught most often, it can happen at any age.
Another misconception is that because B-12 is only found in animal products, only vegans and vegetarians need to worry about it. Nope. In addition to stomach problems, which are created by many things such as surgery or autoimmune disorders, it’s possible to become deficient even if your intake is sufficient. It can also come from a very common genetic mutation called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, or MTHFR for short. (Apt, isn’t it?)
That MTHFR of a reason is mine. My prognosis is good; treatment is simply B-12. I’m getting better, oh-so-verrrry slowly but surely. Most of the random symptoms have vanished, which is wonderful. The biggie now is the electric pain; I feel like I’m being electrocuted most of the time. That and if I move too much (barely at all), I lose the ability to walk.
I’ve had a lot of time to reflect. It’s a strange thing to discover that you’ve been sick most of your life and you didn’t even know it. There are so many little symptoms that I thought were personality quirks, like excessive sighing (shortness of breath), getting confused or being lazy (weakness and low energy).
I look forward to a new shot at life. In my daydreams, I regain levels of health I once knew as a competitive dancer, and life is imbued with a level of vitality I haven’t known as an adult. Everything is easier, and I feel like a super-me, able to hike up mountains and actually consider it to be fun. I travel the world and explore ancient ruins without ever saying, “I’m tired.” Ah. Let’s hope.
And as for you, I recommend that if you have any, and I mean A-N-Y, unexplained ailments (including mental illness and infertility) you get your B-12 levels tested. Early B-12 deficiency can look like almost anything, as it affects the nervous system, which is part of everything. Also, find out if you’re a MTHFR, and take the appropriate precautions. It might seem like a pain in the ass, but just do it. Trust me.