Sarah’s Story

     When I was younger, all I wanted was to be skinny. My birthday wishes and prayers were always about my body. It was my number one goal in life--a goal that almost led me to my grave.

     I spent over half of my life dedicated to my eating disorder. The behaviors became normalized, the thoughts became constant and the secret of it all became bigger. I didn't know that my anorexia would take over my l ife the way it did. I thought it was just how things were. As I told one of my friends a few years ago, I thought everyone felt the same way about their bodies, so I really didn't think I was any different. My dream of being skinny developed into a full fledged eating disorder. The combination of anorexia, depression and anxiety became a braid of death that had looped itself around my neck.

     As I continuously destroyed my body through starvation, forced vomiting, laxative abuse, over-exercising and self-harm, my life was slowly ending. At one point, I was in the cardiac unit of the hospital. My heart rate was dipping to 30 bpm and I was hooked up to an IV 24/7 to replenish all of my fluids. My parents would ask the doctors if I was going to die in my sleep and they could only respond with "not tonight." My kidneys were failing at one point and my digestive system wasn't working properly at all. I repeatedly gained and lost the same 55ish pounds, straining my heart more and more each time. There were times when I could barely make it up the stairs and other times when I could no longer drive because turning the wheel of my car was too difficult. My hair was falling out and my coccyx bone could be seen through my leggings. My hip bones stuck out further than my breasts and my chest bones were visible through my skin. I was constantly cold and my body began to grow fur all over to help keep me warm. I became a walking bag of bones, but I couldn't even see it. I still thought I was too big.

     My body was not the only thing that was deteriorating--so was my mind. My brain had become extremely starved due to the lack of fat in my diet. Standing up would make me blackout. I couldn't focus on anything anymore. I rarely slept because I had developed insomnia, so all of my nights were spent listening to my starved brain explaining all the reasons why living wasn't worth it anymore. If I was having a conversation with someone, it was always cut short; I would begin to say something and then drop out mid-sentence because I had already forgotten what I was going to say. My brain was shutting down on me and wouldn't let me understand how much danger I was in. I truly didn't believe everyone when they said that I was going to die.

     When I had been admitted to my final psychiatric hospital for treatment, I had already been using cannabis recreationally for a few years. I usually just smoked with my friends for fun. I never really thought about using it in a medical fashion. The first time I realized how beneficial was when I had gone home from treatment for a weekend. I had to eat a specific number of meals and snacks, which was really difficult for me and then it occured to me--why not eat an edible as a snack? It just made so much sense. When I introduced the use of cannabis into my recovery process, I really noticed a difference. I’ve been in treatment for my eating disorder multiple times, but typically kept my cannabis usage separate from my eating disorder treatment. For someone who is recovering, (or fully recovered) from anorexia, smoking weed can be an amazingly helpful tool. With my anorexia there were the constant cyclic destructive thoughts that seemed to have no end, a painfully knotted stomach whenever I was near food and a general inability to function properly. My final psychiatric hospital team managed to create an amazing medication cocktail that got me back up on my feet.

     Though I still had one big issue; I had trouble sleeping and my physical anxiety symptoms would randomly pop up out of nowhere. The only thing I had to control those problems were the benzodiazepines I had been prescribed. Unfortunately, those types of medication (in my case: Ativan and Ambien) would build up in my system, causing another type of addiction to develop. Marijuana, however, doesn’t have that same addictive quality. When I moved to Los Angeles, my depression and anxiety began to ramp up due to being in a brand new environment. I was having trouble cooking for myself, getting out of bed and just being able to take care of myself in general. I very much recall one evening when my disorders hit me pretty hard--I hadn’t been able to eat all day, my thoughts wouldn’t stop racing and my body just wouldn’t stop shaking. After taking a few hits, that all changed: My stomach muscles relaxed themselves. I stopped shaking. My thought processes slowed down and I could better decipher which ones were rational and which were irrational. The change that marijuana made in just a few minutes was astounding. Had I been continuously taking the benzos I had been prescribed, my system wouldn’t have had such a strong and fast acting reaction. My tolerance would’ve been too high for my body to feel any of the medication’s effects. The same goes for my problems with insomnia. There are some nights when I just cannot get my body and mind to rest. I was taking Ambien every night for a while, until I realized that my body was going to develop a tolerance to that as well. After testing out different indica, sativa and hybrid marijuana strains, I was able to find one that works for me and helps me gently fall asleep.

     Thankfully, I am no longer clouded by my anorexic, depressive and anxiety producing thoughts. I willingly gained nearly 60 pounds in order to get my life back. I take multiple medications twice a day to keep my sick thoughts at bay and to make sure my digestive tract is still working properly. On top of that, using marijuana has been extremely beneficial. It almost seems to act as a booster for what is already in my system. In my recovery, I am learning to love myself more and more each day. My eating disorder took nearly everything from me and I am so thankful that I have been able to come back to life. With constant support from my family and friends, my therapist and psychiatrist, my coworkers and everyone else around me, I have been able to overcome this disease that some people truly believed was never going recover from. Marijuana helped my recovery immensely and still does to this day.