(Tianna Reno/ Ryersonian)

When I was 15-years-old I was diagnosed with Crohn’s — a chronic disease that causes inflammation in the digestive tract. This had a major impact on my life. Not only did I feel helpless because the doctors told me there was no cure, but it also put me into a deep depression.

High school flew by and I found myself constantly in and out of the hospital trying to figure out something that would help regulate my disease. With no actual cure, I tried a variety of remedies recommended by my doctor, from liquid diets to steroids. Nothing seemed to work and my depression grew worse. It wasn’t until I was given medication through an IV, which cost $3,000.. Everything started to feel better when I was on the medication, but that doesn’t mean the pain went away completely. Some days were worse than others and it made it impossible to get out of bed because of the pain. I spent a lot of time curled up in a ball, which was the only thing that seemed to help calm the inflammation.
At 13-years-old I had made a vow to myself that I would never smoke marijuana. The stigma behind the drug convinced me that it was truly bad for people. However, out of options and facing pain regularly I began to open up to the possibility.

University was the beginning of my cannabis journey. I felt responsible enough to make the decision to try it out, but I also put all the misconceptions in the back seat of my brain so that I could create my own judgments. There was one cold night where my mom dropped me off  at my friend’s dorm, where we got ready for a night out as first-year university students. I had a few drinks throughout the night and when we returned from the bar I was offered a joint. Normally I would’ve said no, but I felt responsible enough to accept it. This was my first cannabis experience.

University sparked new feelings in me that I didn’t necessarily feel before. I suffered from bad anxiety. I didn’t know how to deal with the pressure of university and the transition was a bigger shock for me than I expected. In first year, 14 per cent of students drop out of their university program, according to the Youth in Transition Study by Statistics Canada.

I wasn’t sleeping because I was so stressed out and anxious over school, something I never dealt with in high school. Cannabis allowed me to relax and wind down after a long day at school, but it also allowed me to reflect on my day in a positive way instead of sitting in my room questioning if I’m good enough for school.

Not only did cannabis help me deal with my mental health but, it helped me with my chronic illness in a way that I could never imagine. It stopped the pain and calmed the inflammation better than any medication I was on before.  With several negative misconceptions around cannabis, I never told my parents about my use and instead I used it as a personal treatment. I often smoked only at night to help calm myself down. I also smoked when I got my period to help with cramps on top of my already irritating inflammation.

Fast forward three years later, as I approach my final semester of university, I never realized how much cannabis helped me through some of the toughest situations I’ve had to face. Consistently smoking cannabis for three years has taught me a lot about the drug. Although it helped calm my anxiety and helped with my inflammation, it did make me dependent on it. When I realized that I was dependent on cannabis, I had to take a step back because that was not my intention. It made me feel so good, but I got lost in the high and forgot it’s purpose of healing.

Now, I only smoke when I need to, and it is no longer apart of my nightly routine.

What they don’t teach in high school is how mentally draining and emotionally exhausting university can be.

It is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle to overcome something like anxiety. A healthy lifestyle is about eating better, staying positive, and taking control of your own life. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health reported that young people aged 15 to 24 are more likely to experience mental illness than any other age group.

For some, cannabis can help in a way people don’t imagine because of all the misconceptions, but for others it can make things worse. I used cannabis to help myself during university, but everyone is different and it is important to do your research before using it.

At the age of 13 I promised I would never smoke cannabis, but now 10 years later and I couldn’t imagine a life without it.

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