4:05am: Screeching bladder pain. The type that tugs on you like it’s got a hold of your collar, and you can only slacken the grip by sprinting to the bathroom.
4:06am: Grip slackened, take a minute to do some slow breathing to recover from the pain sensation. Quash the fight-or-flight (or pee?) reflex. How bracingly dignified.
Cannabis and Interstitial Cystitis
A little background: I have both interstitial cystitis, aka painful bladder syndrome, and pelvic floor dysfunction, which manifests as a constant urge to urinate and painful sensitivity. After developing these, I became confident that a cross pufferfish had filled itself with helium and replaced my pelvic organs, pushing venomous spines into every angle of my core. To control the pain, I need pelvic, transvaginal Botox injections quarterly or my bladder and surrounding muscles seize up like a clenched fist. It is not a sexy procedure, but it’s the only way to relax the muscles enough to do exotic tasks such as walking around comfortably. I get Botox injections every three months, and the morning of a procedure always seems to hold all the stress of that length of time in a few hours. Medical marijuana (MMJ), which I am legally registered to use and my care team is supportive of, has made the routine ordeal less heinous. I also rely less on anti-anxiety medications.
4:07am: Narrowly avoid stepping on the cat, who is delighted to see her food dispenser. I crouch down and shake out her food, benefiting from her loud purrs. I sit back, close enough that she moves to the other side of her bowl. I’m not going to be able to stand back up without thoughtful prelude.
Using a Hybrid Vape Pen
4:15am: Pick up my phone and scroll through something meaningless. I hope to be back asleep in a moment. Painsomnia has been met by doctors with “vape up, bro!” so that’s what I’m resigned to. I select a strain called Pennywise, which is far less haunting than its namesake and delivers an even THC/CBD combination, soothing but not addling.
4:17am: I’m so anxious about the procedure that I think there’s no way in hell I’m sleeping. I turn on the light, crank up the fireplace, close the bedroom door to not wake my partner and sit down to grind out flower and pour it into my PAX 2. On cue, my cat hauls herself into my lap, either content to keep me company or lured by about the scritch-scritch of my grinder.
4:19am: I’ve concluded that the weed is no match for raw, unbridled anxiety. Or at least not enough to bring sleep.
5:20am: I’m finally distracted. I gently scoot out from under the cat and slip back into the bedroom. My bed feels delightful, and my partner blearily welcomes me into bed. I try to sleep for the couple of hours left.
Sedation from Cannabis
6:40am: The slowly growing light from outside has not helped. I detangle myself from my partner and slouch back to the living room. Maybe some light gaming and a more sedating marijuana strain will be a balm.
6:55am: I hear my alarm go off and I rush in to silence it and wake my partner. I re-pack my PAX 2 and inhale to stop myself from hissing at my partner to hurry as he dresses at a completely reasonable pace and we head to the hospital.
7:03am: I start in on a heavy Indica called Skywalker OG (discussed with my anesthesiologist and care team prior). No amount of CBD from a sativa-leaning strain would be a good tradeoff right now. I just need to get through the barrage of intrusive behaviors from a variety of nurses, and contemplate what happens to my life if anesthesia kills me.
8:30am: When I’ve faced down this procedure in the past without the assistance of MMJ, interacting with often condescending clinicians has made me try to escape the procedure entirely. When a nurse misspells my name on my wristband, I notice that I am atypically calm. I charitably think “everyone makes mistakes” rather than “if you can’t spell, you can’t guide an IV cath.” I do this every three months. The fatigue is awesome.
9:00am: My partner strokes my hand and I’m prepared to give up control and allow the anesthesia to take hold. He knows the pain that rushes to meet me when I come around. So, he has my vaporizer and headphones for music to ease me back into the world post-anesthesia. Nothing can mitigate the experience, but MMJ files down the sharpest edges.
Nora Flint treats her interstitial cystitis and pelvic floor dysfunction with cannabis.