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Why I Started a Medical Cannabis Strain Journal

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One of the first pieces of advice you’ll get with Crohn’s is, “Keep a food journal!” You’ll probably hear, “Keep a food journal!” so much, in fact, it’ll start to sound like white noise bouncing off the back of your brain. I kept one for awhile – right at the beginning of treatment. I was determined to take charge of my care and monitor my intake. It quelled the anxiety; I felt in control.

With medicinal cannabis, there are hundreds of different varieties, referred to most often as “strains.” Just like different kinds of medicines, each strain has different attributes and side effects that affect people based on individual body chemistry. I have a complicated list of symptoms, just like anyone else with a chronic illness. Each strain of cannabis has the potential to help a variety of different symptoms based on its chemical makeup, breeding, and level of care.

When I started using cannabis as a way to treat Crohn’s and fibro, it was like starting over. I was scared. I was so overwhelmed by the sheer volume of options that I started to panic. Where the heck was I even going to start? So like anytime I’m scared, I sought to control the situation and I took a page out of the old Crohn’s coping playbook: I created a cannabis strain journal.

I’ve written down all the strains I’ve tried, cataloged them into a spiral notebook and wrote down the names, whether they were indica, sativa or hybrid, how much tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol each one had, and symptoms they worked best for. I keep track of what pain level it helped with, how often I needed to smoke it in order to maintain pain relief, how long it lasted, how much it stimulated my appetite/cravings, and my favorite/least favorite attribute. I’ve tried 35 strains to date, all with varying degrees of success. I try, on a small budget, to try new strains every chance I can.

In my journal, I also have a few dispensary numbers for places I want to try written down, as well as the number to our favorite dispensary. I have a quick chart that I plan to show my doctor of different kinds of products and what they’re used for, as well as a regiment I’ve drafted to discuss with him. I’m currently working on a digital template to use to keep everything legible and organized. I want to add a ranking system, a place to put cannabutter recipes, symptom to cannabis recommendations chart, a place for business cards and a calendar. I want it to be cute and in a cute binder that will make me happy and make me want to use it.

Sometimes new ideas scare us, and with good reason. It often feels like we who are chronically ill, are thrown into new realities all the time. I’m just a 20-something year old trying to navigate a disease I never asked for and pain that doesn’t stop, and re-creating my reality all the time isn’t helpful. However, I refuse to let these illnesses make me so jaded that I can’t hope or try new treatments.

Cannabis was a long shot but it worked for me when nothing else would. I’m learning to add order back to the chaos and advocate for myself again. Sometimes when we face new things, we realize we can employ some of the old tricks we’ve learned–that life has actually prepared us for this lesson the whole time. Don’t be ashamed of what Crohn’s, fibro or any other chronic illness has taught you. Never underestimate the power of your own experiences, and the data you’re collecting – because that’s knowledge.

People often ask me how I manage to get through every day, with the pain I know is coming – knowledge. Those of us with chronic illnesses? We protect ourselves with knowledge. We take control of our lives and treatments with knowledge. That’s how we tackle our fear of the day to day, with knowledge.

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Originally published: September 20, 2017
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