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Christine's Journey

Trigger Warning!! Suicide loss mentioned, and brief reference to gun violence. If you are struggling with your mental health, please reach out for help National Suicide prevention Lifeline 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255) You are not alone!

Hey Dudes! 🤟🏼 Today, we are talking with another friend from Alice's days at Wave Camp, Christine! As you can tell by the warning above, this interview has some heavy elements to it. But, Rollin' Stoned™ is a safe space to get your story out there. So, without further ado, tell us about yourself, old friend.

**Image descriptions: There are 3 photos going from left to right. The first is Christine as a baby prior to having her cleft lip fixed. The second is Christine more recently, in the park. She is wearing a purple shirt. The third photo is Christine's father giving her, her first bath after she came home from the hospital.**

Name: Christine Weston Age: 31

Occupation: Instagram blogger on disability.

My Backstory: Well you could say I was thrown some life challenges I couldn’t have prepared for originally; I was going to school for Early childhood education to become a preschool teacher. Then in 2011 my health throws me a curveball. I was diagnosed with Neurogenic bladder in my case it caused me to experience urinary retention. Bladder and bowel problems are not uncommon for people with Cerebral Palsy although it was unusual how it manifested itself. {although my body is known to do things that are kind of different 😊) In relatively quick succession I decided to have a procedure called a mitrofanoff which is urinary diversion created using the appendix an opening is then created on the lower abdomen to catheterize through. As you can imagine it was quite an undertaking to go through, but I knew it was necessary to enable me to catheterize myself more independently.

**Image Descriptions: There are 3 photos. From left to right, the first photo is Christine's dad (Thomas Weston Jr.) holding a big fish he caught. The second photo is her dad in the bathtub, holding their first pup, a white Pekingese. The third photo is 10 year old Christine with her dad and Genie from Aladdin.

I was 3 months into my recovery when an event happened that would change my life forever. My dad succumbed to his mental illness dying by suicide on March 7th, 2012. My mother and I were blindsided although we knew he was struggling with his mental health we had been estranged from him the last four years of his life. The next two years that followed I was solely focused on my physical and emotional recovery. In 2014 I decided to give going back to school another try in 2015 after two semesters I realized being in school wasn’t good for my physical or mental health. After the everything that had happened, I responded to stress differently and my self-care (emotional & physical) needs changed.

I have to be honest. I struggled to find my purpose after quitting school and at times became quite discouraged over the years, I had been encouraged to share my story of living with a disability. After my dad’s suicide, my therapist encouraged me to write in a journal to process my feelings. Eventually, I came to realize how important it was to raise awareness and reduce the stigma that is attached to suicide loss. So around 2018 I started my Instagram blog, Christinesjourney8. That covers a variety of subjects, mental health, chronic illness, life after the loss of a loved one to suicide, and various social and political that are facing our world.

A&A: Wow, Christine. That is a ton to process in such a short amount of time. This seems like a lame question now, lol, but what is your disability?

**Image Descriptions: There are 3 photos. From left to right, the first is Christine's first Christmas next to the Christmas tree. She is very happy. The second is Christine at camp, petting a goat. She has on a prosthetic arm that she hated, because she had to use her muscles to control it. The third photo is Christine, age 3, with her Occupational Therapist.

CW: I was born with various disabilities. The one that impacts my life the most is my spastic Cerebral Palsy. I also happen to be a congenital amputee. That was caused by a rare condition called amniotic band syndrome is a syndrome in which the bands in the womb become tangled, in my case the bands wrapped around my right arm resulting in my being an above the elbow amputee on the right side.

My left hand is also affected with syndactlyly causing my fingers to be fused with exception of my thumb, I had surgery as a baby to separate them as a baby. In addition, I have neuropathic pain that is a result of my brain injury. After my dad death I was diagnosed with PTSD and I struggle with severe anxiety. I have depression as well. As I said, I have neurogenic bladder and I need to catheterize myself.

A&A: Both of us have spastic issues. Alice has spastic CP, as well. So, we totally get it. How does all of that affect you?

**Image Description: A GIF on an overactive bladder.

CW: Due to my Cerebral Palsy, I have a good amount of spasticity. Although my spasticity can affect and does my upper body, it is much milder compared to my lower body. I use a powerchair to get around, my spasticity makes it difficult to move my legs. I also get spasms in my abdominal muscles this causes me to experience nausea and vomiting this is especially true when I have a UTI. I have recurrent UTIs on a nearly constant basis that is common for people with neurogenic bladder and unfortunately, it is a strain of bacteria that is difficult to treat because of the growing issue of antibiotic resistance. With the spasticity and UTI’s I experience pain and fatigue having sensation when you have a bladder infection can be a blessing and a curse.

**Image description: A GIF stating "The median age for the onset of PTSD is 23".

As I said, I also have mental illness that has just as much of an impact as the physical ones in my mind they shouldn’t be looked at any differently sadly there is still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health and mental illness. After my father’s death, I began to experience severe anxiety which thanks to the mind body connection makes my muscles tense up even more than they normally would. My PTSD causes a remarkably similar response in my body as the Generalized anxiety. I am extremely sensitive to gun violence as a result of the trauma of my dad’s suicide. Seeing graphic gun scenes on tv can send my neurological system into overdrive. I Mention this because PTSD is common among suicide loss survivors, as well, as people with chronic conditions like Cerebral Palsy, due to the medical trauma that comes from enduring medical procedures. This is also an aspect of my PTSD. Up until recently the effect of medical trauma was overlooked by doctors. I was myself was not aware of until 2012 when my therapist at the time made me aware of it. PTSD is an invisible disability that needs to be more openly talked about, only the people closest to me know the true extent to which it impacts my life.

A&A: Amanda has cPTSD from a number of things. She is lucky enough to have a great therapist and neurologist. Alice has cPTSD, as well. We both agree that is not addressed enough in a medical setting. It very much affects our lives and health. When did you first discover cannabis, and how does it help you now?

CW: I started using in 2009, although I was aware of its medical uses as a teenager. My parents and I briefly discussed me trying it then because my spasticity had become so unmanageable, and it was drastically impacting my quality of life.

**Image description: A GIF cycling through different names and images for Cannabis.

It helps with a variety of my symptoms. It helps to reduce my spasticity and makes my pain levels (if it is not completely gone) more manageable. Coincidentally, I discovered it is the only thing that touches my neuropathic pain that is caused by my brain injury. It also is beneficial to my sleep, which can be problematic when I have a UTI or I am experiencing anxiety. It is helpful when my PTSD becomes triggered. It is impossible to completely avoid triggers entirely. In many ways cannabis has impacted my life positively in more ways than I can name. I am so beyond grateful to live in a state where it is legal.

A&A: 100% agree with all of that. It is the only thing that touches Amanda's neuropathic pain, as well. When we are both having issues with anxiety or depression, cannabis is the only way out of that hole, sometimes. How are you currently dealing with the pandemic?

CW: Well, I am extremely grateful to have cannabis to help manage my anxiety, I am staying home, unless I have to get medical care as my primary care doctor has advised. My mom and I are both high risk because of our underlying conditions. When I have to go out, I wear a mask. I would like to take this opportunity to encourage everyone to do so.

**Image description: A GIF of a rainbow stating, "we all deserve to be healthy and safe."

I am not a Trump fan, to put it mildly. I am finding all the social and political unrest a little unnerving and disheartening, at a time when the American people need reassurance and hope. I have had to be especially mindful of my mental health during these uncertain times. I also have to say there have been unexpected blessings during covid. I have been able to do some virtual volunteering for a camp the serves Long Island children (ages 7 to 17) who have lost a parent, guardian or sibling. It has been very rewarding, and I have been able to work with some amazing people, On that note I would like to say that I hope that even after covid organizations continue to make a virtual or remote option available whenever possible, so that people with disabilities can get involved. Had it not been for covid and it being a virtual opportunity, I would not have found such a wonderful organization as Camp Good Mourning

A&A: For people struggling with your diagnoses, what is something you want them to know?

**Image Description: A GIF stating, "we're all in this together."

CW: Well, there would be two things. It can be a challenge to find a meaningful way to contribute to the world when you have a body that does its own thing. But, just because it may have to be done differently does not mean it is any less valuable. It just might take longer and you will have to seek out opportunities. They come along when you least expect them. The second thing; If you are struggling with your mental health there is no shame in seeking help. I would not be where I am today if I hadn’t done so.

A&A: Perfect. Well, there you have it, dudes! You can catch Christine's journey on Instagram @Christinesjourney8

You can reach out to us, also, anytime. @rollin.__.stoned and @handsgruber710

Later dudes! ✌

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