Hey Dudes! It's a been a minute. We hope all of you are continuing to stay safe and healthy. We have a new President and a restored hope for the future. We are once again blessed with another Warrior encounter from the @livetoroll community....The beautiful Ashley Llorens. 2 things struck us about Ashley and her sister Nikki, their commitment to disability advocacy and they stay medicated like us. Cannabis fuels this Native/latina train and we couldn't more honored to give herstory....
A&A: Hey Ashley!!! Introduce yourself.
Image description: To the right is Ashley. A light skinned, woman of color. She has curly, brown hair, just past her shoulders. Some of her hair is covering her left eye. She is wearing a rose-colored sweater, matching her lipstick.
AL: Hi y’all! It’s ya girl Ashley Llorens. I’m 26 years old from Chicago, Illinois. I’m a writer and stay at home enthusiast. haha. Honestly since becoming disabled, I just try to advocate for the disability community and spread positivity.
A&A: We are all about that home life and staying safe! Positivity is challening these days we're so glad you can still find your joy. What’s your disability?
AL:I have a spinal cord injury due to a car accident in 2019. My sister and I both obtained spinal cord injuries due to this accident. I broke my neck leaving me a C4 quadriplegic and my sister is a paraplegic (our joint insta is @ashleynikkistory for more on that). I am a power wheelchair user and all four of my limbs were affected. My legs don’t move unless involuntary spasms happen and same for my hands.
Image description: To the left is Ashley, side view, on her porch. She is wearing her hair in a bun, with a headband, and her glasses. She is wearing a dark colored t-shirt, and shorts. She has a joint up to her lips, taking a puff.
A&A: Wow! It says a lot about you ladies that you embraced you new found community so quickly.It's impressive and awesome. How does your disability affect you?
AL: My injury is tricky. There’s a lot more to it than just not being able to walk. I experience muscle spasms that can be uncomfortable, chronic pain, incontinence, and then, mentally I experience much more anxiety than before I was injured. Then there’s the in and out grief that I experience too as a disabled individual.
A&A: That's an excellent point! Amanda grieves not being able to work anymore due to their MS diagnosis. It's important to feel those losses as painful as they are, so we can eventually move on. I feel that anxiety hard though. We as disabled people are naturally more vunerable. This pandemic certainly hasn't helped with that anxiety, but at least we have a community. We are never alone. When did you first discover cannabis?
AL: I first discovered cannabis, well, if I’m being honest back in like high school I’d say but I didn’t try it until I was around 20 years old. Before becoming disabled I never really cared to get high because I never really truly felt it’s affects like I do now.
A&A: How it helps you?
Image description: Below and to the right is Ashley in her power chair. She is wearing her hair up, and her glasses. She has a pink sweater and dark blue infinity scarf on. She is exhaling a puff from her joint.
AL: The flower really helps me with just about everything. It helps with my pain, my anxiety, my appetite, you name it. I love a good sesh on days where my pain is brutal because it helps relax my muscles. I have really bad pain in my neck and shoulders, and when I smoke it feels like my body just relaxes more and helps make stretching easier and just the pain more bearable. I also have bad nerve pain thanks to my injury and cannabis really helps ease that pain. It’s hard to describe nerve pain but it’s painful and uncomfortable, and after smoking or eating an edible, the nerve pain will decrease. Also, before interacting with people it can really help calm my nerves. I am still newly injured and new to the disability world, and I deal with a lot of anxiety when it comes to that especially when I’m out in public or around people in general. Then there’s my appetite and I don’t know why, but I rarely ever feel hungry now. When I’m not feeling hungry it helps me get an appetite and eat a full meal. It also helps me sleep because after getting injured I would stay up all night just because my mind was racing with a million different scenarios. Cannabis helps my mind be clear and content which in turn helps me sleep. Overall, cannabis has been such a positive in my life because I couldn’t live comfortably without it.
A&A: We LOVE to hear that Cannabis helps you in some many facets and in various forms.
That's amazing. Amanda has nerve pain constantly. Hash and a strain called Gelato really helps. Also, you brought up an interesting topic about having anxiety about being social after being disabled. I was born disabled so I think eventually I became unaware that people stare. When I was aware I realized for the most part, people were just curious. Anything that wasn't good natured I would quickly dismiss them. Don't be afraid to take up space. You are worthy of love and understanding. How are you currently dealing with the pandemic?
Image descriptions: 1) Up and to the right is a GIF of a wheelchair user, holding a flag. The flag is waving and says, "Keep On Rolling."
2) Below is Ashley before and after her accident.
AL: This pandemic didn’t change my day too day too much. I became injured in 2019 so this pandemic just put a halt on me exploring my city more as a wheelchair user. I’ve also had a lot of time to reflect on my “new normal” and really try to accept it. I also got to start finding new things I love doing from home because I know even once this is all over I’ll probably still spend most of my days at home. I started reading more and writing more which I’m so happy about, and I also just took this time to work on me mentally because I was really sad about what happened and my “new life”. I started trying to heal from that which hasn’t been easy but I’m working on it. Also, it gave me time to educate myself more on all disabilities and disability rights which has really made me want to advocate for the community. This pandemic sucks don’t get me wrong but I’ve tried to see some good in it.
A&A: We are in awe of your spirit and willingness to heal. You two deserve nothing less. And we can't wait to see you two flourish as disability advocates in our beautiful community. For people struggling with your diagnosis, what's something you want them to know?
AL: For people struggling with a spinal cord injury, especially my quads, all I can really say is to allow yourself to feel the emotions and it’s ok to grieve what once was. You can have bad days, but always remember it’s just a bad day not a bad life. And find people in the community because it makes a difference. At least for me it did. Ya know I struggle a lot with my internalized ableism and if you do too just know this, you’re a badass! You’ll have days where you struggle but you’ll also have days where you thrive. I can’t tell you enough but you’re a badass!
For my quads, I know it sucks to realize all the things you can’t do now and may never be able to do especially the little things. I used to love writing pen to paper and it isn’t the same now, but I found ways to still write because I love doing so. Our independence may never be the same but we’re still worthy and valuable. This can be a lot to take in especially if it happened unexpectedly. This injury is complex and being disabled in this world isn’t easy. Just know that you’re not alone. All the feelings you experience are valid and understandable.
Also being disabled doesn’t mean that your life is over. It just means that your life may look different and the way you do things may change, but you can still live a full and fulfilling life. I’ve really had to tell myself that I don’t need to live up to society’s version of a full life. I just need to be happy because I wanna be happy, and you deserve to be happy too disabled or not!
YOU’RE A BADASS!
Image description: Ak black man, holding up his hands, saying "We've got a badass over here."