Queer/disabled activist, Anya Harjung finds peace in cannabis and the greater good!
Hey dudes! ✌ Today to we get to sit in with the amazing Anya Harjung! We've only met through the wonders of the internet, but we feel like we've known them forever. We are so proud to showcase hir story. Family now and forever.
A&A: Hey dude! Introduce yourself....
ANYA: I'm Anya Harjung. I'm a nonbinary activist, artist, and a medical marijuana patient. 25 years young and still going strong! I was a vegan baker/cook at a Delaware café until about a year ago, when I barely survived a horrible car accident that left me with a TBI, and some spinal cord damage. I’m truly lucky to be alive.
My baking job couldn’t accommodate me in a wheelchair, so now I’m focusing on selling CBD salve, self-care products, and my artwork. I’m so grateful I found the intersection between the cannabis & disability communities during my journey over the last several years. I don’t know where I’d be today without weed and activism. Healing with cannabis and the beautiful community that comes with it has reshaped my whole life for the better. It’s a privilege to be able to access medical marijuana and I’ve met so many incredible disability activists along the way. A&A: We can relate to your words so much from advocacy, to not being accommodated in the workforce. It's a sad truth that needs to be mentioned often. So, what are your disabilities? ANYA: I started having symptoms of chronic illness in kindergarten and it’s been a rollercoaster ride ever since. Over the years I’ve been diagnosed with EBV, EDS, endometriosis, Raynaud’s, thyroid disease, POTS symptoms, widespread chronic pain & more. Last year I acquired a TBI and an injury in my neck and L5-S1. I also struggle with C-PTSD, depression, and anxiety. I have a lot of physical symptoms. I deal with severe nerve & muscle pain that’s mostly in my legs. I have muscle spasms, joint subluxation, headaches, fatigue, brain fog, headaches, and some other symptoms.I’m not gonna lie, it can feel pretty daunting sometimes to think about what’s ahead for me in life. Looking at my medical history or medication list, it’s still hard at times to accept the things I can’t change. The list feels endless! I like to say my biggest disability is ableism and inaccessibility. I haven’t been stopped by anything my doctors have told me yet.
A&A: Never stop! When do you first discover cannabis? How does it help you?
ANYA: I think I was a sophomore in high school the first time I smoked pot. At first I didn’t know anything about cannabis except you can break it up, put it in a piece and smoke it. I don’t think I noticed I was feeling better physically until I smoked a few times, and it was like a lightbulb went off in my mind.
A forbidden plant is making me hurt less and my muscles aren’t spasming as much? I thought I won the lottery! All of a sudden I could eat with no nausea and I had more energy too. Unfortunately when this happened cannabis was still illegal in Maryland, where I lived at the time. No one understood that I wasn’t “drug seeking”. Even if I tried to explain I was in pain and it helped with my nausea, flashbacks, joint pain, etc. it didn’t matter. My weed would be taken away and thrown out if my parents found it. Things got better and times changed. Now my mom is a medical cannabis patient herself and my dad has a caregiver card. Let me tell you, my jaw hit the floor when I heard the news.
Marijuana doesn’t just help with pain, spasms and PTSD; it also helps me cope with medication side effects. One of the exciting things about cannabis when I discovered it was that you can’t get addicted or overdose on it. The only side effects are munchies, dry mouth, and maybe you get sleepy or giggly. I’ve been affected by so many pharmaceuticals throughout my life. And now I use medical marijuana to help me cope with the effects of my meds. And it doesn’t cause any interactions with my treatments so it’s pretty risk-free for me. I have asthma so I use a MouthPeace filter when I medicate and that helps me not cough or need my inhaler.
A&A: We love that your parents are on the cannabis train now. That's awesome!! How how have you been handling the pandemic?
ANYA: I'm immunocompromised so I’ve been staying inside as much as I can & I encourage everyone else to do the same.
Some medical appointments have to be in person but other than that I’m self-isolating. I’ve been spending my time sewing fabric masks and making hand sanitizer for essential workers & disabled or elderly people. Since I sew and I have all this time on my hands I felt like I had to do something to help. It’s been amazing to see people come together to provide mutual aid. I made a couple posts on social media sites in search of fabric and elastic donations and the response was overwhelming. I’ve also making more products to put for sale on my art page. Between that and some intensive self-care, I’ve been pretty busy!
A&A: We think you're a true super hero on wheelz! We too are missing our monthly massage appointments but, it's SO IMPORTANT that we as a community continue to STAY HOME! So, is there anything you'd want to say to someone that is currently struggling with your diagnosis?
ANYA: I would want someone with my diagnosis to know that your doctors can be wrong. You know your body better than anyone else out there. You can be told you’ll never get better and then amaze yourself with what you accomplish. Have multiple pain management options you can rotate. Keep ahead of the pain so it doesn’t consume you. Meditate. Do activities like gardening, a craft, journaling. Try to not focus on clinical words & formal diagnoses unless you’re talking to your doctors. It gets stressful. I try to think in terms of what I can do, what I need, what I want, what I’m feeling, and what I can do about it.
I’m learning to focus more on the little things, to be grateful and positive every day while still letting myself feel bad sometimes (just not for too long). Taking breaks instead of stopping is key for getting by in the long run. Be your own best advocate, because no one else knows you better than yourself. Be kind to yourself, especially when things get scary or tough. You deserve it <3
We couldn't have said it better if we tried! For more info on Anya's Artwork, masks and sanitizers go to their etsy page "accessislove"!
Later, dudes! 🤟🏼