After years of battling a number of physical and mental health issues, Eppie Louise opens up about the medicinal role cannabis has played in her life – and why she’s ready to help others see its positives.
“On the outside, I look like a young, healthy, fit, normal girl but I’m actually not,” says Eppie, who has lived with Type 1 diabetes since around the age of seven.
“I’m classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, I have an autoimmune disease and all these other things wrong with me, but I’m not about to hide anything else about myself – I deal with these things through insulin and cannabis.”
Now 26, Eppie is done with the stigma and shame that comes with consuming cannabis.
As a teenager – caring for her mum from the age of 15 after she lost the use of one side of her body following a stroke – Eppie began using cannabis, what she describes as “socially”.
It was only later as her mental health took a turn for the worse and she began to develop complications related to her diabetes that she realised it was having a therapeutic effect.
“I struggled with my mental health for years and neglected myself and my diabetes,” she admits.
“I would eat but then wouldn’t do my insulin afterwards because I couldn’t be bothered or I was fed up of doing it, or I didn’t want to eat because it was uncomfortable.
“I felt like I’ve done this for most of my life, I don’t want to do it anymore.”
She suffered damage to her kidneys and was diagnosed with gastroparesis, a disorder in which the stomach takes too long to empty and can cause nausea, vomiting and painful cramping among other symptoms.
Eppie now has a continuous glucose monitor fitted, which automatically measures the glucose levels in her blood which can track through an app on her phone.
“It’s like an artificial pancreas,” she says.
“My blood sugar still has highs and lows, but it’s much more easily monitored and that stress is massively reduced, as well as the anxiety of going out for food with friends and having to run to the bathroom to check my bloods.”
Cannabis also helps her cope with anxiety and depression, as well as helping her sleep and easing the symptoms of her stomach condition.
“As I’ve got older, I’ve realised I use cannabis medicinally for various things and I’ve started to see more and more positives from it,” explains Eppie.
“With diabetes you have to eat to keep your blood sugars at a safe range and cannabis increases my appetite, as well as being a good pain medicine for the stomach symptoms.”
She continues: “My depression and anxiety throw everything all over the place, so cannabis helps me relax and put me to sleep at night, which in turns helps my diabetes. It’s a good balancer for me and makes my life a lot easier.”
For the last four years, Eppie has been a support worker in a care home for patients living with brain injuries and mental health issues, as well as caring for her mum at home – who also has Type 1 diabetes.
“It does get difficult looking after mum, some days you get tired and you just snap,” she says.
“Being able to go upstairs to my bedroom and medicate at home means I can come back down feeling more relaxed and recharged – back to my normal self – to help mum again.”
However, Eppie doesn’t have a prescription for cannabis and so is forced to rely on getting her supply from the street, meaning she lives with the uncertainty of fluctuating prices and an inconsistent product.
“I don’t really think it affects me until I run out and my dealer hasn’t got any and then my anxiety will go through the roof, worrying about how I’m going to eat and sleep,” she says.
“Or they’ll put the prices up and suddenly I’ll be spending £30 a day on cannabis. Some weeks I’ll find that I’ve spent £150 on cannabis which is a lot of money.”
Eppie continues: “Luckily I live with mum and I have a regular income so I can afford it at the moment, but if I was to have other responsibilities like my own home, or kids it would definitely be more of a struggle for me to get a supply.
“Even when I was on benefits I couldn’t afford to buy it on the street.”
Eppie recently joined the patient working group of advocacy group PLEA (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) and through connecting with other cannabis patients is learning more about her options for accessing a legal prescription.
“I need to educate myself more first but it definitely is something I want, I think once you have a prescription for something people have less ammunition towards it,” she says.
“Cannabis has got a very negative stereotype to it and it shouldn’t be that way when it has such positive effects for people.”
Eppie is now taking her own steps to help break down the stereotypes.
Through her Instagram page where she documents her life living with Type 1 diabetes and helps others with the condition, she has begun promoting the work of PLEA and speaking out about medical cannabis.
“Part of the reason I set up the Instagram account was to help other people find some comfort and I think people are starting to understand the idea that I use cannabis to help my diabetes to the point where they can come to me and ask me about it,” she says.
“It’s a very cloudy subject and obviously being part of PLEA that’s something that I want to help change people’s views and help others see that cannabis is a positive medicine.”
The patients working group has been for Eppie what she is to her Instagram followers, a source of knowledge and support in what can seem like a daunting space.
“It’s usually people coming to me and asking for help, so it’s nice to be on the other end of it,” she says.
“It’s so positive to see people of all different ages, shapes, sizes – people older than me with different lifestyles and children – who are all talking about cannabis. The way that it is so much the norm for them is really refreshing.
She adds: “It’s actually helped me become more accepting of my own cannabis use – it’s helped me see the positives.”
Follow Eppie on Instagram @type1types
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