My journey through life with health concerns, epilepsy, depression, anxiety, PTSD, abuse, tobacco use and alcoholism and how I changed my life using marijuana, fitness and nutrition.
My name is Heather DeRose and today I’m a cannabis athlete, sponsored by businesses who support cannabis and fitness, and support me traveling and competing in the world’s only marijuana awareness athletic event series 2017 tour, The 420 Games, as well as other races throughout the Colorado, including Realm of Caring’s race for epilepsy. I’m also a CannaFitness columnist on Leaf of the Week, OnDenver and AboutBoulder, and I own and operate Marijuana Fitness Nutrition at MJFITNUT.com, which supports fellow athletes and advocates throughout the world. This all keeps me really busy, but I’m always excited about meeting new people and hearing their stories about how cannabis improved the quality of life for themselves, or a loved one. I also love the opportunity to share my experiences and knowledge with canna-curious people and see that light bulb go off, or stigma lifted, after they learn how the plant can be so impactful in a positive way for people all across the world. I’m also fascinated by, and love sharing, how this plant has the ability to create fuels, homes, clothes, foods and medicine sustainably throughout the world. It took some time to realize these are my passions. I’ll discuss some of the challenges I’ve faced along my journey and how I’ve made these discoveries.
I was born to an 18 year old, first time mother who suffered sexual abuse from her father and abuse from my biological father. My sister came along less than a year after I was born and my mother did the best she could to provide for us. Our biological father was in and out of the picture in our early childhood, even though he was known to be abusive. When I was in kindergarten, my mom got married to my step dad. Quickly after the marriage, they divorced because of his alcoholism and we relocated with my grandparents, on my biological father’s side. At this time, he was serving time in prison for almost beating a woman to death, so we stayed with my grandparents throughout elementary school and then my mother, sister and I moved to another small town in Missouri.
It was in middle school when I first experienced health concerns, I began to notice intense pain every step I took. Over the course of 2 years I had multiple surgeries to remove the accessory navicular, which is an extra bone of the foot just above the arch that affects 2.5% of people in the world. After the surgeries and the physical therapy, due to months of muscle atrophy, I began to enjoy physical activity again, especially since it was pain free. I even joined the Navy Sea Cadets and competed in physical, navigation, and skills performance tests at military bases around the state. This led to the continuance of physical fitness through athletics such as cheerleading and track, along with swim coaching and lifeguarding.
However, during high school, I had started experiencing idiopathic epilepsy with grand mal seizures and panic attacks with high anxiety. The doctors conducted several EEG tests and brain scans, which also attributed to my PTSD, and they couldn’t find the cause of my seizures. Looking back, I believe it’s very likely they were triggered due to high stress in my life from my father’s release from prison, and the death of a friend from a car accident. My father’s release from prison, when I was in high school, caused an intense amount of tension in my family due to my grandparents wanting my sister and I to reconnect with him. My mom had told us stories since we were very young about how she had been abused and beaten by him, so ever since I can remember we were all living in an endless cloak of terror and worry for our lives everyday. After his release, he started to seek out teachers at our school and tell them stories and try to connect with us through them, and teacher’s would sometimes bring it up in front of classes. This made high school an extremely stressful environment, and I suffered from anxiety and panic attacks daily. I was also in a mentally exhausting relationship because of my boyfriend’s drug abuse and alcohol addiction, followed by his arrest and time spent in juvenile incarceration and court ordered rehab.
After graduating high school, I moved to Columbia, Missouri where I earned my degree while working full time. However, my first year of college, I broke up with my boyfriend, because of his drug and alcohol issues, and I received the news that my grandpa had passed away. With him being the only real father figure, and the strongest, wisest and most influential man at that point in my life, I was devastated and heartbroken. My mom, sister and I were so afraid of running into my father that we did not attend my grandpa’s funeral. Within a week, he was on the news and accused of kidnapping a woman. A man hunt, including infrared sensors from helicopters, ensued near my grandmother’s property. Upon his discovery, it was determined that he had committed suicide. Afterwards, I began my struggle with food intolerances, depression, anxiety, PTSD, abuse, tobacco use and alcoholism.
During my freshman year of college, I was sexually assaulted by a coworker. I was able to escape, but it took a toll on me mentally and I lied about why I quit my job, due to fear of repercussions from the man that had assaulted me. I also started having more frequent panic attacks, and was very depressed. It was at this point when I began heavily drinking, binge eating, smoking cigarettes and basically self destructing any way I could find.
The self destructive behavior continued for a few years, until I reconnected with my high school boyfriend, who had been clean from cocaine for the 4 years we were separated. He told me he owed to it to me for pushing him to turn his life around after we broke up. We started dating again and have been together ever since. Shortly after getting back together, I began to get very sick after everything I ate. If I wasn’t immediately throwing it up, I was crippled with pain after every meal. After multiple doctors visits, I owe it to my allergy doctor for discovering my food intolerances. I had told him about my problems and that other doctors couldn’t figure out what the cause of my issues was so he suggested a blood test. Shortly afterwards, I received a call from his offices reading the results that I have food intolerances to eggs, cows milk and wheat. In order to feel better, I should avoid those foods and foods that contain them for the remainder of my life. After this discovery and realizing almost everything in my pantry contained at least one of those ingredients, I began to really learn about my nutritional needs. Even though my life was less stressful, my husband witnessed a seizure for the first time in his life when I suffered one at age 26. Feeling completely helpless as a witness to a seizure and reading that marijuana could help people who suffer from epilepsy, we began to learn more. He has consumed marijuana since his teens, which I was not on board with at all, since I didn’t know anything about the plant, or its benefits. It was illegal in Missouri and I did not want to go to jail over a plant. This caused stress on our relationship since I’d only smoked marijuana for the first time when I was 18, and a couple times throughout college, but was not a frequent consumer. Despite the law and stigma, I started consuming marijuana and really started learning more about the benefits. I began to really understand how it made a difference on the quality of life I was able to lead. During this time, I also used marijuana to help with my anxiety and PTSD from my life’s many health and emotional obstacles, which helped me quit smoking cigarettes and stop drinking alcohol. I also continued to eat clean foods. I eliminated soda and fast food, and incorporated exercise in my daily life, which led to my 40 pound weight loss. I found that consuming helped calm my nervous system, so I could focus on fitness and recovery, which has improved my overall health and wellness. I did all of this and held an intense career helping veterans obtain home loans across all 50 states, all while consuming marijuana daily. In addition, my husband was a bank manager and we both consumed daily. We were still able to attend business meetings and community functions and excel in our careers despite the stigmas. In fact, I believe daily consumption enabled us focus in order to perform to our best abilities while working.
In early 2015, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and relocated from Missouri to Florida shortly after her successful treatments, along with my sister and brother in law. It was later that year, that my husband and I sold our home in Missouri, most of our belongings, and decided to make a change from our high stress finance careers. We began to travel the country, making our way to Florida. We participated in our first ever 5k race with my family in October 2015, for breast cancer survivors and research. I hadn’t trained very much, but was able to run the entire race and placed 13th in my division. We spent more time traveling the state ,and despite my family living there, we decided Florida wasn’t for us. It was in 2014, when we took a last minute trip to Colorado to visit the state and see for ourselves what the cannabis industry was all about, and it was then when we visited a dispensary for the very first time. Afterwards, we made two more trips to Colorado and loved every minute. It really didn’t take much thought to discover Florida wasn’t the tropical paradise we thought it may be, and we were drawn to the mountains and legality Colorado offered. It was in the mountains in Colorado where we spent 2016 working in the marijuana industry on an all organic, outdoor 6,000 plant marijuana plantation from seed to harvest. From then, we met several people in the industry and realized we wanted to create a life around our passions, marijuana, fitness and nutrition. As much as we loved living in the mountains, it led us to our new home on the front range near Boulder, where we can easily attend industry meetings and events and are surrounded by more people with similar interests. It is here where we have really been able to flourish, by meeting new friends and similar minded people within the industry who work together for our common goal to de-stigmatize cannabis through athletics, and promoting its health and wellness benefits by sharing their stories of success.
By incorporating cannabis, along with fitness and nutrition, I’ve been able to improve the quality of my life dramatically, and want others to have the option to do the same, without fear of imprisonment or the social stigma associated along with its consumers. I visited a doctor in Colorado in 2016 and discussed by consumption and was shocked that she shut me down. She told me she doesn’t have time to learn about the plant or the endocannabinoid system! My hope is to share how marijuana helped change my life, and share that no matter what you have going on in your life, you are ultimately in charge of your own health and wellness. It’s up to us as a community, to bring a better quality of life to those suffering around the world that could benefit from this plant, because the doctors and government are not doing what’s best for the people. Every contribution to this cause matters, and especially with current opioid epidemic and veteran suicide rates, we can help save lives across the world! Together we can do this, and we will!