Monica gets into so many great topics in her interview - chronic illness & cannabis use, perfectionism in parenting, body image, books, and more! Originally, I met Monica through the local birth community. Over the years, we stayed in touch even as things changed in our lives, and not too long ago, she participated in one of my Seeds of Connection cycles. Monica is a deeply caring and passionate person, and I think you'll connect with some of her answers.
Do you have thoughts about cannabis use? How would you answer the questions Monica chose? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!
If disability or chronic illness is part of your experience – will you share how this affects how you navigate the world and interact with others?
In my early twenties I was diagnosed with several autoimmune diseases (lupus, RA, fibromyalgia, and chronic kidney disease). Initially I followed the advice of all my providers and before I knew it I was on over two dozen medications and I didn't recognize myself in the mirror anymore. I struggled to form relationships with others, I struggled to be a good mother. I tapped out emotionally from my marriage assuming if I was repulsed by my body and my attitude my husband must be as well. I dove into roles that left me severely depleted and depressed (but served others) because I was attempting to prove my existence was worthy. I became more and more sick, and gained over 100lbs due to depression and meds which further plummeted me into the idea that I needed to be a worthy servant of others or my life served no purpose. In 2014 I did something I swore I never would; I tried microdosing cannabis, and it changed my life.
I'm now a huge proponent of cannabis for those with chronic pain. Not only has it helped my body physically but emotionally I'm in such a healthier place. Instead of bitter and depressed I show up in love, acceptance, and abundance in the way I interact with myself, my family, my husband, my friends and my community. All of this has had a positive effect on the way my chronic illness manifests both physically and emotionally.
While I still have flares that require me to have days I'm rendered incapacitated those flares used to last weeks. Where I used to be so depressed and push myself further and further into flares, cannabis has allowed so much emotional healing that I now am able to create and hold healthy boundaries. Sometimes that sounds like "I'm really sorry I can't make it to girls night. I feel my body needing extra rest, and I work really hard to avoid flares. Enjoy, and I hope to catch you next time.!" And sometimes that means I push my body to do something I know will exhaust me but plan accordingly with extra days of rest after.
I used to spend months on end crying myself to sleep, disappointed in what my body isn't able to do that others can. Perpetuating self hate because my body was "failing" me. Through healing I've come to understand that my body has navigated trauma my whole life, and at a certain point that unhealed trauma manifests as autoimmune diseases. And while I may never be able to "cure" myself, through cannabis, connection with others, and lots of shadow work I've come to be proud of what my body is still capable of in spite of all its been through. I have even modeled for a boudior photographer to showcase body positivity which was a huge leap for me.
That mindset shift has allowed me to show up for myself and others in a space of love and gratitude instead of depression and depletion. With that mindset shift, I can truly serve others while also serving myself. I can interact with my environment and others from a place of wholeness and grace without the self loathing and anger that used to propel me.
Are you a parent? What has parenting taught you about caring for another person or being curious about them?
One of the hardest and yet most beautiful pieces of living with chronic illness is being a mother. In 2019 our family endured a horrific trauma. It required that I step up as their advocate and protector in ways I could have never imagined and during a time where stress wrecked havoc in my body. It meant that I put the role of their mother above any other title I valued including doula, daughter, friend,family member and wife. It required my husband to do the same.
And in doing that something beautiful came out of such darkness. Our children felt deeply loved. They started breaking out of their shells and living in ways radically different from what we ever witnessed. Ways that felt undeniably true to themselves. We broke free from the mundane of everyday life and found time to sit and talk and truly listen to one another. To gain curiosity about the way we all believed, our dreams and our passions. We sat with one another in such incredible pain and rawness and found ourselves concluding the conversations feeling heard and respected instead of burdened with disconnect.
Caring for one another in such a monumental time of need was transformative. We all found that we could be open and honest with one another, no longer fearing that we had to abide by these social norms we had expected of ourselves when we tried to give the illusion of being "perfect". For a long time I did everything I could to be a "perfect" parent. I read the books, I exhausted myself trying to meet the unrealistic bars set by pinterest-perfect parenting, I hid my illness from them and my chosen medicines in fear of being judged. And in a lot of ways I look back and see how trying to play perfect prevented me from being the version of me they needed.
When I took perfectionism out of parenting I learned I could have age appropriate open and honest conversations with my children about my needs as someone with chronic illness and in return they could be open and honest with me about their needs. We began to care for one another in deeper and more genuine ways than ever before. We eliminated the need to beg or plead for that support. We leaned into the practice of caring for one another so much so that it became natural and effortless. The more I dug deep into caring for myself, I realized I showed up as the mother they needed. But I also saw the more I openly cared for myself the more I caught them doing the same. Before I knew it, all these things I used to think I needed to escape the proximity of my children to enjoy (yoga, meditation, reading quietly, alone time) I could now practice freely right at home and with boundaries they respected. And then I started noticing they would enjoy these tools with me and alone. By caring for myself openly and in front of them they saw the shift in how I am able to show up as their mother and in return that they also have the tools to care for themselves and others. And that has been so beautiful to witness through the eyes of parenthood.
Is it difficult or easy for you to show up as yourself and be deeply “seen”? Has it always been like this for you?
My entire journey being documented for anyone to see has definitely forced me to question how I show up as myself and what it feels like to be deeply seen by both those close to me and complete strangers. If you asked me 3 years ago if I would be openly using and educating others about cannabis (especially as a mother), that I would be brave enough about raising awareness for body positivity that I would be modeling as a plus sized boudior model, or that I would openly be sharing my struggles and triumphs of living with autoimmune disease while navigating raising children abuse survivors I would have resoundingly said "absolutely not!!!". And yet here I am, walking this path with a raw honesty I never thought myself capable of. What I've come to realize is the more I show up as myself, the less I care about the opinions of people who would rather tear me down than choose to "see" me and grow with me. I used to be paralyzed by the anxiety that one day everyone would realize I was not this perfectly happy, had it all together version of me I exhaustedly pretend to be. Now I celebrate the good days and learn from the bad, and have love for those doing the same.
Now my circles are so much smaller and I work hard to show up as my most true self. Some days that's someone who has it together and is full of joy and connection. Other days that's someone who is really struggling and needs some space and communicates that in a healthy way. But everyday it's beautifully imperfectly me, and for that I'm really proud of my growth. My life is filled with genuine connection and people who choose to love and accept me and my family in our wholeness.
There are still moments where the old thought processes creep in and I feel the judgement of being a mom who uses a still stigmatized form of pain relief, or the worry that there may be more judgmental comments on one of my modeling images than there is empowered, or that people may think I'm weak for sharing the challenges I face health wise or the things my family has endured. But then I remember this isn't about pleasing everyone. Because for every person who chooses to close their minds and judge there are so many others opening their eyes to my journey and truly seeing me! My hope is that they see their own ability to heal and help others do the same through me showing up as my truest self.
What are your experiences or relationship to your body and “body positivity”?
I grew up with a mother who yo-yo dieted her whole life. By 13 she had me adhering to a MLM "nutrition" scheme furthermore instilling the idea that my body was "too big" . While I may have had more curves than some of my classmates my size 5 body yearned for love. Struggling with autoimmune diseases and infertility in my 20s coupled with four term pregnancies and many more losses I continued on a journey of hating my body. In 2010 I did my first boudoir shoot as a gift to my soon to be deployed husband. I remember feeling so scared and ashamed during the shoot, but man when I received those images I never felt so beautiful. However I quickly fell back into self loathing. As I took care of myself less my weight continued to balloon until I convinced myself I was meant to look like a disheveled mom for the rest of my life.
My hatred towards my body came up over and over again as I worked through years and generations of trauma. And before I realized it my young daughters were beginning to judge their own bodies or deal with classmates judging them. This was a huge wakeup call for me. I didn't want to follow in my mother's footsteps and raise daughters who felt unloved in their own skin. But I knew I couldn't bullshit my way through teaching them body positivity. I had to walk the walk. So I started doing little things to take care of myself. I nourished and styled my curly hair instead of throwing it in a frizzy bun. I began to wear clothes the accentuated my body instead of hiding behind baggy clothing. I started incorporating nourishing food and vitamins in my diet and committed to outdoor adventures instead of staying behind saying I needed "rest". Not only have I gained confidence in myself, but I see that shine in my daughters. One of my biggest commitments to sharing body positivity has been modeling for Lilac & Fern Photography. Nicole strives to empower all bodies to feel celebrated, and while I was incredibly nervous it's become an amazing outlet to challenge how we define beauty. For ourselves, for our children and for a society deeply confused by what we've been conditioned to believe is desirable.
What book(s) have influenced your ability to see connections between yourself and others or yourself and the natural world?
One of my favorite ways to grow is to listen to success stories of those who've walked similar paths or navigated similar experiences. I believe shared experiences connect us in profound ways. Right now the book Call of the Wild: How we Heal Trauma, Awaken our own Power, and Use if for Good by Kimberly Ann Johnson has really helped me as I'm ready to integrate the last few traumatic years and use what I've been through to help others.
The book focuses on our innate ability to sense our needs and triggers at their most primal level, heal our trauma, and navigate life as healed and helpful individuals. In working through the book I've come to understand the ways in which myself and others are acting and reacting to life based on the ways our lived experiences have shaped us. Also in ways we connect to ourselves and the world around us based on those experiences. It has allowed me to have a better level of empathy for everyone around me and myself. Moreso, it provides solutions so I don't feel hopeless in my efforts to heal. I'm grateful to be in a place in which I'm ready and able to do the work while also realizing others may not now or ever choose to be there and that's okay too. The exercises and insights in each chapter build upon the previous and digesting the book in pieces has helped me feel connected to healing and learning to reconnect with my environment and those around me at my own pace so I carry these lessons as learned skills and not a temporary solution. I believe when people see you committed to healing and witness the positive changes at play it highly encourages their curiosity as well, and sharing this sense of wellbeing is something I hope we all benefit from.
Monica Weber (she/her) is a doula turned full time budtender, cannabis educator and Ganjier in training. She enjoys helping people discover how cannabis can help manage chronic pain and mental health while empowering people to love themselves and heal their trauma. Monica lives in Fort Collins with her husband, 4 children, 2 Great Danes, 2 cats and a hamster named Kai. Monica loves to listen to and share life stories, paddleboard and explore all Colorado nature has to offer, and laugh with her friends and family. Monica agreed to take part in the Practicing Together Project because she has found connecting with others and sharing experience has been pivotal in her own healing journey and she hopes sharing with this collaboration will help others find hope, resources and connection. Her favorite way to get creative is write and art journal, a practice she became comfortable with during Crystal's Seeds of Connection group. You can connect with Monica and learn more about her work at her soon to launch blog www.cannamamamonica.com or on Instagram: @cannamamamonica