Chelsea Leyland is a British DJ and medical cannabis/epilepsy activist based in Brooklyn, New York. Chelsea suffers from Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy (JME), which she has been battling since her early teens, as well as endometriosis.
In 2016, Chelsea made the brave and life-changing decision to wean herself off her strong pharmaceutical anti-seizure medications and treat her epilepsy solely with medical cannabis. And after a year of using cannabis to treat her epilepsy, she also noticed that her endometriosis symptoms had improved dramatically.
Leyland has used her experiences and her platform to become a leading advocate for the destigmatization of both epilepsy and medical cannabis. Through her advocacy-led work, she has spoken on multiple medical cannabis panels, conducted informative talks, and has been a guest in educational podcasts to open up the conversation about this topic and the issues surrounding it.
As part of our Endometriosis Awareness Month focus, we spoke with Chelsea about her endo journey, her plant allies, and becoming her own support system.
Foria: How did you know you had endometriosis? What were some of your early signs, and can you share a bit of your journey to getting a diagnosis?
Chelsea: My journey with endometriosis has been long and complex. I knew from the day I began to experience unbearable pain that something wasn't right, but it was only nine years later after numerous doctor and gynecological visits that by way of a laparoscopy surgery I was diagnosed with endometriosis. By this stage I had been to the emergency room twice, passed out and vomited numerous times from the extreme pain and damaged my gut from taking so many harsh pain killers. For many years I felt let down by the medical system as I was told again and again that I was just like most women suffering from "normal" painful period cramps.
Foria: What aspects of your life have been affected most by endometriosis?
Chelsea: Experiencing my moon each month is by far the toughest time for me as I lose the first day of my period. The first day of my cycle comes with so much pain that I often have to cancel work and events. I live in fear of starting my period when I'm traveling or during the night when I have less control in regards to catching the initial pain, and will often wake from the pain and have to wait for a long time before the medicine I use offers some pain relief. My entire body changes before and during menstruation as my endo causes such extreme inflammation. The swelling is so extreme that I often look like I am pregnant, and I suffer from constipation and discomfort the week before my period as I draw closer to that time.
Foria: You're an outspoken cannabis advocate. What experiences led you to consider cannabis as an ally for health?
Chelsea: I discovered cannabis due to suffering from a form of epilepsy known as Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy. Cannabis has transformed my life as it allowed me to wean off of all my anti-convulsant seizure medication. Similarly to my experience with endometriosis, my battle with epilepsy has been long and arduous as I've had no support whatsoever from the medical system. Cannabis has become a support system for my health as it allows me to better manage my anxiety and sleep, which in turn improves my epilepsy and my overall wellbeing.
Foria: What tools and techniques have been most helpful to you in managing your endometriosis?
Chelsea: Cannabis has been a life savior. I use CBD daily to treat my epilepsy and believe this helps to reduce my monthly menstrual pain. I then use cannabis in many different forms as soon as my period begins. I use CBD suppositories, CBD transdermal patches, topical balms on my lower abdomen/back and pelvic region that contain THC, CBD & CBN as well as ingredients like arnica and other essential oils. More recently I've also been using CBD tampons. Depending on my day I will often microdose THC in the form of a CBD/THC edible. Sometimes I have to use a lot of ibuprofen although I try my best not to. I also use a hot water bottle on my lower abdomen if I'm able to access one. As I often experience pain during sex I've also found lubricants containing CBD and THC to be helpful. Acupuncture and herbal medicine have also been great tools for me, and I've found that a daily exercise routine and a low sugar diet is also helpful.