I survived the Boston Marathon bombing. Now I use cannabis to help me with my PTSD.

Michelle L'Heureux sitting at a park
Michelle L’Heureux survived the Boston Marathon bombing. Courtesy of Michelle L’Heureux
  • I survived the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, where flying shrapnel ripped my arm and leg open.
  • The medicine I was given to treat my PTSD wasn’t working.
  • Cannabis has made me be a better parent to my son.
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When I look at my preschooler’s beautiful smile, I am overcome with joy. But then I look at the scars on my body and am confronted with a question: Why am I still here?

My arm and leg were ripped open by flying shrapnel when the first bomb exploded at the Boston Marathon in 2013. I’m only alive today because I stumbled into a store where workers applied tourniquets to stop my bleeding. I’ve had eight surgeries and am scheduling my ninth operation in what seems to be a never-ending effort to heal, both physically and emotionally, from the blood, smoke, and fire I was consumed by on that fateful day.

But I am on this healing journey not only for myself; I also need to be healthy for my young son.

I suffer from PTSD, and my trauma is triggered by high levels of stress. It makes me feel like I’m back at the finish line where I didn’t know if I was going to live or die. It’s even worse when I try to fall asleep.

I began incorporating cannabis into my treatment because the medication I had been prescribed, plus over-the-counter sleep aids, either didn’t work or made me groggy for up to four hours at the beginning of my day.

Cannabis has helped with my PTSD

When I was first treated for PTSD, cannabis was never brought up to me as an option, and I was too afraid to explore it on my own. But I discussed it with a friend in the military who had experienced more trauma through combat than me and was then willing to try it. I had used cannabis back in college, but very sparingly.

I take cannabis products at bedtime – usually edibles with a higher CBD-to-THC ratio – which has finally allowed me a good night’s sleep. I can now relax my mind, and in the morning I’m ready to go for a run and to focus on my physical and mental healing.

For me to be a good mom, I can’t feel like I’ve got to shake something off in the morning. I have a small child, and I need to get up and be able to accomplish my morning routine, which includes reading a book to my child during breakfast.

He deserves a mother who’s present and focused solely on his needs. My son asks me about my scars, and I explain what I’ve gone through, delicately, while also trying to keep him pure of heart.

I am also raising my son to understand that cannabis is medicine. You don’t look at me and see a “stoner,” because I’m not. I’m an athlete, a professional, and a mother. Through pop culture we’ve seen stereotypical marijuana consumers who lack drive and focus. I am not that kind of person, and my mission is to destigmatize cannabis users.

Cannabis helps me be a present mom

After the bombing, I would cover up my scars in public because I didn’t want to explain what had happened to me and relive those terrifying moments.

But now I’ve accepted my scars. They’re the survivor’s badge I wear.

I feel the same about cannabis. At first I was concerned about being stigmatized. I needed it to function but was afraid of being judged.

It’s been truly life-changing for me. Cannabis has given me my life back. It’s allowed me to be a more productive person, and, most important, it’s helped me be a better mom.

Michelle is a Boston Marathon survivor, victim advocate, and mom. She’s partnered with Curaleaf on its educational I Cannabis campaign to help destigmatize cannabis consumption.