I Lived With High-Functioning Anxiety. Until I Couldn’t.

Graphic courtesy of TherapistAid.com
Graphic courtesy of TherapistAid.com

I came across this fantastic article about functional anxiety recently, and it coincides with the start of my work with a web therapy program called Joyable.

Web therapy? Yes, girl. Web therapy.

When I quit in-office talk therapy, it was because I didn’t have the money to keep going. I knew I was at some sort of crossroads (I’d gotten the panic attacks to stop, but I still couldn’t actually lift myself off the couch to really do anything) and didn’t want my progress to slip. I’ve done so much reading and researching it’s ridiculous: both Feeling Good by Dr. David Burns and The Highly Sensitive Person by Dr. Elaine Aron changed my life and I learned I’m a high sensation seeking, highly sensitive (HSP) extrovert who’ll lean toward panic and borderline personality disorder when under great stress. Yikes! Through all the reading I’d done I learned about different techniques and came to the conclusion that Cognitive Behavior Therapy or CBT was best for me. I believed CBT would help me conquer the last of my anxiety issues that my therapist couldn’t help me with from her office: literally getting me back into the world I’d become so afraid of.

CBT puts therapy into action by first explaining how our brains go into overdrive to produce anxious thoughts and then breaking down into tiny steps what’s most frightening (while actually doing what you most fear). Picture someone afraid to fly getting step-by-step training to reduce anxiety leading up to being able to stand at the gate at the airport.

Joyable puts all this information online in a 12-week, $300 program. It’s designed to reduce anxiety significantly while working with a coach online, doing online exercises and planning outside challenges. After just a few exercises, I’m making incredible progress…significantly more progress than their averages show.

If you have trouble with anxiety too and can’t afford the fancy in-office cognitive therapist, please consider Joyable. It’s really helping me and at just the perfect time!

THIS JUST IN: The “NJ Weedman” Is Out of Prison!

Robert Edward Forchion, the NJ Weedman. http://www.nj.com/mercer/index.ssf/2014/01/nj_weedman_released_from_jail_after_judge_reconsiders_his_sentence.html
Robert Edward Forchion, the NJ Weedman.

According to NJ.com, the prosecutor in the case against Robert Edward Forchion, “The NJ Weedman,” has reduced his sentence to “time served” and he can go back to being a normal weed smoking harmless guy who has tumors growing in his legs that he needs treatment for and he can go to his cancer treatment sessions in California now without being bothered with paying the state prison system in New Jersey a visit once per month.

Woohoo!

He’ll be back here, however, in New Jersey, to tie up some loose ends next week. And I’ll have the exclusive here, on KCMJournalist.

Until then, familiarize yourselves with his REAL story, told only to me a couple of years ago, and my follow-up article, about whether his story was still compelling for magazine publishers.

I can’t wait to catch up with him! I love when things work out for the folks I write about…

 

Another Article on the “NJ Weedman?”

I love when people contact me telling me what I should write about.

Feel the sarcasm? Don’t get me wrong, sometimes interesting ideas come out of interacting with someone who calls or tweets me and wants to share their story. But most suck. Most folks have no idea what makes a compelling story and couldn’t convey one if it came up and bit ’em.

Edward Forchion, also known as the “NJ Weedman,” wasn’t one of those people. He’s somebody I met this way who didn’t suck. And his story damn sure didn’t suck. I was fascinated by his story of marijuana activism, arrests, his move to California, the name change and his subsequent tumor diagnosis and problems with the law. So much so that I wrote about him for this website, back when I was still doing original journalistic content here, and to date it’s the most popular article I’ve done for KCMJournalist.com.

But what else is there?

I no longer use this site to publish long form articles. I’m back on my freelance grind and would rather have KCMJournalist.com show off what I’m writing (and being paid!) for other publications, demonstrate how I get published (because it ain’t easy) and to vent about how frustrating slash rewarding it all is.

So when Ed contacted me recently, saying he wanted to speak again about what’s been happening with him and how he wanted to speak to a Black writer, because he’s weary of America’s “War on Drugs” and its specific focus on Black marijuana users, because he knew I’d understand.

Back in the Spring of last year, Forchion was acquitted on the intent to distribute charge that was the crux of the State’s case against him, but failed to enroll in the probation program for the possession charge he couldn’t get out of and was arrested yet again, on his way back to Cali to participate in that experimental cancer study we’d spoken about in our interview.

Sigh.

Since then, he’s continued to push his agenda of jury nullification at trial, because he’s noticed that in the years he’s been an advocate for marijuana legalization, most folks have gone from being against use or neutral on the subject to being pro-use, certainly for marijuana’s medical benefits, and becoming more knowledgable about how the marijuana laws are dead wrong and are the federal government’s way of making sure they’ll always be able to lock up young people, many being Black and Latino, perpetuating our now private prison complex that trades on Wall Street for profit. Back in September my mother gave me a copy of the Trenton Times she’d saved for me with a front page story on Forchion describing him as a “passive activist” now, rather than the staunch public firebrand he used to be. Yet this article ends with references to Forchion as a “perennial candidate” for his attempts to win office in New Jersey under the “Legalize Marijuana Party.” He’s run for several different public offices since 1998 according to this article but since he doesn’t have financial backing, is comfortable now being just a “protest candidate.” Then in October I saw a blog post, including video, where Forchion said he filed to change his name yet again, from “NJ Weedman” to “Just Another Nigger.”

Seriously.

So, is Edward Forchion — the “NJ Weedman” — a medical marijuana advocate with GCT (Giant Cell Tumors), a proponent of shedding light on and breaking down the United States’ racist “War on Drugs,” a perennial candidate, or a chronic name-changer? All of the above?

If I’m to pitch an article to a national publication like say, High Times, which needs a story like this, or even to one of the prominent New Jersey magazines, I’d need to know the answer to that question. A person may be deserving of a long form profile, but I still need to frame it for an editor in a way that’s cohesive, interesting and here’s that word again: compelling. And I’m unsure if it is. I’m unsure if Ed Forchion’s story and subsequent problems with the law and slip ups of epic proportion would warrant an editor sending me down that rabbit hole and paying me for it. There may not be anything of substance at the other end of all that research, interviewing, writing and editing. Will the ends justify the means? Maybe. Maybe not. And I hesitate to contribute to my already too steep “Stories That Didn’t Happen” pile, which always reminds me of that famous quote from writer Gertrude Stein: “There is no THERE…there.”

So…methinks I’ll keep my eyes and ears open for a little while longer when it comes to Mr. Forchion. I wish him the very best. He’s a good, GOOD dude. I know he’s being flown to California monthly for his tumor treatment while serving this nine-month bid for the parole thing, and it’ll be interesting to see where his, and New Jersey’s marijuana futures lie. As of now New Jersey, well, specifically Governor Chris Christie, is STILL blocking the opening of the three medical marijuana dispensaries we VOTED to open. If we can get our shit together as a marijuana growing and producing state (Hey, why call us the Garden State if we can’t farm and distribute the most health-beneficial plant on planet Earth?), there may just be a “NJ Weedman” culmination story there after all.

In the meantime, you can keep up with what’s happening with Ed, and even donate to his legal defense fund HERE.

The REAL ISSUE for NJ Weedman

Photo Courtesy of Kickmag.net

We’ve read about the NJ Weedman trial. We’ve giggled at the attention-getting “Weedmobil.” The NJ Weedman even used to smoke at Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell, a federal property, hoping to attract and engage the federal system and eventually be heard by the Supreme Court about marijuana legalization. He named his marijuana dispensary in California the “Liberty Bell Temple.” Now, he’s accused of being a charlatan and carrying a crutch for no reason. Is the state of New Jersey now just punishing Ed Forchion, the Pemberton native who wanted to legally change his name to NJWeedman.com, for being such a public advocate for marijuana use: medical, spiritual AND social?

The fact is that Robert Edward Forchion is a card-carrying California state medical marijuana patient without medical insurance. And although New Jersey passed the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act in 2010, there is no formal program here yet and Forchion can’t even mention our medical marijuana act in court, or that the act covers patients with chronic pain from cancer, which is what the tumors he has will become if left untreated. Isn’t this a violation of civil rights?

Hmmm. Let’s back up a minute.

What Forchion has are Giant Cell Tumors (GCT). There’s a long, unpronounceable Latin name for them too. They’re very rare bone tumors. He found the first one in 1999 or 2000. Most of the time they’re benign, but if left untreated for a long time — like his are — they will turn cancerous with a 10 percent mortality rate.

“With all the publicity I’ve been getting over the years, I didn’t want to put my personal medical business out there. I’ve been forced to bring it all out because of this court case. I had my first tumor operation in 2001. If I had healthcare insurance, these last tumors would have been taken out two years ago,” he says. “Right now, I have a big one in my right knee that causes me problems. I have another one in my left shoulder and two in my right shoulder. I can’t lift my right arm over my head. It’s not hereditary, and nobody knows what causes them.”

A former athlete, Forchion began having pain in his knee in the late 90s and thought it was an old football injury. So he naively just stopped playing ball, and didn’t see about it right away. But during a prior prison stint for possession, a time when he wasn’t smoking weed of course, the little bit of pain he felt became a huge, piercing knot on his knee the size of a golf ball. In just two months. The prison nurses gave him aspirin believing he was making excuses to leave his cell. Enter Dr. Steven Fenichel, a fellow medical marijuana advocate and Board Certified family physician Forchion met while supporting the medical marijuana cause. Dr. Fenichel visited Forchion in prison and examined the knee he was having problems with. Once looking at the tumor, he made a huge fuss to the prison doctors and to the NJ Department of Corrections, because the condition is serious. And things started happening. Forchion saw an oncologist, and then finally came a diagnosis in the Spring of 2001 and surgery that August. He feels lucky to know Dr. Fenichel, much less to have him visit the prison in 2001 and really champion his cause. Today, Dr. Fenichel learns if he can be called as an expert witness for Forchion’s current possession trial.

“In my residency at JFK Medical Center, I was looking after a young man with curable testicular cancer who couldn’t tolerate the chemotherapy treatments necessary. He got so violently and wrenchingly sick that he refused any more courses of chemo. And because none of the legal medicines helped, someone got him some medical marijuana, which allowed him to complete the chemo treatments. I got very interested after that,” says Dr. Fenichel, a dermatology specialist living in Ocean City. “I attended meetings about the medical uses of marijuana. I met Cheryl Miller, a NJ multiple sclerosis patient who has since passed away, but who — because she couldn’t smoke — mixed marijuana into her salad dressing and saw a dramatic decrease in her muscle spasms and severe pain. Plus she didn’t like the effect of the Valium and narcotic analgesic drugs she was prescribed. So I reviewed Rob’s (Forchion’s) case, and when I saw the tumor developing, I got involved,” he says.

Forchion’s journey includes seeking charity treatment through several facilities, first the Bob Hope Health Center in Los Angeles, CA, which actually never responded to his requests, then Kaiser Permanente Hospital, beginning the x-rays, MRIs and bone scans required for treatment. Costs were sky high (a couple hundred thousand bucks) and the hospital’s business office, even while credible physicians there agreed to treat him, made the decision to deny Forchion further treatment. Then he visited the USC Medical Center and was passed around from doctor to doctor feeling like a guinea pig. Finally, the day before this second surgery at USC, a Dr. Henrifar with a practice called Sarcoma Oncology Center in Santa Monica, CA, called him with an offer to add him to a drug study using an experimental drug called Denosumab. Forchion was thrilled.

“Having a piece of your bone removed hurts,” Forchion says. “Not only did (doctors) take the tumor from my leg, they took a part of my pelvis: bone shavings to replace the part of my knee that was removed. I was off my feet for a month and a half.  I was in constant pain. I’ve resisted doing that all over again,” he says about the decision to enter the Denosumab study.

Denosumab is a GCT treatment that allows patients to avoid those debilitating surgeries. Originally designed to treat women with osteoporosis, Denosumab is a bone hardener, called ‘experimental’ because the FDA only approved it for use in the treatment of osteoporosis, but it just so happened to shrink bone tumors of women with osteoporosis during initial clinical trials. Finally a break. If only Forchion could be there to participate.

“The obstacle is that we have a prison industrial complex that trades on Wall Street for profit. And you can’t get profitability unless you fill the prisons. And the largest filler is the non-violent drug offender,” Dr. Fenichel says. “America has the noble distinction of having the highest per capita incarceration rate of any nation in the world, including Russia, China and Iraq. And it’s people like Ed Forchion. Fortunately, Ed’s public defender, Mr. Ackerman, is a fine gentleman and a real giant of a man. Maybe not in stature, but in character and quality. He’s doing what he can to help him including reading a statement to the court about the right, in the state of NJ’s constitution for juries to decide not just whether a law has been broken, but whether it’s a just or an unjust law.”

Of course, marijuana being on the federal list of what the government describes as “Schedule One” drugs, including opiates, cocaine, hallucinogenics, etc. is a bunch of straight bullshit. The designation implies that there are no real or valuable medical uses of the drug. We all know that ain’t true. If smoking or eating a weed brownie can make an MS patient more comfortable, give an arthritis patient some relief from stiffness or settle the stomach of a cancer patient going through chemo, what’s the problem, especially when there’s a law on the books here called the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act?

This is a health issue. Even if the patient is a pothead, a California marijuana dispensary owner and a former drug offender the State of New Jersey just wants to throw in prison. Another number. It’s a health issue.

“It’s just going to be the greatest moment if the jury shows humanity and compassion and justice and acknowledges his legitimacy as a medical marijuana patient,” Dr. Fenichel says. “It’s valuable time lost, if they put him in prison.”

The NJ Weedman Trial may end today. Forchion will appeal a guilty verdict.

What do you think?

VIDEO: Robert Edward Forchion, The “NJ Weedman”, just after hearing news that his experimental GCT treatment has to be delayed due to his NJ marijuana possession court case. 

420 Q & A With Ken Wolski, CEO of Coalition for Medical Marijuana – New Jersey

Photo Courtesy Of TheWeedblog.com

In January, 2010, then Governor Jon Corzine signed into New Jersey law the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. The law is supposed to bring Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs) to New Jersey to bring the relief to medical patients with debilitating diseases that traditional pharmaceutical medicine isn’t. Trenton’s Ken Wolski, 63, CEO of the Coalition of Medical Marijuana of NJ has spent years advocating making medical marijuana a bona fide treatment option for those very patients. Here’s a 420 update on the New Jersey Compassionate Use Act: what’s clogging up the works, how many people can be helped having access to this treatment and an introduction to Ken Wolski.

Q: What’s your background in activism?

KW: I’m a registered nurse  for 35 years with licenses in NJ and PA. I’ve had  a wide variety of experiences in psychiatric and university hospitals, and then with the Dept. of Corrections, which especially turned me off to the ‘war on drugs.’ I saw the prison population explode during those 22 years I worked within the system from 8,000 to 27,00 inmates. It struck me as wrong to incarcerate your way out of a drug problem. On one of my trips to Europe I met a gentleman who was an American expatriate who’d been released from a year in maximum-security prison for growing and using marijuana grown on his Kentucky farm for treating glaucoma on the advice of his doctor. I was working as supervisor of nurses at NJ State Prison at the time and knew what inmates were subjected to everyday, and it seemed so inappropriate to me that this guy was trying to save his sight, when no medicine was helping him and this is what the government does to him. The government seized his home and his farm. He fled to Europe to get the marijuana so that he could save his eyesight. So I started doing research on the issue and found out that this story was just the tip of the iceberg and this kind of injustice to patients was happening to people all over the country. So I asked the State Nurses Association if they wouldn’t support a medical marijuana resolution, and after some debate in 2003, the NJ State Nurses Association did adopt a resolution for medical marijuana that recognized safety and efficacy for a number of conditions and that patients should be protected by law. The National Nurses Association adopted the same resolution a year later.

Q: What’s the deal with Governor Chris Christie?

KW: The war on drugs is a separate issue with its own problems. Governor Christie is the main barrier, but the federal government does not recognize medical uses of marijuana, which is an absurd denial of science. 16 states and the District of Columbia have passed medical marijuana laws and the District of Columbia, Rhode Island and New Jersey are the only ones left that don’t have working programs. The 110 pages of regulations Christie came up with are designed to obstruct rather than facilitate the program. It’s designed to have poor-quality (10 percent cap on THC, the chemical that provides marijuana’s effect) marijuana, poor variety and available to very few patients. It’s got these physician’s registration rules saying that every physician needs to register with the Department of Health and jump through many hoops to register, education courses in pain management and addiction control, which have nothing to do with marijuana therapy. I used to give morphine drips in a cardiac care unit and I never needed addiction control and pain management certification.

Q: Why are we hearing so much about planned dispensaries, and then hearing “The people don’t want it?

KW: The six alternative treatment centers do have to go in specific locations according to the law: two in the northern part of the state, two in the central part of the state and two in the southern part. But when the regulations were released, they treated these alternative treatment centers like they’d be handling nuclear or toxic waste, far more strictly than full-service pharmacies, scaring these communities into not wanting the centers in their backyards. I attended some of these hearings and what people thought these alternative treatment centers were going to do to their communities was just absurd. They talked about the most unreasonable fears. The health department did nothing to reassure the communities that they’d be responsible for managing these centers. Hopefully, cooler heads are going to prevail.

Q: How much easier would all of this be if marijuana came off the government’s list of Schedule One addictive drugs?

KW: It would make a world of difference. Schedule One is just so totally inappropriate, saying marijuana has no accepted medical uses even under medical supervision and that its got a high potential for abuse, and none of that is correct. If 16 states and the District of Columbia have bills for the use of medical marijuana, and another 18 have pending legislation, and there’s so much information out there about the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana, people aren’t going to continue to be fooled by the government’s insistence that marijuana is a Schedule One drug. It’s the big lie. Back in 1993 I knew it helped with glaucoma and with the nausea and vomiting associated with cancer patients. But now there’s been just an explosion of uses for marijuana from seizure control, multiple sclerosis, ALS, Crohn’s disease, AIDS, not to mention the emotional and psychological conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder. One in four people in New Jersey can be helped by the use of medical marijuana. And because it’s classified a Schedule One drug, the government won’t even allow studies to be done to prove the efficacy of medical marijuana for those conditions. Science is being abused and patients are being abused.

The Coalition of Medical Marijuana of New Jersey meets every second Tuesday of the month at 7:00 p.m. at the Lawrence Township Public Library: 2751 Brunswick Pike, Lawrenceville, NJ 08648. For more information, visit their website at CMMNJ.org.

  is the executive director of CMMNJ – www.cmmnj.org

VIDEO: Ken Wolski testifying at the New Jersey State Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Services Committee public hearing on January 20, 2011 on resolution SCR 130. This is part of a constitutional process to rescind and re-write overly restrictive rules for the medical marijuana program.