I'm Kristina, a Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, and writer with a Master's Degree in Rehabilitation & Mental Health Counseling. I've spent the last 15+ years working in a variety of medical, counseling, and rehabilitation settings; primarily as a counselor for people with chronic illness and disabilities. I'm currently the Director of Operations and Cannabis Coach at Florida Medical Cannabis Clinic

I’ve struggled with chronic health issues for as long as I can remember. My childhood was chaotic - my mother had severe Bipolar Disorder and other mental illness. For me, the stress and trauma of this experience manifested as a ‘nervous stomach,’ i.e., chronic diarrhea. I spent my 18th birthday in the hospital having my gallbladder removed. My struggle with GI and other autoimmune symptoms continued throughout my twenties, doctors unable to give me answers. Eventually I had enough and decided to take charge of my life. I was over 200lbs, miserable, and in constant discomfort. Imodium was a food group and I couldn’t do it anymore. 

I grabbed a box, walked into our kitchen, and emptied the cabinets, fridge, and freezer of everything processed. I began focusing on eating whole, real,  locally sourced quality foods. This change in eating gave me an awareness of my body that I never had before.  I started to notice the connection between my symptoms and what I was fueling myself with. I eventually linked my major symptoms to gluten and was diagnosed with Celiac disease. I was happy to finally have an answer to the years of chronic symptoms. The improvement was night and day, making it easy for me to stick to the diet. The diagnosis actually recharged my love of cooking and opened me up to a world of food like I had never experienced, food as medicine. I began sharing my journey on www.FoodandSunshine.com, lost over 60lbs, and started to heal through a better lifestyle. 

I’d like to say it’s been only uphill since there, but that wouldn’t be accurate. Since that time I accrued a laundry list of chronic conditions and work to overcome pain and mental health on a daily basis. They all seem to work in an endless cycle of up down and in between. Most days I do OK, but never knowing when I’m going to crash often leads me to feel like I have to fit it all in now - RIGHT NOW. This inevitably leads me to over do it and send myself spiraling. I did ok managing this up and down cycle for a few years, but eventually that tightrope I was walking broke. Just not in the way I expected. 

In May 2017, my husband and I were hit nearly head on by a drunk, drugged, and suicidal driver going over 50mph.  In addition to my injuries, the trauma of the event flared my Fibromyalgia, previously unaddressed PTSD, and other chronic health issues. Life felt dark and out of my control. My previously resilient self had absolutely nothing left. I felt fragile and broken. I had been unhappy, but managing, for a few years. After the accident I just couldn’t manage anymore. 

My life needed a change. The universe was telling me this in 50 different ways, but I allowed my fears and anxieties to stop me from doing anything about it. The experience of the car accident opened my eyes to how disconnected I was living my life. I had been on autopilot, constantly waiting for someone to hand me the life I wanted to live. I wasn't living authentically and I couldn't stomach it anymore. A few months after the accident we went through a mandatory evacuation for Hurricane Irma. It felt like things would never stop piling up. Eventually, the pile of pain, illness, trauma, and stress outweighed my fears and I finally made the decision to change my life. I leaned in and quit my successful, stable, benefit rich, pension providing state job to run a start up in the emerging Florida medical cannabis industry. 

This was a complete shock to some people close to me, but cannabis had long been a regular part of my life, both medicinally and recreationally. Unfortunately, due to it’s illegal status and my career it was not a piece of me that I could share with the world. After years of keeping a huge part of my health journey hidden, I became a legal patient in June 2017, shortly after the car accident. It completely saved my life - both personally and professionally. For the first time, I’m living authentically and I couldn’t be happier. Cannabis has been my catalyst.