In today’s show, our host Ellen Scanlon trades in her interviewer hat for a spin in the hot seat with journalist and podcaster Skye Pillsbury. As Ellen walks us through some of her interests and early career moves, she opens up about the terrible accident she suffered that completely changed the trajectory of her life. While very challenging, this accident is what led her to discover the health benefits of cannabis — and it’s the reason why she does what she does each day to help more women benefit from the plant’s healing properties. Tune in for part one of this series!
Ellen Scanlon (00:00):
This podcast discusses cannabis and is intended for audiences 21 and over.
Ellen Scanlon (00:06):
And I saw JP got off his bike and no one was really that worried, because it didn’t seem like a big deal. And then JP came over and I said, I think I cracked my teeth. And he put his hand out in front of my mouth and I spit my teeth out like little Chiclets.
Ellen Scanlon (00:25):
Welcome to How to Do the Pot, a podcast demystifying cannabis for women. I’m Ellen Scanlon. You just heard me talking about a bike accident that in many ways, set me on the course to hosting this podcast.
Ellen Scanlon (00:43):
This episode came about because we were celebrating our 100th episode and wanted to do something special. I was nicely prodded to talk a bit about myself and how I got to where I am today. To mark the occasions, Skye Pillsbury, a journalist, podcaster, and friend who just started a newsletter called The Squeeze that you should definitely check out. Skye interviewed me.
Ellen Scanlon (01:10):
Before we get into the show, I am really excited to welcome our new listeners from CastBox. We are very happy that you’re here. And as always, thank you for listening on whatever platform is your favorite.
Ellen Scanlon (01:24):
This summer, we have been re-releasing some of our most popular episodes about how cannabis is helping women improve their health and treat symptoms of disease without the pharmaceuticals that can cause really challenging side effects. If you haven’t yet, check out our episodes about how cannabis is helping patients with Crohn’s disease, lupus, and endometriosis.
Ellen Scanlon (01:49):
I’ve also been getting a lot of questions about cannabis and Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and polycystic ovarian syndrome, also known as PCOS. If you or someone you know has a personal story that you would be willing to share with us, please send an email to email@example.com or DM us @dothepot.
Ellen Scanlon (02:11):
I’ve been sick a lot this year and have struggled with really slow recoveries. So I can relate to how frustrating it is to not feel well for a long time. I’m trying to use this time to rest and recover and hope that you enjoy this episode and learning a little more about me.
Ellen Scanlon (02:37):
I’ve never really shared who I am and why I love teaching women how to do the pot. So today is the day. We’ve broken up the interview into two parts. And in today’s episode, you’ll hear about the very first time that I smoked weed. My experience working on Wall Street trading floor and how a trip to New Orleans, where I broke 16 of my teeth in a bike accident, led me to a health crisis that completely changed my life and ultimately brought me to cannabis.
Ellen Scanlon (03:07):
Without further ado, here it is. Part one of my story in conversation with Skye Pillsbury. I hope you enjoy it.
Skye Pillsbury (03:22):
Ellen, thank you so much for having me here. I am really, really thrilled to be able to talk to you today. And I’m going to begin by just sharing that one of the things that I enjoy the most about How to Do the Pot is hearing women talk about their personal experiences with the plant.
Skye Pillsbury (03:42):
And today, I’m looking forward to hearing what brought you into this world. But first I want to just take a minute and go backwards in time and ask you, what is your first memory of doing the pot yourself?
Ellen Scanlon (03:57):
I had just moved from Connecticut to Potomac, Maryland. I was a rising sophomore in high school, and I had this moment in time where, because I had just moved, my parents didn’t know any of the parents of the people that I was meeting. And I had always… I had a very strict… Wasn’t allowed to go to parties, wasn’t allowed to do things, but in this time my parents wanted me to make friends and be able to go out and start this new life in this new place where we had moved.
Ellen Scanlon (04:35):
And so, I got to go out to parties. And I remember I was with a friend I had made, and we went to this party at this absolutely amazing house. And we were sitting out in the back patio area and I feel like that was the first time that I smoked a joint. I’d been around it before, but I think that was the first time. So, I was like 14 or 15 probably.
Skye Pillsbury (05:03):
Do you remember how you felt? Were you nervous? Were you excited? What was going through your head?
Ellen Scanlon (05:09):
It’s so funny you’re asking this question, because I actually feel like, in many ways, I’m sort of in a similar moment in time right now. I just moved, lots of changes.
Ellen Scanlon (05:18):
And I think I was in just… Okay, this seems like a pretty nice place to try something like this.
Skye Pillsbury (05:29):
Ellen Scanlon (05:29):
And I had been around it before and it felt scary and it felt like something that I was going to get in trouble for, but it didn’t feel that way at this moment.
Skye Pillsbury (05:38):
Ellen Scanlon (05:38):
And I don’t really remember feeling anything. I was probably drinking Natty light beer or something too, so the combination. But it wasn’t good or bad, I just do remember… I have a visual memory of this pretty sweet house, being on the patio, smoking a joint.
Skye Pillsbury (05:58):
It sounds like the perfect place to discover cannabis, I have to say. So, as you started growing older, did you continue with that or was that an experience you had and you filed it away and went on with your life?
Skye Pillsbury (06:16):
I know that you created this incredible career for yourself, basically right out of college, but leading up to that and in your, say, early twenties, was cannabis or CBD part of your life or was that something that faded into the background a little bit?
Ellen Scanlon (06:34):
It definitely faded it. I have memories of smoking, we called it pot, in college. There was probably a year, I had a good friend who had a connection. I have no idea what kind of weed we were actually smoking, but I had access through this guy. And so, I had more around. So I do remember it in college.
Ellen Scanlon (07:01):
And then I moved to New York City right after I graduated and I was working for an investment bank. And the way that people I knew got drugs was through deliveries. And the people I knew were into more drugs than I was. And I didn’t want a delivery person coming to my house or knowing where I lived and I didn’t have a community way to get it.
Skye Pillsbury (07:25):
Ellen Scanlon (07:26):
New York City also was a stressful place for me to smoke weed. In the way that I’d done it in college… I went to college at University of Virginia, so we would be in the country and it was relaxing and nice or at somebody’s cool house.
Ellen Scanlon (07:42):
And then to be in New York, there were just so many variables and I didn’t know what kind of weed I was smoking. Sometimes I felt great, but other times I would get anxious or not feel great. And I didn’t enjoy that in New York City as much.
Skye Pillsbury (07:54):
Ellen Scanlon (07:54):
And so, I just kind of stopped.
Skye Pillsbury (08:02):
So, at that point in your life, you’re a little bit older. How did you envision your future? You just mentioned investment banking, but like tell us a little bit about what your ambitions were when you got out of college. Did you have a set idea of what you thought your life was going to be like, what you thought your career would be like, going forward?
Ellen Scanlon (08:22):
Ellen Scanlon (08:27):
And then I started living it, day-to-day, and it was not living up to my expectations. I think I had set this dream when I was very young. Before I moved to Maryland, when I was in high school, I grew up in Connecticut in the suburbs of New York City. And I actually wanted to be a fashion designer when I was little, but my dad was an investment banker and I thought that was a cool sounding job. And I got into the investment business and then I actually switched pretty early on to work on a trading floor.
Ellen Scanlon (08:58):
And so, I was in this very, very exciting environment that was right at the center of everything. I graduated from college in 99, and so I was working on the floor on September 11th, which was an incredible, scary, unforgettable kind of day.
Ellen Scanlon (09:19):
And I think that, probably unbeknownst to me, but in the way that September 11th affected everyone, it just… I felt like my job was very important for about a year, because getting the markets reopened… The markets closed for a few days after September 11th and so many people I know and worked with had lost people and it felt very important for about a year.
Ellen Scanlon (09:42):
And then after that, I started to just… I think the wear and tear. I was working 14, 15 hour days. The job that I had, I actually went into work between 4:30 and five in the morning, which was the opposite schedule of everyone else in New York City that I knew, especially. And so, I was going out a lot and then waking up really early, which is actually when I started going out and just not drinking and not doing anything.
Ellen Scanlon (10:07):
So, I got used to doing things sober, which was also fun. Maybe not as fun as what other people doing, but at least I could go to work the next day. And so, I just very slowly but surely was burning myself out completely. And I think that desire to be a fashion designer was part of having a very creative soul, I think.
Ellen Scanlon (10:29):
I have an English major, I love art and music and all of these things that were in New York City, but were not in the job that I was doing. I was in an extremely high intensity financial services job. And so, I ended up going to graduate school, because it just felt like the right time. I applied to business school and got in. And it was when I was at business school that I had the first moment to breathe.
Ellen Scanlon (11:03):
I actually went back to University of Virginia for business school. I tried to really only take classes that interested me and follow my interests. And when you get to business school, the thing that surprised me was, literally it felt like day two, they were like, okay, get ready to go back to work. And I was like, “Wait a minute. This is a two year program. I came here to explore.”
Ellen Scanlon (11:24):
I’ve been working without looking up for, at that point, I think I’d worked for six years. And so, again, being in the country, having a little more time allowed me, I think, the freedom to be like, maybe that wasn’t the right fit.
Skye Pillsbury (11:41):
Ellen Scanlon (11:41):
All of those things started to come together. And then, I actually ended up taking a job at the university of Virginia Endowment. The endowment world is such an interesting part of financial services, because it’s considered perpetual capital, and so they’re investing for the next hundred years, which is almost the polar opposite of working on a trading floor, where you’re investing for that hour.
Skye Pillsbury (12:03):
Ellen Scanlon (12:04):
And so, I really liked the people. There were more women. I’d basically worked with no senior women ever in my career, up until that point. And it felt like a job that you could have a life with also. When it came time to take a full time job, I took a job at another endowment firm that was founded by the woman who had run UVA’s endowment for the prior 30 years. So, I was working for a woman. She had three children, she’s just an incredible person. And I think I started to think that there were more possibilities than what I had ever known before.
Ellen Scanlon (12:45):
This probably won’t come as much of a surprise. We are big podcast fans. So much so, that we started the How to Do the Pot Podcast Club, where every so often we share our new podcast finds that we think you will like too. And if you want to put a podcast on our radar, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or you can DM us @dothepot.
Ellen Scanlon (13:12):
Today’s pick, About A Girl is one of my new favorites. It’s really fun and shares the frequently under-told stories of the women who played pivotal roles in creating legends and legacies of popular music. You know about Bob Dylan, but you may not know about his secret marriage to Carolyn Dennis, his backup singer and creative collaborator, who helped keep their relationship and their daughter private.
Ellen Scanlon (13:43):
You definitely know about Jimmy Hendricks, but have you heard the story of Linda Keith who broke the heart of her boyfriend, Keith Richards, leaving him in order to help expose Jimmy’s genius to the world? Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz, Tina Marie and Rick James. And I really love the episode about Faith Evans and Notorious B.I.G.
Ellen Scanlon (14:06):
Here, these stories and more on the new season of About A Girl, out now wherever you get your podcasts.
Skye Pillsbury (14:17):
I have to ask you whether the fashion designer dream, was that something that you ever ended up seriously considering after going to business school? I could have seen that as maybe like a transition toward that, but it sounds like you pivoted in a different direction. I’m just curious about that.
Ellen Scanlon (14:36):
I don’t know what it is. I’ve never really given that dream any space. I love clothes. I love fashion. I follow Fashion Week. It’s like, it’s a wonderful hobby for me. And I think that’s how I’ve kept it in my life.
Skye Pillsbury (14:55):
Have always noticed that you have a knack for fashion, in every picture and when I’ve seen you in person, so it doesn’t surprise me.
Ellen Scanlon (15:01):
Ah, thank you.
Skye Pillsbury (15:03):
Yeah. Yeah. And it’s just fun to learn that about you. So, okay. So you were working in endowments and at the University of Virginia. What happened next?
Ellen Scanlon (15:14):
I was 30 and single in Charlottesville, Virginia, and not happy about it. I was like, I’m never going to meet anybody. I was like, my friends… I’d go to dinner and they were talking about their kids and it was just like, it wasn’t even, I was just not in the right place.
Skye Pillsbury (15:30):
Ellen Scanlon (15:30):
And so, I knew that I couldn’t stay there. And so, I was trying to think about where to go and I didn’t want to live in New York again. San Francisco just seemed like a good blend of the things that I liked. And I just did it.
Ellen Scanlon (15:47):
One of my dear friends was in film and she and I took what we called our California Adventure, and we went to LA and stayed with people and just hung around California and liked it. And I was like, okay. California’s pretty cool, so I think I might try. And it was also very much a practical decision, because the financial crisis had started and I got a job.
Skye Pillsbury (16:12):
You were probably lucky to get a job in 2008, right?
Ellen Scanlon (16:15):
I was, and it was a really good job. And they moved me out also, which was huge. And moved my old car. And it was just a great package. I wanted to move to California. And this was a job that I knew I could do. You know, I knew I would be able to perform well, but I, it did feel a little bit like going backwards in terms of how sophisticated the investors were and such a crazy first day, actually the craziest first day I’ve ever had.
Ellen Scanlon (16:43):
I had come out to interview and met a bunch of the senior people, but hadn’t met the junior people. And I was going to be managing a team of eight and they really wouldn’t let me meet the people. They wouldn’t let me talk to them. And it was so weird, but I was like, okay. I can…
Ellen Scanlon (17:01):
All right. I really want to move to California. And I’d had a good relationship with the woman who ran HR there and trusted her. And she was like, they don’t want to let you interview, but it’s going to be fine. So, I felt like it was fine. I walked in. She pulls me… The HR woman pulls me into our office and sits me down and says, “Ellen, so today your new managers would like you to fire two of the people that are on your team.”
Skye Pillsbury (17:27):
Oh, no. That’s not a soft landing into a new job.
Ellen Scanlon (17:32):
And I said, no. I said, no, I will not do that. This is my first day. There is absolutely no way that I will do that. If they want to fire these people, they can fire them before I’m here. I don’t know these people.
Ellen Scanlon (17:44):
Or I can try and figure out what’s going on and maybe they don’t need to be fired, because you hired me to try and fix this team. And so, I was able to work with them and figure out… Some of them were better than others, for sure, but they did not deserve to be fired before being met.
Ellen Scanlon (18:00):
And so, that job was just the most incredible people management conflict. I learned a lot. And actually that’s when I would reach back out to my business school professors and ask them for tips, like what book should I read about how to manage a team? And was kind of the perfect time to have a job like that, when you’re fresh out of business school and still have all these good energy of like, oh, I can do this.
Skye Pillsbury (18:26):
Wow. That is a really fascinating story. I just love that your curiosity and your resilience and your advocacy for people was allowed to let you take this new leap into learning something completely new and learning how to manage people. You must have felt, I don’t know, like a badass after that whole thing happened.
Ellen Scanlon (18:53):
I don’t know? Did I feel like a badass? That’s very nice of you to say. It’s funny, I had to find a password for some website that I couldn’t get to. And one of the questions was what was your worst job? And when I was having to answer the question, I actually couldn’t remember it. And so, I had them send me my answer and it was this job. And I was like, oh, okay. Yeah, it was really, really hard.
Skye Pillsbury (19:14):
Skye Pillsbury (19:21):
So in 2010, something pretty major happened in your life. And I’d like you to just bring us back to the morning of that day. Where were you, what did you have planned? How did you feel? What was going on right then, in that day?
Ellen Scanlon (19:41):
It was such a great day. I was in New Orleans at the beautiful home in the Garden District of one of my closest friends and her fiance. I was with my new boyfriend of probably six or seven months. And I love New Orleans and have lots of friends there.
Ellen Scanlon (19:59):
And we were there for Jazz Fest. We’d actually come in a week earlier and done a road trip all throughout the south, and done a loop. And then we came back to New Orleans to go to Jazz Fest.
Skye Pillsbury (20:13):
And so when you wake up, you’re doing what? You’re going to the festival, I imagine.
Ellen Scanlon (20:19):
Yeah. So we got bikes, and a bunch of other friends had come down from New York. And so we all had bikes and we’re going to just have a great day at Jazz Fest. I think we saw Lionel Richie and someone actually proposed in the crowd while we were watching this concert.
Skye Pillsbury (20:38):
Ellen Scanlon (20:39):
It was just so much fun and we were going on our way back. So, we’d had this very long, big day and we were on our way back to my friend’s house, probably two or three blocks from her house in the Garden District. We were not far at all.
Ellen Scanlon (20:52):
And it really wasn’t a dramatic accident. I was riding behind JP, my now husband, and our friends were on the road, also, and a car was coming. And so, I twisted my front wheel to veer myself towards the side of the road and it hit JP’s wheel.
Ellen Scanlon (21:11):
And I’m not a biker, but I know how to ride a bike. And I fell off and I hit my chin on the ground. And then I hit my wrist and my elbow went into my ribs and I landed on my shoulder. And when I kind of… Literally, I had the ‘seeing stars’ moment and did not know what was happening. And I saw… JP got off his bike and no one was really that worried, because it didn’t seem like a big deal.
Ellen Scanlon (21:46):
And then JP came over and I said, “I think I cracked my teeth.” And he put his hand out in front of my mouth and I spit my teeth out, like little Chiclets.
Skye Pillsbury (21:57):
Oh, my God.
Ellen Scanlon (21:57):
And he said, I think this is not good. And my chin was bleeding. And so Craig, my friend, his brother was a doctor and he came over and looked at me and said, “I think we need to take her to the emergency room.”
Ellen Scanlon (22:14):
And so, he called his brother and we went to this clinic and they ended up stitching up my chin. And I think they gave me a CAT scan, but they also gave me what, I now know to be, the strongest dose of medication of hydrocodone, I think. And I can’t remember the milligrams, but I remember once looking in my medicine cabinet and seeing that the pills from New Orleans were three times as strong as anything else any doctor had ever prescribed to me.
Ellen Scanlon (22:46):
And so, we went home. It was a very, sort of, everything was okay experience. They just said your chin’s okay. Be careful, and go to a dentist when you get home. And when we got back to the house, I was sitting at the table and everyone was talking about the fun that we’d had during that day.
Ellen Scanlon (23:04):
And suddenly, I felt terrible. And then the next thing I knew, I was on the ground looking up at my six friends who looked really, really worried. And I sat up and realized that I had fainted or passed out from the medicine or something. And I asked JP about it. He said that my head hit the table on the left side. And then I fell out of the chair and my head hit the floor, as well.
Skye Pillsbury (23:35):
Ellen Scanlon (23:35):
And so, I just had the most enormous black eye. And that’s actually, when I got a concussion. So, head injuries twice in one day are never good. So you can’t… I don’t know exactly what caused it, but…
Skye Pillsbury (23:50):
Ellen Scanlon (23:51):
Skye Pillsbury (23:51):
Yeah. As if you hadn’t had a more… It’s such a physically stressful day already. And then thanks to the pain medication… I hate to laugh, but it’s just the absurdity of that happening.
Skye Pillsbury (24:09):
And then did you… Was it at that point, when you got home… And I know that you have continued to have to see doctors and get surgeries on your teeth and things like that. You and I have talked about how there can be a little voice in your head saying, this is not right. It’s not right that I’m drugged up like this, it’s not right that I’m going through this.
Skye Pillsbury (24:35):
Was that voice active in your head at that time? Or were you still in a place where you were just following the doctor’s orders?
Ellen Scanlon (24:44):
I think that I was even less advanced than that. I thought I was going to be fine. And I’d never broken a bone before that day. I had-
Skye Pillsbury (24:55):
Ellen Scanlon (24:56):
… Never had really any health issues. And so, I really did. I called my dentist when I went home and started working on that, but I had been really having trouble breathing. And finally I said, this just doesn’t seem right. And so I went to the doctor and learned that I had broken three ribs, and that was why I couldn’t breathe. And I knew my wrist wasn’t in good shape, but I had that x-rayed and that was just a sprain.
Ellen Scanlon (25:23):
The real injury ended up being my shoulder. And I was in physical therapy for 10 months to try and just get it back to… No one really knew what was wrong with it.
Ellen Scanlon (25:35):
And so, all of that was going on at the same time that… When you break a tooth, just imagine that every tooth is about three appointments and thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars. And so, I was going to the dentist all the time. It was like physical therapy, dentist.
Ellen Scanlon (25:54):
And, especially in the beginning for, really at least the first three months, my memory was not in good shape because of the concussion. And it was the weirdest thing. And I’ve talked to other people that have had concussions that have had this. I would know what word I wanted to say, and I could picture all the words that were like it, or that could describe it or maybe had the same look about them, but I could not get to what I wanted. And that was happening all the time.
Ellen Scanlon (26:28):
So, I just felt very disoriented. Physically I was in a lot of pain and after that experience and knowing myself, really any drugs stronger than Tylenol with codeine, and even that one, they make me really, really nauseous. And so, I just started taking tons of Advil, four every four hours.
Ellen Scanlon (26:48):
And that had been the drug that, I grew up, if you had a headache, you took an Advil. And I had no idea that ibuprofen in large doses, especially on an empty, stomach can really destroy your stomach. And so, what I didn’t know at the time was that, slowly but surely, I was destroying my stomach.
Skye Pillsbury (27:06):
Did you end up having to reckon with that at a certain point, I imagine?
Ellen Scanlon (27:11):
I did in a very dramatic way, much like all of this. Sort of very dramatic. After 10 months of physical therapy, it just wasn’t working, and so I knew that I had to have surgery. And so, I went in for surgery and had a SLAP tear and a lot of issues with my rotator cuff, but the surgery went great and the doctor was very happy with it.
Ellen Scanlon (27:32):
And so, when I woke up from the surgery, I didn’t feel good, but I’d had to go under, so I thought that was just part of it. And then I couldn’t keep any food down for the next six weeks. And I just didn’t know what was going on. And my doctor didn’t know what was going on and no one could figure out why, suddenly, I would have terrible diarrhea when I put any food into my body.
Ellen Scanlon (28:04):
And yeah, that went on for really long time. And I was going to all kinds of different specialists to try and figure that out. And this led me down the path of seeing a lot of doctors for a lot of things that didn’t seem connected, but were.
Skye Pillsbury (28:21):
And so how did you get to that point where it coalesced and you were able to see a connected picture?
Ellen Scanlon (28:28):
I was working for another financial services firm and a woman that I worked with recommended an acupuncturist that she had seen. So, I started going to acupuncture with Dr. Anna Gold, who I still see today, who is a dear friend. And I’d never been to an acupuncturist or known really what holistic medicine was.
Ellen Scanlon (28:48):
And Anna… Really just started because I just had to eat. I was just feeling so terrible all the time. I had such low energy. So, she started with that. And then she started with all the scar tissue and my shoulders. And so, my pain started to lessen and I started to just be able to do more. And she also recommended that I see doctors and do the things that I needed to do in order to heal myself, but I felt like, for the first time, I had someone that was paying attention to everything and we were working on it together. And that made my doctor’s appointments go so much better.
Ellen Scanlon (29:25):
I started getting second opinions.
Skye Pillsbury (29:27):
Ellen Scanlon (29:27):
Which was huge, because after my surgery, I still needed to have physical therapy. And I went to a different physical therapist and I was better in six weeks, which was really different than 10 months. And so, I think that what slowly started to happen was I realized that I had to have a much more active role in my own health.
Ellen Scanlon (29:53):
So, it was a little hard to talk about all this, but I also know that this accident had a huge and ultimately positive effect on my life, in part because of the deep compassion I have for the frustrating, painful, and expensive challenges people, and especially women, face when dealing with their health.
Ellen Scanlon (30:14):
Stay tuned to part two of my interview with Skye to hear about how the maddening diagnosis of “unexplained infertility” led me to learning I had endometriosis and how cannabis helps me with its painful symptoms.
Ellen Scanlon (30:31):
For lots more information and past episodes, visit dothepot.com. And that’s also where you can sign up for our newsletter, which comes out every other Friday. And if you like How To Do the Pot, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. It helps more people find the show.
Ellen Scanlon (30:50):
Thank you to our producers, Madi Fair and Nick Patri. I’m Ellen Scanlon and stay tuned for more of How To Do the Pot.
So you must be legal, too. Age 21+ invited to continue.