27-year old Maria Sicilia has loved writing and playing music since she was 6 years old, and earlier this year she realized a long-time dream with the release of her EP “Airplane Mode” under the moniker Cenzina. This impressive milestone has been a happy interruption for the Vancouver-based musician during a turbulent time, after her health started failing her last year without warning. Although Maria still lives with an undiagnosed autoimmune disease which has slowed her down, it has not stopped her from pursuing the life she wants. If anything, Maria’s new perspective of “wellness” has made her more determined than ever to create, perform, and fill her life with as many joyful moments as she can.
At first, I was really in denial about how bad things were with my health. I’m young, and I had always been an extremely active person — a daily jogger, and someone whose idea of fun was snowboarding in the Alps. I thought that my symptoms stemmed from a jogging injury — my hamstrings were sore and raw — and at one point walking had become so painful that I had to use a walker. Throughout this, I was still working full-time as a behavioral “play” therapist for children with autism, a job that required me to travel across the city to different houses and community centres.
One day, when I bent over to tie my shoe, I felt a jolt of pain up my spine and I just froze. I couldn’t move. I was flown to Toronto, where my family lives, for emergency treatment. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to move my limbs again. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced.
I had worked so hard to cover my symptoms and hide my pain that when I suddenly had to leave my job, the families I worked for really had no idea what was going on. I stayed in Toronto for five months of testing, multiple specialists, and non-stop appointments, but nothing gave a conclusive answer. A combination of rest, an anti-inflammatory diet, CBD, and acupuncture helped in my recovery. I finally managed to get back to a state where I was able to walk and as soon as I could, moved back to Vancouver and into my independence again. I’m still in the process of being diagnosed and I’ve had to get used to a degree of uncertainty but I am determined and focused on living my life fully, for the sake of my happiness and sanity.
The concept of wellness is something I took for granted before my health became a significant issue in my life. If you’re young and in good health, wellness is just a given, not something you need to work at. But now I see wellness as something that I’ve had to fight for. Now, wellness is about filling my day with as many things as I can that bring me joy. A lot of small happy moments add up to make a good life, and that’s the story I am determined to live. ”
It may sound strange, but in some ways, going through all of this has been a positive experience for me in terms of my art. And it continues to be a blessing in disguise. When I was ill and in Toronto and basically stuck to a couch — I even had to get help to go to the bathroom — I would just sit with all of my notebooks around me, my laptop, my poetry books, my guitar, and I would work on my music, because I had nothing better to do. That’s when I started a YouTube channel, singing and making covers and that hit off really, really well. When I was well enough to come back to Vancouver, I returned with a new confidence about my career as a musician. I had learned so much about myself and how I wanted to show up in the world. With music I could begin to heal myself. When I was singing, as corny as it sounds, I couldn’t feel the pain in my legs.
The concept of wellness is something I took for granted before my health became a significant issue in my life. If you’re young and in good health, wellness is just a given, not something you need to work at. But now I see wellness as something that I’ve had to fight for. Now, wellness is about filling my day with as many things as I can that bring me joy. A lot of small happy moments add up to make a good life, and that’s the story I am determined to live.
I’m still in the middle of my story. I don’t have an official name for what is going on with my body, and that can be scary. But I like to think that I’m moving through it all with some grace. The hard things I’m experiencing shine a light on the parts of my life I love most.
I have to navigate life with an invisible illness, and cannabis has been truly wonderful for helping me cope. For somebody with symptoms across the board from muscle pain to nausea to anxiety, cannabis is truly a multi-tasker medicine. I know that it’s not harming my body like so many of the other medications I’ve been experimenting with as my doctors and I figure out what’s happening to my body.
I like to take CBD in the morning. Sometimes I’ll put some in my coffee or in my tea. I find that it’s really good for calming my mind — I have a very fast mind and I find that cannabis helps me get into a better headspace before I start my day. In the evening I like to vaporize or smoke, it helps me get into the creative process if I’m going to do some writing. It helps me disconnect from a busy day and get to a state where I’m feeling good and relaxed and ready to create.