Dear Painkillers,

I know I hurt your feelings when I changed my Facebook status to “it’s complicated.” But you know it is; our affair has never been anything but complicated.

Painkillers, our relationship started out rocky. I was working 60-hour weeks and had no time for my brand new headaches, so I would take handfuls of Tylenol, Advil, Aleve. For awhile, it helped enough that I could keep going, keep up those hours. I was a cub reporter with an opportunity of a lifetime. A headache couldn’t derail my life.

But handfuls of those over-the-counter pills every day ate at my stomach and stopped helping my head. I went to see my primary care physician. He was busy, busy, busy. He told me I was having migraines and wrote a quick prescription for Vicodin.

The pain grew worse, more frequent, and came with nausea. My senses were hammered with lights, sounds, smells. My mood plummeted. But every time I called, the Vicodin was refilled.

I was so young. I was so innocent. I’ve never smoked a cigarette, never taken an illegal drug. I waited until I was 21 to drink alcohol.

I had no idea that the Vicodin were addictive, were dangerous, could do more damage than good. I had no idea they could cause rebound headaches, that preventative medicines might have halted the downward decline before it was permanent. I had no idea that my primary care physician was the worst possible person to trust with this problem.

The things wrong in my brain multiplied, invisibly. I left that job I loved so much knowing I couldn’t manage the migraines and the tough schedule plus a new boss. But it was all downhill. The pain grew, my ability to cope slipped, problems with depression and panic escalated, and I was fired from my next job.

And the next job. I was laid off from the next job, and finally quit the job after that to save my own life and soul. I tried again before applying for disability. I was fired then, too.

But painkillers have been a part of my life for all that time. There’s never been a stretch of time when I wasn’t taking some form of them. They’ve been my saving grace, keeping the pain at bay when its claws are sharpest. They’ve been a straw that broke the camel’s back; the numbing effect on my sex drive helped demolish my marriage. Some days, they free me from that polite social filter we all have; on other days, they make me a slurring, unpleasant drunk.

Painkillers have eaten holes in the fabric of my memory. Remember when we did that? No. When she said that funny, funny thing? No.

For all of that, I would not be able to function in this world without my painkillers. Today, the pain is bad — a 7 — and I’m slowly taking pills every 20 minutes to see what will chip away at the migraine’s defenses. They have built an impenetrable fortress in my brain, but I lob painkillers at the walls, knowing if I throw enough of them in the right combination, the pain will recede.

Until then, I remain



5 thoughts on “Dear Painkillers,

  1. longchaps2 says:

    I shudder when I read this. For you. It brings back memories of when I first started getting migraines. I thought I would die from the pain. My primary physician made all the same mistakes, blew me off, told me they were cluster headaches, gave me no medications. No help whatsoever. He was an ass. Finally after two years I can live an almost normal life. I WISH you could have that kind of relief Payne. It breaks my heart to hear your pain continue. Someday they will get the right combo. Everyday they keep doing more testing on migraines. I will keep hoping. For you.

    Liked by 1 person

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