Dear A+ for Participating,

I’ve had a nasty run of pain-filled days lately. It’s taken hands-full of pain killers to get out of bed and dressed, down the stairs and into the nest on the couch by the dog. This is where I spend my days: curled up in the nest, hand in the dog’s fur, involved in the interwebz as much as the pain allows.

What my fantasy nest of blankets on the couch looks like (and smells like). The reality is sadly less twinkly.

Sometimes just barely watching something, or reading blogs, or adding my own to the discussion boards. The best days of late have been creating my own content, making my own imprint on the vast, glorious, terrible, infinite web.

Pain takes so much away from us. Chronic pain strips away jobs, friends, family, so, so much. It strips away our ability to participate in the world.

It took me so long to realize what I was losing to the migraines. When the pain management doctor finally said stop, that the job at the Texas Society of CPAs (TSCPA) would kill me within two months if I didn’t take a break, it was a miracle to me. I had permission to let go and rest.

But leaving that job had consequences. I’d worked seven jobs in 10 years, was fired from four of them, and left two of them because of my migraines. When you leave in disgrace, you don’t get a good reference, you steal a lot of office supplies, and office friendships wither and die very quickly. When I left TSCPA, I left the few friends I had there. I lost the sense of accomplishment I had. I hated the company with a blind passion; I still do. But I loved the job I did, and I was really good at it.

I lost the joy I had at turning a pile of boring and sometimes incomprehensible papers into a magazine, of designing and laying out publications, of selecting images. I lost my sense of accomplishment at taking nothing much and turning it into a magazine, a newsletter, business cards, handouts, so much more.

I lost my sense of participating in something bigger than I was.

I always loved the monkey bars the best. I was a daredevil. If my parents know half the stunts we pulled as kids … they probably did worse while sucking on lead paint, I suppose. Man, kids today are wussies.

I think that’s a lot of what chronic pain does to us. We lose our ability to participate. And if we boil that down to a basic, playground analogy, if you’re the kid who always says no when asked to play, everyone stops asking. Doesn’t matter that we can’t climb the steps to the slide. Doesn’t matter that the merry-go-round will make us vomit. Doesn’t matter that muscular problems keep the swings from swinging. If we say no too many times, no one will ask.

So I, we, have to find ways to participate.

I’ve always loved writing; it was one of my first loves and my first real career. I wrote for newspapers. Newbie stuff: obituaries, weather, traffic, county fair, rodeo, community meetings. Bigger responsibilities: city council, plane crashes, kidnappings, murders. Finally the things I loved so much: feature stories, columns.

Starting this column is my way of saying yes, I’d like to play, I want to participate. Writing is revisiting an old friend and love. The joy of picking this word or that, of rereading what I’ve written to see what happens when I change punctuation, when I tighten up the writing or fix the punctuation. Finding images that speak to what I’m trying to say, funny captions to add spice. I’m finding so much joy in the art of crafting the blog.

But my blog doesn’t every have to be anything beyond me sending my thoughts, created through my love of words and depth of experience, into the wide ocean of the world in all the empty pill bottles scattered around me. It has to be, it is, my participation.

And I thought I was being creative in my reuse of empty pill bottles. I however, did not create a “house of worship” out of mine. When you think about it, our dependence on pain killers, the lack of the medical industry’s ability to create other ways to manage our pain … it’s pretty damn creative. More pill bottle art to come.

But when my blog becomes something more, when someone opens that link, that bottle, it becomes their own act of participation. Passive participation, sure, to start. Then, click a star button, type a response. Talk about an idea. Write their own blog. Agree. Disagree.

So while it sucks, to have so many bad pain days in a row, to miss blogging for so long, it’s really good to be back. It’s good to put my hazy, drugged thoughts into words, polish them up, and send them out into the world in my own act of defiance against the chronic pain. I know this is a cycle I’ll repeat again and again. I can live with that by participating.

Until then, I remain,



5 thoughts on “Dear A+ for Participating,

  1. smashingthanku says:

    i admire your bravery and your strength. coming back to writing, my first love, has been a long time coming since the pain took over. but it has reminded me there is something i can still do, part of my damaged foggy brain that is still in there somewhere. the part that is ME and not the pain. i’m afraid to put my struggles out there to the world. i write, but mostly just for me, to work through things. Friends, the few I have left, tell me I need to share my story, that it will help people to understand and maybe inspire someone else, help them in some way. Perhaps someday I will find the courage to go “live” with my own writing. I guess my friends are right, reading other people’s blogs helps me, makes me feel less alone. So thank you, for sharing your struggles.

    Liked by 1 person

    • paynepills says:

      You’ll notice that I’m not writing under my own name, so that’s bravery with a grain of salt. I wanted to be able to talk about things seriously, hard core, no punches pulled. I didn’t want to worry if I was going to hurt someone’s feelings or say too much about something private. People know I’m writing a blog, and what it’s about, but they don’t know what it is, and they’ve respected my wish that they don’t try to hunt it down. Perhaps you could go incognito as well? It’s been very freeing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. smashingthanku says:

    i’ve thought about it many times. started blogs here and there, abandoned them. i guess i’m not sure how to go incognito? set up a new email and separate wordpress account? i’m just terrified of people finding out. because i want to be honest. bone crushing blood sucking fucking honest. or there’s no point. and i’m just not convinced i can find that anonymity (small town upbringing). just an excuse perhaps. i have a lot of entries saved on evernote, but they’re jumbled and garbled and in no particular order. i’m afraid. that’s what it boils down to. but you guys are so encouraging, so much more honest and insightful than people posting in facebook and other “support groups,” which honestly just gets depressing. i need to write more. my first love. something in my heart tells me it’s the way through this pain. (that and yoga, which i also don’t do anymore). i know i need to live in love and passion and not fear. i know it. i don’t know if i could mentally take negative feedback. i take things entirely too personally. i can’t decide if i need to put myself out there, or just get it down, get it out. do i need to share? and if so, why? acceptance, community, reassurance? i don’t know. i’d need a good pseudonym (yours is great). so think on that. and i’ll wonder about writing a story if no one ever gets to read it.


    • paynepills says:

      I set up a Gmail account under a related name, set up the blog, then just started typing. If you want help brainstorming, I’m sure the collective would be happy to offer their suggestions.

      I’ve yet to get negative feedback, but if I do, well, they’re not talking to me. They’re talking to Payne. And she’s not writing this blog for them. She’s writing it for herself. If they don’t like it, their comments can go in the trash can, and Payne will never think of them again.

      Think about the purpose of your blog. If it’s to become famous or get attention, then the fact that you’re afraid of negative feedback tells me this is a bad idea for you.

      If you’re looking for community, to tell your pain story, to offer your own personal advice, it seems like this may be the right corner of the Internet. I haven’t been here long, but these folks seem pretty great.

      The great thing about blogs is they can be as long standing or as ephemeral as you want them to be. Start one. If it isn’t what you want, delete it and start again. This isn’t school; you can screw it up, throw it away, try again … walk away, come back. There’s no way to actually fail at this.

      If I can help, let me know. I’m around on and off, due to chronic pain problems, but I’m willing to help when I’m here.


  3. smashingthanku says:

    thank you. i know it’s difficult for all of us, disappearing for days, weeks at a time due to chronic pain, fog, fatigue. i appreciate your offer of help! it means a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

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