Dear New Yorkers,

I’m watching the first Avengers movie, and I’m at that part where the alien army starts to come through the portal. Taxis stop, New Yorkers stand on the street and stare up, some scream. There’s frozen panic.

Every time I see this part I’m struck by one thought.

If this happened in Texas, the scene would be so different.

Sure, traffic would stop. People would stare up in fear. And then, everyone from granny to the college student next to her would pull out their guns and start firing.

Sure, the Avengers would save the day, kill the alien army.

But Texas would fuck them up first.

Makes me think New Yorkers are just a bunch of pansies.

And, me, I’m waiting for the aliens with the family shotgun, still

Payne.

Advertisements

Hello New Program,

It took me five minutes to figure out a brand new computer program today. I’m really smart. I’m great with computers. I’m good at figuring out new ones, and at doing it fast.

And it’s all pretty useless. Broken brain, painkillers. No work. No teaching. No research.

I try to look at the positive side of things, but lately, it’s been hard to do. Harder yet when old skills like this rear their heads.

My life is such a waste. I should count my blessings. I should consider all the things I can contribute. I should do a lot of things.

Today, I just can’t. Tomorrow, I’ll try again. Until then, I’ll still be ,

Payne.

Dear White Noise,

I haven’t had much to say for a bit now.

There’s a reason for that. I haven’t let myself think.

I don’t like to. I’m too smart for my own good, and left to my own devices, my mind goes round and round and round. I pick things apart. I fester over mistakes. I rot over wrongs done. I wallow over old hurts.

It takes work to refocus on good things, to find happy memories instead. It takes effort to drag my mind to joyful things instead of letting it stray to the dark corners where old angst lies.

I don’t let myself think. I fill all my time. I read, I watch. I surf the Internet. I have the radio on. I don’t have empty time or quiet spaces. I don’t meditate. I don’t reflect. I pour a constant stream of words, of images, of busyness into every waking moment, then I add white noise at night to keep thought away even then.

So I have the emotional depth of a saucer, and I’m fine with that, because I am, in fact, happier this way. And while I haven’t deconstructed Proust in the original French, I can extol the virtues of some seriously trashy novels, say what’s on NPR at 3 a.m., and fill you in on early seasons of long, long running shows.

I’ll take happy, thanks. And I’ll remain,

Payne.

Dear Hate,

I hate when I take a pain pill and decide minutes later I really didn’t need it.

I hate when I’m starving and so nauseous I can’t eat.

I hate when I see that twisted look of pity and sadness on someone’s face when they hear about my condition.

I hate when people say, “I don’t know how you do it.”

I hate when people say, “I get migraines, too.”

I hate when painkillers make my nose itch so bad I want to rip it off my face.

I hate when all the nose scratching leaves a mighty pimple.

I hate insomnia.

I hate mornings after taking sleeping pills and muscle relaxers, when the bed is too comfy and the world is full of jagged edges.

I hate switching painkillers, so I have withdrawal from one and problems acclimating to the other all at the same time.

I hate constipation from too many painkillers.

I hate when I miss something important because of a migraine.

I hate when someone needs me, and I can’t be there because of a migraine.

I hate all the loss migraines and depression cause.

I hate how all those pills make my skin sensitive and my hair thin.

I hate listening to myself whine like this.

I hate that I’ll think of other things to add, right after I sign this as

Payne.

P.S. If this rang a bell for you, and you hate something too, you can mention it here.

Dear Tremors,

I’ve had essential tremors, those little uncontrolled twitches in my fingers and hands, for years now. When they first started, the doctors shrugged off my concerns. They said it was just medication interaction and not to worry.

So I didn’t.

I bet the pills for these tremors aren’t covered by my insurance.

About a year ago, they came back with a vengeance, happening more frequency and in bigger spasms. Suddenly, everyone was concerned about it, and I had to get an MRI stat. The scan came back showing I had a normal migraine brain: I had bright spots where the migraine had blown holes in my blood vessels, cysts in my sinuses and another in my brain, but nothing more interesting than that. No one was worried.

But last week, the tremors got worse. My hands and fingers shake and twitch almost constantly. My arms have gotten involved, and my jaw sometimes spasms as well.

When I went to my primary care doctor to discuss the problem, things reached a crescendo. I don’t know if the stress of the office visit made it worse, or if that was just a really bad day, but I was one big twitch.

Everything was trembling: my eyes, my tongue, my arms, hands and fingers, my legs, my ankles … my doctor had trouble doing the neurological exam because I couldn’t make my limbs hold still enough to test reflexes easily.

Last November, I fell while sleep walking and hit my head. It was really bad, and the pain management doctor wanted me to go in for tests. I really hate doctors; I figured I was upright and walking in a straight line, so I was close enough to okay.

But that spot had a huge lump that took ages to subside. The left side of my head stayed numb for weeks. And I still, months later, have a lot of pain from that area. So it’s probably good someone’s finally taking a look at that area.

I also have to get a variety of blood tests and some urinalysis done. They wanted all of it done the next day — Thursday — but I had such a bad migraine, I was down for the count. So now it’s all on for tomorrow, Saturday.

I try not to think too much about what the tremors are, or what they mean. But, with the variety of symptoms, it’s hard to not wonder about Parkinson’s or fibromyalgia. Or did that fall cause some sort of brain injury? It’s too scary to contemplate such possibilities.

So for now, I won’t contemplate. I’ll stick my fingers in my ears and close my eyes.

What I don’t know can’t hurt me, right? Right?

I’ll be sticking my head in the sand, but I’ll still be,

Payne.

Dear Self Harm,

TRIGGER WARNING: SELF HARM, CUTTING

I’ve been thinking about this post, writing it in my head, for weeks. I know how it starts; I know what I want to talk about. I know the stories I want to tell. I just can’t seem to get the words out of my brain and on the screen.

I never considered what I did self harm.

I witnessed self harm in high school, which seems so long ago now. She was the punked-out, goth kid in my theater class. I’m friendly to everyone, so while I wasn’t her bestie or even a member of her tribe, she told me things.

People do. I used to think it was something super special about me, something magical that only I, and perhaps a few others, had. But that magic is my willingness to listen, offer no judgement, and care enough to help. Perhaps that’s a kind of magic all its own.

Theater-class girl had problems, which she addressed and added to by huffing spray starch and cutting on her legs. She explained that the little red lines, the little raised scars that trailed above them so neatly, gave her release. When her emotions boiled and roiled past what her body could contain, one blade and a few careful bloody cuts let enough pain escape her body, giving her something to focus on besides the original chaos and its attendant emotions.

I never put together what I did with what she did. Perhaps because her perfect red lines were so organized, so neat and orderly. My response to that overwhelming feeling of internal combustion was far more violent.

I kicked walls, bed frames, whatever. I kicked until my toes broke. I scratched at any imperfections on my skin until they bled, never letting them heal. I pounded at myself until I had bruises. Today my toes curl under from the breakage, and my skin has white, raised scarring. Only the bruises are gone.

I think, looking back, I had symptoms of manic depression. Lord knows it ran in our family. I’m not bipolar now, so … ? But then, in those teenage years, emotions were so hot and angry and all encompassing. Maybe they are for all teenagers.

Those uncontrollable emotions filled me with a bubbling, spitting brew of hate and upset and powerlessness. The only way to spew the hate, release the tears, and gain a sense of power was to kick and pound and scratch.

Cutting, self-harm … it wasn’t a thing in the 1990s, when I was a teen. People did it, but the psychobabble to explain and identify it wouldn’t trickle from the professionals to the mainstream for another ten years. Even then, what I did was never equated to cutting. When boys punch walls, do we call it self-harm today? I don’t know the answer.

I’m having a lot of trouble with depression. Getting out of bed is a struggle. Taking care of myself is a struggle. Caring about those facts is a struggle.

A few weeks ago, I found a small lump on my elbow. It bugged me, so I made the obvious decision to take a knife and slice it open. I had taken some painkillers that evening for my migraines, but I was still hurting.

The knife I used was new and sharp, but the angle to my elbow was awkward at best. It took several tries to open the bump, which then proved to be quite unsatisfying.

But by that time, I had scored several lines into the skin on my elbow. And while it hurt, the pain was so different from my migraine. It was sharp, and clean, and bright. The migraine was dull. and achy, and constant. And that new pain was a sharp punch through the miasma of my depression.

I was fascinated by it.

It hurt, dragging the knife through layers of my skin. But that difference in the pain kept me transfixed. How hard did I have to press to draw blood? How hard did I have to press to draw a long line? I criss-crossed my elbow, cutting lines over and over, a few deep but mostly shallow.

It took an external jostle to make me realize what I’d been doing. Luckily, I hadn’t caused any real damage, not then. A few napkins, some direct pressure, and all was fine.

But over the next weeks, I picked at those lines. Absently, I’d scratch the scabs off, noticing only when the raw wound started to sting or when my fingers came back bloody. And now I have scars, new lines that weave a web of white lines across my elbow.

I can’t see the new scars, which is a shame. Could they have served as a reminder not to hurt myself again?

Probably not. My old scars write large across my body, but I’ve yet to read the message.

Blind to my own braille but still,

Payne.

Dear Viagra,

So I’m watching Hulu, and every commercial break has a Viagra commercial. I couldn’t be less of their target audience. The last thing I need in my life is a guy with a hard-on.

The site for this photo was “drugdangers.com.” There’s a joke in there somewhere.

Migraines were a huge part of why my marriage failed. The other bits included the fact that I married an asshole, so there’s that.

Chronic pain does a number on relationships. It’s incredibly hard on familial ones; those people can’t escape us. Husbands and wives, it’s often way too much for them to understand and cope with, dealing with a partner who’s in constant pain.

I tried dating once, a few years ago. Here’s where it fell apart. He called after he got home from work, and I asked about his day. Then he asked what I did.

Well, I spent my whole day on the couch, in constant pain, taking lots of drugs.

So I said, “Nothing.”

And then we broke up that night because I wasn’t … whatever it was he was expecting.

So Pfizer, you can keep your Viagra and your “cuddling” after date night.

I’ll still be,

Payne.