My life, at times, is a vast expanse of bedsheets, full sharps containers, and the black void of my closed eyes under an ice pack. During an episode, I lie still in a forgotten pocket of time. The dull and permeating ache of loneliness filling the room.  I like to be alone, but only when it’s my choice. Too much silence is a plague that starts to seep into my marrow, blanketing me like a fresh snowfall. Quiet and cold.

Pain has often made me a ghost in my own mind, wandering softly through endless halls. My body becomes a house, crumbling and long-haunted, where the spiders spin webs in my hair, and the threshold is impossible to cross. I can see the way out, the waking world beyond, but I am not allowed to leave. 

I’m told I could get used to it, work past it, ignore it. I’m exaggerating. It can’t be that bad, we all get headaches. Tough it out. That’s life. 

The statement-makers don’t know the cause, extent, or severity of my pain. Yet I’m told it’s something that either doesn’t exist, or  is easily shelved. I lost 50 pounds last year. I am told I never looked better, but I have never felt worse. They ask me about my diet secrets. I want to say the nausea of ten medications and more. I don’t.

The solutions of others come wrapped in good intentions, but contain something I don’t need. Much like a gift from a distant relative who loves you, but doesn’t truly know you at all. The solution-gifts are piling up at my door, though it is locked, and none of the boxes contain the key I need to get out. They are full of things that don’t work, or things I already own.

Ibuprofen. Sun. Water. Air. Exercise. Sleep. Standing. Sitting. 

Crystals, tinctures, have I tried CBD? Have I done yoga, or meditation, tried to be more relaxed?


Someone tells me she heard from her cousin that magnesium will eradicate my migraines. I should buy it. It’s only twelve ninety nine for a big bottle on Amazon dot com, and her cousin has sent an influencer link for me.  

Someone else says she’s selling essential oils that will cure me. She can send me one for free if I give her my address on Facebook messenger. She is the 4th person this week to tell me this exact thing, and she says I could sell them too. I begin to think that I am the only person on planet earth that is not selling essential oil. 

I have sat through dissertations about the evils of prescription medication, insurance, pharmaceutical companies, healthcare. The presenter of the lecture never knows that I paid twelve hundred dollars last year for all of the above. That I know the horrible system intimately inside and out, both as a patient in a body much sicker than it’s supposed to be, and from years working in healthcare. My prescriptions allow me to live the most normal life I can right now. They are the only solution-gift that I actually asked for, papered with medical bills.

I nod. I wait for them to finish. I try to talk about what’s on television instead.

They all want to be my doctor, but  I never scheduled this appointment. Advice-givers, blissfully unaware that thus far, even my real doctors can’t fix me. I know that unsolicited advice usually comes from a place of love, but it’s the last thing people like me really need. When someone you love says they are in pain, there is no better solution-gift you can give besides help, understanding, love. Let them know you believe them. We want to know that in the suffocating dark of our lonely beds, someone is waiting outside the door, without judgment or advice.

If you are someone experiencing chronic pain, when no one believes you, know that I do. I have no advice, no cure, but I have understanding and this artwork that was woven together, piece by piece like a magic spell of protection. One that you can use too.



  • Tanacetum parthenium - or Feverfew: used as early anti-inflammatory/headache medication, documented by the Greek physician & herbalist Dioscorides in the first century AD. Dioscorides authored the “De Materia Medica '' - an herbal pharmacopeia that was widely used up until the Renaissance l, 1500 years later.


As there is great debate on the safety and efficacy of feverfew, even as recently as the 1980s, I am not advocating for its use here. Given the history of this plant, it was just a meaningful choice for this piece. I placed most of it in the pitcher, along with unbloomed dahlia buds. I arranged this piece as if it were all flowing out into the table, likeliek my thoughts spilling into words.

  • Grapes, a transformative fruit, signifying abundance and prosperity. The inclusion of these is a quiet prayer to the future of my health. 

  • A 28 gauge syringe, used to inject anti-inflammatory pain medication into my leg during a migraine episode. The empty vial the medication is sealed in can be seen in front, hiding under a leaf. I have other medications, but the little amber glass vial is my favorite. It feels more like a magical healing potion and less like something modern, clinical, and frightening.

Color/lighting Choices

  • I have a chronic, recurring condition, and the medication I use most often burns when injected. When I made this I was thinking a lot of a mythical creature, the Phoenix. I chose orange feathered celosia to represent the feathers of the phoenix before it inevitably bursts into flames. Live. Burn. Begin again. Flamelike plumage, illustrating the sharp vibrancy of burning pain. White dahlia, for rebirth after the fire dies.

  • The deep, heavy shadow around it all. The desolate void that surrounds my pain episodes. Time suspended, without end. Like the hourglass lying on its side.

  • Most important: - the light illuminating the scene. Soft, glowing, angelic. This is my hope always shining through  the dark.
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