On Being In Pain

I don’t usually like talking about this subject, but I think it’s high time I stretch my comfort zone. Keeping it all to myself doesn’t help, so I’m going to try to get it out there.

I’ve been in some form of pain for most of my life. I started having stress headaches around the age of twelve, right around the time that my mother passed away from brain cancer. Nothing was really done about it; I took over the counter pain killers and dealt. Over the course of my teen years, the headaches got progressively worse until, at eighteen, I was diagnosed with migraines. Then the doctors started trying drug treatments that, to this day, don’t work.

Along with the migraines, I’ve also never slept very well. Most doctors I talk to attribute that to my weight. I’ve been 6’4″ tall and over 250 pounds since I was thirteen. I’ve always hovered higher in weight than I should. Looking back now, though, I can list on one hand the number of times I’ve actually, really slept a full night. Most of the time, I’m caught up  in a cycle that doesn’t allow me to drop into the restorative sleep that people need.

Recently, I’ve developed extreme pain in my muscles and joints. I’ve always had issues, here and there, with a joint or muscle, but, since I’m overweight, most doctors just ignore it. Rest it, take pain meds, get better. Seems logical, but it never really worked for me. Now, I can’t sit in a car for more than an hour before my sees catch fire, nor can I whisk something while cooking, or brush my hair without feeling like my joints are all afire and ready to run away from me.

In essence, all of this culminates into one thing: it takes a lot of mental effort for me to get myself doing anything. Exercise, sitting at the computer, watching television, writing: each and every activity I think about doing has a certain amount of pain attached to it. Some things I have to do: go to work and get things done, cook dinner, do laundry, etc. For those things, I don’t have a choice: I have to accept the pain I’ll be in because, otherwise, those things won’t get done and my wife and daughter would be negatively effected. Things like writing, exercising, reading a book: they all get dumped to the side because the pain cost is too high.

However, I’ve discovered that there is another cost: happiness. Writing makes me happy. Telling stories makes me happy. Reading a story someone else has written makes me happy. Playing with my daughter and seeing her delight in new things makes me happy. Going out to dinner and a movie with my wife makes me happy.

I’m learning slowly that being unhappy and in minimal pain costs far more than being happy and in more pain. Because if I’m unhappy, I get depressed — and the depression enhances the pain I feel. The happiness can fend off some pain, or at least make me forget it for a time. Which is good.

One positive note in all of this is that my newest doctor believes that I have fibromyalgia and is taking steps to get me treated for it. I’m glad that we are on track for a treatment, but I wish it had come along sooner.

Writing Tools: Google Docs, Scrivener, Word, Pages

For years now, I’ve been writing with a variety of tools. I’ve typically used a standard word processing application (years ago, I used a word processor itself before I got a computer). These days, there is a proliferation of different tools from different companies that inhabit different operating systems. Here’s my small spiel on what works for me.

Google Docs

I’ve used Google Docs off and on for writing- and work-related business. As a writing tool, it is pretty similar to Microsoft Word or Apple Pages. In my experience, it has been difficult to format documents in such a way that people who don’t use Google Docs can read them; if I send a gDoc to someone else, the formatting occasionally gets skewed. The bonus to using Google Docs is that my work is backed up online and I don’t need to worry about what computer I’m using.

Microsoft Word and Apple Pages

Word and Pages are pretty much the standards. For straight word processing capabilities, they work really well. The downside to them is that you have to manage chapters and related documents in another fashion. Also very few worries about what kind of computer you have available.

Scrivener

Scrivener is a good tool. It has the benefits of a solid word processing core, like Word and Pages, but lacks the sync capability of Google Docs. However, Scrivener manages everything about your current writing project. You can organize your project in a cork-board-style display with notecards representing each chapter or section. Scrivener also includes exporting formats that will automatically format your manuscript for submission. You can also include PDF documents and other media files that are important to your project’s research.

The difficulty with Scrivener is migration. Currently, it only works with Mac OS X, but has plans to support Windows in the near future. Other than a concern about need a Mac and Scrivener together, I find Scrivener to be an excellent tool. I don’t write in a linear fashion, so Scrivener allows me to write my content and then rearrange it later as needed.

Conclusion

I could go two ways: if you have money for a Mac and Scrivener — Scrivener only costs around $50 — I would go in that direction. The flexibility and capabilities that Scrivener gives a writer more flexibility for projects than not.

If you jump from multiple computers — work to home to public library — then Google Docs could be convenient. You don’t have to worry about viruses infesting your flash drive or forgetting your flash drive in one place. You do need to make sure that your password is strong for your Google Account and possibly establishing a system for changing your password regularly if you use public computers often.