Story from the Chronic Pain Chronicles

Increasingly, there are stories in the media about the opioid epidemic happening in Canada, and particularly in the Prairies. People are taking opioids–fentanyl in particular–recreationally, and consequently, many are overdosing with a significant percentage of them dying as a result. The solution that is being touted is to heavily regulate the prescription of opioids, rather than treat the cause of the addiction.

Moreover, there have also been media reports of how people are taking more acetaminophen than needed and causing damage to their livers. The solution to this, in a similar vein, is to decrease the recommended daily amount one can consume in a day rather than treat the cause of the pain.

You may recall that I have chronic pain. I have osteoarthritis, that is, the degenerative type of arthritis usually associated with aging. One of specialists said it was the result of my body being incapable of handling the physical demands of adult life. More specifically, the bones in my forearm and wrist are too damn small.

I have pain in my wrist almost constantly. For me, a good day is when my pain level is a five or less (out of ten). A five is the kind of pain where I take two Tylenol Arthritis pills three times a day. It’s been over six months since I woke up with something less than a five.

When there is talk in the media of restricting access to opioids I become worried. I am concerned that I will be called a drug seeker and I won’t be able to get a prescription for the painkillers I sometimes need. I am uneasy for other Spoonies in the same situation (or one similar).

With that long and somewhat rambling preface, I begin my story.

A few days ago I noticed my supply of stronger drugs had begun to deplete to need-to-get-a-refill levels following a week of frequent temperature and climate changes. I counted the pills I had left: there were 30.5 remaining. If I’m taking 2 pills at every dose (every four hours) I go through 12 in a day; this means I had about 2.5 days worth. However, I had kept forgetting to call in my refill during the hours my pharmacy was open.

Now, I don’t take narcotics if I can help it because not only do they limit my ability to do academic work, but also negatively impact how I “function” on most other levels. Some weeks I don’t need any narcotics because my pain levels are a five or less. Then there are other weeks when T3s aren’t enough and I have to go the next step up.

But I never know when any of it is going to happen: the only thing I do know is the more I use my hand and fingers the worse the pain gets. Though I do have a confirmed osteoarthritis diagnosis, and even though I’ve had surgeries to ‘fix’ it, I still have pain. From what exactly myself and several specialists are still not sure.

This morning was one like most others. I went through my morning routine, including taking my AM Tylenol Arthritis dose. Before I went to school, I intended to (finally) call and order the refill.

When I called the pharmacy, the pharmacist I spoke to said it’s too early for my refill: I had to wait until the second week of May.


If things became bad (as they sometimes do) and without warning (as they also sometimes do) I would not have enough medication.

I was scared.

As much as I live with pain and live in pain, being in moderate pain, and not being able to find relief can mean all kinds of unpleasantness. And knowing what that means made me anxious.

I had to hope that either I would be very lucky and I would not have to deal with much pain for the next three weeks, or I had to hope that somehow or another I had more painkillers stashed away that I had forgotten about.

These were thoughts I had in only a few seconds.

Hopefully this reiterates my point prior about my not being able to access what I need for pain management. And also I hope it clarifies what may be lost for myself and others if restrictions on opioids come without options for treating the root of the pain.

I looked for another vial on my kitchen table. Nothing.

I looked for another vial in my purse. Nothing.

I looked for another vial in my backpack. Nothing.

I looked for another vial in my cabinet. Something! A vial!

I have enough. I have enough for now, at least.

Posted in chronic pain chronicles, Diss/ability, Personal, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Storify Post: I’m Really Done with Oppression in the Academy

Man oh man am I tired. Not apparently tired enough to write not one, but TWO rants on twitter in less than twenty-four hours on oppression in academia. But too tired to re-figure out how to embed Storify posts in WordPress (because it stopped working a few months ago??).

So, sorry, if you want to read the things I wrote about you will have to travel to another (internet) land. But I hyperlink things as to not make the journey too treacherous.

I’m Not Having Any of Your Oppression in the Academy.
I’m (Still) Not Having Any of Your Oppression in the Academy.

If you have thoughts and feels about either of these Storify posts, leave a comment here.

Posted in Academic Work, Diss/ability, PhDing (in doubt) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Post-PhD Employment

I was in my second year of university when I first thought, “Wow, being a professor would be pretty cool.” I started looking into what the job of a prof was like noting that finding a tenure track position was becoming progressively more difficult (this was over ten years ago). I went to grad school knowing that there are more people with PhDs than there are tenure-track jobs. But I thought I wanted a PhD anyway.

I endeavored to apply to Masters programs in order to see if a PhD would be possible given the academic skills I had. After a year of unsuccessful attempts (which I documented here), I was accepted to three schools in my second round of applications. I applied to PhD programs at the beginning of my second year and was accepted over the winter break.

The statistics about acquiring a tenure-track position have not improved since I was an undergrad. Data from 2011 indicates that 18.6% of those with a PhD hold a full-time professor position: this is not the same as a tenure-track position.  Nearly 40% work in higher education in other capacities, some as part-time professors. This means that when I (finally) complete the eight stages of my degree, I have less than a 20% chance of being employed full time as a professor (that is, if my disability and chronic illness can even be accommodated because I truly have no idea). I have been told by faculty (ones not on my committee, even!) that I have the skills and knowledge to become a prof; however, I have no control over the hiring market.

In short, I really have no idea what I will be doing when I’m done. I’m going to see if I can get a post-doc or a tenure-track position, but I know the odds are against me. At the same time, I know I am suited to work in policy, government, editing, and copyediting based on my degree and how I am employed currently. To be honest, I’m not sure if I care all that much so long as I’m making a living wage: money is needed to exchange for goods and services after all.

The following is a list of job/career choices I may be considering for after my defense. I’m not sure if I should call these ‘dream jobs’ or ‘dreaming jobs’ as some of them are probably not very economically viable. But if you know me, you can probably see me doing these things:

  • Expert cat herder
  • Dog walker
  • Doggie daycare owner
  • Often-swearing-while-recording craft vlogger
  • Redesigner of thrifted clothing
  • Tea blender
  • Cactus and succulent breeder
  • Band-aid tester
  • Giant dinosaur sculptor
  • Closet and cupboard organizer
  • Children’s book author
  • Coffee taster
  • Ostentatious outdoor holiday decorator
  • Chronic illness advocate
  • Snow fort construction worker
  • Bookshelf organizer
  • Dinosaur- and animal-themed furniture and homeware designer
  • Pillow and blanket fort technician
  • Bumble bee trainer
  • Personal shopper
  • Macro photographer
  • Themed party planner
  • Blanket merchant
Posted in PhDing (in doubt) | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

International Women’s Day 2017

We see you, men.

We notice what you do (and don’t) say about your partners. How you support them, praise them, lift them up, love them.

We watch when you don’t comment about cases of violence against women in the media. How you choose to believe the victim (or not), implying that “she deserved it” in one way or another.

We use a whisper network to keep each other safe. How you treat women in public and how you are in private are often not the same.

Women get ‘recognition’ one day of the year, but our opinion of how men treat us is based on the other 364. In Canada, it’s not good:

I support my sisters (not just my cisters) and non-binary folx, but today is just another day  of existing-as-a-women in a cisheteropatriarchal colonial nation state.

(Also a big fuck you to Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, who thinks that on International Women’s Day women should “celebrate the boys and men in our lives who encourage us to be who we truly are, who treat girls & women with respect, and who aren’t afraid to speak up in front of others.”)

Posted in Observations on Life Outside of Academia, Personal | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment


Tattoos as self-care.
Tattoos as decoration.

Tattoos as tenacity.
Tattoos as strength.

Tattoos as the past.
Tattoos as preparation.

Tattoos as storytellers.
Tattoos as resistance.

Posted in Personal, Poetry | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Storify Post: I Am Not Marching Today

Unfortunately, there are more phrasing errors in these tweets than I’d like. :/

Edit: For some reason, I can’t get storify to embed into the post…so you will have to click on the link instead. Sorry!

Please also take a look at this post I wrote in November on Listening, Making Space, and Amplifying.

Posted in Observations on Life Outside of Academia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Authoritative Voice in the Pronoun Debate

Please read this piece on the linguistics of pronoun usage as it relates to people being “too PC.”

Anthropology As....


I have often said that it can be frustrating to be an expert in language, because our expertise often goes unrecognized. Language (like culture, or society, or education) is something that is a significant part of everyone’s life, and, it seems, it is therefore something that most everyone feels qualified to speak on. This is especially true among the extremely well educated circles of academia. I often find myself trying to unpack the assumptions held by colleagues in other disciplines in a way that I suspect nuclear physicists never have to do, for example.

It’s hard to imagine a more obvious illustration of this frustration than the continuing saga of University of Toronto psychology professor Dr. Jordan Peterson and his crusade against gender neutral pronouns. If you are unfamiliar with the story (ed: If you are, can I come live where you are?), here are a couple of articles from…

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