Many Many Pills (Drawing)

20090401 many many pills

I had this idea for a painting which is me lying (floating?) amongst all the pills I’ve taken since I got really ill with ME/CFS.

Or surrounded by a pill for each day I have been ill continuously – which is (as of today) over 1000 days.

That’s like your average person having the flu, or a virus that knocks you off your feet, every day for a thousand days without a single day off.

Problem is with this idea for a painting that my M.E. often makes it difficult to do simple things like maths and figuring things out. So first I lost count of how many pills I had drawn. Then when I tried to count my brain went all wonky.

I’m not sure I can manage to paint a thousand pills on a canvas. Of course if it was actual medical pills I have taken since getting seriously ill with M.E. I guess it would be several thousand at least. Hmmm.

This drawing is ink and watercolour in an A6 sketchbook (approx 4″x6″).

UPDATE 3 April 2009: I counted the pills in the drawing at (I think) 519. So I did some photoshop magic and could see how 1000 would fit well with the drawing scaled up onto canvas. I’m tempted I really am.


  1. Hiya,

    I really lik your artwork Rachel. Keep going. I know it’s tough for you but I reckon you have a strong spirit and sense of umour to see you thru it all. Good luck, Baby.


  2. So crazy… this could be me and my pills for depression (over half my life).

    I love it.

    It is so powerful!

    Sorry for your need for the pills… you will be in my prayers.


  3. I figure if you lose count in the high hundreds, that’s okay… you’re close enough! I’ve had chronic pain every day for 29 years and have thought of doing something artistically that would mark those years. I haven’t done it yet; maybe I will wait for my 30th anniversary. The traditional gift for the 30th is pearls, in case anyone wants to know 😉

    Are all of your pills the same colour? I think the image would read more as pills if there were some different colours in it. I like the white space you leave, it adds to the weight. This is a strong image.

    1. Thirty years into a work of art. That would be something. Of course I making a wish that the thirtieth year is pain free. Well you can wish 🙂

      Well the pills I have taken are different colours. Most of them are white. Clinical white. But my amitriptyline are blue. If I really did all the pills it would be a LOT. And if I added suppliments … whoa!

      If I *did* regard them as “blobs of time” then multicoloured would be good. I did a mock up in photoshop of 1000 coloured blobs (made it easier to keep count) and it looked really pretty. Not sure if the single colour doesn’t say something about the monotony though.

      Thanks for the input!

  4. Thanks for the comments everyone.

    I just said this over on Flickr and it’s worth repeating here – that I don’t feel particularly sad or down beaten about those 1000 days. Shocked perhaps. A bit gobsmacked. But it is what it is. It’s already been and gone.

    What does make me sad is how many people don’t really understand that this is the reality for people with M.E. (and many other chronic illnesses). That’s why this seems a good subject for a painting.

    I don’t know that I really want it to be pills to represent all those days – but it’s something that the majority of people can relate to and is a sort of symbol of illness I suppose. I’m thinking of them of little blobs of time!

  5. I keep looking at this picture and thinking I ought to estimate properly how many you’ve drawn already. I’ve still not done that, but reckon you’ve got around 300 or 400 there…

    I’d take a smallish square, count how many pills there were in a square that size where they’re closest together (just next to your head), where they’re furthest apart (down at the bottom), take halfway between as average, and estimate how many squares’ worth there are.

    I bet a thousand isn’t as many as you think, if you don’t have to count them individually.

    More seriously, people don’t understand how other people live. I’ve rarely met anyone who realises how debilitating it is to be an extreme night person in a world designed for morning people, for example. But I’d better not get started . . .

    1. Thanks Tim. You’re so clever.

      I went for the old school method and counted them. I *think* there’s 519 in this drawing.

      Then because I couldn’t visualise it in my head I fiddled in photoshop and made 1000 blobs around the drawing. You’re right – it didn’t look as many as I thought! But it felt it having to count them out and place them.

      I don’t pretend that I understand how everyone lives their lives, or *have* to live their lives without certain choices. But I think being willing to understand how it is for other people is important.

      And critically that you (one) understands that people do, often, live differently to your own experiences.

      Not directed at you of course!

      1. Actually I’d probably have just counted them too, but I was aware of the technique from somewhere. Can’t remember where, though.

        It’s amazing how many people either think everyone else is like them, or think everyone else should be like them . . .

  6. I think you should persist with the idea. When I was newly diag about 8 years ago I was going to keep all the containers of supps, homeopathic stuuf, herbal remedies, prescribed drugs etc etc etc to make an artwork but somewhere along the way, in ‘the fog’, the idea and habit got lost. It’s a pity but you could make a bold statement for so many PWME with this idea for a painting.

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