Pills Are Like Candy
A large part of K’s life revolves around the use of different medications. She takes all sorts of pills, and has been taking psychotropic medication(s) on and off since she was 16 years old. Over the years, the medications have changed-every time K saw a different doctor, that doctor would prescribe new medication(s) for her (often) new diagnosis. It started out simply enough-K’s parents were told that K is Manic-Depressive and the psychiatrist put her on Lithium. I can’t recall how long K actually took the Lithium, but at some point in time, she saw a different doctor, (because her parents disagreed when the first doctor said that they had somehow contributed to K’s illness) and this new doctor decided that the Lithium was not working for K (she was still “out of control”, in other words) and so he took her off that pill and put her on two or three new pills. I can’t recall now what those medications were-how can I, when I can’t remember what pills we took this morning? Now I’m not going to sit here and recount every trip to every doctor and every diagnosis, for that would A) take too long and B) be impossible without K’s medical records and the memory of an elephant. Let’s just say that for the most part, with each new doctor came new pills and a new label. The doctors love to stick labels on people. This infuriates K, who doesn’t want a label, just a life.
Some of the labels which K has worn over the years, in no particular order, (in addition to Manic-Depressive/ Bipolar II Disorder), are Major Depressive Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Bulimia, Schizophrenia, Borderline Personality Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, Panic Disorder, and a few others which I can’t seem to recall. I’m shocked that I was able to remember as many as I did, but I suppose that after hearing and reading these terms repeatedly throughout the years, one becomes accustomed to them and they are ingrained in her mind, and they become a part of that person’s subconscious and therefore are “remembered”. K sees her memory as an entity of its own, a location which different K’s can visit at different times, but which is never completely accessible to any of the K’s. Certain K’s have more freedom to roam in this memory locale than others, and some of the K’s can barely remember anything at all.
If we look at a list of psychotropic medications, I am able to recognize many of them as pills we have taken at various points in time, and in various combinations, throughout our physical life. Sometimes the pills don’t work, and we must suffer through all the dreaded side effects for a long enough period of time for the doctor to determine that the pills are not working, and therefore we have to be weaned off these pills and placed on new pills. Sometimes the pills work well, and we will take them for awhile, until the day comes when either K decides that she is stable and feels healthy enough to live without the pills, (this always happens after she’s been diligently taking her meds as prescribed for a good length of time) or until they no longer work. This is what invariably happens-a phenomenon the doctors have explained to us is not unusual. Sometimes medications simply stop working. At these times, K would either have to change medications, which sometimes meant withdrawal symptoms, plus new side effects, or else she’d just give up on the meds altogether and go “all natural“. (This is something which some of us have tried repeatedly to do, but which always ends badly) I haven’t mentioned the side effects before now, (Or have I?) and I wonder if I’ll even be able to satisfactorily convey the discomfort one feels when on such psychiatric medications. For one thing, you’re most likely either a zombie, emotionally empty and unresponsive, walking around in a fog, desiring nothing more than to sleep at all times, or else you’re wound tighter than a noose around a neck and spend your days bouncing off the walls and rambling like some hyperactive disc jockey. Some pills cause tremors, which K has had to deal with over the years, and which makes us look nervous or scared, even when we are not. It’s very embarrassing to be paying for your groceries and have your hands be shaking, trembling so uncontrollably that you’re unable to count out coins. Other side effects, which may be slightly less aggravating, include (but are not limited to) constant dry mouth, spontaneous sweating, headache, fluid retention, dizziness, upset stomach, constipation, fatigue and sexual side effects. (OK, that last one does bother us a good bit) Substantial weight gain is far and above the worst side effect of them all; I’m not talking about 10 pounds, I’m talking about 25 pounds or more. The K who suffers from eating disorders has an especially hard time handling this fact of life; she is usually quite depressed because of her intense self-hatred and the shame she feels upon looking at her body. Because of our medications, or lack thereof, our weight has fluctuated over the course of our adult life from 98 pounds to 183 pounds and everywhere in between. K is 5’5″ tall.
I would also like to tell you the other side of the story, and that is what happens when K goes “all natural” and gives up her medication altogether, but I think that story is best told in several separate posts rather than one gigantic one. Forgive me if I’ve rambled too much. It’s a bad habit. Much like K’s Xanax habit, although we must admit that she’d be a disaster without it.