I was wondering the other day about how I could be on so many medications and not notice any of the side effects. Then, it hit me: I am so hesitant to add medications – every new piece you add to the giant, convoluted chemical system stresses that system until the system attains a new equilibrium – that I have to be absolutely miserable to do so.
This is especially true in regards to anti-depressants. Like many suffering from depression in the U.S., I waited way to long to get help because of the strong stigma against mental health care here. I couldn’t get out of bed most days because of the depression; Colin literally took me to some of my appointments with the on-campus counselor. As soon as I started sertraline (prescribed by my GP, because I went in for a check-up and just sat there, quietly and ashamedly weeping, when he asked me how I was doing), I felt so incredibly alive again. I know that I gained some weight, but I hadn’t really eaten for a few months, so that was expected and good. I have no idea if my sex drive was at all affected, because I wasn’t exactly having much sex while I couldn’t move.
Each of my other medications has had a similar effect. The only bad thing I’ve experienced as a direct result of medication that comes to mind right now is that most of the weight I gained went to my chest…and bras are expensive. I think I can live with that. Another, more serious, note is that I can’t take most of my medications if I ever get pregnant. My spouse and I are very careful, and are excited about the idea of adoption, but what will happen if my chemical birth control and condoms fail? There is a very fine line between what would be healthy for a fetus – only the meds that keep you alive – and what is healthy for me…it would be an interesting and frightening line to walk. Let’s just hope I don’t have to think about that. 😀
I should probably get around to the reason I thought about this post. One condition – a slight, usually benign arrhythmia – has gone away as a result of gabapentin, a medication for my pain that operates as an anti-seizure medication. It didn’t even occur to me that gabapentin would solve my PVCs…but when I noticed that the palpitations had stopped, I tried caffeine – no PVCs! Then, JS gave me a prescription of Percocet (a tiny dose of oxycodone + a massive dose of tylenol) instead of my normal plain oxycodone; I was hesitant, but it worked! No palpitations, no skipped heartbeats, and best of all, pain relief. This is the least pain I’ve experienced for a month. I’m probably around a 2 or 3 on the pain scale posted earlier, which is certainly fine by me.
I know that I am very lucky to have had this experience with my medication so far. I know that I am extremely fortunate to have found a combination of treatments that works well for me at all, much less to have avoided some of the more painful side effects. To anyone out there experiencing these problems, I wish you luck. I know it’s a terrible process, and one that may never get you to your goal. I thought I would never be at my pain goal of a 2 or 3 again just a few months ago. I won’t tell you to keep hoping, or to keep searching for something that works. That’s your choice – do what makes you happy. That’s really what matters here.