When Medications Attack
By Maria Myrback
Remember how drug commercials have this big, long list of side effects? And how, when you get a prescription filled, they give you an encyclopedia’s worth of papers about that med? There really is a reason for that.
Once in a very great while, someone will have one of the extremely rare side effects on that list of extremely rare side effects. Lucky me, I won that lottery. Now, if I could only win the Powerball…
Even as I write this, I still feel a bit detached from the situation. Thank goodness I don’t find it funny anymore. Though, you gotta admit, my telling the receptionist to calm down and take deep breaths while calling about this weird suicidal ideation thing… That’s pretty funny.
But I digress for comic relief.
What happened scared my husband, my father, and probably a few other people who are uncomfortable talking about this kind of thing. When we’re talking about medication and the brain, no one really thinks that a super rare side effect is going to happen. That’s the reason that it’s a super rare side effect. But it does happen.
Before I go on, let me just say that this is NO ONE’S fault. We had been working my dosage up slowly to get me acclimated to the new drug and I was doing just fine aside from still having some seizures. I had already been weaned off the old drug so there wasn’t an interaction. I don’t blame anyone and no one is at fault.
With that in mind, what follows is what I can remember when we went from 100 to 200mg of the antiepileptic med. I took the first one at night, figuring the sooner the better. I noticed I was sad, but I thought that was because of the phenomenal cost of the pills. So I was doing what I usually do in this case: mentally beating myself up. Fortunately, my daughter was on Facebook and we had a good time pretending to be Starfleet officers. By the time I went to sleep, I was feeling much better.
The next morning, I woke up feeling alright, still smiling about the previous night’s fun. Then, about a half an hour after I took my morning pills, that’s when things started to go sideways.
I kept looking over at the steel hair stick on my nightstand and wondering, for no reason whatsoever, if puncturing my jugular with it would kill me. That should have been the first sign that something wasn’t right, but it seemed like what I should be doing. Nobody suggested it. I wasn’t reading or watching anything that influenced me. It was just part of the list of things I should do that day.
So I started researching which would kill me faster, puncturing the jugular or the carotid. Turns out, the carotid will make you bleed out faster. Since I didn’t remember where exactly in the neck that was, I started looking at physiology diagrams to find the best place to stab myself without making too much of a mess.
That was when Ken asked me to look up the address for the new Veterinarian because my dog had an appointment. I felt mildly agitated because he was tearing me away from my research. Yes, the research on the best place to stab myself. It was okay though because he was taking the dog and I was to call him with the info.
Through all of this, the linear equation of A (stabbing) + B (carotid artery) = Dead wasn’t making sense. Stabbing was something you did. The carotid artery was a thing in my body. The two weren’t associated in any way at all. It was just something I was doing. Like a honey-do list, but with sharp things.
Even after I called Ken with the address, I still hadn’t been jarred out of this state. But there was something that didn’t seem quite right. When I had the diagram in front of me that showed me the best place to hit my carotid, something seemed weird.
I thought maybe something was wrong with my meds but I didn’t want to bother my neurologist’s office with nothing, so instead I called the suicide hotline, thinking they would know the answer. I really didn’t want to kill myself, but stabbing myself in the carotid just seemed like the thing I should be doing.
And that was what I calmly explained to the man who took my call.
Just as calmly, he explained that I should call my neurologist and tell them what was happening because I was having what he referred to as “suicidal ideation”.
Which is weird.
I mean, it’s not like I wanted to die or anything.
It was all just so weird.
And that’s what I told the receptionist at the neurologist’s when I called. I had this weird thing going on and the man at suicide hotline said I should call there.
That was when I thought something might be wrong, because she started getting really upset. So I told her to calm down and take deep breaths, that it was okay. I just had this weird thing.
No big deal, right?
After I got off the phone with her, I called Ken and told him what was going on. He very calmly told me he would be right home and I should just stay in bed. I was pretty pliant at that point and feeling kind of sleepy, so staying in bed sounded okay.
I don’t remember much of anything after he got home. I know he took a call from the neurologist. Then I think I slept for a while. I remember going to the doctor’s office later to pick up free trial packs of the new dosage because Ken wouldn’t let me stay at home alone. And that also seemed weird to me.
During that entire time period, it was as if all of my actions and their consequences were completely separated from one another. If I stabbed myself with a sharp object, nothing would happen because all I was doing was moving my hand. My carotid artery was just this place that existed on my body and not the target of a pointy thing. It would still continue being an undamaged thing on my body.
It was so weird.
Two days later, I was perfectly fine. Granted I was still having some seizures, but they’re not as frequent. I am holding out hope that increasing this medication at a slower rate will control my epilepsy. I’d say it can’t get any worse, but as I found out, it most certainly can.
Thanks Maria for sharing a very personal story, but bringing up a point we should all be aware of : Medication comes with side effects. Some of them are very dangerous. Maria recognized this was “weird”, and thankfully reached out to get help. It is indeed not the fault of anyone, but it is important for everyone to be aware of th