Side Effects May Include

A few times in my early twenties and early thirties, I saw therapists primarily because I was having a hard time handling my own obsessive compulsive streaks, panic, and anxiety. I was never looking for a pill to fix myself or tone myself down. I didn't feel that my issues were severe enough to automatically dive in to a pill. I thought pills were too often over prescribed for the wrong reasons (such as pharmaceutical industry reasons).  I didn't want to tone down my own personality, my emotions, or other parts of the real me, especially since I thought that my strong emotions were a large intrinsic element to my natural creative process, passion, genuine communication, poetry, and art. Despite sharing those feelings with therapists, pills were recommended anyway, but I always declined that recommendation, deciding for myself that I'd only take them if I really needed them in order to live a semi-normal life.  I am grateful that I was always able to handle my own mental glitches without having to resort to a pill. I know quite a few people with more severe mental issues who have less of a choice in the matter.

Seven or eight years ago, when I unexpectedly started having seizures, I had less of a choice in the matter too, because it was either take a pill or have more seizures. I was initially very unhappy (borderline depressed) about it, because I had been an anti-pill person for years (again, primarily because of the pharmaceutical industry and pills being quickly and easily and casually over prescribed without much personal analysis of the brains they would be impacting), but the first few seizures I'd had involved suddenly passing out in a public place and peeing my pants and suddenly waking up in my own bed at home, feeling out-of-it, confused, and finding out that I had knocked down a bunch of stuff in my house with no recollection of how or when or why and I had banged the back of my head against something with enough severity that I had a welt and needed to go to the ER and get checked for a possible concussion. That's when I ended up being unexpectedly admitted to the hospital, undergoing various tests, and finding out that my brain was now prone to seizures. That's when I ended up having a seizure pill prescribed to me and feeling angry and out of control, because my choices seemed so limited and I don't remember them ever even being discussed with me.  A certain pill was just automatically prescribed to me.

Despite serious initial unhappiness about the situation, I did what I needed to do, and started taking my suddenly prescribed seizure pills. The generic pill I was prescribed had significant side effects for a month or two, the worst ones being that it toned down my energy, toned down my passion, drained my emotions, and made me care less about things that were usually important to me.  But thankfully, I acclimated myself to that pill within a few months and after that, for the most part, I had no major side effects for years.  

Unfortunately, near the end of last year, the manufacturer's version of the generic seizure pill I'd been taking for years stopped being available at my pharmacy or any other pharmacy near me.  My mom made a substantial effort to  help me by researching other manufactured versions of my generic pill and we chose the one that appeared to have the least complaints from people who were using it. I began taking it shortly before the New Year.

I had one seizure within the first week of the New Year  (which might be fairly common when someone switches from a pill with one set of fillers to a pill with another set of fillers). In addition to that, after years of being free from pill side effects, I'm experiencing side effects again and they're not very comfortable. I'll think I'm getting used to the pill and have a day or two of feeling close to normal, but then I'll have multiple days in a row that involve anxiety and/or panic and/or an entire day where I feel semi-randomly annoyed and angry.

It strikes me as uncomfortably ironic that some of the side effects I'm experiencing with this new manufactured version of my seizure pill are like more extreme variations on the mental quirks I chose NOT to take pills for in the past. My anxiety has increased.  My illogical panic has increased (various times I've semi-randomly woken up in the middle of the night, sweating, heart racing, brimming with terribly uncomfortable illogical thoughts, related to health and death - and then I have to stay up for an hour or so, so I'm not lying in bed with a pounding heart and weirdly throbbing bodily organs - and then when I do lie back down, I feel the need to keep a light on, in case the panic escalates again). I've also been feeling semi-randomly annoyed and somewhat angry more than usual. Things that usually bother me a little have been bothering me on a more irrational larger scale.  So far, it hasn't reached the point where I feel like I can't handle this, but there's been several occasions where it's gotten close.  I mean,  I feel like I can handle this TEMPORARILY, but I sure don't want to feel like this for the rest of my life - alternating between feeling like I'm on some sort of irregular speed pill then anxiety then panic then not feeling like getting out of bed (probably because my sleep keeps getting interrupted by panic), then random annoyance about life.

On the definite plus side, I'm glad my strong emotions still exist, even though they're a little too extreme - and I'm glad I still care enough to express myself, even though sometimes I don't feel like it.

I've been on this new version of the pill now for almost (but not quite) a month and even though I really wish these side effects would have stopped by now,  unless they get significantly worse, I'm planning to stick with the pill for close to another month, before I try another approach.

Because frankly, the only other approaches are to stop taking a seizure pill and be prone to having more seizures and damaging my body or snapping my neck - OR to try ANOTHER different manufacturers version of the pill and experiment with the side effects of THAT for a month or two. And what if the next one is even worse? What if it drains my energy? What if it tones down my real emotions and genuine passion? What if it causes me to feel like I don't really care about anything anymore? What if it makes me suicidal? At least this current batch, despite its unlikable side effects, isn't draining me into an unemotional zombie. I still feel like the real me, slightly extremified.  I still have strong feelings; they're just exaggerated. My flaws and weaknesses are exaggerated. My neck feels weirder than usual. My boobs feel contorted and misshapen like they're blobbing themselves further to the side. I feel like nobody really cares. I feel like this is just the way it has to be, for no apparent reason. 

And I'll bet the pharmaceutical industry doesn't really give a fuck about any of this. I'll bet the main reason I can no longer acquire the generic manufacturer's version of the pill my brain had gotten used to and that was working reasonably well for me for years is because that generic version was overtaken by cheaper generic versions. And as for the original name brand version, I'll bet the average person can't afford it, even with their work related health insurance, because sometimes health insurance just helps with the generic pills.

The medical industry seems to just sort of automatically expect us to take the pills we're prescribed, the pharmaceutical industry seems to sell the cheapest pills they can acquire/get away with, and both industries seem to be lacking in the department of bothering to realize or care very much about how many people don't have many affordable options. For financial reasons, some people have to skip pills or cut their prescribed dosage of pills in half. Luckily for me, my health insurance covers the bulk of my pill costs and I can afford the part it doesn't cover - but that's only if I take the generics, so my options are somewhat limited - but my options aren't anywhere near as challenging or limited as some people's. I have it better off than some people I know whose pills are so expensive that even if there health insurance covers parts of it, there out of pocket expenses are still more than a hundred bucks a month. I have it better off than people who can't afford ANY pills.

I'm on one fairly low dose pill that I take twice a day.  What about people who are on multiple pills that they have to take multiple times a day? How are they able to handle the multiple costs/multiple pills, monetarily and mentally?  How are they able to handle the way the pills interact with their brain combined with the way the pills interact with each other? Especially if they're sometimes given different manufacturer's versions of their pills with no advance notice.  How is anyone just randomly expected to handle the side effects of generics that switch to different generics that switch to different generics?

In my experience, even generic pills with the same name that are made from different manufacturers, seem to have significantly different side effects. Heck, that's what most of this piece of writing is about. What I haven't mentioned yet is that one of the worst seizures I ever experienced happened less than a year after I had started taking my pill. I had gone to my pharmacy to pick up a refill, the bottle of pills they gave me had the same pill name as usual, but the pills looked different. Since they had the same pill name and since the pharmacy gave them to me without expressing anything different than usual, I just figured the color and shape of the pill had changed.  But a few days into taking that pill, I was watching something on TV and suddenly started to see red flashing lights. My TV is near my screen door, near the back of my house, so at first I thought there was a cop car outside and I was seeing its red flashing lights from the screen door. Then I turned around and looked in the other direction and the red flashing lights were there too.  It didn't matter where I looked, it didn't matter whether I looked up or down, it didn't matter whether my eyes were opened or closed, the red strobe lights were everywhere, flashing all over the place, and I couldn't see the details of anything. I thought I was dying. I thought I was having another stroke. I could see my cell phone, but I couldn't see any of the letters or numbers on it. I started to panic and I started to scream, because I thought I was going to die because I couldn't see the fine print on my own cell phone because everything was infiltrated with red strobes. Then I just tried to press things on my phone, even though I couldn't see what I was pressing, and somehow I managed to connect with one of my sisters whose first name starts with an A.

It turned out I wasn't dying; I was just having a weird visual, pre-seizure side effect from a different manufacturer's version of my generic seizure pill that had just been  automatically handed to me without the pharmacist saying a word about anything even possibly being different.

I don't want to take this too much further, because even though I think I've expressed valid points, I also realize they're nothing new, at least not to most other people on pills - and also, I don't know what to do about it. But instead of just silently sucking shit up, I at least wanted to share some of my thoughts and feelings and attempt to excavate some frustration out of my system (versus THE system), so it doesn't stay stuck in some panic alert in my brain. 

For those of us who have a personal experience or semi-personal experience with prescribed pills that we're supposed to take on an ongoing basis for health reasons, whether mental health or otherwise (or for those of you who don't have such an experience at this point in your lives), one fact of the matter is that many of us who have been prescribed pills can only afford the randomly changing generics - and many  members of the pharmaceutical industry and medical industry don't seem to think that's any big deal (because it's a deal that's overridden by monetary deals and it's just part of the system). This seems to indicate that in the larger scale of things, poor people deserve to suffer and die before rich people - and poor people with health conditions and/or mental disorders beyond their own control deserve to deal with more generic side effects galore.

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