Much to the shock of my friends, I’ve often stated that my parents should not have had kids. I don’t say this to imply that they were bad parents. I say this because some gene pools probably should not be allowed to continue. Before the move towards electronic medical records, I started bringing a typed medical history with me whenever I saw a new doctor for the first time. I started doing this after getting tired of running out of room in the section labeled “Family History.” It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that if a condition has any sort of genetic tendencies, it can be found on at least one side of the family, if not both. Hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, mental illness, cancer… the list goes on. With the odds stacked against me like that, it’s no wonder that I find myself on a ridiculous amount of medication at only 36 years old.
At first it didn’t seem too bad: some prescription strength ibuprofen for frequent headaches, the occasional round of anti-depressants… then the ENT group got a hold of me. During a follow-up after having a severely deviated septum corrected, my surgeon commented on the size of my tonsils and asked me if I snored. The next thing I knew, I was attempting to fall asleep while connected to an array of colorful wires and sensors. The sleep study didn’t show any apnea (very fortunate for me, since those C-PAP masks aren’t especially flattering). What it should instead was that I move my limbs in my sleep. A lot. The condition is called Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD), and it’s a cousin of the better known Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). Most people with RLS will also have PLMD, but not the other way around. Because I come from one of those extra special gene pools, I have the RLS/PLMD combo. There are a number of possible medications available, but the more popular choices are the same medications used to treat Parkinson’s Disease. So, add one more medication to the list.
I should also explain that I have some long-term neck and back issues: bulging discs, degenerative disc disease, arthritis of the spine–you get the picture. I have always declined narcotics and pain medication stronger than ibuprofen for two reasons. First, I have a strong family history of drug and alcohol dependence. Second, I didn’t find that they really worked much better (and in fact, percocet gave me one of the worst cases of heartburn I ever experienced). After throwing out my back, my doctor wanted me to try a muscle relaxer… you can see where this is going. Now let’s add in the ADD med, the allergy meds, and the reflux med (I don’t think I have the willpower to give up spicy food). The end result is that I find myself in that viscous cycle where the meds start to have their own side effects that require more meds to treat… meds that will help me sleep, meds that will make my brain able to function at work, meds to ease depression, meds that will allow me to keep my cats without resorting to taking a power drill to my sinuses. And try remembering to take them all when they’re supposed to be taken, especially with ADD brain!
It is in this context that I finally sought the help of a psychiatrist, after three years off of antidepressants. While I’m thrilled to finally start feeling less like the zombie I had become, I am reminded of how much it thoroughly and completely sucks to try to find the right medication regimen. I already have the disadvantage of being very sensitive to mood issues from medications. Those muscle relaxers I mentioned earlier? First one I tried caused severe depression, second one made me feel like a zombie for two days after I took it. I was lucky that the third time was the charm. I once had a psychiatrist make the mistake of prescribing me klonopin for what she saw as anxiety. That one was a particular favorite, which made me want to slit wrists.
I realize that I reached a point where medication is necessary (whether it’s ultimately an antidepressant, mood stabilizer or both). I realize that I need to just suck it up and do whatever it takes to feel better. It doesn’t mean that I have to like it, and in this case, I really don’t like it.