Tag Archives: medication side effects

Stuff: My Head Was Getting Full

Greg Allman died. That made me cry. I’ve been a fan for most of my adult life (translation: since Mark and I have been together as adults because he’s a HUGE fan) and that’s part of why I cried. I knew how it would affect Mark. And Matthew. Matt sent Mark a note on FB saying, “This isn’t real, is it?” Of course, it was.

The Day The Music Died played in my head – when Sweet Melissa and I’m No Angel weren’t. The music didn’t really die. Just the musician. Taken down by the same insidiousness that took many others. Others with names like Joplin, Morrison, Hendrix, Cobain, Cornell, Jennings.


What do I hate about addiction? Is it that it’s selfish? That it is a form of entitlement that doesn’t just destroy the one addicted but entire families, communities even? Yes. Of course. I hate that it disguises itself as pleasure and peace. I hate that I love that pleasure and peace.

Am I an addict?

Probably not but maybe so. I have the genetic predilection certainly, on both sides. I remember being at an Al Anon meeting once and voicing my frustration.

“Isn’t there someplace I can go where this shit doesn’t exist?”

To a person, those in the meeting with me either shook their heads or simply said no. Take away the alcohol, the drugs and what is left to be addicted to? Food, sex, work, shopping, money. Obviously it’s not the substance at fault. It’s the behavior patterns. And we all have them.

Am I an addict?

I have been, yes. I have displayed addictive behavior driven by everything from hormones to the lack of them. All the kids at home to the kids all moving away. Euphoria to depression. Not enough work to too much work. Not enough choice to everything laid out before me like a banquet. No ice-cream in the house to an actual banquet.

My latest dilemma is stress at work and sleepless nights, both of which, of course, feed on each other. In my first half-century I could count the nights I was unable to sleep on one hand. This does not include infant/child induced lack of sleep. Those were a given and had nothing to do with not being physically and psychologically able to let go of wakefulness. No, the latter is something that was saved for me until I was lulled into a false hey, this getting older thing might be okay, state of mind. Kids are grown, hot flashes are easing, I see freedom calling up ahead sort of thoughts were roaming playfully in my brain.

Then the next section in the manual opened itself up to me and revealed that those hormones I used to have do more than just all those other things I thought they did. They also helped me to sleep.

Apparently they’re gone just like said slumber.

I, literally, lay awake all night long.

It happened once. And again. Then again. And more regularly. I started taking half a Benadryl at night get to sleep but it didn’t always work, so I’d take a whole one. Sleep was deep and as long as I took it fairly early I could drink enough coffee in the morning to wake up for the day. Which became a problem in itself because I really don’t have a large coffee capacity. One or two cups are the maximum and it always took a third to shake the antihistamine blues, which, in turn made me shaky and a little dizzy. Then the antihistamine stopped working and I became pretty frantic. I cut down on coffee, upped my water intake and spent a couple of days and nights trying to get my shit together so I could sleep when I was supposed to sleep and be awake, you know, when I was driving and working and stuff. I went to my doctor who offered me Ambien or something like it. Non-habit forming, of course. Such an ironic, bullshit claim. Perhaps the drug itself is non-addictive but if you, like – everybody – are a fan of sleeping, the drug becomes your habit. There’s no way around that. Also, there are some pretty severe side effects with Ambien.  My two favorite, upon reflection are hallucinations and sleeplessness.

I’ll just let you mull that one over.

I took a pass.

My doctor was okay with the half dose of antihistamine but concerned that I took it within an hour of having a night-cap consisting of a shot (and probably a half) of tequila. I told her my liver wasn’t completely happy with me either, but the tequila helped me fall asleep and the antihistamine kept me asleep all night.

That’s important – the all night thing. Some of my worst times have been when I wake up from a sound (sober) sleep in a full on panic because – for no reason at all. Anxiety is in full swing with no warning and no solution and by the time I’ve reached a state of I’m actually not going to die horribly at this very moment I’m wide awake and pissed. And still anxious as I go over every single thing that is/could be/was yesterday/might be tomorrow – wrong in my life, Mark’s life and the lives of my children, grandchild, mother and brother. I have, at times, scooted over to cuddle with Mark but that wakes him up because he knows, even in his deepest slumber, that I do not like to be touched in my sleep. We have lines of demarcation in our bed that may not be breached once I’m in lala land. When the kids were little it was this way because one or more of them were there nightly and there was barely room to breathe. Then it was hot flashes. If I cuddle up to my poor hubby, he knows somethin’ aint right and will wake up ready to take on the world in a way only certified morning people are able to do but it’s the middle of the night so we’re both screwed.

……….Or so I told my doc.

She said, again, that perhaps the Ambien would be a better choice. I said, again, no thank-you.

I have an aversion to relying on medication. I mean, if I had to take something because I was diabetic or had epilepsy it would be different – and I have taken meds for PTSD (long story there……well, really not so long, but for another time) and depression. There was a start date and an end date in sight with both, so I wasn’t quite as concerned. I became addicted to nose spray once. Started taking it when I had a cold and didn’t get off it for two years. The thing about nose spray with a decongestant/antihistamine is that, besides making one look sexy and attractive when shoving it in one nostril then the other and taking a deep huff each time, it makes your nasal passages more open than they would ever be naturally. When you try to stop taking it cold turkey you don’t just get a stuffy nose. Your nasal passages slam shut like there’s actual gold in there to be protected and you can’t breathe through your nose, nor can you swallow because you can’t breathe through your nose. Try it. Plug your nose and try to swallow.

My father was addicted to nose spray. He became ill and was in the hospital where an idiot doctor overdosed him (that one is a long story) with a medication his body basically had a bad reaction to. He was in a state of unconsciousness for such a period of time that we truly thought he would not make it. During that time he could, of course, not take his nose spray. We watched as he struggled to breathe. His suffering was incredibly difficult to witness and inspired the aversion I spoke of earlier.  After Dad recovered I went to my doctor for help in ridding myself of the nose spray. She said, simply, to use it in one side or the other as often as I needed until the side that wasn’t getting any assistance unplugged, then stop using it on the other side. She said it could take about three weeks. I was off it in less than two and felt so free and, well, stupid for not figuring this out much, much sooner.

Now, to get back on medication and have to depend on it for something that should come as naturally as sleep? No. I couldn’t see it. Still, if I was honest with myself, it was six of one and half dozen of the other in the drugs vs. alcohol category.

Am I an addict?

Probably. But I’m an extremely particular one, if so.

I stopped taking the antihistamine a few weeks ago. The long term effects started to rear their ugly heads. Moodiness, increased day-time anxiety, depression – they came on fast and were difficult to control. I cut out sugar at night, back on coffee in the morning, cranked up my water intake and am gradually settling into a more restful pattern leading up to bed time. Basically I’m a three-year-old again. Who gets a jigger of tequila and a Coronita nightly if she wants.

I’m not giving up all my fun.

I sleep better, for the most part. Electronics are banished to drawers and other rooms. TV is off and the temperature is cool. I’m dreaming again which means I’m not taking myself to an oblivious place and when I wake up it’s just slow and cranky like it’s been from the time I was a child. Not groggy and “why did I take the stupid antihistamine again,” the way it had been for a few months.

Am I an addict? I have addictive tendencies – just like most people, I suppose. I’m on guard, though. I mean, everybody has to die from something but I won’t go because I drank/smoked/shot up/snorted my internal organs to death. That hurts like hell. That hurts everybody like hell and it’s hard to get over. Some people tend to obsess, even.

Can one be addicted to making sure they’re not addicted?

These and other insane questions will be covered on the next edition of “Shit I write down so my head won’t explode.”

<Insert eye roll here>


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Filed under Daily Life

The Annals of Duh: Medications can produce side effects?

To be included in the annals of Duh:

When you go on a prescription medicine, read the ten page listing of side effects and pay attention lest some of them actually happen.

Over the past year, year and a half, Number One Son has gained a substantial amount of weight – at least 25 pounds.  He’s also been testier than hell.  This happened gradually and, though noticeable, not so much so that we questioned the changes.  Around Christmas, however, Mark and I had a chat with him regarding his burgeoning Santa belly.  Needless to say, though we tried to frame it in a, ha ha, this is funny isn’t it, kind of way, the discussion did not go over well.

I told you.  He was grouchy as ass.

We had to ask questions about the amounts of food he might be ingesting while not at home or possibly hoarding and consuming late at night, because Aspies have a tendency to run on the Obsessive/Compulsive side of life and impulse control can be a problem.  We talked about the dangers of belly rotundity – especially for him because of the prevalence of diabetes on his paternal (biological) side of the family.  There were suggestions made about ways to incorporate more exercise into Bran’s day.  He rides his bike everywhere for transportation, but, at that point, it didn’t seem to be making much of a difference.  We discussed cutting down on sugary/caffeinated drinks and how to incorporate more water and healthful (but tasty) foods into his daily routine.

It wasn’t the worst time I’ve ever had.

I’d rank it up there with having that impacted wisdom tooth removed that time – except they gave me good drugs.  I didn’t even get a beer this time.

You just don’t know stubborn unless you’ve dealt with someone with Asperger’s.

Have you ever seen one of those old westerns where someone is trying to get a mule off its ass by pulling on the reins and harness, but no matter how hard they pull the mule does – not – move?

With an Aspie it’s like pulling on 20 of those mules at the same time…with one hand…..that’s broken……….and in a cast.

By the time we were done talking with Brandon that day, I was sweating, had a headache and wanted nothing more than to take a couple Advil and hit the sack, but it was 9:00 a.m.

Mark just stared off into space and shook his head for so long I thought he’d developed a twitch.

In spite of his initial resistance, Bran made significant efforts to change his habits.  Even he was becoming alarmed by his waistline and the extra chin he’d sprouted.  We monitored the sodas and sweets and he tried to make sure he ate meals instead of potato chip and jelly sandwiches at midnight.  He started walking the familial dog twice a week, continued to ride his bike and even upped the daily mileage.

It made very little difference.

In February, Bran’s new neurologist wanted to switch Bran’s seizure meds, (seizures can be another byproduct of Asperger’s).  He went from Divalproax (generic form of Depakote) to Keppra.  When we asked why, the doctor said that Divalproax can cause hair loss, weight gain and diabetes.


Yes, you’d think a bell would have gone off in my head – and it did – it was just the wrong one.  I heard diabetes and had a little panic attack, thinking of the previously spoken of family history.  The hair loss thing didn’t worry me at all.  Bran could donate hair monthly and still have a full head.  I had already decided from whence the weight gain came and it didn’t dawn on me to put it down to a little tiny pill Bran took a couple of times a day.

The transition to Keppra was done over a period of about 5 weeks and it went smoothly.  I noticed that Bran was slimming down and congratulated him on his restraint.  He shrugged.

“Not really doing anything different than what you and Dad drilled into my head at Christmas,” he said.

Well, glad I could be of service, son………

A couple of weeks ago, I walked by Bran as he was hiking up his pants.

“Stupid things won’t stay up anymore,” he said.

Hey……..  Now that he mentioned it, the jeans were hanging on his hips in a bit of a gangsta way.  Bran does not do low slung.  Back when son #2 was wearing his jeans around his knees, held up only by his boxers and the Grace of God, I begged Brandon to take about half a page from his brother’s book.

“Just let your pants sit on your hip bones,” I said.  “That’s why God created them, so your jeans would have a place to rest.”

“It’s not comfortable,” he said.

“Well tell me how it’s comfortable having your pants cinched up under your arm pits.”

They weren’t, of course, up under his arm pits, but they were too high to be fashionable.  It’s an argument Bran and I have been having since he was old enough to put his clothes on himself.  When his sisters were old enough, they started arguing with him too.

“Come on Bran,” they’d beg.  “Just wear what we tell you, how we tell you.  You’re tall and skinny and stuff looks great on you.  Then you hike it up.  You look like Steve Erkel.”

Nothing we said ever convinced him to go all male model.  I stood there looking at him this latest time and thought, crap, all I ever had to do was buy his pants a size too big.  Then it hit me.

“You’ve lost a lot of weight,” I said.

“Yeah,” Bran said.  “Just like the doctor said.”

“He told you you’d lose weight?”

“He thought I looked bloated and that the Divalproax was probably the reason.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“He told you.”


“When he told me.”


(Other bell)

Divalproax can cause weight gain!  Ohhhhhhhhhhhh!

Yes!  Yes it can!

I was so excited to talk to Mark about my scientific discovery.

“Well, yeah,” he said, when I reported my findings.  “He told me about that.”




“When the doctor switched him and I asked why.”

“Was I there?”

“Uh, yeah.”


“He’s easier to get along with too,” Mark went on.


“Our son.” He gave me a look.  “Haven’t you noticed.”

“Well yeah, but I kind of put that down to the volunteer job and getting out of the house and walking Lily.”

“I’m sure that helps,” Mark said.  “But Bran has been really, really cooperative and – and nice.

He was right.  Bran had been funny, pleasant – lighthearted even, of late.  His AH moments (to give a clue, AH does not stand for, “ah ha.”  Think about it) had been much fewer and way further between.  It was almost creepy, how nice he’d been.

“Did the doctor say this would happen,” I asked – like I hadn’t been the one at the appointment.  It wasn’t as if I’d remembered much to this point.

“No, but I looked it up on line.”

Of course he did.

“Turns out the stuff Bran was on before can cause moodiness, mood swings and just generally disagreeable behavior.”

This I should have known.

Years ago, when daughter #2 was about 10, she was having migraine headaches.  The pediatrician started her on Depakote.  About three days in, she went from sweet little girl to mini-bitch from hell’s bad side of town.  In a panic, I stopped giving the meds (which I never should have done cold turkey), and within a couple of days she was back to normal.

I just never made the connection between that and the way Brandon behaved.

But I might have – had I what?

That’s right.  Read the list of possible side effects enclosed with the Divalproax.

That piece of paper is not just a bag stuffer.  It’s an important piece of medical information that we, as consumers, patients, parents and advocates need to take seriously.


Filed under Asperger's Syndrome, Daily Life