The Color of Meds

med7The elderly group inevitably turned to talk of “medications.” They chatted away comparing how well theirs did or didn’t work, what colors and shapes they came in, their costs and side effects … surely medications would never be at the top of my chat list. [Dum-da-dum-dum]

Myself newly retired, I visited my father vacationing in a quaint area off the Florida coast. He chose that area because several of his lifelong friends from our hometown retired there and they’d all get-together.

Our hometown was so small it was like the whole place had packed bags to retire in this life of leisure: The postmaster, the grocery store owner, Dad’s fishing & hunting buddies, the bus driver, and Small town with small and medium business. women I’d known as nurses, administrators, wives or coddling mothers of many old school friends.

I went to breakfast with them one morning and it was indeed an endearing perspective to see so many vaguely-familiar, aged faces from my rural Midwest past in such unfamiliar beach garb and setting. Knowing one another so well everyone gathered around a hugely long table chatting as I struggled to remember how I knew each of their mannerisms.

Table talk began as a bunch of wisecracks and good old-fashioned ribbing in remembering this or that. I was relatively “young” in the group and, to them, I’m sure, I was still the kid they watched grow up some fifty years earlier.

Forty is the old age of youth and fifty is the youth of old age. [Mark Twain]

As things settled down and as I’ve learned since, it was inevitable that this group of 70-somethings’ conversation would turn to health issues and “medications.” Everyone was on pills of some med4sort, chatting incessantly and never wavering from the subject about how well theirs did or didn’t work, how they compared to someone else’s, what colors and shapes they came in, their side effects, the horrors or accolades they’d heard about each, and how one or the other generally improved (or not) their lives.

With all of them talking so much about medication and, of course, all of their intimate health conditions, it was like jolting back in time when they used to coffee-klatch about that week’s church service, what was on at the theatre, the best buy at the store, or the sin of tenure and which teacher needed to be retired. It was humorously strange if not a sense of being personally intrusive to hear them make ‘medication’ their prominent hot topic.

I wondered if they had any idea how much ‘medication’ dominated their talk and how funny that sounded, silently asking myself if it were possible I’d find medication the mainstay of my life, too. Surely medication wouldn’t be at the top of my chat list.

Well, it turns out I did and it is. And, oh, by the way, when you do find yourself intimately acquainted with taking pills you fall into the less-novice abbreviation, “meds.” I dunno, there’s just something very hard core sounding about that, like it’s a street term for drugs or something. I guess, in effect, it is. And now I know why it is.

Soooo, here it is considerable years later and I have this med that’s throwing off blood labs (another one of those ‘street terms’). I needed to go off it for better lab readings, but med2the thing is, that medication was a critical one I’ve been on for several years. It manages manic-depression, so it’s the kind of med that’s important with a direct, delicate impact on brain chemistry.

One of the things this med helps with is allowing me to sleep a normal cycle. Otherwise I’d be up all night into the next day. If you’ve ever had the problem you know what a disorienting ‘trip’ of mumble-jumbled “where am I and what day is it” your self goes through.

I went off the med and was surprised at how well I thought I was doing. Then I found myself shorter than usual with the dog and the people with whom I interacted. I think when I’m off that medication I might actually scare if not infuriate some, because I can’t slow my mind enough to think through facts before I react to them. So I was thinking it might be a good idea to mention this to the doctor.

Then came nights when I could not go to bed or I’d go to bed and do nothing but wallow, toss and turn waiting for my mind to shut down, which never happened. I’d give up and get up and find something to kill the time then be dizzyingly disoriented all the next day and totally dysfunctional by that night. This was not working. I definitely needed to talk with my doctor.

The doctor put me on a replacement medication that, I suppose, is preferable today to what I was prescribed ten years ago. You have to go-on and off of these medications medgradually so it’s a bit of a process. When that med didn’t help me give up the ghost at night the doctor prescribed another to assist with the first. So now I’m on two drugs to replace one and that was Not what I had in mind.

Intermittently during the week I also take medications for a temporary ailment and those are the ones I’ve written about that make me feel so badly. So, in addition to the two replacement medications for the one I’d just gone off of, the doctor added another new med for nausea caused by the intermittent meds I’m already on.

Are you following me?

With so many medications to keep track of and myself, by now, experienced enough to know there can be undesirable effects from new meds, I held off starting the nausea pill until I could see how the other two newbies landed. A couple of days ago I’d j-u-s-t gotten to where the new medications were beginning to work for a normal, restful night again.

Yesterday morning, the first time in way too long of a time, I woke up basking in bed thinking how great it felt for a change to be snuggled and dozing in the brisk morning air. Of course, about the time that thought processed the phone rang. And, of course, the phone was in the living room. ‘Oh well,’ I told myself, there’s always tomorrow to bask in the luxury of a morning’s wake-up doze so I drug myself out of bed to answer the phone (no pun intended).

The doctor’s office called. I missed the call. Really?

med6Last night’s second decent sleep (almost) requires a little more delicate telling. The evening before I took my regular medications then I took the intermittent medications that make me feel so badly then I took two of three new ones. Oh, I was sleeping like a champ, feeling like I’d eventually returned to normal when … you guessed it, surprise!

Not having the wherewithal to change linens in the middle of the night I did what needed to be done then drug my pillow to the living room chair, dozing uncomfortably there until I could drag myself out of it this morning.

I cannot win for losing. I’m still waiting for that good, all-night sleep.

I don’t know which is worse, not being able to sleep or being so medicated to sleep that when sleep is interrupted I can barely stay awake to function. I do know what’s worse than either of those, though.


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