Friday, February 3, 2012

Better Living through Chemistry

I am chemically contrary.

That is a lesson I have had to learn as I have grown older.

If one lives long enough, there comes a time when doctors begin to loom on one's personal horizon, like Indians on the rim of the Little Big Horn, with scrips in hand for meds and treatments meant to keep us ticking and kicking—and paying—for years to come.

I am frankly amazed at the range of medications available to the patient of today.

You say your fingers tingle and grow numb sometimes, like when you are tightly gripping the steering wheel of a vehicle you are driving across a bridge stretched out across a vast body of water, and the slightest slip could send you careening toward oblivion?

There's a pill for that.

You want to lose weight?

There are a hundred pills for that. Try 'em all until you find the one that works!

You say you've got this pain that hits the inside of your right knee when the sky becomes overcast and the humidity rises?

Yup. Here. Pop it.

It's a wonderful world we live in nowadays, free of pain, discomfort—even free of the insights into the human condition that misery can reveal to us.

Unless, of course, you are, like me, chemically contrary.

Now, you must be asking yourself, "What the hell is he talking about?"

I am talking about the fact that my body does not always respond appropriately to medications I put inside of it.

Take side effects, for instance.

Ever since television-commercial spokespersons started rattling off the litanies of side effects to the panaceas they are peddling, I have begun to notice my own body's tendency to respond gleefully to one or more of these glitches.

Just recently, my doctor decided I was depressed. I thought I was pretty chipper, but he disagreed and prescribed an anti-depressant for me to take. Now, I've taken anti-depressants before, and they pretty much made me feel suicidal, so I figured I would monitor the effects of this new pill. Surprise! I've been taking them for over a month, and I am not yet, in fact, ready to call it a day, as it were. On the other hand, I don't feel any more vivacious than when I started, but my doctor sure thinks I'm great company.

So what is so contrary about my reaction to this little happy pill? According to the literature that accompanied my purchase of the drug, one little drawback to all this bliss might be a tendency toward ... diarrhea. And sure enough, within a couple of hours of swallowing the pill, I'm discharging waste like a well-oiled sewerage system.

However, since a previous side effect to my blood pressure medication had been constipation, I see no reason to complain about this new development.


Let's put aside the side effects for now and consider the actual intention of a drug (prescription, of course), and how my body might respond to it.

I've taken pills guaranteed to make me lose weight. And gained twenty pounds.

I've endured pain medications that have given me migraines.

I don't blame the pharmaceutical companies for these inconveniences. It's just me and my body.

Recently I stopped smoking.

I was all prepared to find myself eating like a 4-H hog up for the blue ribbon at next summer's county fair. I was not prepared to have everything I ate taste vile, so vile that I couldn't stand the smell of it and would wretch if I even caught the scent of good cooking in passing.

Nothing I ate would stay down—except sweets. I could handle pastries, ice cream, chocolate. I found myself loading up on those, which is not a good idea. I've even caught myself sneaking down to the kitchen in the dark hours before dawn, pouring myself a cup of sugar and spooning it down. I'm afraid I might be turning into a secret, double-life-leading sugar whore!

God! Don't let me end up dumpster-diving for donuts!

People tell me this state of affairs will pass in time. Until then, I make do. I accommodate.

Oh, I see it's six o'clock in the morning now. Time for a steaming cup of chocolate syrup—with a dollop of heavy cream on top!

Pardon me while I waddle downstairs to the kitchen.


  1. I look at my elders, and it seems to me that their health skidded off the rails as soon as they started down the medications for everything that ails route. never mind that logic says they started down that route BECAUSE their health was skidding off the rails. its a chicken and egg thing. but when they started having to take meds to counter the side effects of other meds, well, you know. and so i waddle around with all the weight on me and the hip screaming bloody murder and the knee twinges now and then, and i take my daily thyroxin and struggle with my demons, the ones that try to drag me down into the hold of depression sometimes and i refuse to get on the bandwagon for any more meds because i think i might be chemically contrary too. i'm holding off for as long as i can dammit. writing it out. waddling away.

  2. You're so right about our elders. I've noticed that, too.

    This post seems to have struck a nerve with my friends. What I'm hearing (here and at [shudder] Facebook and Google +) is that there are many, many more out there like me and you.

    Now that's a scary thought [bigger shudder].

  3. Chemically Contrary.  I like that.  It seems to describe me perfectly.  So you can imagine the fun I have had trying to find a workable cocktail in dealing with HIV.  Nightmare and trip through the looking glass, to say the least.  I had My Little Ponies under my desk at one point I was trippin' so hard...  And I can't take pain meds of any kind.  You give me a pain pill that hobbles most horses and I am swinging from the rafters like a Meth Head auditioning for the part of a research monkey in the Broadway production of Michael Alig's biography.

    Chemically Contrary, indeed.

    Is there a pill for that, too?

  4.  You know there _has_ to be a pill for our contrariness! I'll call my doctor and get back to you tomorrow ;-) Keep da fait', baby!


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