To medicate or not to medicate

Choices, choices

I’m doing my leg lifts a little differently this morning. I’m going slowly, and I’m not holding onto something for balance, unless I need it. I’ve been having balance problems, lately. Or rather, my usual balance problems have been more of a problem, lately. I’ve almost fallen a number of times in the past few months — while standing up from a table and having to catch myself before I hit my head on the table and/or a nearby chair and bookcase… while starting to walk down a flight of stairs… even while just standing.

So, after talking to the neurologist and my neuropsych and making an effort to notice when I’m dangerously off balance, I’ve realized this is actually an issue. And I need to get it checked out.

So, I’m going to get some autonomic system testing done. I know that it’s been an issue with me, lo these many years, and I need to collect some actual data about it, rather than relying solely on my own observation — which tends to be spotty, because of my Swiss-cheesey memory. If I don’t write things down, it’s like they never happened. And I can’t always take the time to write everything down.

It would just start to get a bit hypergraphic, methinks.

Anyway, over the weekend, I also took some Sumatripan (generic Imitrex), which did knock out the migraine I felt coming on. But it also left me feeling drugged and dopey. I felt “off” all weekend, like I had chemicals in my system. It wasn’t like I was looking for that. I will take meds when I have to. The thing was, I was definitely feeling “synthetic” for a few days. Monday I started to feel better, but Sunday it was like I was in a druggy fog.

I can’t remember if I took the migraine meds before or after I had my dizzy spell, but as it turns out, dizziness is one of the reported side-effects of Sumatriptan. And when I looked at the list of side-effects with my neuropsych yesterday, it turns out that it’s probably not a great idea for me to be taking it, due to possible effects on my autonomic system.

See, here’s the big issue I have with meds: They are dispensed from on high, and unless I have access to someone with an advanced database of indications and contraindications, as well as sensitivity to my situation and an understanding of how things might affect me, I’m pretty much a guinea pig for finding out what’s going to happen with me. And doctors (in my experience) routinely prescribe things that they don’t fully understand. They figure they’ll have me try it out and see — essentially turning me into a science experiment.

I’m extremely sensitive to medications, but nobody seems to take that seriously. Meds disrupt my attention and concentration with the feeling they often give me. Unless I am completely laid out by illness, such as bronchitis or some other major infection that I can’t fight off on my own, the cure can be worse than the illness it’s supposed to fix.

I need to figure things out up front as much as possible, not just find something that’s worked for other people, give it a whirl, and then have my life disrupted by exciting discoveries.

Not when I can take another route to dealing with things.

So, as for the autonomic testing, both the neuro and the neuropsych are thinking I could take a pill to deal with the situation. Please. Another medication? If there is any way on God’s good earth that I can find another way to strengthen the underlying structure of my system, and build myself up that way, I’ll do that. I mean, seriously. Say I do go on a med for my balance. Is that going to help me strengthen my body to maintain balance better? People often have falls — especially later in life — because their systems are weakened, they don’t have the muscular control to catch themselves, and their reactions are slowed. If I use a pill to fix my issues, then where is the incentive to strengthen the underlying “framework” that keeps me upright?

The direction I want to take with the autonomic testing is NOT pharmaceutical. It’s structural. I don’t want additional chemicals coursing through my veins, when I can offset the issues I have with strength and balance exercises, eating right, and getting adequate rest. I need to approach this systemically, not have an intervention which may actually weaken me.

It’s pretty irritating for my neuropsych and my neuro to be so pill-happy. I’ve been on this rehab quest for about 7 years now, and my neuropsych says they’ve never seen a recovery like mine. Okay, out of all their other patients, how many of them are on medication?  I’m not. I refuse to be — especially for things that I can address and strengthen myself — or compensate for (by strengthening other aspects of my neurology).

It’s frustrating and alienating for them to be so eager to prescribe meds. Maybe they just want a quick way to relieve suffering. That impulse is noble, but the pharma aspect of it doesn’t sit well with me.

Anyway, we’ll see. I know where I stand, and I can’t let them bring me down.

Headache, but it’s fine

This again…

I’m cutting back on my coffee. And on my fats. I’m building up my exercise — and doing a wider variety of things more times a day. Changing things up, so it doesn’t feel so stale.

I’m still getting there — these things take time. I’ve only been turning things around for about the past week, so it’s going to take a while for the changes to show up.

But they will. I’m sure of it.

Headache has been pretty steady for the past few days. I think it’s directly related to cutting back on coffee and also not sleeping very well. I’ve been stressed over work. So, that hasn’t helped, either. But it’s temporary. It will pass.

My insurance situation has been strange. I got my medical sorted out, then I went to pick up my prescription for Imitrex for migraines, and my pharmacy insurance wasn’t working. $235 for 15 pills. Yeah, no thanks. So I made some more calls yesterday, got bounced around a bit, and finally got a call in the afternoon that everything had been sorted out. I stopped by the pharmacy on the way home, and they told me that because the details of my prescription had changed, I was going to have to wait another 10 minutes for the pharmacist to sign off. I told them I’d just come back the next day, which I’m going to do later today.

All this is just one more reason why I’m not a big fan of meds. It can turn into a management issue, which just complicates my life and messes with my head. For folks who get a lot of benefit out of them, with life-threatening conditions and chronic conditions that make their lives miserable, I’m glad meds exist. For folks who aren’t in dire danger, though, it can seem like more trouble than it’s worth.

I’ve been through the try-this-medication-and-see-if-it-works adventure before — about 25 years ago, I had crippling joint pain and had a ton of diagnostics done, as well as some powerful medications. None of it actually rendered any real results, and I just turned my life upside-down for nothing. The doctors couldn’t get a clear picture of what was happening with me, and they couldn’t find something that worked. At all. Waste of time and money and a whole lot of hope.

Only when I took matters into my own hands and started moving and stretching — against doctors’ orders — did things start to clear up for me.

Ultimately, I believe what was really wrong, was that I was too sedentary, I was doing a lot of walking in leather-soled shoes on hard asphalt and cement sidewalks, and I wasn’t eating right. I changed those things, and my condition improved. Plus, I quit smoking.

Now I’m in a similar situation, where I’m in a fair amount of pain on a regular basis, and I need to make some changes. I’ve got some progress happening for one of my most important projects, which is exciting — almost beyond words — and I’m really very clear about what I’m NOT going to do with my time, as well as what I AM going to do with myself. I’m simplifying my life, and it’s good. The money situation is getting sorted out, and I’m making some dietary changes that I’ve been needing to make for a while.

Basically, I’m cutting down on the “healthy fats” that I’ve been eating on a regular basis for the past year. I discovered “bulletproof coffee” last April, and I’ve been drinking my own version of it ever since then. The only problem is, I’ve actually gained about 10 pounds, and my energy is not always what it could be. I have been steering clear of eating a lot of fruits, because of the sugar and the carbs.

But I think it’s time to change that up again and get back into eating fruit again — using it for energy, instead of that afternoon cup of coffee. Getting coffee out of my system isn’t easy, and I’ve got to taper off gradually. And cutting back on the fatty foods is also an interesting process. Fortunately, the sugars from the fruits offset the dullness.

Hopefully they’ll help me get past the headache. I did some research on Imitrex, and it’s pretty powerful stuff. Supposedly it’s a well-established medication from the Triptan family. Some folks swear by it, while others report some nasty side-effects, including dizziness, vertigo, and a heaviness/tightness in their jaw.

I don’t know how I feel about the side-effects. I have to try it myself to see how it goes, but having more stimuli to process is not the sort of thing I want for my system. I already have enough coming in on me all the time. And I’m going to add even more to it?

Hm. Well, we’ll see. I can try it out this weekend and see how it goes. But if it makes me feel strange, forget it. It’s all about cost-benefit, and if I have more stuff in my system, I don’t see how that’s such a great thing. I won’t know till I give it a shot.

In a way, I’m not sure if I really want it to work that great for me. If I end up depending on it to feel good, then I’m not independent and I’ll always have to keep some around, just in case. I can probably strike a balance with it, but even so, it’s one more thing I need to manage, and if my insurance ever doesn’t cover it — like my spouse’s insurance, which won’t cover their name-brand anti-seizure medicine to the tune of $300+ each month (they’re getting their doctor to put in a special request for coverage) — then I’m up the creek with fewer options. I’d rather have options that I can handle myself.

Or just put up with the headaches.

As long as they’re not hurting me. I’ve heard that long-term migraines can cause brain lesions. Great. Just great. But my MRI from 2009 looked great — and this after something like 40 years of migraines. So maybe I’m in the clear. Or these aren’t migraines.

Who the hell knows? All I know is, life is waiting, and it wants to be lived. I’ll figure something out.

Onward.