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Dr. Strangedrugs, Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying Because I Forgot What I Was Worried About (Part One)

It shouldn’t have surprised me that I went blind while I was driving.

I've told a few people this story, and a couple of times people have responded by saying Emily,* surely you're exaggerating, there's no way you actually went blind while driving.  Come on.  Don't be so dramatic.  To which I respond Thank you for the observation, Dr. Person's Last Name, is our hour up and who do I make the check out to? Except I didn't actually respond that way and instead took a sip of whatever I was drinking (Diet Coke) and cleared my throat and changed the subject by saying something like So tell me about your collection of beads again or Did you read that article in The Chronicle, which, by the way, is a good way to tell if I'm desperate. Anyway. I'm providing this photograph of how things looked at the time for reference, just in case you were about to use my real first name and naysay.* If people use my last name, I can always tell that they're either about to scold me unnecessarily or that they are my mother and are about to scold me necessarily.**** You know sh*t is real when I footnote a caption and then footnote a footnote.

I’ve told a few people this story, and a couple of times people have responded by saying Emily,* surely you’re exaggerating, there’s no way you actually went blind while driving. Come on. Don’t be so dramatic. To which I responded Thank you for the observation, Dr. Person’s Last Name, is our hour up and who do I make the check out to? Except I didn’t actually respond that way and instead took a sip of whatever I was drinking (Diet Coke) and cleared my throat and changed the subject by saying something like So tell me about your collection of beads again or Did you read that article in The Chronicle, which, by the way, is a good way to tell if I’m desperate. Anyway. I’m providing this photograph of how things looked at the time for reference, just in case you were about to use my real first name and naysay.
* If people use my last name, I can always tell that they’re either about to scold me unnecessarily or that they are my mother and are about to scold me necessarily.**
** You know sh*t is real when I footnote a caption and then footnote a footnote.

Given the string of bizarre health problems I’d been dealing with, the going blind part wasn’t a surprise at all, just the “while driving” part.  Though really it shouldn’t have been — given my luck, of course I would go blind, and of course it would happen while I was operating a motor vehicle – with my parents  inside of it — on a busy street in downtown Lexington.  One minute I was putting on my blinker to change lanes while telling my parents what kind of sandwiches the restaurant we were headed to served; the next minute, I was in the other lane, blinking furiously and trying to figure out why I couldn’t exactly see the other lane, while my parents tried to remember if my mom liked a certain kind of cheese.

I decided that things would go best if I pretended it hadn’t happened, or at least remained very, very calm.  This wasn’t the first sudden and bizarre medical anomaly I’d faced, and I’d found that in situations like going blind while driving one’s parents to a sandwich shop, a steady calm was a much better approach than sheer unadulterated panic (with or without attendant screaming).  I knew what to do when these sudden bizarre betrayals of the body – like, for instance, when my legs stopped working while I was trying to use them to walk up the stairs with a cup of coffee from Starbucks, for Christ’s sake, which is expensive, or when I woke up standing in the middle of my bathroom wearing a hat with a light bulb in my hand while my cat sat on the sink and blinked at me — but what I didn’t know then was why these things kept happening.

For years, I’d been dealing with an increasingly disobedient right leg.  At first, it just hurt and cramped up and fell asleep a lot.  Then “a lot” became “all damn night.”  Then “all damn night” became “all the damn time.”  Then “just hurt and cramped up and fell asleep a lot” became “felt as though I was wading in molten hot lava and seized up like it was its actual job and then refused to feel like anything, including, say, me running into the corner of a desk or in one awkward inexplicable instance a salad fork.”

It probably goes without saying that the point where one runs into the corner of a desk and doesn’t feel it is also the point when one thinks to one’s self Hm, perhaps I should go see a doctor about this.  Which I thought, and then I did.  And then my doctor was like Hey, you know, there’s this drug called Neurontin and even though it’s not technically for sciatica or whatever is going on with your leg, it will totally help because it helps ALL THE THINGS, and that’s SCIENCE, and I was like Say no more, SOLD, and dutifully filled my prescription and dutifully started up the steep road that climbed towards what they called “an optimally effective dose of Neurontin.”

And I dutifully stayed on that road even when it led me to sleepwalk in my plaid nightshirt and faux fur coat, even when I began to forget things like the fact that I needed to purchase milk and then to keep the milk I finally remembered to purchase in the refrigerator and not in my cabinets, and even when my leg actually got worse instead of better, as in oh my God WAY worse, as in holy crap there is no way I will ever be able to traverse the treacherous ice-covered sloped and cracked surfaces of this godforsaken ice-covered sloped and cracked campus without a cane way worse.

I was a good patient, and my doctors were good doctors, and I trusted them.  Since I trusted them, I trusted the pills that they gave me.  I trusted them when they told me that the problem wasn’t that I was taking too much of the medicine, but not enough.  I trusted them when they told me that the only solution was to up my dosage.  I trusted them when they said that they’d read the research, because they had, and it was research and research is supposed to be totally legit, so why shouldn’t we all have been so trusting?

Now, I and we all know why: the research was at worst faked, at least skewed.  Not only did Neurontin not work for unapproved uses, it actually did some really damaging things to people who took it for unapproved uses, like making them pass out and sleepwalk in nightshirts and faux fur coats and go blind while driving their parents to sandwich shops.

This is a photograph of the restaurant I was in at the time I went blind.  No, really.  This is it.  I'm adding it for the sake of verisimilitude and also to appease you because I'm about to end this on a major cliffhanger, so I'll now say sorry and you're welcome.

This is a photograph of the restaurant I was in at the time I went blind. No, really. This is it. I’m adding it for the sake of verisimilitude and also to appease you because I’m about to end this on a major cliffhanger, so I’ll now say sorry and you’re welcome.

Now, it’s pretty easy for me – well, and pretty much everyone with the Internet, since articles like this one are all over, or a television set, since like

every law firm in existence has a commercial about another Neurontin lawsuit — to read over the whole going-blind-while-driving story with a feeling of doom.  It’s kind of like watching a horror movie, only I’m the dumb teenage girl on spring break in a dark house on the beach who’s just heard a knock and is stupid enough to see who’s at the door.  Only it isn’t a person with a ski mask and a knife at the door, it’s a little yellow pill called Neurontin.  Though it’s just as scary, and makes me want to scream No, you idiot, never answer the door and NEVER TAKE THE LITTLE YELLOW PILL, especially for an unapproved use!

But I didn’t know any of that then.  All I knew was that I needed to somehow deliver my parents, myself, and my vehicle safely to our destination, and therefore I needed to remain calm.  I said to my father, Huh, I am not seeing well, because everyone knows that not using contractions means that you are calm, and he said What do you mean and I said Well, I cannot really see anything, again because obviously if you don’t abbreviate your verbs, you are fine.  Then my dad asked if I needed him to drive and I said no, which is, by the way, not the right answer to that particular question in that particular circumstance.

Somehow, miraculously, we made our way safely through downtown Lexington and some particularly perilous intersections and to the sandwich shop, where I said I am going to fix my contacts in the bathroom, because I’d apparently decided that maybe after fifteen years of wearing them every day they’d suddenly stopped working and made me blind.  I took out my contacts and put them back in again and then decided to try taking them out and putting them in the opposite eyes, just in case, before I figured out there wasn’t anything wrong with my contacts.  I was just blind, randomly and suddenly, now with my contacts in the wrong eyes, and the worst part was that it was really busy and I had no idea what to order and couldn’t see the menu, because I was blind and all, and everyone was getting angry.

And then the bongos appeared.

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