Friday, June 22, 2012

Warning: Reactions to this column may include fear of ever opening another bottle

As I age, I must admit that my reliance on medications has grown as well. It used to be I was living footloose and fancy-free, periodically taking a Tylenol for a headache.

Today, however, I have a few meds I take for things like … you know … breathing, walking and calcium depletion (which I didn’t even know was a thing until I started shrinking). Oy vey!

See? I’m already talking like an old woman.

So I broke down and bought a plastic organizer for my medication drawer. Yes, I have a drawer dedicated to medication. In days gone by I used to have a drawer for all my Barbie doll clothes, and in college I had a drawer for all of my pens and highlighters. But nowhere in the brochure of my life did I see a medication drawer advertised, so you can imagine my surprise.

Let me be clear: I am not at the point where I’m going to enlist the multi-colored, days-of-the-week pillboxes, making my transformation into my mother complete, but I’m one antihistamine away from going there.

So when my doctor suggests yet another medication, everything in me wants to say, “Sorry, my pill organizer is full. You’ll have to get on the waiting list.”

Besides, have you seen those commercials for medications on TV? The side effects are enough to make me cancel cable.

You see, one of the curses of being a “creative type” is that when I hear a list of side effects, I actually start to HAVE the side effects. It’s gotten to the point where my husband has taken the side-effect information sheet from my hands and shredded it before my eyes. At one point, I even started thinking I was experiencing prostate issues, signaling that I had nearly rounded the bend.

It’s crazy, really: A commercial comes on with a beautiful older woman riding her bike in slow motion. Cue the soft piano music. A narrator starts to talk about how her medication has halted her osteoporosis. Lovely, right?

Then that same soothing voice launches into, “Side effects may include insomnia, nausea, weakness, yawning…”

And I start talking to the narrator, “I’m wondering why you’d be yawning if you can’t fall asleep, but whatever.”

“…anxiety, nervousness, tremors…”

“You’re doing a pretty good job of making me feel all three of those with this list, honey.”

“…flushing, constipation, abnormal dreams…”

“You mean, in addition to the nightmare you’re painting for me right now?”

“…hearing voices of narrators in your head, gremlins, talking back to the narrators in your head…”

See “creative type” above...

Yes, I understand that for legal reasons, the FDA requires pharmaceuticals to trot all of these side effects out to us, the unsuspecting buyers, but there are some things I’d rather not know.

I did discover that the mass marketing of pharmaceuticals to users is banned in over 30 industrialized nations, except the United States and New Zealand, where we are all certain our hearts will explode after taking an aspirin, thank you very much.

Or maybe that’s just me.

I say ban away. And until then I am content with the fact that I will continue to shrink in stature. After all, the alternatives are too terrifying to even contemplate.

Eileen Burmeister lives, works and continues to lose vertical inches in Winchester, Ore. She can be reached at or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

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