The medications are lined up on the window sill in our kitchen: anti-inflammatory pills for the bursitis in my shoulder, mood stabilizers, ADD medications and medication to reduce tics for the boys, antibiotics and Benedryl for the girl, three different blood pressure medications and Bayer for D, stomach and skin pills for the dog. That doesn’t include the stuff that lies all over the house: Aleve, Advil, Tylenol, Motrin, Children’s Tylenol and Children’s Motrin (chewable and liquid form), various cough syrups prescribed to me and the children over the past year, nighttime cold medicines, daytime cold medicines, children’s cold medicines (nighttime and daytime), a nose spray for D that doesn’t interfere with his prescribed medications, Prylosec, Pepcid, Mylanta, Tums, and the beloved bottle of leftover Vicodin that’s now down to the one pill. I’m saving that for a special night.
We are a medicated family – we believe in the power of modern medicine. Have an ache? Take a pill! Have a serious mental illness? Take a pill! Just enjoy the general idea of pill-popping? Take a pill!
We knew we had issues when M asked me in her little five-year-old voice, mispronouncing 'pills,' “Mama, when do I get to take the same pillows A and J take?”
“Oh honey, I’m sure when you hit third grade the bipolar will kick in and you’ll be just like everyone else in the house!”
“I can’t wait, Mama!”
“Me neither, honey!”
We grab hands and dance a jig, Sassy nipping at our ankles.
My mother was a medication fiend – for a while there she was a full-blown, live version of “Valley of the Dolls.” She had pills for everything, mostly imagined maladies. She went to several doctors, each of whom prescribed her a new medication or more medication for her latest problem. Big on the Valium. The worst experience (no, one of several drug-related incidents I recall) was when my sister and I found her laid out on her bed in just her underwear, relatively unconscious. She mumbled a few words, snored loudly, and had wet the bed. We called an ambulance. Lots of drama. My grandparents drove like mad folks to the emergency room. My father drove through horrible Los Angeles traffic from USC to Huntington Memorial. She was in a “coma.” The doctors…let me emphasize, the DOCTORS (twenty-thousand years of medical training under their belts) sat us down to inform us in the most solemn of tones that they did not know what was wrong with her, that they suspected a massive stroke.
My sister and broke out into muted laughter to the absolute horror of my grandparents (my father sort of tilted his head, nodded, in semi-agreement with us), “She hasn’t had a stroke…she’s overdosed on prescription pills and the finest tequila this side of the Rio Grande! What’s WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!”
The doctors got very uncomfortable at that point and ordered a slew of toxicology tests. And of course we were correct in our medical diagnosis. She landed in a 72-hour psych-hold where she convinced the doctors her family poisoned her and they let her go. Oh no, no evidence of psychosis there! Poor thing – I’m sorry really that no doctor ever got past her beauty and seductive ways to properly diagnose her: bipolar disorder I, the heavy duty BPD, the one where a person can move from grandiosity and euphoria to suicidal ideation all within mere hours. At the time they called it, manic-depressive disorder.
Today, whenever any of the three of us get a little loopy on alcohol or whatever other substance might be lying around, or whenever we allow ourselves to sink into dramatic misery, we say we are embracing our “inner Lila.” Lila was our mother’s nickname. To embrace that part of us is to love her, is to appreciate the part of her we thought we hated.
What do they say about looking in a mirror?
On Monday, M came down with an ear infection, swimmer’s ear actually from playing mermaid one too many times in the bathtub. After the appointment (where A, M, and I played a great game of charades – another post for another time), prescription for ear medication in hand, I thought I should go ahead and fill the boys’ prescriptions too while I was at it. I picked up a couple of candy bars for my private stash in my room (where I keep other drugs: Girl Scout Cookies, real Bubble Gum, Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, a symbolic amount of pot). When the pharmacist rang up all the goodies, when he put in the amounts of the co-pays (we have the best insurance this side of … Pomona), he handed me a bill of $114.00.
“One hundred and WHAT?!” The DH screamed through the cell phone (a free call, mobile-to-mobile – thank you Verizon!).
“She has an ear infection, honey.”
“You know we already owe the psychiatrist $650.”
“He’s off the plan.”
“He needs to be OFF the plan.”
When I get home, the battle of the homework begins, A’s homework the biggest problem of all. M wants to play on the computer but J is playing the drums (practicing his latest in punk rock beats – the louder, the better!). She screams at the top of her lungs to shut up (and I mean, SCREAM). A lays down on the bench at the table, claiming to have sleeping sickness. The dog has gotten into the trash. The DH arrives shortly thereafter and launches into a rousing version of, “Why the hell didn’t anyone empty the dishwasher for the next load that’s stinking up the sink?!” It’s a familiar tune and I shrug…
“I don’t know, honey. Want a beer?”
“I don’t drink, you know that.”
“Yeah, well, I do.”
I cut up a lemon, stick a wedge into the Corona, and sprinkle salt on the bottle’s rim. I pop a Pepcid because the alcohol in conjunction with the stress of the afternoon will trigger acid reflux that I’ve had since I was a kid. I wonder if I have esophageal cancer. If I have it, I’m doomed.
D takes his dosage of blood pressure pills and flips through the mail, then heads off to do laundry.
The boys drink soda and eat some chips in front of the T.V., abandoning the homework.
M gathers her makeup and purses and hair decorations to play hair salon.
The dog runs out the back door and begins digging a hole to China.
I plop myself at the computer, sip my beer, and blog. Look at retreats.
We’re all medicated.