Monday, March 29, 2021

Gabapentin: Another Drug I'll Avoid

I realize I've never written about my experience with Gabapentin, a popularly prescribed drug, so here's what I wrote about it a couple of years ago:

My shingles saga began more than two months ago, and I feel as though it's not over yet. The blisters, which were on the back of my scalp, have been gone for some time. I was scrupulously careful about not scratching them because I'd read scarring could lead to permanent hair loss. But I've been losing hair the whole time, and it's still falling out. At some point I realized I was losing hair from both sides of my head--not just the right side where the blisters were. So I blame the drug gabapentin, which apparently can cause "long-lasting" hair loss. I still don't know what is meant by "long-lasting," but I plan to ask the neurologist.

I was prescribed gabapentin at a low dose (two 100mg capsules once a day) and I cut it in half early on. I was grateful for it at first, as it gave me relief from the unremitting nerve pain I'd experienced from my neck down into my arm, but it soon became obvious it was messing with my mood and memory. My brain is one thing I don't want to mess with! Many thanks to the friends who informed me of some of the downsides of gabapentin, including depression. I got off it after a few weeks, and waited for my memory to get back to normal and my hair to stop falling out. I'm still waiting.

But now I have another issue to deal with: weird tooth problems involving nerves that act up and settle down. I wondered . . . since gabapentin acts on nerves, could there be a connection? I Googled gabapentin teeth and found all sorts of complaints about the drug. People claimed it was responsible for their tooth decay and loss. Whether all the accounts are true I have no idea, but the possibility of a connection makes sense to me.

I ended up needing a root canal. I'd gone to the dentist because one of my teeth had become so sensitive. He tested the nerve, and the nerves in surrounding teeth, and they were all fine. The next day the tooth looked darker than the others. I went back to the dentist, and they found the nerve had died. I'm now pretty certain all those reports about tooth loss from gabapentin were true.

A pharmacist told me the dose I’d been prescribed was unusually low. She said many people take 300mg three times a day. With its history of causing depression, I wonder if gabapentin is partly responsibly for the huge number of prescriptions written to combat depression in this country.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

The State of Our Union

I always read in bed at night, and last week I started reading Lilac Girls, a debut novel about three women during WWII. It seemed clear, given the setting, that one or more of them would be in peril at some point, and I hoped the book wouldn't be too suspenseful. I don't handle suspense well.

Last night I was introduced to the third woman, a young medical student in Germany. The year is 1939. She has been taught (brainwashed) that Jews are bad people who want to corner the market on law and medical jobs, and she has a real aversion to them. Her father does not, but her mother does. Lists are posted in public places (there is a name for these lists) of Aryans who shop in stores owned by Jews, and those on the list are ostracized, and sometimes arrested. Meanwhile, Jews were being pulled out of their homes, and all their possessions were either looted by the SS or spread out on tables in the street and sold for cheap. 

There was such a horrible divide between the followers of the Fuhrer and those who had compassion for the Jews and felt the Fuhrer was a dangerous man. (The book, thus far, didn't even mention the others who were persecuted and killed, such as homosexuals and the disabled, which I believe happened before they turned on the Jews.) People had to be careful of what they said in public. Strangers sniped at one another in stores. Marriages and friendships were strained. The divide produced a pervasive atmosphere of suspicion, animosity and lurking violence. It reminded me of the situation building in the U.S., and I had to abandon the book permanently. It kept me awake for hours.

Friday, May 08, 2020

Staying Home vs. "Staying Home"

I like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, but I wish he had never mentioned the "shocking" 66% of people who contracted Covid-19 while staying home. The lunatic fringe has jumped on this, and now we have protesters carrying signs that read COVID IS A LIE.

What they don't seem to have thought through (do they think through anything?)  is that "staying home" doesn't necessarily mean staying safe. I'm pretty strict about my isolation because I don't dare get the virus, But  some people, while staying home from work, shop at Walmart and  Home Depot, and who knows where else. They don't bother to sanitize what they bring home from the stores, and they don't pay attention to their mail and UPS packages either.

And they have visitors. "It's only family," I've heard more than once online. They let their daughter in because she's their daughter--even though she goes to work every day or lives with someone who goes to work every day or gathers with her friends on weekends "because it's hard not to socialize when you're  young." Or their grandkids get dropped off at their house every morning because they've always watched them and they're just little kids. Or they invited the whole extended family over for Easter dinner because they always get together for Easter and they're not about to give that up because some stupid governor issued an order.

So I don't find the 66% shocking, and I wish the protesters would get off the street and back in their houses where they belong.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Home Sweet Home

I've been self-isolating since March 6, and up to now I've had it relatively easy as my son and his family (my only visible neighbors) have been isolating too, so we've been in the same isolation circle.My son has stopped in every day, and the boys (8 and 6) are in and out of my house. I get to see the baby (4 months) too. But now my son has been called back to the office once a week, and that changes everything. Because of my age (77 in a few weeks) I have to be extra cautious. So now my isolation really is isolated! Good thing I'm pretty good at solitary confinement. Also, being an only child means I'm never bored.

My rural county has 10 Covid cases, but an hour to the east--closer to NYC--another county has 236. Both counties are under a stay-at-home order. I have a good supply of food and other things, and we've picked up a couple of online Walmart orders when we got low on fresh produce and other perishables. Not everything is always available, but we're flexible.

I do worry, though, about the magnitude of the crisis and how it's going to play out. I've heard experts state firmly that we will have a resurgence in the fall. It's hard not to envision an endless loop. But as much as I've bad-mouthed pharmaceuticals, the companies are working hard on a vaccine (whether from altruism or the profit motive, it doesn't much matter), and the same goes for treatments.

And I'm grateful for technology! Imagine doing this in the years when I was growing up when my parents had one phone (squat and black) and one small TV. Or before that, with no phone and no TV. Like the 1918 Spanish Flu. Or the 1800's, when diphtheria ravaged communities. Be grateful for the internet, and stay safe, everyone!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Upside of Self-Isolating (Single Woman Version)

Let your hair air-dry! It doesn't matter now that part of it is wavy and part straight.

Eyebrows looking a little sparse? Who cares?

Hunt up your singleton socks and get some wear out of them. More fun if the colors clash!

Leggings getting a little baggy? Not a problem!

Yes, your hands feel like sandpaper from all this washing. But it's your secret.

You're saving wear and tear on your car.

And adding lots of steps (maybe) on your Fitbit.

Dried beans . . . rice . . . pasta . . . crackers . . . carbs without guilt!

And finally, you know those people you'd like to avoid? Now you can!

Friday, June 14, 2019

Adventures in Gravestone Photography

I've mentioned before that I volunteer as a gravestone photographer.  I received three photo requests this morning and decided today would be a good day to fill them. So I ventured out to a little cemetery I'd never seen before. It was next to a church, but the church hasn't been used in 10 years. I don't know how the parishioners accessed the church even then because there's nowhere to park--not by the church, nor anywhere else within reasonable walking distance. 

I was determined not to leave without taking pictures, so I turned into the closest road and pulled as far over as I could, and left my car there. I then set out on an uphill hike to the cemetery. I didn't realize right away how dangerous this was. The road isn't heavily traveled, but when a car or truck comes by, it's flying. With the road's hills and twists, visibility isn't always the best. And the shoulder, if we can call it that, was just a tangle of poison ivy and tall weeds--some as tall as my face.

I don't normally get a lot of exercise. (My daughter once gave me a mug that reads, "Typing fast is my cardio.") I have back issues, and I don't remember the last time I walked that far--and certainly not uphill! I had to stop twice to catch my breath and ease my burning calves. But I made it, and had photographed about 2/3 of the stones when my camera battery died. Oy. I'd left the spare battery in the car, along with the list of photo requests.

I haven't gone through all the pics yet, so I don't yet know if I actually fulfilled the requests. I do know I made it back down the hill without getting killed, and I also know there's no way I'm doing that particular adventure again. Maybe another volunteer photographer can arrive in a helicopter, although that does seem unlikely.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Maybe I Should Have Remained a Republican.

When I first registered to vote, my dad explained the process and said I could choose Republican or Conservative. I chose Conservative, thinking at the time I might learn something about politics and get involved. I couldn't have been more wrong, and at some point I switched my party affiliation to Republican, so I could at least vote in primaries.

This was the pre-Fox Republican party. This was a time when Democrats and Republicans could talk politics and remain friends . . . when Congress members on both sides of the aisle discussed issues, compromised, and voted with their hearts and brains rather than out of some misguided knee-jerk sense of party loyalty. A time when they attended the same functions and actually socialized together.

I married a Republican who never watched TV and got his news from The Wall Street Journal and NPR. Yes, NPR. To those who are surprised because you assume NPR leans left, Joe felt "All Things Considered" offered the best in-depth, balanced news reporting. I agree.

Over the years I voted more like an Independent. Contrary to what a Social Studies teacher taught my high school class, I voted for the person, not the party. I didn't vote for Clinton. I did vote for Obama. Twice. But I was still a registered Republican, and one reason was that I could have lots of fun wearing my "Republicans for Obama" button.

But when a lying, cheating, stealing egomaniac moved into the White House last year I couldn't take it anymore. I couldn't take him, I couldn't take his handlers, and I couldn't take the state of the Republican party. During the years when I hadn't been paying attention, many Republican members of Congress had turned into a bunch of self-serving suck-up lemmings. I wanted to distance myself from all of them, and all of it, as best I could, so I changed my party affiliation again and became a Democrat.

But now, when it's more important than ever to keep pressure on our elected officials, I have the feeling my new voting status will eliminate any possibility of a Republican Congressman taking my opinion seriously. I think they'll very likely say, "Oh. She's a Democrat. She's not going to vote for me anyway, so I don't care what she thinks." Or they'll think I'm stating the Democratic party line. Since they don't think for themselves, but parrot their party line, they probably think everyone else operates this way too.

Life was a great deal more pleasant when I never thought about politics and related issues. But once your eyes have been opened, it's hard to close them again.