Monday, January 3, 2011

The Detestable Keppra

In which our Lady takes medicines. 

When I was a child, I once met an old man who had suffered from a seizure some years before.  One side of his face looked normal, while the other resembled melted cheese, or even one of Salvador Dali’s famous melted clocks.  (The Dali reference is appropriate since his melting clocks are usually located in desert wastelands and represent psychological distortion and pain).  As a child, I was both fascinated and horrified by this poor man’s face.  I cannot express how glad I am to not have his problem.  I wonder if I would be subject to this visual malady if I had more seizures, or if they were bigger, etc…  I should be grateful for the medicine that protects me from such a malformity.  Instead, I often find myself detesting this saving grace of mine. 
My ‘saving grace’ has a cute little feminine sounding name: Keppra.  The name Keppra is misleading.  It sounds like some sort of foreign woman’s name, or at the very least something out of science fiction.  Or, there’s the possibility of an allergy drug.  The reality is that Keppra is the anti-convulsant medicine that I take twice a day, morning and night.  While Keppra keeps me safe from excess brain spasms, it also tends to make me sleepy.  I had an allergic reaction to the first anti-convulsant I tried, so Keppra is my new best friend, possibly for years to come. 
I hate it.  It makes me lethargic just when I should be functioning at peak performance.  I take it in the morning between 10 and 11.  15 minutes after swallowing one gigantic white pill, I begin feeling the effects.  By 45 minutes, almost anything can convince me to lie down.  If I haven’t managed to get some couch time by about hour four, I am almost useless as a human being.
On New Years Eve, it occurred to me that many, or even most people don’t know what it’s like to take strong medicine.  I know I didn’t understand before.  A good friend of mine mentioned the information I’d talked about in my blog post Brooding About My Brood, where I discuss the fact that I can no longer choose to have children while on this prescription.  When I answered her, I mentioned the fact that Keppra makes me lethargic and seems to almost shut down my brain—and regularly too.  At this point, you must understand that my friend is one of the most intelligent people I know.  Her eyes grew large and round while a look of sheer horror flitted across her face before she could hide it.  She’s right.  It is terrible to sit in front of a computer and know that what you are writing falls short of your goal, simply because your brain just can’t think it through.  It used to be that when I hit this barrier, I could force it aside by concentrating harder or being more determined.  I don’t have that crucial amount of energy needed to make okay work into something great—not tonight anyway. 
It was even worse when I first began taking Keppra.  My body wasn’t used to it yet.  But I was on a lot of other drugs back then, and surgery had just happened, so I didn’t understand what Keppra was doing to me.  In all probability, the urge to take more naps was good for me.  Now that I am healing so well, it is becoming evident how much of a hold Keppra has on me.  I’ve now come to the conclusion that I would be acting at 100% without it.  (The mere danger of having an epileptic fit the only drawback.)  It’s like a vice grip on my brain, squeezing all extraneous activity to a halt.  Every now and then I’ll forget to take the medicine in the morning.  These hours are few and precious to me.  My activity level is unparalleled.  At these times I feel like the way I was before surgery, even several years ago before the extreme fatigue hit me that seemed at the time to coincide with pregnancy.   
I’m beginning to get used to the near-constant swim through molasses, the times when I go somewhere and simply sit as if in a fog because it’s the best I can do at the moment.  It is most difficult in the late morning—usually my golden time during the day.  At night, I simply give up and go to bed soon after I take it. 


  1. Ugh. I am so sorry. I can barely manage my life even without stupor-inducing medication. Too bad it's so necessary that you take it regularly. Ugh, again.

  2. Perhaps we can pray away the need for Keppra? We miss you all! I wish I could be there to help when the exhaustion sets in for you.

  3. Tara, any chance to get a call? Had brain surgery a year ago (actually exact day) and am using Keppra. Wish I could get rid of it, but know I can't.....