Possible Side Effects

For fun or something, I decided to put the side effects lists from all my prescribed mediciations into one big fun list. Here it is: high blood pressure, chest pain, shortness of breath, bleeding, low blood sodium, low white blood cell count, diabetes, high cholesterol, low blood sugar, seizures, dizziness, headache, shakiness, confusion, hallucinations, strange dreams, trouble sleeping, nervousness, anxiety, tiredness, insomnia, eye problems, ringing in ears, dry mouth, nose or throat irritation, drooling, trouble swallowing, abdominal pain, upset stomach, vomiting, constipation, gas, loss of appetite, weight gain, excessive sweating, reduced sexual ability, tardive dyskinesia, serotonin syndrome, neuroleptic malignant syndrome, toxic epidermal necrolysis.

Socially Acceptable

Things I wish were less socially acceptable than they seem to be:

  • Driving around with an unsecured pile of lumber balanced on top of your van
  • Throwing a greasy wrapper on the ground in front of a seeing eye dog
  • Asking a stranger what their genitals look like
  • Killing someone with your car
  • Blowing cigarette smoke in someone’s face as they enter a building
  • Touching someone without their permission
  • Leaving a pile of trash in front of your house for several months at a time

Things I wish were more socially acceptable than they seem to be:

  • Requesting disability accommodations
  • Wearing a breathing mask
  • Stopping for a stop sign
  • Asking someone to stop touching you
  • Cleaning up litter from the ground
  • Declining a plastic bag

Family Resemblance

My first winter using public transportation, I found myself to be consistently unprepared for how much my nose ran when I was outside in the cold air. I was broke, so I would often grab some extra toilet paper for my nose when I used a public bathroom. Most of the tp I took was the standard institutional 2-ply that the U of M used. Then one day, I found that the alumni center on campus had way better toilet paper. It was some quilted stuff that was actually soft.

That evening, I felt compelled to tell my friends about my exciting discovery. I tried to explain how different the toilet papers were, but words can only do so much. Then I realized I had a few squares of each left in my coat pocket, so I passed those around for everyone to compare. While I was waiting for my samples to make their way around the group, I tried to describe the worst toilet paper I’d encountered in a public bathroom. It was narrow, thin, and slightly abrasive. And, as I was thrilled to discover, I had a sample of that with me too. I passed that around and had a giggle about my unusualness. I think most people don’t have toilet paper show and tell with their friends.

I talked to my mom on the phone a couple days later and told her about my strange Ande moment. She told me that while it surely was an unusual thing I had done, it was just another example of my uncanny resemblance to my grandmother, who had returned from a trip to Europe with a similar array of toilet paper samples many years before.

Turtle Crossing

In late spring of 2001, while I was driving my usual route home, I saw a turtle trying to cross the highway. I thought about stopping to help, but I didn’t really feel like making that effort. A few hours later, when I drove back in the other direction, I saw the remains of the turtle who had not made it across. It broke my heart, and I felt terrible for ignoring my impulse to help the poor thing.

A week or two after that, I saw another turtle crossing the highway on my way to the community college. This time, I pulled over and carried the turtle the rest of the way across. Feeling extremely satisfied, I decided to start leaving extra time for my morning drive to school, in case any other turtles needed saving. There was a lot of turtle traffic on that highway, so small rescue operations became a regular thing for me.

There wasn’t a ton of automobile traffic on that road, so I never had to wait long to cross safely. I liked it when people drove by while I was working. I know I was a sight to see. Back then, I wore black clothes and black makeup and assorted chains and spiked things. If camera phones and social media had existed, I could have become internet famous: “Goth teen consoles turtle while directing traffic.”

Most of my clients were painted turtles or red eared sliders. I would walk up to one, they’d impersonate a rock, and I’d move the one-pound “rock” to a safe location. One day, though, I saw a turtle in trouble that was at least ten times bigger than any of the others I’d helped, and this one had more threatening features. When I got closer, the turtle stretched out their neck toward me, opened their mouth, and let out a frantic but exhausted sounding hiss. I knew this wouldn’t be a simple “move the rock” rescue, so I launched into a motivational speech. I didn’t know what else to do with a snapping turtle.

I remember standing in the middle of the road, gesturing emphatically while attempting to verbally persuade my shelled friend to finish crossing while it was safe. Whenever a vehicle drove by, the turtle would hiss at it threatenly. Unlike the other turtles, the snapper stopped crossing and took on a defensive response. Most of the turtles crossed slowly but surely. I wondered how long this one had been standing in the middle of the road, trying to intimidate the vehicles rather than walk away from them.

I went to my car and frantically dug for something that could help. My combination snow brush and ice scraper was the longest thing I had, so I decided to go with that. I figured I could nudge the frightened critter toward the ditch without risking the loss of any of my digits. So I went behind the turtle and gave them an encouraging little poke. Instead of moving forward though, the turtle turned around and hissed at me.

I figured I might have more luck getting the turtle to come after me than trying to push them in front of me. I waved my ice scraper in their face. Instead of walking toward me, the turtle shot their neck out and bit down on the plastic end of my tool. This impressively aggressive gesture made me extra glad I had kept my hands at a safe distance. I pulled my ice scraper and dragged the turtle about a yard before they let go. After a few more pokes, the turtle was chasing me through the ditch. The internet would have loved that video too.

Jesus’ Pizza

There have been many times in my life that I’ve been punished for not hearing things. One example that really sticks out in my memory is from my early to mid teen years, when I went to a youth group meeting at my church. I arrived hungry, eager to eat the free food that had been promised. Bible study came first.

When the pizza arrived, everyone’s attention wavered. There was a little more preaching, then several people near me sprinted toward the food. I couldn’t hear what was said, but I went for the food too. I didn’t want to miss out. I was usually the last to know what was going on because of my hearing impairment.

Unfortunately, I had chosen the wrong group to follow. Apparently we had jumped the gun and disrespected everyone with our gesture of entitlement. The minister said another few sentences and something about, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” Everyone went for the pizza, so I did too. By the time I realized I was part of the group that was banished to the back of the line, everyone else was standing where they were supposed to. I followed the scowls of my peers to my proper place at the very end of the line. I didn’t get any pizza that day.

I think it was supposed to be some sort of lesson of about patience or humility or something, but what I learned was that Jesus didn’t want my disabled ass to have any pizza. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had spoken up about not having been able to hear, but that possibility didn’t occur to me at the time. I’m still trying to teach myself to stop treating my hearing impairment as a personal defect.

Hurdles to Hearing

I am hard of hearing. I’ve worn hearing aids since I was in grade school. My hearing aids allow me to pass as hearing in many situations. Talking on the phone is the hardest, so I generally avoid doing that. I am grateful for my hearing aids, as they increase my access to a variety of services, but wearing them too much of the time gets to be pretty painful. I have extra sensitive skin, and the friction and the poor ventilation make the outsides of my ears very sore sometimes. My right ear is fairly sore right now, but I can still get my hearing aid in  pretty easily. I call this a medium amount of soreness.

ear with sores around the canal

My hearing aid goes in like this, but I’m trying to give my right ear a break for now. It’s hard to heal with the earmold pressed against the sores. I always have some degree of skin irritation in my ears. It’s worse when I sweat more.

ear with an earmold that has a tube coming out of it

When my ears really need a break, they bleed or seep and then get scabs. If I still wear my hearing aids, I sometimes end up with a nasty infection. One time, I got such a bad skin infection that my outer ear started fold in on itself.

I choose to wear my hearing aids most of the time when I’m interacting with others. I guess I generally find the convenience to be worth the discomfort. Perhaps the greater influence here, though, is the social pressure to make sure I hear as much as I can. If I can do something to hear better, there is a cultural attitude that it’s my responsibility to do that, but I don’t think most people know what that means for me.

In addition to the pain of raw and cracked skin, there are some nuisance factors that get frustrating sometimes. I have trouble keeping the processor (the behind-the-ear part) in place because my ears are small. And I have to be careful not to get them wet, since they’re not waterproof. That means watching out for water fights and always carrying a waterproof case for emergencies. I also have to keep extra batteries on hand.

I’m supposed to get my hearing aids maintained every six months, but I usually get it done closer to once a year. They clean my hearing aids and replace the tubes. I used to always feel like my eardrums were burning for a couple hours after tube replacement, since the fumes from the adhesive didn’t agree with me. Now they air them out better before returning them to me, so it doesn’t burn anymore.

I tried to get my hearing aids maintained two days ago, but I had a problem with my health insurance. The number that I, as a consumer, can call for automated info said my insurance was active, but the source my providers use said it was inactive. So I had to call around to figure out the problem. Unfortunately, hearing over the phone is hardest when I’m overdue for maintenance.

Elysa called one number for me and waited on hold for about an hour to find out that we needed to call another number. She called that number and left a message. Two business days have passed and no one has called back. I’ve been glued to my phone the whole time, hoping for a call back when Elysa is here to help. We’re going to forego a proper night’s sleep tonight in hopes of getting some answers during early morning office hours tomorrow.

As with lots of medical treatments, hearing aids don’t provide the easy fix many people hope for. And now it’s taking more hearing ability than I have to keep my hearing aids maintained.