“Side-Effects” 10.20.23

“I am going to run, and run, and run, and never stop.”-SJB at 2 years old

There are many solid reasons for treating psychiatric disorders with medication. Many people couple this approach with talk therapy. Accepting your need for assistance, you have options. When I was hospitalized, I decided to venture out and try my hand without medication. It led to months of confinement and suffering.

If you watch television, you may have witnessed advertisements about several different solutions. Toward the end of the commercials, the fine print is read very quietly, and quickly. These are the side-effects.

Years ago, I developed a rare side-effect titled ocular gyro crises. This is difficult to explain, so it persisted for quite a while before anyone knew what I was describing. I lost control of my eyes; the path in front of me was without view. My eyes traveled up; it was impossible to drag them down, despite my desperate attempts. This happened most often when I was running. I was captain of my high school cross country team, and when I tried to spell it out for my coach, he told me to drink more Gatorade.

Finally, I visited my psychiatrist. He recognized the symptoms but had never witnessed this phenomena. He referred me to a neurologist. This doctor confirmed my psychiatrist’s theory, but had not seen a case firsthand. The first neurologist referred me to another, who specialized in eye movement. He had only beheld nine cases in his whole career. I was prescribed medication to counteract the side-effects from another.

My most disappointing memory will haunt me forever. Cross country regional meet. I was sure to come in second place; it was expected. Pushing toward the final stretch, my eyes betrayed me and I couldn’t focus. It affected my speed and concentration. I finished third. It was my last race, and according to myself, I lost.

Understand that all medications have potential side-effects, but you must weigh the pros and cons. The medication that caused these side-effects also keeps me stable. Pay attention and make your own decisions based on your specific needs. Many side-effects will not occur; others are hard to live with, but sometimes the alternative is worse. Medication is not for everyone, but I learned the hard way that it is essential for my existence. With prescriptions and many years of therapy, I would say it is worth the risk. Psychiatric disorders must be treated delicately, with time and patience. This is a daunting task. I recommend research with or sans medication.

In my life, running was akin to breathing. Over time I suffered knee injuries and stress fractures, but the ocular gyro crises ultimately caused my final breath. Coach told us never to let up when we got to the top of a hill. We had the advantage because most everyone else rested atop the summit. He told us that we had not run hard enough if we finished without expending every single bit of our strength. Push. Kick. Finish hard. I am no quitter. My legs and my eyes may have stopped running, but I never will. This life is challenging. Side-effects are possible, but stability is within reach.

Keep running.