I like to Google the drugs I’m on sometimes, just for fun, like normal people Google their names. That’s how I stumbled upon the fact that Lamictal can cause acne. Suddenly a light bulb went on over my head (one of the new compact fluorescent light bulbs because I like my metaphors to be environmentally friendly), and I realized this was the reason my face had been breaking out for the past year.
It is important to know that my skin and my hair are the two features I have consistently gotten compliments on throughout my life. I’ve always had good skin, which is why I never really understood what my college roommate was going through all those months before she got an Accutane prescription. Now I know, and I want to send an apology through a time portal back to 1998 for my lack of empathy. So sorry, K! Now I understand why you went through a drug approval process more harrowing than an FBI background check.
I tried different skin solutions on my face to battle the zits, but nothing seemed to work that well. And I honestly wasn’t that dedicated to a skin regimine since I was rather put out that I had to deal with this at all. I mean, this was also the year that I finally got enough white hairs that I decided to get a color glaze done at the salon, and I’m also getting pimples? Seriously, universe?
Coincidentally, at the same time I was Googling Lamictal my doctor wanted to try a new medication for my headaches. However, since I was already on two meds, he wanted to taper me off one of those since he didn’t want me taking three meds at once. I didn’t want to be taking three meds at once either, since I’d prefer just to take the ones that are working. So I was like, “Let’s get rid of that bastard Lamictal! Sure, I remember feeling better after I started it, but it’s totally making me ugly, so I will choose to believe the other med I am on is the better one.”
Oh. My. God. I was wrong. Oh, so, very wrong.
Like practically every headache drug there is, Lamictal is prescribed off-label for headaches. That means it didn’t go through the FDA approved clinical trials process to prove that it’s good for headaches. It was approved for something else, in this case epilepsy and bi-polar disorder. Yes, the meds I am on are also prescribed to the mentally interesting. Doctors can prescribe those drugs for other things, but drug companies cannot advertise the drug for use against headaches. Another off-label usage of Lamictal is to treat depression.
See where I’m going here?
I have felt sort of crappy the last month or two, which I attributed to my headache or not exercising enough or that time I ate half a cake or the stress from work. Whatever. We always have something going wrong in our lives to blame exhaustion on, don’t we? Recently it got to the point where I felt like I was walking through water to go anywhere. Just replying to my emails seemed like a mammoth accomplishment for the day, even though I could never manage to respond to all of them. It was a slow fall down to the bottom, which is why I probably didn’t notice it until I was staring vaguely into nothingness on my couch. At which point I was like, “I think I should go back on the Lamictal even if he gives me seventy whiteheads.”
So, I did, and I feel so much better! It’s kind of frightening actually, since it makes me aware of how much my personality and mood is controlled by chemicals. Just chemicals. It makes me think that people who have quick tempers could be made calmer just by tweaking those chemicals. Or people who are so annoyingly happy and energetic all the time just have different chemicals than me. I have chemical envy. I certainly believe that we have free will in regards to how we behave and react to things, but I also think the chemical interactions happening in our brains influence the decisions we make way more than free-thinking people would like to believe. I have a transgender friend who said she stopped thinking about sex ALL THE TIME to only part of the time once she went on estrogen. Which is not to say that women don’t have libidos, but that men are dealing with a different balance of hormones and that doesn’t go without effects.
Now I also empathize more with people who go off their meds. It never made sense to me why someone would go off a drug that was helping them. But now I have dreamed that bleary-eyed dream that you might not have to live with acne or insomnia or whatever odd side effects your meds are giving you. It’s odd how easy it is for forget how crappy you felt before you started taking your meds. I had honestly forgotten how bad the badness was. I forgot how horrible the headache was that first year or two. Maybe I wanted to forget. Maybe it’s a survival mechanism. That’s one of the odd things about pain, you can never truly remember how bad the pain was until you’re feeling it again.
I’m back on Lamictal, but I still have a headache. Ironically, like a lot of the off-label headache meds one of the possible side effects of Lamictal is headache, which just makes me laugh and laugh. (Not really. I mostly just manage an exasperated look.) I do now feel like my life is manageable, and I might be capable of blogging about my trip to New York and DC like I’ve been meaning to for over a month. And I can finally get back to all those clients whose work I fell behind on because I was depressed. It’s a tricky situation that, because I don’t want to whine about my health to my clients. I just want to get the work done on time, and sometimes I can’t, because that’s just what life with chronic illness is like.
Good times! So, me and Lamictal are here to stay. We should have a little dedication ceremony in the pharmacy section of Walgreens. I’ll wear a white dress made from pharmacy bags. You and me to the grave, sweetie! And if you could stop giving me pimples, I would love you just a little bit more.