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The Parabola

I am the .1 percent that makes the parabola possible. I am that weirdo.

My doctor saw my blood pressure rising precipitously over a couple of months this fall and decided to put me on a blood pressure medication. I was too tired to argue. I’d hoped to avoid new medication trials, and new doctors, until the end of graduate school, but clearly the emergency lights were flashing, so I took the medication and a referral to a cardiologist.

At first I just felt dizzy and even more tired than usual and kind of nauseous, but my blood pressure was going down (I had to check it at home twice a day). I went to the cardiologist for a work up anyway, like the good obedient girl I am, and suffered through lots of tests, and history taking, and quizzical looks about my long term lack of a diagnosis for such a crazy list of odd and debilitating symptoms. Each test and appointment was physically exhausting, and then the cardiologist decided that I would need to see another pulmonologist, and another rheumatologist, and consider changing this or that medication that could be the culprit for my rising blood pressure (high dose NSAIDs in particular can raise blood pressure and I’ve been on one for years now).


“I’m exhausted just thinking about it.”

I wish I could act like Cricket does at her doctor visits, and bite and scratch and hide under tables, but it doesn’t go over as well with the doctors for humans. So I accepted the needles and the stickers and the probes and the treadmills, with all of the inherent humiliation of being treated like a science experiment, and I smiled and kept my mouth shut so I could get out as quickly as possible, limping down the hallway after one more person told me I seemed fine.


“No one can make me go to the doctor!”

And then, one morning, my lips were swollen to three times their normal size. They were itching and hurting and I thought there must be a secret hive of bees under my pillow, but no, it was an allergic reaction to the blood pressure medication. It’s a well-known reaction, though not well known to me, because doctors think that if they warn me about possible side effects I will decide to have all of them. The doctor took me off the medication and said we’d wait for the reaction to wear off before trying something else, with no advice on how to make the swelling go down, or a time frame for how long this would be going on. I sat in front of the TV with ice on my lips for hours so that I could be moderately presentable for a few hours at my internship, and then I came home and watched my lips blow up again. I took Benadryl at night, and daytime allergy meds during the day, but the swelling kept rising and falling unpredictably.

A week after the original allergic reaction, my lips blew up even bigger than before. We called the pharmacy and they said to go to an urgent care center and get an epi pen, to which I said Nooooooooooo, mostly because I didn’t want to have to get dressed and deal with people. We called the doctor, and he said to take Benadryl four times a day, which meant that I would be mostly unconscious until the allergic reaction wore out. So I did that. It took another week for my lips to resemble their previous selves, though they are still not quite back to normal. For quite a while there, I’m pretty sure people assumed I was getting collagen shots.

No one believes me when I tell them that I tend to have all of the side effects and few of the positive effects of medication, and have a habit of getting paradoxical responses to medication (biological medication meant to resolve psoriasis led to the skin flaying off of my fingers, seriously). No one believes me when I tell them that I am the patient that makes the bell curve possible. But I am that person.

Cricket paid no attention to any of it. She is immune to changes in how I look. She only notices when I change my clothes, because that’s what’s important to her. Pajamas are good, work clothes are evil, sneakers and jeans could be either/or.


“Mommy can’t go anywhere without this.”

I have doctors’ appointments scheduled for the foreseeable future, and most likely more medication trials, and more exhaustion, and more people who think I’m being melodramatic until they realize that I’m just bizarre. None of this is normal. I’m not supposed to be exhausted and in pain all the time. I’m not supposed to have all kinds of weird auto immune reactions and connective tissue disorders. I’m not supposed to need so much pain medication that it leads to even more health problems that bring on even more medications. People my age are supposed to work full-time, raise children, and have social lives, not work their asses off just to make it through part time hours, with no energy left to do the food shopping.

Cricket thinks the problem is that I don’t spend enough time scratching her, and walking her, and if I devoted myself solely to those activities at least one of us would be happy.


“When I’m happy, everyone is happy.”

I feel like I’m holding the parabola in place single handed lately, and there’s no Olympic medal for that. For every one who is safely in the middle of the parabola, with normal reactions to medications, and diseases that can be accurately diagnosed, you’re welcome.

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

143 responses »

  1. Yipes. As someone who takes zero medications, I cannot fathom your distress. I’m thinking Cricket may have the right therapy plan after all.

  2. My mom was like that too. She was the .1 percent that would get a reaction to medication or pretty much anything. The doctors never believed her either.

  3. Hugs!!

  4. I’m so sorry. Hope things get better soon.

  5. Oh my! You have a sensitivity to medications. i don’t think all doctors are used to that or prepare their patients for this. Feel better soon!

  6. Ugh, I feel your pain. I’m sorry you have to experience this, but you’re not alone. Have you even been to an acupuncturist/Chinese herbalist? I’ve experienced some relief of some symptoms, in varying degrees. I won’t lie – the herbs are no fun, and the needles aren’t fantastic, but neither are the MD’s drug/treatment regimens. Acupuncturists approach health and treatment in a different way. Using acupuncture and some MD treatment and meds together, I manage to make it through most days still standing. I’d tell you to feel better, but I’m sure you get enough of that. Instead, I’ll share my hypothesis – mysterious chronic illnesses only affect those who would otherwise have the strength, energy, intelligence, determination (and everything else good) needed to conquer the world. Nature was just trying to level the playing field and got carried away. This occasionally makes me feel better. Doggie cuddles help, too!

  7. “I wish I could act like Cricket does at her doctor visits, and bite and scratch and hide under tables.” 😁 If only people doctors were as patient and devoted to listening. Hopefully time spent scratching Cricket will make both of you feel better. Wishing you a speedy return to the land of fewer medications.

  8. All sounds very worrying

  9. Oh how I completely understand. I have a toy poodle. Thier are days when I am aching. Days when my back hurts and I don’t have the energy or stamina to go for a walk with him. Yes most dogs don’t know what going on with you and how you feel. They want to play, run and have fun but your energy, and the way you are feeling doesn’t allow for it. This is a great article.

  10. I understand how you feel. I had a reaction to a skin antibiotic that my doctor said was, “The 2nd worse reaction he ever saw in 20 years of practice.” “My luck,” I thought. I had lupus symptoms (which were marked in the pamphlet as a possible side effect – I never read the ‘side effects’ paragraph) with no tests that confirmed a lupus diagnosis. So nothing could be done except to treat the symptoms. That’s when a good friend of mine told me about Dr Fuhrman. I bought the ‘Eat to Live’ book and was so thankful to have been told about the Nutritarian lifestyle. I couldn’t make every meal as was suggested because I honestly think one would need a personal chef to be able to do that, so I made a couple of the recipes on the weekend and followed what I could. It helped! One by one my symptoms went away. He has a book for Heart Disease called, ‘The End of Heart Disease.’ It has meal plans to follow that are great for healing, not just covering up a symptom, which is what medications do (Although there is definitely a place and time for meds too) If you decide to look into this, let me know and I can help to answer any questions from my personal experience. And although many doctors are unaware of how powerful changes in the food we eat can provide health and healing, be sure to let your doctors know about this. The recipes provide high nutrients which heal the illness. The Quick and Easy Cookbook really is great for fast meals (no personal chef needed ; ) It takes time to change the tastes we are accustomed to, but it is worth the change to heal and have our energy and health back (in my opinion)
    Dogs are so sweet and great to have around! Having them around helps to make the worse of our days better. Sending healing prayers to you!

  11. Beautifully written and poignant. Hope you get over these medical issues quickly!

  12. Horrendous what you are going through. I am so sorry. Cricket is right; she would be happy if you could forget everything else and spend more time with her! Seriously, may Jesus do a miracle in your life and heal you…because medical professionals are not doing you any favors. God bless you.

  13. Do hope you feel better soon, and stop having these reactions to medication. A lot of medication seems to be horrific – having trouble with my husband’s meds at present, made him really ill, so we can appreciate what you are going through. Wishing you all the best. x

  14. Oh my. My son tends to have paradoxical reactions as well, and, at 14, he’s already become dubious about medications! Honestly, Cricket has the right idea, but since one must live out in the world, I hope your situation improves soon.

  15. That is a terrible story and I am so sorry you are going through an allergic reaction on top of everything. You need to snap and bite more often. Take care of yourself and know that your readers are concerned about you.

  16. Cricket is so cute! I hope you health improves.

  17. I do hope you get this sorted. Kemo Sabe has low blood pressure in the family and it can make you feel awful! Pip and the boys

  18. My heart goes out to you. I, also, am prone to medication side effects. That makes two of us holding up the parabola. To add insult to injury, I suffer from chronic hives (an autoimmune disorder). So I know firsthand how miserable hives can be. Glad to hear you’re back on an even keel.

  19. Hope you are doing alright. I count my blessings every day with no medications. Cricket and my cat Sid have the best of everything that they feel fine, can eat, sleep and have plenty of loving with no worries that humans have.


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