I’m glad my headache doctor opens at seven o’clock in the morning, because no one is awake to see me entering his office. I’m not ashamed to be seeing a neurologist, however he works in a large medical complex occupied mainly by another unrelated practice. That is the reason, and I swear the ONLY reason, I was entering a building Wednesday morning labeled, “St. Censored-For-My-Privacy’s Bariatric Weight Loss Center.” I feel paranoid visiting that complex, because I know if someone were to snap a photo of me entering the front door for the interwebs, I would be accused of being a big (skinny) fraud. I only have the most recent issue of Neurology Now with Morgan Fairchild on the cover that I stole from his office to prove where I really was.
I was at the doctor because all the IV treatments and medications we’ve tried lately haven’t done anything except make me poorer. I could have paid off my car by now with the money I’ve spent. So, we’re adjusting my medications again, which means I’m going off of Topamax. When I talked with my doctor about going on Topamax a month ago, it sounded worth a try.
“What are the possible side effects?” I asked him.
“Yadda, yadda, yadda, (stuff I don’t remember), and possible weight loss.”
“Sign me up!” I replied way faster than I should have.
I started taking the pills, slowly upping the dosage to the target level as recommended by the doctor, not really sure what to expect. I’ve never done drugs, never smoked pot, never even puffed a cigarette. My only forays into altered states of consciousness have been doctor approved pharmaceuticals. As the pills eventually took effect over the following weeks, I wasn’t as hungry in the evenings. I didn’t feel compelled to raid the cabinets for granola at 9 o’clock. It was like someone had turned off the crazy switch in my brain that I never realized I’d left on. Sadly, they weren’t doing anything for my headaches, but they were doing pretty well as diet pills.
And I totally hated them for it.
I didn’t want the pills to work like that because I DESPISE diet pills. I think they’re evil. When I decided to put ads on my site over a year ago, I decided not to place Google Adsense ads in the sidebar because they are context based. Google ads search the text of your page and target ads “relevant” to your content. Other health, fitness and weight-loss sites that have Google ads inevitably are sent ads for Hoodia, Phentermine, Alli and other products like that which I don’t believe in (as well as some other truly crazy ads for anorexia or bulmia). You can try to filter out ads like that with the Google tools, but the people I’ve talked to say they always get through anyway. I could make money if I put those ads on my site, but I don’t, because when it comes to this particular issue, I put my money where my mouth is. That is how much I hate diet pills. I don’t think you should take pills. I think you should eat well and exercise.
To complicate things further, although the Topamax was making it easier to eat less, it was also making me stupid. It’s nicknamed “Stupamax” and “Dopamax.” It made it harder to speak right, like someone had placed the English language on the top shelf where it was just out of my reach. I could still see it, but I had to stand on my tippy toes to grab words, and even then I was just knocking them over instead of grabbing them firmly. I just felt…dumb. I found myself unable to focus as well. It put a damper on my mood. The crazy switch was turned off, but the stupid switch was turned on.
So, I knew I had to go off of them. I don’t like to play with my brain chemistry unless necessary. And I hate being dumb. But I started thinking, “I might just go down to 25mg. That would be okay, right? I’ll cut the pills into quarters and they’ll last longer.” At which point I started to wonder if the crazy switch in my brain had really been turned off after all.
What I had really hoped was that the Topamax would cure my headaches, and then the appetite suppressant would be a convenient side effect. I could traipse around saying, “La, la, la! I take these pills for my HEADACHES. My headaches! Not because they make me thin. But wow, the thinness is nice, isn’t?” Not only would my life be pain-free again, it would be a little bit easier. I wouldn’t have to fight as hard – all the time. But instead it just made me dumber, a little thinner and more broke, because Topamax isn’t out in a cheaper generic form yet.
So, I’m going off of them and they will be out of my system just in time for my trip to San Francisco next week. That’s good timing, because I love eating when I travel. Vacation calories don’t count! The weird thing about the Topamax was I sort of missed being hungry. I missed eating too many ice cream sandwiches at 20 minutes until midnight and feeling pleasantly full. Food is one of life’s pleasures and I missed having my desire for it. Wanting food I know I shouldn’t have can be painful, but not wanting it at all is empty and lonely.
My experience with Tomapax has also slightly shifted my perspective on diet pills. Before, I viewed them as an all-out evil, equivalent to anthrax as a substance that should be eliminated from society. I still think diet pills are a stupid decision for the majority of people. They shouldn’t be used if you just want to drop 5 pounds for swimsuit season or some superficial crap like that. However, I’m now open to the idea of using them to treat people with serious compulsive eating problems. When I think of women who’ve written to me saying they can eat a gallon of ice cream with a box of Oreos and follow it with a bag of potato chips, I have to wonder if there is something wrong with their brain chemistry that allows them to do that. In those cases, taking a pill doesn’t sound like a bad idea. Now that I’ve experienced what it feels like to turn off the crazy switch, it makes me wonder if some of my own wiring isn’t a little off in that area.
However, I prefer being smart to being thin, so no more Stupamax for me. (But if it had cured my headache, I’d settle for some stupid. Who need brain? The dumb not so bad. Ouchies worse.)