In Which Ella Is Mysteriously Exhausted

This past spring, I was a champion sleeper thanks to some medication I had to take for around four months. I could sleep standing up in the shower, waiting for the bus, at my desk, at lunch, and in the car, not to mention sofas and my bed. I would walk around in a lethargic stupor, just waiting to crash. And the evenings were often a race against the clock to get things done before I passed out as early as eight.

Now, in the nature of illnesses, I got better and the need for the medication passed, but for the past few days, I’ve been acting almost as if I’m on it again. Saturday, I fell asleep at six thirty in the evening; I couldn’t even remain awake until the end of the Super Bowl yesterday; and tonight it’s only nine thirty, and my eyes are already drooping shut. It’s terribly frustrating, and I don’t why I’ve been doing it.

To put it simply, I do not like sleep. If it weren’t a medical necessity, I wouldn’t do it. Just think of those tantalizing nighttime hours when you could get all sorts of work done! I could write for more than ten hours a day, and still have time for a full day of teaching and chores. The possibilities are endless! But my sight is now going fuzzy at the edges and my mind feels sluggish, so I should probably abandon my fantasies of sleeplessness and curl up under the covers.


Ella and the Time a Boy Gave Her a Drawing of the Chemical Structure of BenzaClin

I thought that I might tell you a funny story tonight.

When I was sixteen, I was taking a lot of medication, and one of the requirements for it was for me to take a class about the side-effects, managing it, and related topics. And it went like any class like that would go. We all got sheets about what the medication was doing, complete with drawings of cells and extensive descriptions of the pharmokinetics. I, of course, was fascinated by by the hard science and kept asking questions about chemistry.

(At some point, I will tell the story of the time I accidentally kept over twenty people from eating dinner for close to half an hour because I was interrogating a geologist for a coal mining company about the adverse effects to the environment.)

We learned about all the things we couldn’t take with the medication, which included being told at least three times a session that under no circumstances were we to miss a dose or take birth control pills without informing every doctor and their second cousins. And at the beginning of each session, we were asked about what other medications we were taking, including things like the last time we took Motrin, and about how much alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, et cetera we consumed. On the first day I said something about how I don’t consume any of the three because I like clear cognitions and a body entirely devoid of anything mind-altering, which led to me being gently reminded by the amused nurse that if I really felt that way, I probably shouldn’t be sitting in a class teaching me about a medication that would be changing how my body worked, just like how acetaminophen works on a fever.

Most of the other people in the class were nice, but there was this one boy who was my age who seemed fixated on me. But it wasn’t a good type of fixation. He was very socially awkward, had the habit of–perhaps innocently–insulting people, and would do everything he could to sit as close to me as possible–something I stopped by waiting until everyone else was seated and then choosing a seat between two other people, thus forcing him to be at least one chair away.

One day during the class, I noticed that he was busily drawing instead of staring at me. Naturally, I was ecstatic. Being uncomfortably stared at non-stop for forty-five minutes on a weekly basis is not anyone’s idea of a good time. Then, after class, he very proudly presented me with his drawing. It was–and I kid you not–a drawing of the chemical structure of the acne medication I used occasionally at the time. He had gone home, looked up the chemical formula and the structure, and drawn a picture of it for me. It was an alarming incident to say the least, and most certainly did not have the romantic effect he had intended.

So boys, let this be a lesson to you: Never give a girl a drawing of the chemical formula of her acne medication unless she very specifically requests it.

And that, my fine feathered friends, is the story of one of the many weird things that happened with me and boys that year. Maybe tomorrow might be a good day for the story about the very creepy boy who once ate Purell and later tried to lock me in a supply closet with him. I’m never quite sure why I seem to attract the strange ones.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

In Which Ella Becomes a Literal Rocker

I’ve started rocking lately. I’ll be in class or alone, and then all of a sudden, I’m moving back and forth or in a slow circle. And while I do have a few ticks like compulsive leg wiggling, this one is new and strange. But perhaps the most frustrating thing about it is that I haven’t been able to come up with some sort of explainable pattern. I do it in class, I do it in the car, I do it while alone, and I even do it standing up. And in a weird way, the rocking is incredibly soothing. Unfortunately, it also makes me look like I’m insane, otherwise I’d be all for it.

The other bizarre sensory thing that’s been happening lately is this odd sense of floating. It happens the most often when I’m carrying my backpack, which is odd because that’s when I’m the most weighed down. I’ll lose sensation in my feet, I won’t be able to feel the weight of the bag, and a force will start to carry me forward. It’s the same force that has been making me rock. It’s long and royal blue with little flicks of yellow in its tail. It’s all airy and gaseous, just like the preset backgrounds on Macs.

Imagine that you’ve got a band of elastic wrapped around your chest. It’s about an inch wide, and it’s loose enough for someone to grab. Suddenly, it starts to gently pull you backwards. Then, some other force from behind pushes you forward, and you just move. Back and forth or floating. It’s like soft hands on your back, only this time there’s no uncomfortable pressure.

I have a lot of trouble with touching people if I’m not the one initiating it. Someone last year tried to slip their hand around my waist as a joke, and I screamed and somehow ended up on the floor with my arms in front of my face and my knees up to my chin. I will also fall to the ground if you come up behind me and touch my sides. (Of course, by mentioning this, I’ve pretty much guaranteed that someone at school will try to do this.) So in many ways this floating and rocking is scary.

I’m amazed at how these tiny pills can make my brain do so many strange things. And while I wish that this amazement was the positive type, I’m just plain freaked out by it. Letting something external intrinsically change who I am and how I feel is terrifying. I want to be in control. But until the day that I get the keys to this metaphorical car, I just need to learn how to relax and have faith.

On Boating, Mirrors, and Victory

Today was another day of feeling dizzy and off. The odd sensations of floating/boating haven’t ceased. I felt like I was paddling a canoe through first period. Second period, I floated around in an inner tube. Third, I spent in a row boat. By forth, I left for a very long sail for Nantucket with lots of breaks for dead man floats. I haven’t yet returned, and as of right now, it doesn’t appear that a return ticket was booked.

So by the time I got home, I was done. Really, really, really, really done. But rather than letting myself slid over into freak out mode, I decided to get creative. Whenever I get freaked out by side effects, I have a panic attack, and that panic attack is almost always the result of disassociation. To fix that I parked myself in front of the huge mirror on the wall at the foot of the stairs. I could sit on the stairs and see my whole body and behind me. That way I would know that it was me. I grabbed some yellow rice and chicken from the fridge, made popcorn, and poured myself some juice into this awesome cup that I made when I was five.


I have two observations about this mug. One: I clearly have excellent potential to become an artist and Two: I have never been good at accurately depicting my body.

Then, I turned on my iPod and just sat there and watched myself eat. I still felt like was the model of buoyancy and that I was gaining pounds by the mouthful, but I wasn’t panicking. I was just sitting there, eating food and waiting it all out. It’s the first time a long time that coping skills have been an hundred percent effective in the face of side effects. Maybe it was my Rainy Tuesday playlist or yellow rice that did it, but I’d like to think that it was me, that I did something entirely right for once, and that I can overcome my challenges all by myself.

Victories like that one twenty minutes ago are never as loud as my failures (Crying in English, crying at lunch, crying in French, etc.). Mostly, they go unrecognized. I write them off as flukes and tell no one or the people around me don’t notice. But I am going to tell you, whoever is reading this blog, about this one. I’m going to make sure that you know about it. And in doing that, I am going to make sure that I am not going to let it slip by the wayside either. I’ll build on what just happened today. I’ll force it to become a pattern. I’ll make it so that I never panic about side effects again. I will. Just watch me.

On a completely unrelated note, I have suddenly been forced into the position of hand-washing police in my house because people around here apparently haven’t passed pre-school health.

On Sad Ruminations

Today, I went to school for the second day in a row–something that I’m supposedly supposed to celebrate. (They call me a “writer” because of word choices like that.) As I sat in the Large Group Instruction room this morning, choosing my next elective (the history of the 2000s), I was met the overwhelming disappointment that my “celebrations of achievement” are all just living up to the norm. They’re nothing exemplary at all.

No one else gets high-fives for attending class or not crying. But I do, because I’m different. And that different hurts. It hurts so much. That different makes me feel entirely alone a lot of the time. It makes me awkward, unwieldy, scary. I’m not like the rest. I don’t fit in. People don’t know how to respond to me, and I don’t know how to respond to them.

I know that everyone is insecure, even the people that I idolize, but I am sure that this suspicion of awkwardness is well grounded in fact. I miss pop-culture references. It takes me minutes or days to figure out dirty jokes. “What’s the difference between deer nuts and beer nuts? One’s a dollar fifty, the other’s under a buck.” left me confused for about a week. (As it turns out the joke is not about deer poop, as I initially thought after two days’ reflection.) I tend to repeat things, ask abstract questions (Do you ever think that people would still like you if they could see inside of your brain? Do you ever think about how abstract the concept of money is? Isn’t our ability to communicate amazing?), or just have no idea how to talk to someone (Namely, boys. I really suck at talking to boys. They’re intimidating, and rarely seem to like me.).

So it’s nights like tonight that leave me thinking: Will I ever be independent? Will I ever leave home? Will I ever go to college? Will I ever be loved by someone else? Will I ever get married? Will I ever be able to have children? Will I ever be halfway normal?

Somedays, like today, I would do anything to be taken off of all of these brand new medications and to go back to January or December when I spent weeks in bed. Sure, I was horribly, horribly depressed, but I owned my brain. I didn’t forget where I was or wander around the hallway in circles for half an hour wondering where I was supposed to be or what I was doing. I didn’t feel like I was floating or that I was actually hovering above my own head, looking at the world with a bird’s eye view. I didn’t feel as I do now, as if I am caught on a boat, being gently pushed by waves, leg muscles constantly shifting to maintain balance. I’ve got a royal case of “sea-legs” which hasn’t halted for weeks, and it scares me. It really, really does. The knowledge that this is how the rest of my life will be is terrifying and makes me incredibly unhappy.

And as my thoughts spiral and I start to sob, I think about how my classmates don’t know how lucky they are. How incredibly, incredibly lucky. They are all leaving for college next year. They have beautiful, rosy futures. They have lives that don’t revolve around doctors’ visits. They’ve never spent time in a psych ward or months in outpatient clinics. I don’t think they know how much I am jealous of them and how very much I admire them. Those incredibly lucky and wonderful people are why I fought to go back to my high school and not to some therapeutic boarding school; they’re why I try to go to school every day; they’re why I love my classes so much; they’re why a lot of this pain is worth it. I’m going to miss them so much when they all leave. So, so much.

But despite all of this, I have my courage, and I have my hope. I must stop crying, and I must begin my work once more. I am determined to force the answers to my questions to become “yes.”

Ella the Oversized Lab Rat

I missed school today after having attended for nine straight days. Last night, I had another really bad, vivid dream from the Geodon that woke me up at four a.m., and by the time for getting up to go to school rolled around, I became convinced that if I got anywhere near the train tracks, I would be hit and killed. After a minor freak out, I went back to sleep. To continue this series of unfortunate events, I woke up in a panic at nine, thinking that I was about to drown in the ocean and that I was in trouble for not protecting a little kid well enough.

This morning wasn’t my finest moment.

However, I was able to climb out of bed and get a lot of work done. I finished my homework on Shakespeare’s sonnets (five pages!) and spent some more time outlining my thesis. Hopefully, “Kate Chopin: Feminist or Liberationist?” is going to be a work to rival the Iliad and Grapes of Wrath. At the very least, it’ll be as good as The Baby-Sitter’s Club: Kristy’s Great Idea (a book I’ve never read, but I feel that I can accurately assume it’s worth). I’ve already got a legal pad full of notes, a binder with around twenty marked-up critical essays, and six pages of pre-writing.

Sadly, things weren’t exactly looking up. I started a new medication called Oxcarbazepine/Trileptal on Friday, and it’s been making me feel funny. Funny in a I-really-don’t-feel-normal-or-like-myself sort of way. It’s not enjoyable and led to a near full-blown panic attack on Saturday. Thankfully, my Dad put on my favorite movie, Miracle, and I calmed down.

On days like today, I just feel like an oversized lab rat. Every time I go to the psychiatrist my medication changes, as we continue in our quest to find the perfect chemical cocktail. Let’s see how Ella’s liver metabolizes this! Let’s see how her brain reacts to that! We accidentally sedated her? Whoops!

During therapy, we worked on a plan for me to be “my own best advocate” and to “own my body” (which totally sounds like it belongs on a NOW campaign poster for women’s empowerment) when speaking to the psychiatrist about my adverse reactions. Unfortunately, I know that if I can’t tolerate this medication, then electric shock therapy is left uncomfortably close to the top of the list. And no matter how intimidated I am by diplomas from medical school and dislike this new medication, I’d take it any day over ECT.

In the car home, I tried to broach the subject with my mother. That discussion did not go well, and I was told, “You just need to be patient. It’ll improve.” I sat in the car and cried while she and Pippa went into the grocery store to pick up seltzer. I just want my head back. I want my thoughts to be solely mine. I want to know that when I look down at my body that I am the one controlling it.

It’s evening now, and I’m sitting on my bed, surrounded by cats, full of hope that things will improve. Because things have to. I refuse to believe that the world is a cruel place.

The Medication Adventures Continue

Yesterday, one of the medications I am on was doubled, and I was supposed to start taking it in the morning, as well as at night. It was working well just in the evening, so I guess the logic was: if it’s working well now, more will make it even better.

Unfortunately, I did what I so rarely do and forgot to take my medication in the morning. I had to call my mom from school and have her bring it to me, so I wouldn’t freak out. The last time I missed it, I ended up standing in the middle of a crowded hallway, feeling like the world was tipping back and forth, and I had trouble remembering which way to turn.

So I took the medication at around twelve thirty, and by the three thirty I was a mess. I was in therapy, and after half a session, I started to get unbelievably drowsy and was getting close to dozing off while sitting on the couch. My mom picked me up when it was over, and I immediately crawled into bed and took a three hour nap. I stayed up for about three and a half hours to do my homework and eat dinner before crawling back into bed nine thirty.

Not so good, right?

Today, I remembered to take my medication at seven twenty, as I was getting ready for school. The day was going pretty well. My creative writing elective was fun, my AP English class was really interesting as always, but at around ten, I fell asleep on my desk. Yes, you read that right, Ella really did do the unthinkable and slept in class.

I woke up at around ten forty, and after some freaking out at what had just happened, I headed on down to the Child Study Team office to inform my case manager of what was going on. I asked to go home, and he told me that I really ought to call my psychiatrist. At around eleven forty-five, my mom picked me up and I did a repeat performance of yesterday: I crawled into bed and slept for three hours until three this afternoon.

My mom has informed me that the psychiatrist is out of her office all day because of a family emergency and won’t get back to us until tomorrow. In the meantime, I’m rushing to get all of my homework done before I need to go back to sleep.

I’m thinking that it might be a good idea to skip tomorrow’s morning dose even without having heard from the doctor, if it’s making me this tired. I hear that it’s healthy and good for your grades to actually be awake in school. Plus, I’m getting my hair cut in the city tomorrow, and falling asleep in the chair would probably give me an uneven cut.

But here’s what I really want to know: Will the medication adventures ever end?

Weight Unhappiness

I’ve been having such problems with body image lately. This happens every time I start get to a stable weight or see a picture of me wearing a bathing suit. Now, I know that I am somewhere between 110 and 115–right were I need to be at five foot four–and on the lower end of that range, but those numbers still freak me out. Last year, at this time, I was down to 100 or maybe even less. And I also know that being at this weight is healthy and is supposed to make my medication work better. Supposedly, I’ll have fewer mood swings, I’ll be less obsessive, compulsive, anxious, and depressed. But while my head feels loads clearer, and I have been able to get a lot more homework done, I do not feel much happier. Not at all.