Life run by medication

How lesions on my brain led to a life of medication

Anxiety? Take a pill. Nausea? Take a pill.

A pill gets thrown at me for every feeling I have throughout the day.

Gabapentin, Venlafaxine, Xanax, Ondansetron.

It’s a never-ending cycle of taking pills and waiting for my body to feel “normal.”

It is a constant struggle to feel confident with my body, muster the energy to go out on weekends and maintain my high GPA. I work hard to battle through the pain. I try to live a normal life; I go to school full-time, I have a part-time job, a boyfriend and friends.

But I am in a never-ending battle with myself to stay awake and happy because the medications take such a toll.

Uh oh, tired and unhappy? Take another pill.

I was born with lesions on my brain that cause me to have terrible migraines. When I was 12, I landed on my head in a gymnastics meet and the lesions starting acting up. I was flooded with doctors’ appointments, cat scans and MRIs.

I am now a regular at my doctor’s office. I am on a first-name basis with the receptionists, nurses and doctor. They memorized my height and weight and know my blood pressure runs a little on the high side, especially when I come in with an iced coffee.

They know I love country concerts and my puppies and they know I get upset when I talk about my depression.

From 12 to 18 years old, I was put on a new medication every three months to see what would work with my body. These six years consisted of vomiting, crying and working through the pain to try and live a normal teenage life. As a young girl, I carried around pill cases to make sure I would always have medicine when I felt a headache or anxiety attack come on.

During these stressful years I continued to play the sports that made me happy. I was a competitive gymnast and cheerleader and didn’t let my migraines get in the way of my athletic dreams. Most of the people around me didn’t even know about my migraines or that I was on multiple medications because I didn’t want that to change how teachers, coaches and friends looked at me.

When I turned 18, I was finally old enough to try more complex medications. I started getting series of botox shots every three months to create a barrier between my muscles and skull, so I wouldn’t feel as much pain. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. And when it doesn’t, I get depressed.

I take a pill.

I was also introduced to infusions at 18. When I get a migraine so bad even the medications cannot numb the pain, I get an I.V. of various medicines that make my head all better. I’ve gotten to know even more nurses. They know that I like the I.V. in my hand instead of my arm.

People don’t realize the pain and struggle I go through on a daily basis to feel OK. I get asked “what’s wrong?” “why are you in a bad mood?” “why are you never happy?” But I am happy. That’s what these medications are supposed to be doing – keeping me from being miserable.

I also inherited anxiety and depression but my personality does not allow me to seek help. I keep my feelings bottled up inside and crack once in awhile, finally letting them out. I refuse to see a professional because I can’t stand psychologists talking to me like my emotions can be solved by what it says in a textbook. Psychologists make me feel my emotions and thoughts are easy to fix by “breathing” and “counting to 10.”

Since I won’t go to seek help, my neurologist gives me even more medications to numb feelings of sadness and worry that take over my body.

I take another pill.

My story is not particularly unique. I may be feeling emotions and pain that most people do not feel, but others around me are dealing with pain I will never be able to comprehend.

Facing these difficulties in my life has made me more empathetic. I recognize when other people are uncomfortable or sad. I notice when someone feels hurt or unappreciated because I deal with that on a daily basis.

I’ve learned not to judge people because I wouldn’t want them judging me. I’ve learned to care and help and listen because I know that sometimes that is exactly what I need.

So I’ve learned you should step back before you say something. Think about how you would feel if someone said that to you. Think about how you would feel if someone didn’t help you or didn’t ask how you were feeling.

Be kind, because everybody around you is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

Victoria Hartwell is a staff writer and can be contacted at