Can I Get Superpowers With That?


For some time now, I’ve been trying to come up with a clever way of talking about side effects in epilepsy medication. My friend and fellow person with epilepsy (and Marvel comics fan, it seems!) Ant has beaten me to it and also inspired me. His blog about side effects versus superpowers is really quite amusing; you should take a look.

Ant begins his analogy by likening side effects to having completely useless superpowers, before moving on to talk about getting an unwanted side dish with your main food order in a restaurant. He is very much on the nail with these thoughts.

My ability to forget where I am and trip over thin air is not going to get me into the Xavier School For The Gifted, and neither is my knack for bumping into things, or falling down the stairs and breaking my toe (although Wolverine might be jealous of those beautiful bruises, since he heals too quickly to get anything to show for defeating his enemies).

Gratuitious use of Wolverine pictures is never wrong. Is it?

As Ant points out, the use of the term “side effects” makes it all sound as though the “effects” aren’t all that important – and quite often they’re not. On the other hand, some of these side effects are quite major and the controlled seizures simply aren’t worth what the side effects put your body and your psyche through. I would like to tell you about the worst side effects that I have experienced in the last ten years, whilst taking certain medications:

1: Tegretol Retard

It really isn’t cool to be a half-witted zombie when you care for sick, frail, vulnerable, elderly people. The feeling of wading through treacle isn’t pleasant, and neither is wanting to sleep forever. This isn’t even the worst side effect I’ve suffered, as you are about to find out!

Morlocks. These guys are actually very quick and clever, but many of them look exactly how I used to feel. Perhaps I wouldn’t have minded if my temporary queen had been Storm…

2: Keppra

There is something known amongst those who have experienced it as “Kepprage”. This means that I was prone to psychotic episodes and violent mood swings. Even if the Avengers didn’t already have She-Hulk, she is at least predictable and can control herself. Me? I attacked my husband on at least two occasions, attempted suicide and generally screamed, shouted, slammed doors and kicked things until my feet were bruised and painful.

On Keppra, this would have been me on a good day

On a bad day, I could have slam-dunked Juggernaut and had plenty of fight left in me

All joking aside; if you experience even the mildest mood swings on Keppra, please monitor the situation. Somebody could get seriously hurt because of a medication that causes some people to become completely volatile and out of control. I was a ticking time bomb, and it almost cost me my home, my relationship and my family, and it was only after my attempted suicide that anybody realised what was actually happening to me.

3: Lyrica

Ironically, this was the medication that controlled my seizures the best. Unfortunately, the freedom from seizures came at a very heavy price that was not worth paying. Rapid and excessive weight gain, bloating, water retention and agonising tendonitis that led to my current mobility restrictions (two years on and I’m still trying to fight my way back to a semblance of fitness, even though I’ve lost all the weight and water).

I felt like this guy, and hated leaving the house. This is Blob, by the way. He’s not a very nice person

On top of everything else,  the extra weight not only meant I could break things simply by sitting on them (the sofa for instance; not my proudest moment) but it also put extreme pressure on my internal organs, causing constant vomiting.

I suppose that Professor X could have hired me to puke on Toad when neccessary…

4: Topiramate

The weight fell off but, unfortunately, so did my appetite! I didn’t have a good appetite at this time anyway, so this wasn’t good news. Even my mother became concerned when a skeletal waif who used to be her cheerful, apple-cheeked daughter turned up for a visit. I was dangerously close to becoming anorexic and spent most of my time in agony and vomiting bile due to lack of food.

In terms of weight and size I was becoming the Invisible Woman – but without the glorious curves and the handy-dandy superpowers

I am now taking Vimpat along with the Clonazepam that I’ve been on for the last couple of years. I’m still working on my appetite and have had some fun with Status Epilepticus, arterial blood draws and valium, but it’s early days and I’m still on the lowest dose. I should have seen my epilepsy nurse to have it increased by now, but the day before I was due to see him my Tripping-Up-Inelegantly superpower kicked in and I crashed headlong onto concrete and crippled myself for a few days!

Somebody please get me a mechanised chair like Professor X… although I’ll skip the telepathy, thank you all the same.

Seriously, having to hear other peoples’ random thoughts all the time would be annoying

Disclaimer: This is an account of my own personal experience. Not everybody will suffer from these particular side effects and it is not my intention to scaremonger.

About Missus Tribble

Media volunteer for Epilepsy Action (UK) and advocate for both epilepsy and autism awareness. Seamstress, cross-stitcher, sci-fi lover, ukulele player and Chelmsford's own Pickling Pagan who wants to inherit a TARDIS when she grows up. In the process of writing an as yet unnamed book, with anecdotes and information about being epileptic and autistic - and seeing the funny side! Also an entertainment journalist for What Culture, where I write about Doctor Who.
This entry was posted in "Mutants", 2012, Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life, Born This Way, Comparisons, Epilepsy, Epilepsy Action, Epilepsy Awareness, Humour, Injuries, Marvel Characters, Medication, Neurological, Side Effects, Status Epilepticus. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Can I Get Superpowers With That?

  1. What a poignant and clear way of expressing what must often feel like the unexpressable. Wonderful blog post. Thanks for your compassion and candor. You are so good at it.

  2. elaine4queen says:

    i’ve been wondering about potential superpowers too!

    what an optimistic lot we are!

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