The Thorazine Essays

I wrote the following in 2007.  Thought I’d share it with you.  Originally, these were going to be part of my creative thesis, but quickly I decided that they didn’t belong in it.

Thorazine 1

WEBMD.com tells us the following about the side effects of Thorazine:

Drowsiness, dizziness, dry mouth, blurred vision, tiredness, nausea, constipation, and trouble sleeping may occur. You may also be more sensitive to sunburn and less able to tolerate heat/strenuous exercise (see Precautions section). If any of these effects persist or worsen, notify your doctor or pharmacist promptly.

Remember that your doctor has prescribed this medication because he or she has judged that the benefit to you is greater than the risk of side effects. Many people using this medication for longer time periods may develop serious side effects, but with frequent visits to your doctor, this risk can be minimized.

Tell your doctor immediately if any of these unlikely but serious side effects occur: feelings of restlessness/agitation/jitteriness, mask-like facial expression, shuffling walk, drooling, uncontrolled shaking of the hands, twitching in the face, muscle spasm/weakness, trouble swallowing, uncontrollable movements of the mouth/face/hands, unusual mental/mood changes (e.g., depression, worsening of psychosis), unusual dreams, trouble urinating, severe constipation, severe stomach/abdominal pain, unexplained weight gain, swelling of the feet/ankles, nipple discharge, swollen/tender breasts, changes in menstrual flow, decreased sexual ability, fast/pounding heartbeat with headache, severe dizziness, butterfly-shaped facial rash, joint/muscle pain, confusion, darkening of skin color, vision changes, fainting.

For males, in the very unlikely event you have a painful, prolonged erection (lasting more than 4 hours), stop using this drug and seek immediate medical attention or permanent problems could occur.

Tell your doctor immediately if any of these rare but very serious side effects occur: fever with persistent sore throat/cough/chills, yellowing of the eyes/skin, dark urine, severe stomach/abdominal pain, unusual bleeding/bruising, chest pain, seizures, confusion, rigid/unresponsive state, severe tiredness, breathing problems, pale skin.

This drug may infrequently cause a serious (sometimes fatal) nervous system problem (neuroleptic malignant syndrome). Seek immediate medical attention if you notice any of the following rare but very serious side effects: fever, rigid muscles, increased sweating, fast heartbeat, mental/mood changes, change in the amount of urine.

A very serious allergic reaction to this drug is rare. However, seek immediate medical attention if you notice any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction, including: rash, itching, swelling, severe dizziness, trouble breathing.

If you notice other effects not listed above, contact your doctor or pharmacist.

Thorazine is a deep orange pill inscribed with the number “823.”  It is strikingly resemblant to Advil on first glance.  If you hold a tablet in your hand and your hand and your hand is wet or sweaty, the orange dye will come off and the pill will appear whitish, like the whites of whitewall tires.  The outer coating tastes like saccharine, but the inside is bitter, so it’s best to swallow the pill whole.  The 100 mg tablet is about the diameter of a pea.  My father was allergic to peas.

Thorazine 2

Thorazine has been a more faithful friend to me over the past 25 years than most humans have been.  Thorazine has never lied to me or used me, or stolen from me or abused me or deceived me.  Thorazine does not say bad things about me behind my back or borrow things from me without returning them.  What Thorazine does do is rather remarkable and no human friend can match its abilities.  My first dose had me convinced, because the drug silenced the roaring in my head.

And because of this sudden silence, I was able to speak again, and hear my own voice, and respond to others without a huge chaos of echoes in my head.  It was like being brought up from a deep well, having been drowning in it for so long, in a very narrow, soggy place, now out in the open, free, and able to move about–and speak!  I could ask for what I needed: a toothbrush, a pen, a spoon.

It is odd that I needed silence to speak, thereby producing noise, almost as odd as the expression my [ADHD] mother uses, “It’s so loud in here, I can’t hear myself think!”

Thorazine 3

Summer sucks, and I’ll tell you why in two words: I burn.  It is a side effect of Thorazine to be very, very susceptible to sunburn.

In 1983 when I was hospitalized for a long time, I had been on Thorazine perhaps two weeks when I was finally let out on pass, meaning, in this case, that I was allowed to roam around outdoors on my own.  It was a partly cloudy spring day, in the middle of the day, and it took no longer than five minutes before I began to feel a burning sensation on my face, and when I came inside my skin was quite reddened.  The nurses had all kinds of taunting remarks to make about my new skin color, and I wished I could wash it off; it was very itchy besides.

At that time, I was taking 100 mgs of Thorazine a day, a low dose, but Thorazine is known to cause sunburn at any dose.  At one time, I took a hefty dose of 1,300 mgs daily and I don’t recall sunburning to be exceptionally problematic.  But now, at 600 mgs a day, I cannot even think of summer without immediately visualizing a burnt marshmallow.  It seems to be the ideal dose for Helios to do his nasty work.

I have tried sunscreen.  Most sunscreens, combined with Thorazine, make me burn worse, but I’ve found one kind that, if applied every couple of hours, is slightly more protective than bare skin.

I burn, and turn red, I burn and turn red like a red teacher’s pen.  I burn with Thorazine longings, for a cool world, for an icy mountain stream that moves down my body, down my arms to my fingertips, past my buttocks, puddles gathering at my feet.  I burn because I hate, and I burn because I’m embarrassed.  I burn like the cigarette that slipped from my fingers one morning when I was too doped up on Thorazine to stay awake.  I burn with the shame of having a mental illness occasionally, but mostly, I burn with the pride of having survived it all.

Thorazine 4

Today I purchased a quart bottle of flavored seltzer, and brought it home.  Here is one of life’s little treats I enjoy every now and then that isn’t expensive but tastes as though it is, and is available at any supermarket.  I refrigerated the seltzer for a time, then decided I would drink some of it, because I was thirsty; my medication certainly more thirsty than I was without medication, when I could endure entire days without even a sip of water; in fact, in those days I didn’t drink water at all–I drank milk and OJ in the morning, maybe a glass of diet soda at night, but now I drink water literally by the gallon.  And here I was with my luxury: flavored Seltzer.  Cold.  Fizzy.  To be opened with care, I remembered.  And it’s a good thing I remembered, because seltzer, of all beverages, packs a wallop if opened carelessly.  One can even sustain injury from such mishaps.  A bottle of selzer is potential unrealized.  There’s a lot locked up in it that hasn’t come out.  So I opened it.  Carefully.  One crack at a time.  One iota.  A little more.  A little more.  A little more–as the bubbles gradually rose and exited to the surface of the water like a caged, screaming fetus finally allowed out of the womb–until finally, I was able to unscrew the cap and remove it–and drink, right out of the bottle.  Thorazine is like that; it acts as a buffer.  It slows down the release so there won’t be an explosion of fizz.  It ensures that there won’t be any dangerous messes.  It cradles the bubbles gently and gradually, so I can drink, drink, drink.  Without Thorazine, I’d have seltzer on the floor, as disorganized as my mind, and an empty bottle, without life, without hope.

Feedback and comments welcome!