Store Locator







I’m Possessed and the Drugs Help

I am not a monk confined to his cell. I am a man hell-bent on living.

By José Ralat Maldonado

My nightstand is a pill popper’s treasure trove. All the psychotropics I’ve ever been prescribed are in marching formation. Most of the containers are half-empty, but still… It takes decades of bad trips and overdoses landing you on the cold tile floor of some bathroom to get the malformed brain I was born with. Thanks to my brain, I shake, twitch and speak in tongues. I have epilepsy and stutter and have a host of piggybacking disorders. Curtailing these nasties takes copious amounts of drugs with fancy names. Some are instamatic glee-inducers. Most aren’t. They keep me alive. This is neuropsychopharmacology. It’s a living.

Epilepsy (pink, octagonal pills)

Every couple of years, for at least a week, I check myself into the hospital. I surrender my meds, put on my pajamas, get electrode leads super-glued to my head and stabbed into my cheeks a microphone and closed-circuit camera overhead. The point: to record a seizure. “We could possibly even cure you!” said my crack team of experts.

I spent most of my four nights of prescribed sleep deprivation playing with the camera. I would disappear into the corner counting the seconds before the nurse ran in, her arms waving in alarm and breath short from sprinting, asking me if I was all right. It broke the monotony of old video games I had already beaten, movies like American History X and Requiem for a Dream and sunrises over the East River.

I was subjected to two days of cognitive and motor tests. For one test, I had to rattle off as many vegetables as possible in five minutes while an intern wrote them down. “If two shirts costs $14.60, how much will twelve shirts cost?” asked the intern who administered tests with names like the Mini-Mental State Exam and the Kohs Block Design Test. “How the fuck do I know? I’m never gonna buy that many shirts at once.”

I learned that I had partial epilepsy of the right parietal lobe. This lobe controls verbal-visual memory, meaning I stutter and my short-term memory is shot. The lesion on the lobe, my doctors suggest, is the culprit behind my epilepsy. This explains why every morning on my way to work I lock my apartment door every morning by the time I get to the sidewalk I forget whether I locked the door. Before being released from the hospital and not having had one seizure, my doctors prescribed leviracetam. It messed with my concentration. Watching a movie became impossible. I would get up every few minutes to futz with something. Once, I even organized the books and newspapers atop my toilet according to size and weight and title. ThenI rushed into the kitchen to wash and dry dishes. The next time I saw my neurologist, I demanded a new antiepileptic. He gave me lamotrigine. I have more seizures now.

Stuttering (blue, round pills)

“Thanks for calling AT & T Wireless. My name is Anthony. What can I help you with?” The customer service agent was supposed to help me find my FedEx-delayed cell phone. I had been putting off this call all morning because, damn it, I hate phones. The very thought of ...

“Ahh…umm…umm.” I was grasping for air. My neck muscles twitched.

“I ne…n-n-n-nee-nee…da...da…”

“DaDaAhDaDaGa Aga…. Dontcha’ know howta’ talk?”

“As a matter of fact I do. I have a st-st-stutter, OK?”

“I’m sorry sir. I’m very sorry. What can I help you with?”

“Ahh…umm…umm. I ne…n-n-n-nee-nee…da...da…”

“Will you please say something. Learn to speak, sir.” Early on, I think I was about seven, I realized that I didn’t stutter when I cussed. I was a lucid pontificator, an orator impassioned by circumstances whose consequences had to be reined in. I took control and cussed.

“Listen, Tony. I have a stutter. You got that? So do me a fuckin’ favor: Act like an adult. I expect this type of behavior from children,” like the kids in my sixth grade class in Pu-Pu-Pu-Puert-t-t-to Puerto Ric-c-c-c-co-Rico. During English class I was c-c-c-c-all-call asked to answer something or other. I was inst-st-st—ahhahahahaha-instantly petrified, but resolute. I began st-st-st-t-t-tst-stutt-stutter-ring even before I started to speak. Then my leg twitched and sl-sl slslslslslslslslslsls-slammed against the aluminum bottom of my sch-c-c-c-cool desk. I spat out rest of the answer; the class laughed.

“I want to speak to your manager.”

“I’m sorry, sir, but you can’t. It’s company policy.”

“Company policy, huh?” I huffed, clenching the phone. “You’re fucking joking, right?”

“I can transfer you to our Grievance and Restitution Department.”

“Your what? Oh. They’ll take my complaint?”


“Well, godamnit, put me…

“Thanks for calling AT & T Wireless. My name is Maria. What can I help you with?” Maria refused to send me proof of Anthony’s punishment. She cited company policy. I was convinced my citalopram (for my anxiety) was a major factor in this fit. My neuropsychiatrist, to whom I had reported this fiasco, also noticed my speech had worsened. “Well, OK. Let’s try mirtazepine 15 mg. I think it’ll do the trick.”

General Anxiety Disorder and Minor Depression (brown, diamond-shaped pills; peach capsules)

Mirtazepine with venlafaxine 100 mg really did do the trick. I wasn’t spazzing out on the subway platform, yelling at disrespectful straphangers in three-piece suits. I wasn’t frozen to the couch unable to reach two feet for the ringing telephone, which was probably a friend wanting to hang out. I didn’t care and I was sure no one cared about me. On the other hand, this pill combination also had a keen side effect. I wasn’t always horny. I no longer had midday boners that kept me behind my desk at work, legs crossed. Nor was I always considering going to bathroom to pull one off. My gastrointestinal tract wasn’t so agreeable. I became a medical statistic. I got the shits.

The only way I could control this, I thought, was to stop eating dinner. It didn’t work.

On a sunny weekend afternoon walking back from the pharmacy where I get my meds, my bowels gurgled. I knew what was next. I picked up my pace, trying to control my breathing, hoping to reach my apartment before the involuntary evacuation. One last gurgle reverberated down through my ass. I was only a block from my apartment; there was no sense running.

In the bathroom, I surveyed the damage. Brown, chunky gravy was spread thin on the seat of my jeans. Some had even seeped through my pants. I wiped myself, threw the jeans in a thick, black garbage bag and showered.

After all, it was the only thing I could do.

Pill regimens change. Side effects come and go. But none of this is curable. I’ve resigned myself to that much. Nevertheless, I’ll be damned if I let these brain disorders and their respective treatments dictate my life. I’m supposed to be straight-edged: no alcohol, no cigarettes, no nothing. Screw that. Neuropsychopharmacology may be my bible, my saving grace, but I have made no vow to its precepts. I am not a monk confined to his cell. I am a man hell-bent on living.









News & Events

Rated Rookie #5 is shipping to stores and subscribers. Get your copy by clicking here.

Mailing List

Be the first to hear about Rated Rookie parties

Your Name:

Your E-mail