In 2009, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. The way I found out about it was pretty weird. I was filming something in a hospital, and in between takes one of the nurses who was hanging around took us all for a spin on the blood pressure machine. I know, it’s a pretty wild showbusiness story. Sorry for showing off.
Everyone’s having a really fun time getting their blood pressure checked (seriously) and then it gets to my turn. I strap on the armband and feel it inflate until it’s very tight around my arm. I turn to the nurse and ask ‘so, what’s my blood pressure?’
‘Actually, it’s pretty high.’
I start giggling because I think this is part of a little role-play that we’re doing.
‘Oh no! I’d better go to the doctor!’ I reply, in a very camp manner. The nurse looks back at me, stone-faced. ‘No, seriously. You should go to a doctor. Like, tomorrow.’
Three months later I call up and make an appointment to see my doctor. She sends me to a specialist, I get a bunch of tests done, and then I am told that I have very high blood pressure. There is a history of high blood pressure in my family. I tell my dad what my blood pressure is, and he gets very emotional because he has the exact same blood pressure and we’ve never really bonded over much so this is really all that he has.
Because my high blood pressure is genetic and not the result of bad diet, smoking or obesity, I am put on a prescription medication called Indopril. I ask my doctor how long I have to take this for, and she says ‘forever’, which again, I thought was a funny joke, because I was 22 at the time, and at that point, doing anything for the rest of my life seemed ridiculous, because I hadn’t even been capable of finishing an Arts degree.
But now here I am, nearly four years on, and still taking Indopril every day. It’s a real pain in the arse, because it’s a prescription medication, so when I run out, I have to go and see my doctor straight away to get a new prescription, which I don’t end up doing until a month later, and in that time my blood pressure skyrockets, and I get so stressed out about everything that I am constantly on the verge of having a panic attack, stripping all my clothes off and running into the wilderness, never to be seen again.
The last time I went to get a new prescription, my regular doctor wasn’t there, so I saw another doctor that works at her clinic. I presumed I was going to go in, pick up my prescription and leave. Easy. Instead, this new doctor took one look at me and said ‘what’s wrong with your skin? Jesus, we’ve got to fix that!’
Now, I should point out that I’ve had what I would consider to be mild acne since I was a teenager, which is, of course, very common. During high school, a lot of my friends went on different medications to get rid of their acne. I never did, because these medications all had very severe side effects. For example, I read on the packet of one of these medications that a possible side effect was something called ‘dry anus.’ I didn’t know what that was, but I did know that I was definitely not going to put something in my body that would cause anything to happen to my anus.
Six months later I was walking down the street with my friend who was taking this medication, and all of a sudden he stopped dead in his tracks. ‘What’s wrong?’ I asked. He winced and slowly drawled out the sentence ‘nothing… just a bit of… dry anus…’
‘What even is that?’ I asked.
‘It’s hard to explain. But when it’s happening… you know it’s happening.’
So, I never took any medication, and my skin never really cleared up, but I felt like that was a fair trade-off for having a (relatively) unscathed anus.
But now this doctor was telling me otherwise. ‘I’ll write you a prescription, we’ll get you on some antibiotics, it’ll clear your skin right up. Try and stay out of direct sunlight if you can. There should be no side effects.’
I decide that maybe this is for the best. I’m 26, and while the state of my skin doesn’t really bug me, I have a job where I am regularly required to be looked at by many people at once, so maybe I should start taking better care of myself.
I go across the road to the chemist, prescription in hand. As the pharmacist is handing me my medication, I remember something about antibiotics.
‘Hey, am I able to drink alcohol when I’m on these?’
A fair enough question, I think you’ll agree, but my voice wavers a bit as I’m saying it, so it comes out like the desperate plea of a sad drunk, like I’m terrified beyond compare that the answer will be ‘no.’
‘You can, but just don’t go nuts.’
Twenty-four hours later, I am at a barbecue, in direct sunlight, and I drink fifteen beers over a six-hour period. I feel absolutely shit-house the next day. During the week I am at a gig, I have one beer, and I wake up the next day feeling hungover.
The antibiotics continue to make me feel like shit after I drink, yet I continue to drink in spite of this, which I think is reasonable grounds for the argument that I have a drinking problem, which upsets me, because I was told that there would be ‘no side effects.’
Concurrently to this all happening, I have been trying to exercise more and eat better in an attempt to lose a little bit of weight that I put on over the holidays. Because I have to take these antibiotics with food, there have now been several occasions where I have been coming home from a gig late at night, and used this logic:
‘I need to take these antiobiotics with food. I forgot to take them with dinner. So really, I need to have this KFC right now, at 11pm, for my health.’
To be fair, I genuinely can’t work out whether that is a positive or negative of antibiotics.
The other day, I made the fatal mistake of Googling these antibiotics, and of course, there was a story about some young girl taking it for her skin, and her skull nearly caving in as a side effect. I defy anyone to read that sentence and not became instantly paranoid. For the rest of the day, I would see a flash of light and think ‘I just saw a flash of light! This is it! My skull is caving in! It’s all over!’ and then I would look again and realise that it was just a moth, and then I would chide myself for being so paranoid, and then I would do the exact same thing ten minutes later.
All that aside, my skin is getting clearer, so I guess that’s a positive. But if I had never seen this new doctor and she had never recommended I go on antibiotics, I never would have given it a second thought. There’s a weird part of me that’s still uncomfortable about putting any kind of medication into my body. I don’t know why that is, maybe just a result of taking lots of medicine when I was young and very sick. Whatever it is, shovelling multiple pills down my gut each day is something that bugs me, and I do wonder if there’s some kind of alternative to just taking pills, but then I realise that to find that alternative I actually have to be proactive about it, which is something that I am not at all good at, so I remain stuck in this state of constant paranoia with my antibiotics, and my abusive relationship with alcohol and KFC.
That being said, it could be worse. I could be copping some sweet dry anus right now.