Monday, November 30, 2015

The Time My Mother Gave Me Caffeine Pills

My mother started giving me caffeine pills my senior year of high school.  I was very tired.  I was in the school plays, took private music lessons at a local university twice per week, was an officer in several school clubs ("colleges want well-rounded students"), and spent all day every Sunday at various choir practices and church groups.  I frequently fell asleep doing my homework and broke down in tears when I had yet another paper to write.  My grades didn't suffer -- I had made straight A's for several years, and that didn't change until I finally got an 89% my last semester of AP Calculus -- but my crying seemed to annoy my mother. 

One day my mother gave me a little yellow box of pills she had bought and told me they would help me get my homework done.  This was the same year she gave me anti-depressants, about three years after she started self-medicating with pain killers and muscle relaxants, and several years after she started doling out to both of us pretty much every vitamin supplement she read about in magazines or saw mentioned on television.  Dr. Oz wasn't a thing back then, but something comparable must have existed because she had us on multiple supplements I had never heard of anywhere.  I don't even remember how many pills I was taking daily back then.  Six?  Nine?  I want to say nine because I knew I could take eleven pills -- including a couple Tylenol -- in one giant swallow.  Most of the supplements she bought had no discernible effect, such as the aloe pills and the garlic pills and the vitamin E.  The caffeine pills did though.  The box she gave me said each pill contained the caffeine of two cups of coffee.  I didn't see how this would work significantly better than just drinking more coffee, but I did as she said and took one, as I always had when my mother gave me medicine.

The caffeine pills didn't help me think or stay awake.  I still felt exhausted, but now I was shaking and freezing cold too.  They left me too wired to fall asleep, but writing essays still took work.  My mother urged me to try the pills again, to take another.  She seemed sure they would help me get my work done, as I always had regardless of what I took or didn't take.  After a couple more tries with the caffeine pills provoked exactly the same shaking and chills, I stopped taking them.  My mother was wrong.  They only made me feel worse.  I would make do without them, as I always had. 

The number of pills I consumed dropped considerably after I left for college.  I didn't have money to waste on supplements that did nothing, and the doctor I saw at university health services when I needed a prescription renewed had made fun of me for being on so many things at my age.  No one had ever bothered to make fun of my pill consumption with my mother in the exam room.  No doctor had ever dared to imply I should take less than what my mother was doling out.  She has a knack with doctors.   

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