Because I Took Oxycodone


There is a deep silence in me. No music enters; no laughter exits. It is a very dark silence that I inhabit alone. People pelt me with ugly, judgmental words. At Crouse Hospital, without exception, all the upper echelon doctors, nurses and social workers have blocked their doors against me.

They have done it for a drug. They should have known better.

They put me on a drug that affects the nervous system, and then they walked away and left me alone with the consequences.

Vice President Bob Allen knew me longest. A couple years we’ve know each other. He had lunch in my home. And yet when oxycodone began to ravage my nervous system and change my behavior, he never asked why. He never said, “This isn’t the Anne I know. What’s wrong?”

Nancy Williams, director of Patient & Guest Relations, and I had developed a friendly relationship before I ever became a patient at Crouse. My apartment building was a neighbor of Crouse’s and we had some long phone conversations about ways to involve patients more and make Crouse even better. The first day I was admitted, she came and brought me a special Crouse blanket. Our last contact was a cold letter she sent me weeks ago.

Dr. Mickey Lebowitz. Some kind of director of something at Crouse, and an endocrinologist to me. An exceptionally nice guy. We had long, interesting talks on my first hospitalization. Now he won’t even acknowledge my emails.

Oxycodone poisoned me, and nobody paid any attention. When the dose was increased and I became hyper-irritable, nobody dealt with it. When it was increased again and I started yelling at people, nobody asked what was wrong. When it was increased again, I sat screaming at the top of my lungs and nobody said “Why? Why is she doing this? She didn’t used to.”

Dr. Peter Breggin, a psychiatrist who studies drug reactions and testifies against drug companies, would have figured it out in the first interview with me. He has written about drug “spell-binding”—the patient being put under such a spell by the drug that s/he can’t begin to see what is occurring. You lose the ability to critically evaluate what is happening to you.

I have never in my life yelled at people. Been pretty snappish, sure, but I never yelled. And screamed? Just flat-out, no-words-just-sounds screams? Never before in my life. But did I question it? No. It seemed the natural thing to do.

Crouse sent in two psychiatrists, one arrogant and the other irrational, but they were not sent to help me. There was no quiet listening in which they tried to understand why I was behaving so horribly. Crouse sent them in to interrogate me, to get them the information they wanted for their own decision-making. No way were they here to treat the patient.

Dr. Ghaly prescribed Neurontin for me years ago when I was in the hospital. I got crazier and crazier—wouldn’t come out of my room, stayed in the dark, got paranoid. Dr. Ghaly came every day anyway. And then one day he said, “I do not recognize you. You have never been this way before.” And for one brief moment, I saw myself through his eyes. In the second moment, I was following him down the hall, telling him to stop the Neurontin. He looked at me intently, thoughtfully, and said, “You are sure?” I am sure, I replied. Within a couple days, I was back to normal.

I react to drugs. I told them that. When they put me on the oxycodone four months ago, I told everyone who would listen that my immune system couldn’t tolerate it, that I would react. I said I didn’t know how or when, but it would inevitably kick back on me. And when it did, nobody paid attention.

What they did was lecture and bully and abandon. Walking out and leaving me alone with the terrible pain was their favorite thing to do. Nobody—not one single medically trained person—investigated why the nice lady they all had liked on the first admission had become the screaming banshee by the third admission.

Nursing aides Anitra and Kayla, and a few others, managed to work with me without triggering the screaming. Nurses Bob and Kirstin and Laurie the night nurse likewise. Nurse Practitioner Peter Sinatra. Nursing Supervisor Marcia. Patient & Guest Supervisor Sharon Lusk. How is it that in Crouse Hospital there were only a handful of people who could care for the patient instead of themselves? Why were you all morally judgmental instead of emotionally compassionate?

Consider the absolute bottom of the pit, Nurse Emily who deprived me of liquids because I didn’t say please. Other floor nurses, charge nurses, the nurse manager, doctors, everybody at the executive level: they all made moral judgments in the place of medical judgments, and abandoned me to the hell created by oxycodone.

Thanksgiving night, as the opiate withdrawal started, I told people that “it felt as if my brain has been on fire” but now it was dying out.

My last dose of oxycodone was Thanksgiving morning. And I haven’t screamed at anybody in about a week. And nobody has noticed. I am quiet now. Polite. Soundless. Turned down. And nobody among these great drug providers—nurses, doctors, whatever—have noticed that, either.

They gave me a drug and it changed my behavior; I stopped taking it and my behavior changed back. And not one person in this great hospital has made the connection, seen the correlation.

They hated the oxycodone but they blamed me. Still do. I sit here alone and lonely, striped of my dignity, my self-control, and my friends because of what a drug did to me. There is a deep silence in me. No music enters; no laughter exits. I took oxycodone.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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2 Responses to Because I Took Oxycodone

  1. Jack says:

    so sorry Anne – are the withdrawls over with too now from 4 months to zero?
    that could not have been pleasant at all.

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