bitter pills

On this rainy day, my boy is home with me again, suffering a spate of partial seizures—nearly a dozen—which I have yet to quell. While none of them have been grand mals, they’ve included scary ones in which he trembles and kicks violently, a terrified look on his face as if he’s seen a demon. I loathe them all.

I often think of epilepsy as a fiend. It berates Calvin’s brain, crushes his possibilities, has quashed his ability to speak. The drugs he must take—which don’t work to fully control his fits—adversely affect his behavior, his cognition, his coordination and gait. The fiend has robbed us of many of our dreams, pushed us to the brink of so many things—society and sanity come to mind—and into relative quarantine where we are literally imprisoned, in our state (because of cannabis prohibition) and, on days like today, between these walls.

In the days since the election, in the wee hours after Calvin’s predawn seizures, I lie awake, weary and worrying about our country. I realize I feel similarly about epilepsy as I do the incoming administration: I fear what it might mean for our most vulnerable. With the president-elect's most recent, antisemitic advisory pick, I'm reminded of his own penchant for eugenics, reminiscent of Hitler’s loathing of Jewish people and innocents like Calvin, which lead to their extermination. I witness the narcissist's bizarre lust for attention, his repulsive habit with women, his abhorrent treatment of others, and his contempt for non-Whites as an assault on everything decent in America. And though I have not been personally or literally attacked, I feel the wounds of other women, of Jewish and Black and Muslim and Immigrant and Mexican and Disabled Americans.

While writing this, I came across the photo of the painting below made by a Bowdoin College student in the wake of the election. In its rawness, I see anger and frustration, the whitewashing of our fifty states, the splintering and marring of a nation. It made me wonder, if Calvin could hold a brush—if the epilepsy didn’t stifle his forward movement toward a better, stronger place—if he’d be painting something similar, making his mark and expressing his disaffection.

As with epilepsy, I loathe this president-elect's candid hopes to berate his critics, to crush immigrants, to torture foes, to punish women, to limit speech in the form of free press and peaceful protest. Like a toxic drug, I see evidence of how his rhetoric has adversely affected the behavior of some in his body of followers. Like a chronic disease, I wonder if this man and his minions will rob us of our rights and dreams, push us to the brink—society and sanity come to mind. Will he round up and imprison our beloveds? Will he blight us and the respect of the world?

Like a contagion, his contempt and hatred is spreading. I've heard privileged people call the peaceful protests of those who oppose the crude and immoral things this man has said and done as "nothing more than temper tantrums" and a "crybaby diaper brigade." Their smugness and apathy for those who are afraid, angry, hurting and simply exercising their first amendment rights, like the bitter pills Calvin takes, do nothing to heal, yet leave a horrid taste.

Untitled, by Frankie Ahrens, acrylic on wood scrap


  1. Q: Have you ever researched Tryptophan and seizures?
    I saw one person comment on a google link about how four days of left over turkey made him feel good: "I ate leftover turkey for at least four days and I felt like I had the most clarity and calmness in my thinking than I have ever had" Does Mr. Calvin enjoy a nice slice of Turkey?