I was prescribed Keppra by a neurologist in Victoria during my latest sojourn in hospital. As I swallowed the first pills, I clearly recalled my Toronto epileptologist mentioning Keppra, specifically how he wasn’t going to put me on it because of the potentially severe emotional side effects. Curious about what separated this from the many other mind-altering anticonvulsants I’d tried, I had, at the time, Googled it, finding hundreds of testimonials describing variations of a phenomenon termed Keppra Rage, or, to the initiated, Kepprage. Comforting moniker.
The Victoria doctor specified that she had chosen this particular drug because it’s fast acting and wouldn’t dull my thinking. “I was in graduate school for over a decade,” she told me. “I know how important it is to keep your mind sharp.” True ’nuf, lady, but I think you forgot that’s it also difficult to perform at top academic capacity while overwhelmed by medication-fuelled furor.
Yes, I’ve tasted anger in my time. My week on Keppra, however, made any past discontent seem mere aggravating blips of unhappiness. Beginning the afternoon between my first discharge and my second admittance, every sensory experience became infuriating. The smell of the Christmas tree, the itch of my wool socks, and the sound of my husband’s voice all augmented the fury growing within me, and I sensed that I could do nothing to stop this hysteria from escalating. I finally exploded around dinnertime, informing my parents and husband in rather strong terms that I was displeased with my entire existence, finishing my rant with a self-aware “I think that was the Keppra.” My mother wasn’t so sure; as she pointed out, I had only had a few doses. “It’s OK to be upset, Kathleen,” she said reassuringly. Unsurprisingly, this did nothing to placate me. I agree that some degree of negative emotion is natural; an alarming urge to destroy something is arguably not.
Back in the hospital and sedated by a cocktail of seizure meds, I was hopeful that Keppra wasn’t going to be a problem after all. I was calm and dopey and not the least bit combative—the picture of a docile patient. Then I got out and the proverbial stuff hit the fan, an eruption of aimless hostility followed by a complicated hallucination involving a series of tasks I needed to complete before going to bed, one of which was eating a homemade Nanaimo bar (my subconscious has good taste).
It’s been seventy-two hours since I last ingested a little piece of chalky Keppra hell, and I’m no longer at a perpetual boiling point. My husband and I unsuccessfully tried to contact my doctors over the weekend and made the independent decision that I should start to taper down, the unpredictable outbursts scary for us both and not worth a small increase in seizure control. This morning I let my hand graze over the package of pharmaceutical delight, all animosity now directed at whoever thought that Keppra was a good idea, and shoved all hundred-and-twenty-four of the pills into a cluttered desk drawer.