WASHINGTON — I cut off other drivers in traffic, then flip them the bird. I hang up on customer-service representatives telling me why they can't replace my broken refrigerator. And in the line for the playground swing set, don't even think about letting your kid get in front of mine.
I'm irritable. But it may not be my fault, at least not entirely.
I was given a diagnosis of epilepsy in 2001, when I was 24. Luckily, my seizures are easily controlled by a drug called levetiracetam, also known as Keppra. Its side effects, according to the manufacturer's Web site, include "psychotic symptoms, suicidal ideation, irritability, and aggressive behavior."
I've been spared the worst of these. But irritability? Well, I once screamed at a man on the street who saw me carrying a heavy air conditioner and dared to suggest that it might be smarter to put the unit in my car.
But irritability is a vague condition. It's not a specific malady such as a rash or vomiting, but a state of mind. It even appears in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
I could blame a pharmaceutical for my anger-management failures. But before I took Keppra, I was an impatient child, a moody teenager and a testy young adult. You could say I've been irritable since birth.
I'm not sure if I'm more or less irritable than I was before Keppra. The older I get, the more stressed I get. Sure, I get steamed when my toddler throws broccoli to get my attention or when my dog goes after the mailman. How can I compare my state of mind today to that of a decade ago, when I didn't have a daughter or a dog?
How much of my current irritability is Keppra, and how much is just me?