Katie Kerl: Epidemic!

Dissection. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 1977.


Text by Katie Kerl, Copyright 2018




In 1998, I was getting migraines and excruciating jaw pain almost daily. In and out of the emergency room every other night with my mother not knowing what was happening to me.  I felt like I was getting stabbed in the face. The doctor prescribed me Dilaudid pills three times a day and a muscle relaxer until they could figure out what was wrong with me.

After months of this back and forth the doctors finally determined it was a severe case of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder. TMJ causes pain in your jaw joint and in the muscles that control jaw movement. It’s almost like having a herniated Jaw. The discs that separate the bone, muscle, and nerves so you can chew get pushed out of place. My mouth would get locked open and closed.  I was to have surgery to re-align my bite. I also needed braces to shift my teeth into that position. At that time I was 15 in high school, Participated in tournament softball/ cheerleading, had friends, and a caring family.

Taking those pills I could not participate in sports or concentrate in class. I had fallen asleep so hard in class the one time, I woke up and there was no one left in the room. Teachers knew I was having surgery, was on all this medication, and left me there.

I dropped out of every sport after having the surgery. They had inserted a mouth piece which made it difficult to talk. I ate through a straw for about 6 months in 10th grade. A Liquid/soft diet, opiates, and muscle relaxers. I was 5’7 and 110 lbs then. I was tired, hungry and high. Sounds like an amazing combination for High school success right?

Being so young and in that kind of a fog was a really confusing time. I’d get myself into Saturday detentions, just to get suspended, so I could be at home and do the work there. The days did not count against me that way. I was tired from being high at school from my own prescription the doctor said I “needed” to take.

I was not alone in this though, I asked questions. My friends all had similar medications for things that did not require the strength of morphine or oxycontin to treat, all of us walking the halls of Upper Darby High School like zombies. Some of them ending up with way worse addiction problems and not finishing high school. I did manage to complete all of the work and get into Drexel University. Going to college saved my life. I went to school full time and I worked full time.


Illustration by Thomcat23. Copyright 2018
Illustration by Thomcat23. Copyright 2018


I have lost a 1/4 of my high school class to opiate/ heroin overdoses, jail time, or death .Raising your kids to believe marijuana was a gateway drug in the 90s was the most false accusation. It was your own medicine cabinet. Pharmaceutical companies writing long term opiate prescriptions addicting your children. In school districts that have 9-17$k school taxes, you’d think they’d have better drug education not abstinence programs. Fast forward16 years, their children are now being left behind. It’s truly heartbreaking.

Most recently, my little cousin was admitted to a rehab for a lot of the same substances. I can only hope that she will find it in herself to want to feel life again as well. Ask your friends questions if you think they are using. It will be uncomfortable, they may get mad, but at least you cared enough to let them know you are there. Feeling alone and isolated within your own family, friend circle, and co dependent relationships are just a few of the reasons they will continue to use.

Marijuana is legal in many states including Pennsylvania for medical use. I have a marijuana card for PTSD and chronic pain from an accident. As I stated in my first blog post, throwing all the pills away and feeling again was the realest statement of my life. I will happily use something natural that has no addictive qualities. Well, perhaps to the fridge. My friends know I can cook and they are happily around for my foodie adventures.


Portrait of Katie Kerl. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2018.
Portrait of Katie Kerl. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2018.

About The Author

Katie Kerl. Born 1984. Raised in Drexel Hill,  Pennsylvania. 
Attended Drexel University for Behavioral  Psychology .
Occupation : commercial/ residential  design 
Philadelphia resident since 2011 . 
Hobbies include  : Foodie, whiskey drinker,  fitness , cooking  , tattoos , & house music lover . 
Instagram:  @beatz_eatz_n_freaks 
To access additional articles by Katie Kerl, click herehttps://tonywardstudio.com/blog/katie-kerl-clothing-tattoos/

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