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Prednisone Psycho

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I am not alone in having a VERY BAD reaction to prednisone. There’s even a book called Coping With Prednisone (*and Other Cortisone-Related Medicines) written by Eugenia Zuckerman and Julie R. Ingelfinger, M.D. On the cover it says: “It may work miracles, but how do you handle the side effects?” Of course, there are also people who don’t experience side effects, but I shouldn’t beat myself up because I’m one of the people who does. The package insert clearly states, in bold capital letters, that I must inform my doctor ASAP if I experience sudden depression and self-destructive thoughts. I had yet another appointment on Monday, April 15, and conscientious patient that I am, I informed my doctor. I now wonder if that was the smartest move.

Good doctor that she is, she told me that she would write my GP a letter, so that I could get a referral to a shrink. She also called me back into the examining room when I was getting ready to leave, just to make sure that I was not in immediate danger of offing myself. (I wasn’t.) I explained that those thoughts snuck into my brain and were very uncomfortable to have. They feel like mosquitoes in my mind. I reassured her that I have enough insight to recognize those thoughts for what they are, and that I am all about self-preservation. Everything I do is geared toward self-preservation, so this is very out of character. She consulted with a rheumatologist and a psychiatrist, and we agreed to lower the dose of prednisone to 6.25 mg. This should reduce the psychiatric side effects while still keeping the inflammation at bay.

I am so pissed off that I got psychiatric side effects. I became a prednisone psycho. It is hard to tell whether I am feeling and thinking a certain way, or whether it’s the prednisone speaking. My perception is unreliable. I do not want to express myself because I am uncertain about what will come out. I start thinking that nobody wants to hear/read what I have to say anyway. Then I feel that I have nothing to say. I get stuck in a swamp of silence, and I can only see a thick, sticky fog. The fog turns to rain, and I realize I am crying again.

Telling my doctor about this got me a one-way ticket to a psychiatrist. She told me that they had conferred on my case and considered my request for a mastectomy, and that the answer was no. They think I am too emotionally fragile to handle it, and they want me to see a shrink. I feel angry and powerless again. I feel insulted. I worry that they think that this is all in my head, even though they have ample physical evidence of the disease process. I am afraid that all they can see is my depression, and that this will interfere with my treatment. When I see my GP a week later, he tells me that he also thinks it is time for me to see a shrink. Three days later, I get my referral letter showing I have an appointment in two weeks. This is serious. It usually takes months to be able to see a shrink. I handle my depression with 300 mg of Wellbutrin. I. Do. Not. Want. More. Meds. I do not want to switch meds. I dream of the day when I can stop the meds.

My rational mind understands the doctors’ thought process and decisions, so I agree to see the shrink. I have two caveats: I will not switch meds, and I will not take new meds. This particular brand of depression should subside when the prednisone dose is lowered. As for being too emotionally fragile to handle a mastectomy… Of course I’m emotionally fragile! I’ve been sick for four months. I have not gotten better. There is no protocol for dealing with Granulomatous Mastitis. Chronic pain has taken its toll. I have been unable to perform my usual activities of daily living. I have been unable to exercise. My kids have told me that they wish they had a healthy mommy. That completely broke my heart because as bad as it is for me, I cannot underestimate the effect this has on my children. More than anything, I want to be a good mom and give my kids a good childhood. If I have to take a high dose of prednisone again, if I absolutely can’t avoid it, I have to learn to cope with the emotional fallout. I know what book I’ll be ordering from Amazon next (even though I would much rather order commercial vampire lit or Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day).


About A.K.

I am: dreamer, mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, writer, reader, musician, artist, teacher, translator. I am a citizen of the world. These nations are my home: Denmark, Ecuador, USA, Canada, France and Germany. I believe the purpose of life is to love, laugh and learn. I am over being upset for getting this very rare disease: Idiopathic Granulomatous Mastitis. Forgetting all the pain and havoc is tempting, but I will honor the lessons it brought and release my resentment. This blog is my way of coping and reaching out to others who may be going through similarly unfair and bewildering experiences.

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