kitchen table

my adventures with methylprednisolone (and birth control too while I’m at it)
August 23, 2006, 12:49 am
Filed under: Feminism, Healthcare, Reproductive Rights

So I got sick last week, really sick. What started as a cold turned into an infection. I entered that tricky place–the one I often get to when I’m ill–in which I find myself both wanting the doctor to fix me and becoming suspicious of our medical system.

Anyway, I was so ill though last week that I crossed over, became practically supplicant to my physician, and ended up filling prescriptions for Claritin (10 mg pill) and anti-biotics. (A small, relevant aside: As a recipient of the state-sponsored medical care, Healthy NY, I shelled out a $20 copay each time I visited the doc as well as the full cost of prescription drugs. There is a Healthy NY plan that includes drugs but I can’t really afford more than my HMO’s single-payer, drug-free plan of $147.33 a month). After some negotiating with the pharmacist, I took home a generic version of Claritin and a less expensive anti-biotic–the original drug was $47, the second $12.

Within 24 hours it was apparent that something wasn’t right with me and my drugs. I developed a gross/cool rash all over my body and on Wednesday morning, landed right back in the Doctor’s office. He took one look at me and instructed that I stop all medications: I had an allergic reaction to one of them, at the very least. He then handed me a pack of Methylprednisolone (steroids, for us lay people) and told me to take them as a boost for my immune system. With a couple warnings about bone thinning and possible weight gain, I started popping.

The only side effect I noticed that first day was trouble falling asleep. The next afternoon however, a casual observer would’ve thought I’d done speed. At 7:30 that night, on a minimal amount of food, I was dragging my boyfriend out of the Target parking lot with a bag full of craft supplies. T-shirts! We were making t-shirts! Let’s go! Let’s go! He looked at me and said I should probably calm down. He told me I had “‘roid rage.”

On the drive home, a couple hours later and still hyper, I read aloud the possible side effects of methylprednisolone, as listed in the accompanying booklet: “Psychic derangements may appear…ranging from euphoria, insomnia, mood swings, personality changes, and severe depression, to frank psychotic manifestations.”

Frank psychotic manifestations? Hey, now.

I made the decision that night to take less than the prescribed dose which may or may not have been a great idea. My hesitation is in part informed by a negative experience I had with the popular birth control pill, Ortho Tri-Cyclen. I had something of an epiphany last year when I went Ortho after a 3.5 year absence; I hardly made it a month before I decided again that it wasn’t my bag. Unfortunately, my brief return was enough to send me into an intense depression, one that hit out of nowhere and made me, well, crazy. (Not an uncommon experience for women on the pill, by the way; this is lore among all my women friends, not just the hippie/feminist ones.) The depression was so familiar and specific–it was the same kind of sudden, pathological self-hatred that triggered, quite out of nowhere, an eating disorder in high school. As I stood last year at the mirror, looking at my body with newfound disgust, it dawned on me that just a couple weeks before my eating disorder suddenly hit, I started taking Ortho Tri-Cyclen. Only then I didn’t have that revelation to save me, to let me know this mood and its damage would pass.

One of the most frustrating parts of the whole experience, stretching from the days of the eating disorder until the revelation of its trigger years later, is the lack of connection between the three health care professionals who treated me during that time. My physician, psychologist, and caseworker at the Eating Disorders Association never suggested that pumping my body full of hormones could affect my mood, could fuck with my mental health–they all knew I was on birth control, I told them. I

So when I read last week that the steroid I was on could cause frank, psychotic manifestations, my instinct was to quit cold turkey. Further reading of the booklet told me that it was worse to drop off completely, better to go gradually. I’ve been taking the pills guiltily ever since because I also secretly love the way they make me feel. This scares me too.

Today was my first day without any steroid (I’ve got half of the free pack left) and I’m back in that place of limbo: trust and suspicion, desiring and knowing better. To pop or not.


10 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I blame prednisone for my bipolar, which is a cop-out, sure, but the rages I can work myself into never happened before I was on steroids. These days I can be force frightening to myself. And, to add insult to injury, the side-effect wielding fuckers didn’t even help and they (the doctors, not the steroids) had to put me on iv treatments instead. I have vowed no matter how bad my chron’s gets, I will never take steroids ever again – I would rather have my intestines removed than I subject myself to the complete emotional anguish prednisone put me through.

(by the way, possible weight gain? I blew up close to forty pounds in the matter of a few months and no matter how disgusting the amount of food I shoved down my gullet, I was still hungry.)

Comment by k.

good lord that was ridden with typos but you get my gist.

Comment by k.

yikes. so have you experienced more of a balance since going off of them?

a friend of mine said she lost weight and was hungry as a horse.

Comment by whitney

I just tok myself off the methylprednisolone (steroids) after hearing a faint girl talking to me last night that I knew wasn’t real. The first time I took steroids it was prednisone and I ended up in the ER with rapid breath, seeing and hearing things that weren’t real, hyperactivity, not eating and itchy skin. All from an anxiety attack and was then diagnosed with Bipolar. This time they gave them to me for allergies and I told the Dr. that I am Bipolar and had a REAL scary reaction to prednisone and she said that this new stuff was weaker and wouldn’t do that. Withing 18 hours I was calling her and she said “STOP TAKING THEM NOW” . I too was left with the feeling of wanting them for the energy boost and “good” feeling during the day, but hearing the voices actually scared me so much that I dumped them into the trash. Never again.

Comment by Scrinch

I was disagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder in Feb. 1993. Here’s what happened in January of 1993: I had a troublesome sinus infection that I couldn’t shake. At first, my doctor prescribed an anti-biotic and a decongestant. But that wasn’t enough to battle the infection. I went back and he prescribed: a stronger anti-biotic; an antihistimine;a steroid; and continued the decongestant. I experiened a Major Manic Episode, with a Brief Psychotic Disorder (BPD). I was not able to sleep for 12 days (which I’m pretty sure led to the BPD). By day 12 I begged both my wife and my best friend to put me in a medical facility because I was going to die if I dind’t get medical attention – and I am absolutely convinced that I would have. My heart was racing and by then I was emaciated (dropped over 20 lbs. in a week), my mind raced franticaly, and toward the end of the episode, all of my senses were so frazzeled, that light, sound, and even mild aromas were physically painful.

It was then that I began checking the side effects of my medications…. one of which was “Frank Manifestation.” I had never heard of that before, but I know exactly what it means now. All of the medications were apparently interacting to form a near lethal concoction.

Perhaps I already had a predisposition toward bi-polar disorder, perhaps not, but my brain chemistry has been substantially, and permanently, altered. After spending years trying to “sort out my personal issues,” I began therapy with a new psychologist and described the onset of my disorder. I was surprised when he asked “how do you know you weren’t poisoned?”

So there it is. I had in fact been poisoned. I briefly thought about lawsuits, but I have never been a litigious person, and frankly I don’t want to waist a minute of my time, and attention to such an undertaking. But I would certainly be willing to join a class action lawsuit.

After all these years, I have only recently began hearing about other people who were apparently triggered by some mixture of steroids and antibotics / whatever…

But today I’m okay…. aside from having to manage a chronic mental illness, my life is full. I have a beautiful family and rewarding job. During those 12 sleepless nights, the oly thing that brought me solice was visualizing stained glass windows (my first job when I was 15 years old was at a stained glass studio). Now I have a small stained glass business and I am able to sell my work.

I have NEVER written in a blog before, but your stories were compelling…. Thanks for letting me share.


Comment by Chris

if somebody have insomnia, you can try newest insomnia killer – pranamat – acupressure mat, write in google company name “advaita lifestyle” ;) or go directly to site of cure insomnia

Comment by Advaita

Wow … someone else …it was great i took 2 4 mg pills the other night at 8 o’clock i was up until 1 am freaking out flipping furniture over and putting holes in walls.. then i slept like a baby… when i woke up the next morning i was scratching my head wondering what happened to my apartment..i think i’m not gonna take them anymore

Comment by Adam

This medicine made me absolutely crazy. I couldn’t sleep. I felt the need to “organize” and clean everything in my entire house in one night. My closets, my fridge, my pantry,(you get the idea). I felt like I had an on button that would not turn off. My husband finally debated with me to go to sleep. Now my doctor has put me back on it again. I am afraid of what this will do to me.

Comment by suzette

I am so happy I found this blog. I’m suffering a weird headache that my GP prescribed Methylprednisolone for while I wait to get in to a Neurologist… she said that if my headache (which sounds nothing like a migraine, but nerve damage up there in my brain…) is a migraine then the Methyl will stop the inflammation thought to be the root of migraine pain. My headaches have been worsening, and my nausea continues to impede my daily functioning– my husband has been working from home or taking whole days off because I cannot go more than an hour taking care of our kids before melting down. I am only comfortable napping, even then waking up. I am not sleeping at night, and I am crying at the drop of a hat… I had already managing my Bipolar Type 2 very well for the past 3 years on what I think is a wonder drug (Lamictal), with my last depression being 2 years ago after a miscarriage… yet I am now reduced to what seems to be a very quickly induced depression. The second day in & heightening on the third day (read online that the half life of Methylprednisolone is 18-36 hours, so the timing makes sense), I started flying higher like I used to do with hypomania, only to land here– stuck on my couch & unable to do my ‘job’ of being a stay at home mom & taking care of my kids and household. I asked the Dr. and our pharmacist about interactions with Lamitcal & they both said there shouldn’t be a problem…….. but I am upset that my GP especially did not consider that a major side effect can be hypomania (which is what I experienced during my 2nd & 3rd days on the Methyl), and also depression. This is just great- now a headache AND my first mixed episode leading to a very fast onset of depression in almost 2 years. Methyl is evil… I hope the neurologist finds something else to help me with this mystery headache, ’cause I refuse to try another steroid.

Comment by Sarah NY

Omg the dose pack makes me psychotic too!! I went through same type situation and the last few days I’ve verbs nutso crying and so depressed been working out like nuts and thought the world was ending I’m finally coming back to reality!!! Holy shit it’s nuts I’m glad I dont do hallucinogens!!

Comment by Jill

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: