When the Drugs Don't Work

                            When the Drugs Don't Work                                                                                                                                        

                                The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai               

I have always suffered from high levels of anxiety and sleeplessness, so when offered a change of medication I welcomed the chance to try something new. Now that I had completely retired from work, I felt that I could afford to take a chance and so began the new prescription. The side effects were clearly displayed on the accompanying leaflet, and they would pass, I thought. 

Except that they didn’t. Within three days of starting the new medication my anxiety had quadrupled. Likewise, the sleeplessness; I had no appetite and all my bodily systems seemed to be rebelling against me.


Most concerning though were the chest pains that I began to suffer from. I went to the local surgery to tell them of this and was immediately whisked away by ambulance to a nearby hospital. There I was covered in sticky green circles, which I was still pulling off the next day, and  underwent batteries of tests during which an exhaustive investigation of my heart took place. A number of very concerned and caring staff came and went in attendance.


After about four hours it was adjudged that there was nothing wring with my heart. It was beating away quite happily. What was wrong, according to the kind young doctor who was treating me, was my reaction to the unusually severe side effects of the new drug that I was taking. This would take some time to work through, she said and she advised me not to travel until these side effects had settled down: “It is so much easier to manage in a familiar bed.”


But the side effects didn’t settle down, in fact they got worse. A holiday in Scotland had to be cancelled and after three or four days of no appetite, no sleep and a plummeting weight loss, I demanded a GP appointment – like hens’ teeth here where I live – and was granted one in five days’ time with a different doctor. 

I can’t recall anything like the despair I felt during those five long days and nights but

I felt a tremendous gratitude for my wife's care: “We must keep to our routines,” she had said, “while we wait for you to get better,” and we duly did – walking, shopping, cooking, eating a little, washing, cleaning – while the drugs, which I had now decided to reduce myself, gradually left my system. The wisdom of this decision was confirmed when I did eventually see the doctor for he agreed that I should stop taking them altogether.


A few weeks have now passed, and I have reached what can only be described as a high watermark, where the wreckage, the flotsam and jetsam, has been left at the base of a cliff and the tide is slowly running back into the sea. I feel incredibly lucky to have survived this with such loving support and without losing my carefully constructed sanity. Good friends have said, “You will come through this,” and I am beginning to think they may be right. Last night I attended a weekly choir session, having missed the last four, and tomorrow afternoon I will rejoin a regular poetry class on Zoom: All shall be well and all shall be well, as Julian of Norwich said in her writings.

                                                    Still from Lucky Man by The Verve

Reference: 'The Drugs Don't Work' by Richard Ashcroft on Urban Hymns








Umberto Tosi said…
Harrowing! I hope you feel better soon, recover fully and find better remedies posthaste
Peter Leyland said…
Thanks Umberto. Putting it out there in a blog somehow helped me to get on top of the situation I found myself in. I often talk about the power of reading to dig us out of difficulty, but there is also the power of writing to do the very same thing. Poets, I think, would agree.
Oh my goodness! That sounds like a very frightening experience but just as well you decided to start reducing the new drugs while waiting to see the doctor. One of my sons takes antidepressants so I will have to mention this to him in case somebody suggests changing his prescription in future.
Griselda Heppel said…
I'm catching up - as ever - and can only try to imagine what a dreadful week you've had. How awful that instead of allaying your symptoms, the drug you were given made them far worse, and the quandary of whether to stop taking the pills at once, or to keep going so as to push through the side effects, must have added its own special torture to the situation.

I had a similar situation with my husband a few weeks ago, who became ill just as he started a new drug, and of course most of his symptoms were possible side effects... but supposing they weren't? In this case they weren't and I had to get him to hospital. He's fine now but there's that awful not knowing what to do, do you keep taking the drug or not? You did the right thing in giving it a chance to work - grim though that was - and then realising you had to stop it. I do hope you are feeling better now and the GP has got you back on a medication that works for you.
Reb MacRath said…
What an ordeal! Thank God you persevered. Doctors are too quick to prescribe and too slow to advise of potential side effects. After all, they're on commission.

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