This is me on steroids

So, about prednisone. There are probably thousands of blogs and other things out there explaining how prednisone makes people go “crazy.” (1.2 million hits for prednisone + crazy alone). It certainly has effects on personality. I’ve heard that some people get depressed on it. It has also been blamed for certain individuals really going psycho, but I think that’s unfair to prednisone. I don’t think it changes a person’s personality completely, it just brings out certain elements that are not necessarily obvious beforehand. For me, prednisone and other catabolic steroids (like solucortef) make me more cheerful, energetic, generous and spontaneous. I have trouble sleeping because I have so many ideas flying through my head. Steroids also make me want to make lists and sort things.

When I was first put on prednisone 10 years ago, I wasn’t warned about the side effects. Getting up in the middle of the night to fold socks was weird enough. Within a few weeks of being released from the hospital, as soon as I could walk again (I had been too weak to walk for a while), I took a list of songs I like to a used CD store and spent $350 on CDs. Prior to this, I owned 2 CDs. My friends and family thought I had lost it.

A few years later, I wasn’t on as high a dose of prednisone any more; Remicade had allowed me to get on a lower dose. But every time I have Remicade, that drug is preceded by a big dose of solucortef (to prevent me from developing an allergic reaction to Remicade). This means that I go through acute steroid withdrawal every 7 weeks. I get Remicade on Thursday afternoons to minimize the disruption to my work schedule: Thursday afternoon, I have a steroid “high,” same with Friday morning. By Friday afternoon, the effects start to wear off. By Saturday, I’m having withdrawal, and am quite sluggish and spaced out. Sunday I am less spaced out. Monday I can return to work, though my decision-making capacity is not yet 100% back to normal. Usually by Tuesday morning, I’m fine again.

In the next few years after going on Remicade, I learned what not to do while in the steroid high phase, such as pay off credit card bills; I was mortified to have to explain to a guy in India who probably doesn’t earn that much money in a month that I had put $700 onto a credit card that had expired — I hadn’t used that one in 2 years — and could I please get a refund? (Meanwhile, the card with the actual bill was yet to be paid). I also bought flamboyant clothing that looked awful to me once the steroid high wore off. Of course, in my cheerful steroid mood, I had ripped the tags off, because why would I not want to keep that neon pink paisley shirt forever? (I’m not kidding about the neon pink or the paisley). I also lost a favourite sweater once, setting it down somewhere in a public space and walking away without remembering it until hours later, by which time it was gone.

Now I have rules for myself about what I can do when I’m on a steroid high. Rule #1: no major decisions of any kind. Rule #2: no banking of any kind. Rule #3: no driving or bike riding. Rule #4: no shopping of any kind, other than buying groceries, which must be bought using a shopping list and no more than $30 in cash. Rule #5: going to Winners is OK so long as rule #4 is obeyed — then I can sort clothing, making sure that all the small clothes are on hangers marked “small,” and on the small rack, and same for the mediums, etc., to my heart’s delight.

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