Take meds or breathe?

Decisions, decisions. Where is the line between beneficial effects and intolerable side effects of medicine? I suppose it is different for everybody, but I am having a hard time placing it at the moment, or at least I was until I ended up in the emergency room on Tuesday.

It was a horrible experience. Thankfully Karen left work and came there when I called, even though I begged her not to. After being scolded by the ambulance driver for using my phone to try to tell Karen that I was okay, I was dropped off at Summit emergency room in Oakland.

I was transferred from the gurney to a bed behind a curtain. There was someone to the left and to the right of me, also behind curtains. At some point or other, we were all moaning in pain or some other kind of misery, and most of the time, there was no one around to help. Karen and the other people’s visitors would go out into the hallway looking for someone, and there was no one to be found.

At one point, I was shaking very hard, having a lot of trouble breathing, and my arms and legs were tingling in a very scary way. I kept telling the nurse that something was wrong, but she wouldn’t listen to me and eventually ignored me. In her favor, she did give me oxygen before ignoring me. A doctor had been called, but didn’t show up until several hours later. The other patients were having similar experiences. I never want to go back there again.

I am trying to switch between 2 medicines. The old one wasn’t working so well anymore, and had some potentially fatal side effects which caused the brand name to be discontinued. The generic is still available, and I am still taking it. The new med works better in some ways, but has the unfortunate side effects of making it hard to breathe, and causing uncontrollable shaking, dizziness, and nausea.

Taking 2/3 dose of the new meds and 1/3 dose of the old meds is not enough of either medicine to be very effective. Taking a higher dose of the new sends me to the emergency room for oxygen, and going back to my old meds seems kind of pointless, considering that I was trying to switch because they weren’t working.

There is of course always the option of trying yet another new med, but I don’t have the energy for another experiment right now. I would like to be able to take the new medicine without ending up in the hospital. It is possible to try an increased dose again, but at a smaller increment. Might be worth a try, but at the moment it seems kind of terrifying.

My doc and the ER doc both say that it is a personal decision whether the side effects are tolerable enough to live with in order to get the beneficial effects of the medicine. I have dealt with a lot of side effects in my time, but not breathing is where I draw the line at “intolerable”. I find it completely baffling that this is not an automatic reason to immediately discontinue use of the medicine at the dose causing the problem.

It has been 3 days since the ER and my breathing is mostly back to normal. I am completely exhausted and back to square one, as they say. My plan at the moment is to rest and try to get some energy back. No idea what to do after that. Anyone else ever have to make decisions like that?

2 thoughts on “Take meds or breathe?”

  1. I have tried not taking any medicine a few times. It generally ends in disaster, but sometimes I just have to remember why I am taking meds in the first place to keep things in perspective as far as the side effects go.

  2. Sometimes the effects of psychiatric medications can be unpredictable. Sometimes trying to do the right thing by switching medications can have unforseen consequences and make things worse. Have you tried switching off medication completely?


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