Last Monday, I started to feel like a cold was coming on. I was annoyed, as I had successfully managed to avoid getting a cold during the entire autumn and winter – even when my adult kids had brought the plague home with them and succumbed to the congestion, sneezing, coughing, and general miserableness. I had been to the casino a few days prior – so I knew that I was being punished for my vice. I should know better – that place has a nasty habit of sucking all of the money out of my wallet, the joy out of my soul, and apparently my good health out of my body.
Tuesday afternoon, I left work early due to general crappiness. My head was pounding, I was exhausted, I couldn’t breathe well, and my throat was on fire! I hoped that if I could get a good night’s sleep, the God’s would forgive me and I would wake miraculously cured. That didn’t happen. In the morning my throat was a twelve on that “on a scale of one to ten, how bad is your pain?” If I had been rating things based on the cutesy pain scale chart they have people point to, I would have been a “Wrath of Gods type pain”
I decided to go to the urgent care instead of work, where the doctor informed me that my rapid strep test had come back “faintly positive.” That didn’t inspire confidence in the diagnosis – I mean, imagine if you were in a burning building and someone said, “Follow me! I’m faintly positive I know the way out!” You might be tempted to take your chances on your own – or wait until someone who was really positive of the way out came along. But she was the trained professional and she prescribed a Z-pack (Zithromax) for me to take and told me I should stay home until I had been on the antibiotics for a full 24-hours.
I love the idea of a Z-pack and I’ve actually taken one in the past and it worked beautifully. The fact that you only take it for five days and it works for ten appeals to my lazy, forgetful side. So, on the way home, I picked up the medication and took the first two pills as directed. I didn’t feel better that day – in fact, I felt worse, as I started to cough due to some acid reflux. As you can imagine, regurgitated stomach acid splashing up into my already raw throat was not pleasant.
I rarely get acid reflux and, when I do, it usually waits to hit me until I am fast asleep after eating or drinking something that I probably shouldn’t have – later than I should have. I’ll be jolted out of my dreams and find myself sitting straight up in bed and gasping for breath. I cough, choke and wheeze for up to a half hour, trying to get the acid out of my throat and trachea. I hate it so hard! I hate it even worse because I have no one to blame but myself.
This time it was different. My acid reflux continued all day – and all night. I ended up sleeping in a chair in an attempt to elevate my head high enough to thwart the reflux. It didn’t work – I woke up every fifteen minutes coughing and maybe crying just a little. The next day, exhausted and cranky, still having acid reflux, still coughing, and still unable to swallow without wincing, I took my “Day Two” pill from the antibiotic pack and headed back to work. I really wanted to stay home in bed – but my time off was already promised to my grandkids, who I’ll be seeing next week. I’d go through the fires of hell (which is pretty much how my throat felt) to see them so, as I was no longer contagious, off to work I went.
When I sat at my desk and opened my emails from the day before, there was one from my ex, asking if I still planned to move at the end of the year.
I immediately burst into tears when I read it.
See, in November, I had applied for a job with the State Department and I felt really good about it – really, really good. I was already making plans for what I would take when I left to start my new job. I had told Doc about the job and let him know that the house would be all his when I left in about a year. It was a classic case of counting my chickens before they hatched. While he knew I did not get the job, I guess he thought I still might have plans to leave and wanted to check in so he could make his plans if that was the case. However, in my emotional state, I interpreted the email as Doc’s way of saying, “When are you going to get the hell out of my house so I can move back in, bitch? You’re not wanted here anymore!”
The rest of the day, I was wracked with sadness, uncertainty, and worry about my life. It was about that time that I wrote my last post, expressing my conflicting emotions about nearly everything. At the same time, the acid reflux continued – even worse than before. Somewhere in the midst of all of that angst, I had a thought – my acid reflex started just after I started the Z-pack. Could it be a side effect? I researched it online and found that YES – indigestion and acid reflux are considered a rare side effect of the medication. I also found a website that posted patient reviews of the drug and others had the same problem – along with other side effects, like headaches, depression, uncontrollable diarrhea, anxiety, insomnia, a feeling of impending doom, and the loss of the sense of smell and taste. I immediately grabbed my emergency stash of chocolate and stuck my nose into the container – breathing deeply. Thank the cocoa Gods! Even with my stuffy nose I could still make out the aroma of Dove dark chocolate. However, at that moment I decided I wasn’t going to take another pill from my Z-pack. I called my doctor and asked her to prescribe another antibiotic for me instead.
I knew the Zithromax was designed to stay in my system and continue working even after I stopped taking it, so I wasn’t surprised when my acid reflux continued through the night and into the next day. I was popping various anti-acids like they were candy – with no real relief. I had spent another night in my chair, sleeping fitfully. I felt emotionally fragile and I was exhausted all day. I continued to worry about my living arrangements, if I should be looking for a new job, and conversations I felt I should have immediately with my ex. When I got home that night, I decided to purchase a new phone – and immediately began to debate the merits and if I should spend the money or not. I began to worry even more about my financial situation. With the acid reflux still present, I again reclined in my chair at bedtime – but I couldn’t sleep because of all of the racing thoughts and anxiety. I felt like I was going crazy!
And then it hit me. All of this? All of the emotional uncertainty and anxiety? This was not me – it was the Zithromax! I remembered all of those other side effects of the Z-pack I had read about – the sense of impending doom, the fear, the panic, the depression – everything I had been feeling for the past few days. I just hadn’t made the connection before. I hugged my pillow and repeated to myself, over and over, “This isn’t you. This is the drug. You don’t need to decide anything now. You just need to sleep. It will be better in the morning.” I finally fell asleep – only waking at 1am to move to my bed, as the acid reflux had finally abated.
The next morning, I was a different woman. My emotions were back to normal. I felt calm and centered. I was no longer obsessing about changing my life or buying a phone. I occasionally had passing thoughts about my job, moving, and my marriage, but without the panic, anxiety, and feeling of urgency that was there before. I was, and still am, content with my life.
I’m not sure why I reacted to the Z-pack the way I did. All I know is that, in this case, the cure was as bad as the disease. If I get sick in the future, the Z-pack will not be a contender in my health care…and I should probably stay out of casinos as well…just in case.