Prednisone: a life saver and ruiner all balled up into one tiny little pill. All while starting high school.
I know, the suspense has been killing you! But folks, I'm back at it with the next installation of my self-care journey.
If you recall, I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in 8th grade after many, many, many tests. Hospitalized for three weeks with nothing but water and intravenous nutrition. Lost a few friends, and found my true support system. If you're only just joining me and want more details on these parts of the story: part one | part two.
Have you ever been on prednisone? Known someone who has? Was it a high dose or low?
Let me guess. Your aunt would take a low dose of prednisone for her asthma, or maybe your uncle was on it for his arthritis. Regardless, it would only be a week here or there when the pain was a little too much to handle. Their prescription is likely 10 mg for a week or two. And they taper off halfway through the prescribed length of time on the drug.
I was on a minimum of 40 mg for approximately 4 months.
Side Effects: difficulty sleeping, mood swings, increased appetite, water retention, moon face, steroid-induced diabetes, slow wound healing, humpback, increased thirst.
I got them all.
Literally the morning after coming home, I chugged 3 glasses of milk before anyone could warn me not to. I was just so thirsty, and it was delicious. I hadn’t drank anything but water in three weeks.
Remember how water retention is a side effect?
Well, there’s a lot of sodium in milk. A lot.
My mom caught me chugging the third glass and explained to me what my new diet should be. Ugh! So hard when your body is hungry and thirsty 24/7! I ate a lot of cucumbers that summer.
I swear that after all that milk, I literally felt my face swell up, and it didn’t go back down until months after quitting the prednisone.
So, it’s summer. The summer before high school. I’d been in the hospital for three weeks and basically lost my close school friends.
Fortunately, I had my Jews. They kept me busy, preoccupied, and never made me feel judged for my new looks.
I just didn’t feel myself. At all. I was angry, hungry, and itching out of my skin constantly. I was gaining weight and didn’t look like myself.
I remember having had bought my first day of school outfit some weeks earlier. But when the day came, I couldn't button my pants. I used a hair tie to keep them closed.
While I had lost friends at the end of middle school, I gained a close one over the summer during dance team practice. Before my hospitalization, I had auditioned for the high school song-pom team- the dance team within the cheer team. What I didn't know then was how much of a lifesaver being a part of this team would be. It provided me with the security of being in a group, an identity when wearing the uniform, and an opportunity to create friendships before starting high school.
One friend in particular became my bestie for all four years of high school. We practically lived at each other's homes and her mother still refers to me as her "other daughter" from time to time. We visited one another throughout college and continue to keep in touch.
Anyhow. Back to the point.
Despite the above, I felt incredibly isolated. Likely due to the lovely emotional side effects of the damn drugs.
Pardon my French, but I still really hate the stuff. After several flare-ups throughout my life, I have learned to manage my symptoms and even got myself into remission with food- more on this soon.
While this was the only time I was on prednisone, I've taken a slew of other drugs. Drugs for the colitis. Drugs to combat side effects of the drugs for the colitis. At one point, I was taking upward of 20 pills a day. Some were not so small either.
The side effects really messed with my self image. I hated how I looked and feeling like I had no control over my appearance and emotional well being. Even as the side effect subsided, the mind set stuck with me. And being a dancer didn't help. While I was never fat, I was always in front of large mirrors with extremely tiny girls. It was hard not to compare myself, especially when already feeling down about my body.
How I so wish I could love my body then the way I do now.
Our mindset is everything. If we respect and love our bodies and self, we have all the power in the world to be and do whatever we set our minds to.
Now, I'm not perfect, I do not always practice perfect self-care. I often over extend and exhaust myself to the point of complete mental melt down. But the relationship I have with my body today is light years from what it was. I rarely, if ever step on a scale. I fuel my body with the right food for me. I take time to work out in ways I enjoy. And I get outside.
I believe I have heald your attention long enough. Next in my story: self loathing, punishment, and finally how I got to where I am now.
PS. All my symptoms went away as the prednisone left my system. Thank goodness!