Hypochondria, death and being kind to yourself.

Yesterday, I made a schoolboy error. I Googled-up all the side-effects of my antibiotics, fuelling my state of heightened hypochondria. I induced something in between mild panic and fatalistic hysteria at my probable death. Oh dear God, why?

I was being so good. My whole reasoning for not taking the antibiotics originally was because I had studiously read up on all of the side-effects and decided that medication would be my last resort. So when I started the meds this week, it made sense to me not to read any more information on the tablets and just take them like a good girl.

I did take a quick glance at the pamphlets inside the Rifampicin and Clindamycin boxes and read the side effects in French. I didn’t fully understand them, but identified the important ones – nausées, douleurs abdominales, vomissements, diarrhées – and decided that was about enough reading right there. I made a mental note not to drink any alcohol (I’m clean-eating anyway, so I really shouldn’t be drinking) and stuffed my face with sauerkraut and Kombucha. Kombucha, which incidentally turned out to be 2% proof. I digress.

I was doing so well…

Until the stabbing pain shot through my toe. Not once, but twice. On different feet. At different times of the day.

Now, I know I may be a little dramatic sometimes and having learned a little about Gout (my step-father has just been diagnosed with it), I may have jumped a little to the conclusion that I had developed Gout and would now be restricted to eating lettuce and sauerkraut for the rest of my days (does sauerkraut even have a low purine level?).  I side-stepped my original plan of leaving the abundance of side-effect literature at the proverbial Mac-door and dove straight in to Google. I was convinced that even if I couldn’t allay my fears, the black and white print stating Gout as a side effect would prove that I wasn’t (a complete) hypochondriac.

What I found was yes, this medication could lead to elevated serum uric acid levels, which are associated with Gout. Oh. Now what?

I realised that I was completely ill-equipped to deal with this information. I was a Girl Scout short of a compass, in an unchartered forest. I could feel my inner control-freak turning up the panic dial, the needle heading for the red zone. The fear inside me notched up a level and the inner hypochondriac was on a roll! Should I stop taking the tablets? Should I call the doctor? Should I change my diet again? Should I read more about the possible side effects that were obviously about to destroy my already HS-riddled body?? In the end, I did none of these. Instead, I did the best thing any person can do in a time of a looming crisis. I slept on it.

Today, there is no pain. There are actually no side effects other than the enormous, bloated, balloon-shaped belly, which is more unsightly than painful. I have looked at the side-effects properly and taken a (non-emotional) read through the English versions of both. One of the key things I read (apart from the fact I could actually die – unlikely, but true) is that the gastrointestinal distress should settle after a few days and if it doesn’t, I should seek medical help.

I have come to an obvious conclusion – no matter how much I read, I am not a Doctor. I don’t know what levels of uric acid I have in my blood. I don’t know if my liver or my kidneys are the ones described in the pamphlet – ready to be ruined at the first sign of these hardcore antibiotics. I am making risk-assessments with no facts – completely blind. I also realised I was foolish to think my inner hypochondriac would be appeased, if I started these tablets without taking another look at the side-effects.

There is another likely cause of the mass-internal hysteria: I am going solo on this antibiotic mission. I shunned the Dermatologist way back in December, due to his less than favourable bedside manner and his unwillingness to engage in any conversation other than, ‘Take this medicine or don’t, it’s up to you’. He also failed to give my diet approach to HS  any credence – an ego basher at best and a real downer on my self-confidence. I left that appointment with the antibiotics prescription, wondering if I was doing the right thing to help myself. Now, despite all of that, I have to admit  I am not in control of this. I need an expert to help me, even if it isn’t one I like. I need the resources they possess, even if I do feel that they are biased and limited.

I have decided to go see my GP and ask him for some blood tests to alleviate my fears. I am giving myself licence to have these fears – after all, one can’t deny the toxicity of these drugs. There are reported success rates for antibiotics treating Hidradenitis Suppurativa and improvement of patients’ quality of life whilst taking the medication.  However, the outcomes are for those still on the medication. What about afterwards? I haven’t found any resources to say that you will stay in full remission forever and ever after taking a 10 week course of antibiotics….

My GP is lovely and understanding and even if he can’t help me himself, he will point me in the right direction. Until then, I will continue to take the tablets as directed. I will not freak out about the side effects. I will soothe my inner hypochondriac and reassure her that I am not about to die. I will take care of my body and above all, I will be kind to myself.

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