As mentioned in this Instagram post, our trip to the United Kingdom proved difficult for me because of changes to my medications’ side effects.
Have you ever had a good time interfered with by medication side effects? Tell me about it in the comments!
I Need More Info, Doc
If you know anything about changing meds, you know it can be side-effect hell. Currently, I’m on meds for:
- high blood pressure
- excessive daytime sleepiness
- acid reflux/GERD
Four of my meds have changed in the last few months, but the main culprits for side effects have been those for fibro, diabetes, sleepiness, and ADHD. For that reason, I wish I’d self-advocated more with my doctors. I’d have pushed to wait on making changes until after our two-week vacation.
On June 5th, I saw my psychiatrist and explained how my fibromyalgia flares weren’t responding to my dosage of duloxetine (Cymbalta) as much anymore. Duloxetine is a depression med, but it can also help with the pain signals the brain sends to the body, which is useful for fibromyalgia. It worked like a champ for a few months, then gradually decreased in effectiveness. My psychiatrist increased my dosage. I failed to ask about side effects, and she didn’t tell me. No knocks against her; she’s incredible. But damn, I wish I’d asked.
Also in early June, my primary care physician increased my dosage of Ozempic for diabetes. I tolerated previous dosage levels well with only occasional nausea, and she wanted to see improved results. Again, I wasn’t informed of the potential side effects of the increased dosage, and like a dolt, I didn’t ask. The lesson here: Ask.
**Wanna know more about my experiences with Ozempic? Say so in the comments!**
Lastly, my psychiatrist put me on Adderall to combat both excessive daytime sleepiness and ADHD. This was a shift from Modafinil, which wasn’t working as well anymore.
You can see how it might be tough to keep up with self-advocacy when I’m trying to keep up with all that’s wonky with my meat vessel.
With all these new dosages right before a two-week vacation in a country we’d never been to before, the inevitable started right away.
Side Effects Don’t Care about Your Vacation
Going through O’Hare Airport, I noticed I was getting hot and sweaty fast. By the time we got through security, I was drenched. I chalked it up to a hot flash because nothing could be better than adding perimenopause to the many fun ways in which my body behaves day-to-day. But as we walked through the fucking stupidly long tunnel from Terminal 5 to baggage claim at Heathrow Airport, I could feel sweat dripping off the back of my head onto my neck. That only happens to me when I’m exerting at maximum levels. I knew something was off.
The sweating did not let up. And then the acid reflux started.
I’ve had acid reflux for, literally, decades. I’m gonna end up with the horrifying long-term side effects of Omeprazole. That’s how long I’ve been on it with no end in sight. But I don’t typically have reflux issues as long as I take my meds, and that makes me happy.
Except everything I consumed in London upset my stomach especially carbonated drinks. Frustratingly, Europe seems to have a thing against water. If it’s not carbonated, they don’t drink it, which I find odd as fuck. They’re not big on drinking water in general. Servers sometimes seemed surprised when I ordered still (as in not fizzy) water. But that’s all I wanted. That’s what I usually drink in restaurants, and I’ve been that way for years. Asking for it in London seemed like a chore.
Minor aside to pick a fight with the U.K.: Y’all constantly make fun of Americans for being fat, but y’all are dehydrated, drink alcohol a fuck ton, and smoke way too much, so knock it off. You’ve got no room picking on us for health. I love y’all, but stop it.
Anyway, on top of the frustration of fizzy-drink domination, I could only eat small amounts, which had started weeks before because of Ozempic. Truly, I question if I’m even eating enough to not be in starvation mode. Plus, I’d get hungry, then get food in front of me, and the nausea would start immediately. As a foodie, going to London and barely being able to eat was such a bummer. It’s as if I wasn’t allowed to enjoy my first time in the U.K.
Me vs. Side Effects: Who Will Win?
Between those side effects and the meniscal tear in my knee, the first few days in London were not fun for me. If I wasn’t soaking through all my clothes, I was in pain. And if it wasn’t both of those, I was exhausted, hungry, nauseated, and burpy. It was the opposite of a relaxing vacation for both Hubster and I. It was a constant feeling of ruining his fun while trying to find quick fixes to salvage a trip I’d wanted since I was five years old.
One jet-lagged night, I read up about my meds. This is where the medical and pharmaceutical industries must do a better job for patients. I noticed this when I was first prescribed Ozempic. No one told me cancer was a side effect. I found that out when I first read the side effects on the prescription materials. It’s such a concern that it’s on a permanent notice on the bottom of the manufacturer’s website, and it’s the first side effect mentioned in the material that comes with the med.
Mind you, in early 2020, the FDA recommended pharmacies pull Ranitidine off the shelves because of a carcinogen. Yet the pharmaceutical industry is pushing Ozempic for weight loss. Where’s THAT conversation?
Back to my side effects . . . at first, I thought the cause of the excessive sweating was Adderall, so I quit taking that for most of the trip. However, as I read up on side effects of my increased dosage meds, I learned Duloxetine can cause excessive sweating. It even appears under the “overdose” label, which is scary.
That Duloxetine was the culprit of sweating made sense because it also caused me emotional blunting (numbing out). During the Peter Gabriel concert at the O2 Arena, I noticed I wasn’t feeling as deeply as I usually do at his shows. I’m fortunate enough to have seen him perform live five times, and had numbing out not happened at a previous show when I was dealing with depression and a different depression med, I don’t know if I would’ve recognized it. But I recognized it shortly into the show, and only Duloxetine fit as a suspect.
Then I researched Ozempic and found it can cause acid reflux. I surmised the increased dosage there caused that issue, as I’d not experienced it before. That’s something I deeply wish my PCP had told me. As someone already dealing with acid reflux, you’d think that would’ve come up.
One of these days, I’ll write a book about how to self-advocate with doctors.
So, how was I to resolve these issues while still on our U.K. vacation? Because gross levels of sweating while not eating isn’t my idea of a blast.
As there wasn’t much I could do about the dosages, I figured out some coping mechanisms. I’d have to deal with the sweating. That simply meant more showers, a lot of Febreze (smart move, Hubster), and resting whenever possible. For the acid reflux, a Reddit user wrote about injecting Ozempic into their thigh instead of the recommended stomach. Come my next injection, I did that. I also happened to have extra doses of Omeprazole from a previous (and failed) change in meds by my ear, nose, and throat doctor. So, I took more of those. Sure enough, the acid reflux slowly decreased and became manageable again.
Since then, I’ve seen my psychiatrist again, and I told her all of this. Thankfully, I have changes again. We cut the Duloxetine back down, but it does mean I’ll likely have more fibro flares. That said, I’d rather have flares than emotional blunting and outrageous sweating at even the smallest of activities. I can deal with fibro flares.
I know I’m not done with medication changes. In fact, I’ll be experimenting with ADHD meds over the next month. Honestly, dealing with side effects is shitty as is, but trying to do it on vacation during your first international trip as an adult is the worst possible time. If anyone learns anything from my experiences, I hope it’s that you ask all the questions and that you time your medication changes better than I did.
Because nothing is worse than knowing the people behind you on a London bus are already judging you for being a fat American, but they’re super judging you for being a fat American literally dripping sweat on the seats.
By the way, our vacation DID get better.