In the Predni-zone

Tingly cheeks. That’s what comes first for me. Then a sweaty forehead. I start to feel agitated. I get the jitters. I’m not quite hyper but certainly abuzz. I do things with hasty focus and jump from task to task in a flurry of activity.

Taking my prednisone is never a fun part of my day. Some days are worse than others, and sometimes I hardly notice it at all. But the days I do notice, it can be hard to escape the telltale impact.

Sometimes I’m driven to action by the jitters, and sometimes I’m just keeping busy to get my mind off it. My wife sits back and marvels. She says I vibrate at a higher frequency. I have a cloud of activity around me—like my own tornado I travel around in. It’s not quite a path of destruction, but at least a hint of mayhem.

Those are the cuter moments, however. There are also times where it seems to make me impatient, irritable, or intolerant. “That might be an understatement,” I can hear her saying in my head. I don’t always notice the influence until she points it out or something happens when I respond with more friction than usual.

These are all classic side effects of taking prednisone. A corticosteroid, prednisone is a very effective anti-inflammatory, and can be amazingly helpful in treating Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. That’s the up side. But the down side is that it tends to cause other impactful symptoms. There are a variety of other more dangerous health risks associated with this medicine as well, but the ones mentioned above are typically considered harmless.

While docs commonly pass these symptoms off as being simply annoying (compared to the dangerous side effects), that doesn’t mean they don’t impact us in significant ways. Perhaps they won’t kill us, but they can still be pretty difficult to live with. And it can be hard for others to understand.

When coping with prednisone therapy it helps to talk it through with the people you spend a lot of time around. While we don’t want to make excuses for everything, it is helpful if our loved ones understand that it’s normal to sometimes behave outside our normal selves while ‘under the influence.’ Sometimes they can help you know when you’re ‘in the zone’ if you don’t already recognize it. But if they don’t know about it, or don’t pick up on it, the agitation, irritability and other symptoms can easily be confused for willful bad behavior. But with a little communication on our side, and some caring patience and support on theirs, it can be much easier to tolerate peacefully, for all involved.

The trick to living in the prednisone beehive is learning to avoid the sting when possible—and remembering there’s also some honey hidden inside. Do your best to find it.

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About the Author

Andrew Tubesing is an acclaimed advocate and humorist on the subject of inflammatory bowel disease.