[Tripping On…] Tripping On Methylprednisolone

2021 April 21, 2:30am to 4am, 8mg
3:04am. I’m writing my experiences related to taking this medication, as I have with my first-times with other serious medications, and, as I did with two times before I took Prednisone. Methylprednisolone is part of the same family, so I should expect some of the same results as I have in the past, so this is me writing out my thoughts as I experience them. Maybe they’ll be interesting. Probably they won’t.

The first thing I noticed was the taste.

These two 4mg pills taste like medicine. Chalky and bitter. This is a taste that I’ve known throughout my life, both recently with this set of essays that will be collected under an umbrella of essays published under the name of perhaps Weaponizing HIPAA: Tripping On The American Healthcare System, or maybe something different, and when I was younger. Now that I look back on it, I was sick a lot as a kid, too. I had some sort of unknown illness when I was young. They thought it was pneumonia but there were some weird factors involved that necessitated them to take a spinal tap, which I had a weird reaction to, and there’s been the lifetime of various issues I’ve had related to medications being too effective or not effective enough compared to a predicted norm.

Who knows on all of this?

That’s why I value trip reports. I don’t do psychedelics or any mind-altering substances. These are the closest I might get to that. It’s been about a half-hour since I took the two 4mg pills and it feels like it’s kicking in along with the first 8 minutes of Sleep’s masterpiece – perhaps the best metal song ever recorded. What I mean by that is similar to when the song builds up to its apex, it is a meandering collection of various jams, it slows down, slows down further, to the point where the guitar chords feel like they’re hitting your spine, and like the medication getting to where it needs to go, or the goosebumps that happen, once the drum roll and cymbal crash it, it’s go-time. You’re strapped in and ready to go.

When I think about trip reports, my mind starts with Erowid and Hamilton Morris.

As what happens when my mind explores these pathways, it gets lost in a sea of information. Erowid is a drug education website, perhaps one of the Ten Best Websites On The Internet [excluding capitalistic predator sites like the big-G or big-A], so I browsed through their books that they had available as one might do after unlocking a new hobby. I realized through reading at a minimum of 30 minutes daily that I can now read and finish books. This wasn’t something I realized until I compared the average amount of time I spent daily on writing, 30 minutes, and then applied that to reading. It’s been an astounding life-altering experience in a profoundly positive way. Reading has done two things: first, it’s helped me realize deeper thoughts with more clarity that have been written by others, and second, it’s helped me address my life’s biggest insecurity.

I have too many books that I didn’t read.

If I can free myself from the shackles of whatever else I was doing to write for 30 minutes, then I can do the same for reading, right? Yesterday, no. I read less than 7 minutes, but this is not as much of a sin as not writing, and even that is a tricky thing. So from memory, the last time I wrote under 500 words was in early 2019, and that was 200 words, and that was because I was doing a journalistic write-up where I wrote, well, I think when the whole damn thing was done I wrote tens of thousands of words. Think of this but in a straight-laced journalistic capacity with fewer asides.

[We’ll get back to Morris after this aside concludes.]

Before that, I can’t even tell you when it was, off-hand, that I wrote fewer than 500 words. Some days, especially on my sickest and worst days, those words were rough and written as fast as I possibly could. They weren’t my best words – if I have them, they are in glimpses scattered across the two-million-plus words I’ve published here – but they were words. 500 of them. Done to the best of my ability. That, especially under the influence of long-term pain, to such a capacity that my entire life has been altered to the point where up until I took the 8mg of the Methylprednisolone, my hands would shake from pain. I can’t play videogames because of pain. I can’t do much of anything because of pain. So I understand my body well enough to know that this is working. My doctor wanted to do an injection instead of these pills.

I think he wanted the injection premium to the discounted pills.

I’ve noticed a curious sensation with my body where when I am in the depths of the worst pains that I can ever imagine for that day until a worse pain shocks me later, I’ll get a soothing sensation akin to goosebumps when something clicks mentally or physically and that knot loosens. I’ve always hated untying knots. But I had to do it from a kid until an adult, only now instead of doing the sorts of scouting knots that would help teach practical skills, I undo the knots of interpersonal communication or my perspectives on reality. When we talk about trip reports, we’re not talking about the psychedelic perspective of a person under the influence. That’s boring. What’s more interesting is what happens or what is unlocked from that experience. Seeing the vibrations of the universe is fine, but it means nothing if you can’t add positivity to your own experience of the universe… dude.

This is what I appreciate about Hamilton Morris.

He has taken many drugs but he has studied them much more. It is that balance between the subjectivity of experience with the objectivity of academia that, together, creates a greater whole than one or the other. With my second pain doctor, I often wondered if he ever experienced any physical pain. I never asked because I suspect the answer is no. There is something that happens when you have a profound experience, whether it’s some psychedelic experience or something more practical like a physical pain issue, is that you can relate to others that have similar experiences. If you shelter yourself away in academia, in the libraries of sterile books, where the imagination goes to rot on pages left forever unread until they’re sold at a book sale, then you can understand concepts but you don’t understand them. If you go through life experiencing as much as you can without knowing what is going on behind-the-scenes, doing the research – I prefer medline.gov – then you’re just guessing what life’s all about.

When the left foot of academia and the right foot of practicality work together, you walk.

And so we walk through the pain. We’re taught at an early age to suppress our pain, and that is a useful skill, but there is only so much that a human being can endure for so long regarding pain. When I’ve been prescribed Oxycodone, it doesn’t help. When I’ve recreationally taken Cannabis, it was weird. Through sharing my experiences with others, I’ve met many people that have had similar problems to mine, or those in the medical field that have certain insights. It’s been wonderful finally finding people that I can reverberate with – the Cannabis I once took may have been too unyieldly, so its results might have been too wild, but now – and this wasn’t an option until recently – there might be some aspects to it that might be helpful for me.

Having researchers explore substances like this is greatly beneficial.

I have taken so many medicines from so many doctors that my bathroom sink is filled with pill bottles. I want to reuse them rather than throw them out, so they’ve sat there, collecting grime throughout this entire process. My pain sensations have decreased significantly in the past near-hour. I feel like I can live my life again. But here was the big problem I did before. Just because I wasn’t in pain didn’t mean that there weren’t still painful things going on inside of my body. My body has been so sedentary and unhealthy that I am thin and weak. I imagine, in time, there is a possibility for recovery, but it is difficult to say how or when.

Things change for the worse in an instant and take forever to get back to better.

I read this tweet from Morris that made me think about all of this – the trip reports, the writing, the mortality of people like Morris’s friend Giancarlo “Gian” DiTrapano that founded a successful publishing company despite life-altering cluster headaches. I couldn’t help but related to both the small business book publishing house idea that I’ve been working toward for years and the health problems. To hear that someone died recently or long ago is tragic, but I feel like the regret of such things should be saved for proximity, not just impact. I’ve been impacted by many great dead media makers in many disciplines across many generations. Oh, how nice it would be to have an extended conversation with any of these people, or to have them live for another 3, 30, or 30,000 years, but that’s just not how life works.

One door closes, another opens, whether now or in the future.

The Doors of Perception is a famous trip report but no one bats an eye at it today. Maybe because of Aldous Huxley’s place within modern media- hmm… so this is something curious. These sorts of writings are things that I used to have to write about in school and hated because I would always receive editing marks at length. I was never that great of a writer at school, but I was there, and I wrote. I was a B student, 89.9%, and nothing outstanding. I think because the nature of what I had to write was based more around subjects like this. Opinion pieces about media, rather than thought pieces where media is used. The difference is that I might write about how some book or another piece of media “is” within a strict academic sense rather than how it “can be” within inspirations. I don’t know. I was writing in that direction about something, lost the train of thought, and salvaging it would mean deleting more than just the start of this paragraph.

Speaking of direction, to conclude this section of text, I wanted to write about travels.

Short-term, if my spine does start to heal up, I will start to take more trips outside in reasonable doses. During my two-week injection trip’s height, especially during the second week, I went to two supermarkets to pick up groceries. It felt fantastic to be able to do this since I desperately needed something other than what was in my pantry. I’m trying to figure out ways to stockpile the sorts of things that will last me for long periods of time in case this Methylprednisolone and the upcoming Mexiletine don’t work, then at least I’ll have enough food to last me through more spine pain.

The thing I know now is that I will probably never be without chronic pain.

However, if I can work toward overcoming the worst waves of pain as they hit, and can weather those storms for long enough, there is a whole world out there I’d like to see and explore. This past year of sedentary living, stuck due to physical immobility, has helped me realize my priorities in life. I want to see life, experience life, share experiences of life with others or in media like books or movies. That’s vague and non-actionable, to use business phrasing.

I held onto too many false idols before.

I should only idolize myself, and not in an egotistical manner, but in terms of realizing my innermost passion in life and guiding myself toward that. That doesn’t mean sacrificing or disrespecting others, or myself, in order to achieve that goal. What that means, instead, is not collecting many hats to wear just to hoard them. It means trying something on, trying it out for a while, and shedding it when it’s served its purpose. The objects I own that I like versus dislike have one key difference:

Can I use them again?

A book on home improvement has no purpose for me, but a book on race relations does. If both sit next to each other, then that turns into a library of things I don’t want. If the home improvement book sells for any amount over $10 on average, then, yes, it’s worth trying to sell it, otherwise, it’s OK for me to donate it to clear out the space, because I’m spending way more than that on an apartment I can barely use – where its contents just consume space. So freeing up all of this, as I reclaim my health, should help me toward my long-term goals of traveling the world. Not to escape but to discover. The song has ended and my thoughts have rambled long enough to where I feel like I can conclude with this:

Trip report summary, 4:09am
Good progress, no negatives detected, pain decreased.

[]

[]

2021 April 21, 10:50am, with a break, to 12:03pm, 8mg

I wrote “full bore” at 10:09am as my calendar note to do this.

I’m locked in and fully ready to write. I think the big thing was that I hadn’t remembered how much of uppers this class of medication was, so, I accidentally brewed my regular pot of coffee, drank through it, and, well. I did about a week’s worth of work when my spine is feeling well in a few hours. I know what’s going on here well so I’m doing my best to slow down, but there is just something about how this is hitting right now where I am making substantial progress on everything simultaneously. If I took this yesterday, I would have had the transcript that I wrote about in yesterday’s essay edited in about a half-hour or less.

My mind gets distracted often and disinterested often more.

It’s difficult for me to sit still on something I don’t want to do, but I’ve learned through a compulsory education’s worth of meritocratic work to push through it. The bar in America is low enough that I could roll with B grades and occasionally As, do well enough to get into a program where the state pays for a year of tuition at local community colleges, and, learn almost the hard way that I actually have to do homework competently. It’s a weird feeling knowing that the effort put in is effort put out, and how consistently that is applied to such a degree that-

Hmm… I forgot where my thought was going.

This is the major problem with stimulants like this, especially when combined with caffeine, is that I can clean my bathroom counter in about 15 minutes but forget everything else. There is some value in being able to drop out of some of the unnecessary thought patterns in life. Noisy neighbors aren’t a bother when you’re focused on something pleasurable. Spine pain isn’t a big deal when chemicals are firing to such an extent that before any movement was painful, whereas now, movement seems almost pleasurable. It’s a weird and dangerous balance. I might have overdone it a bit, but, hey, when you suddenly get the inclination to rearrange your book collection to clean it up significantly, figure out a workflow that might actually work for reading books or dropping books fairly, well, why not? I even grabbed my next physical book out of my box storage.

I hadn’t opened that box of books since I moved!

With this also comes a telltale sign that the uppers are kicking in – mood alteration. I received an email from my insurance company. I had negative experiences with them over the past year, and I was finally able to get in contact with someone that read the emails I was writing, could understand what I was writing, and reply as a professional adult. So, imagine me, in this mindset, getting an email where they do some analysis of what they did wrong, then conclude that this was a valuable learning opportunity for their employees. It would have been fine, had this department’s referral actually worked. Instead, wow, it failed big time for the insurance company.

I’ll paste my email response below, with “[]” for redacted information.

Hi [],
Thank you for reaching out.
I don’t know who my current rep is – they changed reps a few times. I’ve been in contact with about a half-dozen different people with []. It’s a disaster and a confusing mess that is embarrassing to []. However, over the past 12 months of actively needing services from Aetna, it’s just been a nightmare for me, so I expect nothing less.
I last heard back from anyone on Friday when I sent out an email asking questions.
I’ve had people tell me they’re transferring my case, some people use this secure messaging system, some people send via email, and some people don’t read the “no call” note and call me anyways.
I feel completely 100% – 1000% – disrespected by [].
This is the first positive interaction I’ve had with [] since April 2020.
It’s a gamble about how I’m going to be communicating with [], who I’m going to be communicating with, and if I’ll receive a response.
This is what I need:
1. One rep. I don’t want to see a half-dozen people CC’d that I don’t know why they’re being CC’d. I don’t care if my case is transferred, but, I need to know who the person is transferring me to, and why, because right now I think one person has transferred my case to another person, and another person has transferred me to another person, so I don’t think anyone is actively working on my case. Maybe they’re waiting for this to be closed so they can receive credit for having worked on it?
2. I would like clear answers from whoever I talk to. The email communication I’ve received from these reps have been acceptable to poor. I think they quote verbatim knowledge base articles without understanding my questions. The last one was embarrassing for the rep. I asked a question and they literally just read off the question back to me.
3. I have many questions, so I don’t want them getting lost in the system like they have.
4. Who are all these people that are CC’d? I think my last email had around five or seven different people CC’d? I was never introduced to any of these people, the communication hand-offs have been poor, and why were all these people CC’d? Were they going to help at some point? I still have many questions from [] but it’s just such a disaster that I don’t have the energy to ask for an update – receive a hurried “huh? what? Oh, I was just going to get back to you!” and then receive another jargon-heavy, non-answer.
To note, if my employer weren’t using [], there is absolutely no way I would ever voluntarily choose [] with the absolutely terrible, awful, and embarrassing to [] customer service I’ve received overall for the past 12 months.
I hope this email can be a lessons learned for [] toward finding me one [] rep that will actually take the time to read my messages and reply to them instead of just ignore them or bouncing them all over to various contacts.
With all of that said, outside of this email – I have no positive words for [], but I think with some help, I can have at least one positive word to say about [].
Thanks,
Anthony

Feels good, but, hmm… I wonder what the blowback will be for them or me?

After I wrote that email, I realized that I was going full-bore into it, or, my mind was thinking faster than its buffers could handle. Any sort of heartbeat irregularity is merely just the body responding to the mind’s pace, so, slow down the mind and the body follows. I snacked a little bit. I’m not hungry. I drank a little bit of water. I’m not thirsty. The more water I drink, the more I can pee out of this caffeine that, mixed with the Methylprednisolone, has unchained me from the burdens of a year’s worth of pain. In two days, I will have been at around the one-year point from being so disabled from spine pain that I could no longer work.

All because of sloppily handled ergonomics in a work-from-home rush due to COVID.

My employer has been generous with my long-term medical leave, but, I am forever burdened with this. I will never be able to go hiking up a minor mountain without the threat of spine pain looming in the background. At any instant, my spine could flare up to such a degree as it did one week and two days ago that despite an entire year of spine pain, this one stopped me in my tracks. Each one is worse than the last. Each one disables me further than the last. If there is anything good to say about all of this, it’s that it’s taught me a resiliency far greater than anything I could have ever imagined.

Yesterday, I made the impossible happen to get this medication.

One hour before closing, I wrapped up the transcription-editing, I put on deodorant, changed my clothes, put on my COVID-blocking mask and gloves, used my crutches to carry my wounded body down the stairs, into my car, drove to the pharmacy, parked as close as I could without having a disability placard – a friend of mine had a temporary one and he said it was hell to get, so, there’s no way I’m going to get one or have the energy to advocate for one, crutched my way inside, to the pharmacy, and waited in line as a customer yelled at the pharmacist for something-or-another. The pharmacist was an idiot, though, and could not explain a single thing to me about taking the medication that the instructions could not explain clearer.

Oh well, at least I got the medication to begin today’s trip.

Since I was out-and-about, I stopped by a pizza place to get a cheap pizza. I carried it and my crutches to my car’s trunk, rearranged the trunk’s contents to fit it mostly securely in the back, then drove home. It arrived in my carport without spilling out. I had thought along the way that worst case I would fold it up like a calzone and carry it sideways up the stairs to my apartment. I didn’t have to do that, but, I had to prioritize carrying the pizza versus a crutch, so it was more like a tail I dragged up the stairs than any sort of useful tool.

Still, I got the pizza home safely and securely.

Such a feat of independence is not something that should really be asked of anyone in my position and yet here I am. I’m stopping at 11:23am since I need to use the restroom and respond to a message.

I’m back at 12:03pm and I’m feeling tired enough to where I might try sleeping.

[]

Trip report summary, 12:03pm
Great progress, increased pain, increased serotonin response.

[]

2021 April 21, 9:34pm to 9:39pm, 8mg

Just a quick update on this one.

I slept for a few hours and felt really sick. My face was flushed, I had a headache, and I was feeling awful. I was able to piece together some food. I’ll link the photo of the rice, broccoli, and chicken along with “Drug Parade” the song I like listening to when I write trip reports. The next medication came in, but as I recall, I have to wait for the end of this medication before I take that, so I’m not sure if I’m going to rush over to pick it up. I won’t. I’ll get some groceries tomorrow instead of going to the pharmacy.

I want to do some other writing and reading, so I’ll end it here.

Trip report summary, 9:39pm
Overall, I’m feeling better. I had a rough evening so I think it’s all settling in.

[]

2021 April 22, N/A, 8mg

Not noted.

Trip report summary, 3am
Not noted

[]

2021 April 22, 9:02am to 9:09am, 4mg

I wasn’t feeling well so I couldn’t sleep.

I took 8mg earlier than I should have because I was having a bad headache behind my right eye that was preventing me from sleeping. I have been awake since 6:30pm yesterday, where I slept for 3 hours, and before that I was awake for a long time. When I got to my computer, I had to disassociate from the pain and do some chin-tucks to get my head back on my spine.

Then I forgot.

About a half-hour ago or so, I was feeling the inklings of spine pain, laid down in bed, and experienced by far the worst spine pain I’ve felt. There isn’t a good way to describe it. Hopelessness is the first word that comes to mind. I thought of Trishna’s spine issues in “The Story” and how she has people around that can help her out. Perhaps that feels sentimental to have people around, but, the worst of this has been doing this all alone. It has been rough but then when I make it out of this, I will have a new-found resilience and – oh, this is the point when I realized after writing for many years that I might want to have the q, q, q mark in between the square brackets [] to note where I am, if I need to save and return to my place later. But yeah, that particular spine pain episode that just happened reinforced some thoughts I had about what I want to do in life.

I won’t announce them now, since I need to get groceries while I can.

Trip report summary, 9am
The medication is helping but it’s not super effective.

[]

2021 April 22, outro

I’m starting this bit at 9:52pm to conclude this essay.

I believe what happened next was I took another 4mg and then experienced significant spine pain, so, its effectiveness is minimal but dangerous. I think what’s happening with this medication is it’s stealing from tomorrow to make today easier. I’m glad I didn’t take that 6-pill dose to begin with because I would have burned out so much more than I did here. I feel awful. I’m going to take more outside this essay’s notation since I don’t feel like writing in this much more. What I experienced here reinforces what I would experience with the injections: temporary happiness for worse harm to my body.

I feel so exhausted right now.

I still want to do some reading and stay up for a while longer, but at the same time I’m so exhausted that I might as well try to wrap things up sooner so I can go to bed. I already wrote more over the past few days than I have in any one day in years, so there is a power to this stuff, but it’s dangerous. Not because of overdosing but because of miscommunication with doctors. They don’t know or don’t care about these sorts of experiences. They want action and results. Something like this is almost trivial to them. If it’s not in validated medical literature, why would they want to hear about it? When I told the doctor about my trepidations with antidepressants, he ignored them completely. Why would he care about my reaction? Well, the pharmacist was surprised. When the pharmacist gave me the prescription for Mexiletine, she asked if that helped.

“No,” which she received with visible shock.

Trip report summary
I didn’t feel much better for having taken this medication.

Endtable
Quotes: None.
Sources: My personal experiences.
Inspirations: I wanted to share my story, and, well, yes, I did share it. But it got a bit boring for me and a bit much.
Related: Sober Living essays and Tripping On [The American Healthcare System] chapters.
Photo: Front and back for reference
Written On: Written above
Last Edited: Written above [First draft; final draft for the Internet.]

 

My big goal is writing. My most important goal is writing "The Story." All other goals should work toward that central goal. My proudest moment is the most recent time I overcame some fear, which should have been today. I'm a better zombie than I was yesterday. I'm not better than you and you're not better than me. Let's strive to be better every day.