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How Googling My Prescription Likely Saved My Life

Whenever I feel like I’m being overly cautious, I remember this experience. In some ways traumatic and in other ways triumphant, this memory reminds me of my power as well as my responsibility to myself.

When I was first very ill, the first time I became bedbound, I went to the doctor with my mom to search for answers. One of my most concerning symptoms at the time was pain associated with eating and digestion as I was losing weight quickly. My doctor prescribed me what sounded like a simple medication for my stomach and I asked him my usual questions about side effects and other expectations. He assured me it was a very common medication that rarely causes any issues. My mom helped me pick up the medication and dropped me off at my house.

As soon as I was settled in at home, I googled the prescription I was given. I clicked on the Wikipedia page and at the very top of the page was a brightly colored banner that read something like “WARNING: Do NOT take this medication if you have a history of depression or other mood disorders.

I was taken aback, as I had a long history of depression, anxiety and, as we would later discover, C-PTSD and BPD. My doctor was well aware of my mental health issues and had prescribed medication for these symptoms in the past. I was surprised he hadn’t mentioned anything about this possible interaction in the office during our discussion.

After I read more information on the possible side effects of this medication, including the possibility of worsening depression and suicidal thoughts, I decided  I would try the medication. I was fairly certain I knew what would happen, but I wanted to know what I would have experienced if I never found out the risks of this medication. Since I was aware of the risks, I took precautions to ensure my safety in case of mental emotional crisis and kept a record of my mental emotional symptoms before and after starting the medication. The change was nearly instantaneous. About 30 minutes after I started it, my depression was noticeably worse. Twelve hours later, I was having suicidal thoughts. Thirty-six hours after starting the medication I stopped taking it, and, fully understanding what just occurred, I felt so much rage I thought I would burst into flames.

My doctor put me at full risk of a mental health crisis and possibly a suicide attempt. I was already experiencing a health crisis through the sudden onset of chronic illness symptoms, and if I were not aware of the side effects of this medication, I would have likely assumed my mental health crisis was directly tied into my physical suffering, isolation at home and loss of mobility. While these are, of course, difficult to cope with, they did not cause me the degree of despair and hopelessness I felt when my mind was altered by that medication. If I had associated my mental emotional suffering with my situation and conditions, rather than to the medication, I would likely have fallen into deeper despair and caused myself further harm. Sometimes I think I am being over dramatic when I say he risked my life by not informing me of these side effects, but I feel strongly that it’s true.

I stopped seeing that doctor as fast as I could. I still feel the gut wrenching sensation thinking about this experience. But now I also feel pride and confidence, because I proved to myself that I can get informed, make decisions for my health and move past this kind of betrayal. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time researching and reading books about the various topics that help me understand my health. I look up any medications, treatments or programs my doctors want me to try out, and I let them know I will be researching things before making important decisions. If I’m going to trust my doctor, I’m going to need them to trust me to learn about these things and make the best decisions I can for my health.

Google isn’t the enemy; misinformation is the enemy. And until my doctors have the time to sit with me for hours on end and help me understand everything, I’ll be using Dr. Google to supplement what they don’t have the time to tell me.

Getty image by marchmeena29