Thursday, January 21, 2010

Larium no longer

It won't surprise anyone that I don't want to get malaria again. My previous brush with the parasite, during which I also had typhoid, left me weakened to the point of not wanting to surf, drink beer, or go outside. It was pretty startling. Usually, when I get sick, I loose weight--tick fever, malaria, food poisoning all brought me down a dress size. This time, my body felt so threatened that despite eating sparsely, I went into metabolic lockdown and clung to every spare calorie I could find. I didn't loose a pound. Co-infection is to blame for the seriousness of all of this, but I never want to get this sick again.

So it was that six weeks ago we found ourselves in Ghana, searching local pharmacies for a generic version of Larium. No one is paying $5 a day for us to take malarone--not that there are any studies about what happens to you when you take it longer than three months anyway. Doxycycline ($1 a week) gave us such bad sunburns when we tried it during the rainy season, we blistered and peeled and feared early skin cancer. So we were left with Larium--the $2 a week psychotropic drug that only the U.S. continues to prescribe to its government and military personnel, and which seemed like an okay option when we started taking it.

Two weeks and two dosages later, we were both having crazy dreams. Mine were mostly of the action-movie variety--car chases in which I drove with amazing skill and speed, jungles to run through, zip lines over cliffs and ocean I got to relay myself across. Except for having to lucid dream my way out of a few nightmares involving evil children, I thought the dreams were kind of fun.

The depression, not so much. I am not, to put it mildly, a depressed person. Friends regularly ask how I can be so bloody positive and--especially when hungover--so energetic. So when Larium took away all my serotonin and left me feeling like I had nothing to be excited about, ever, even though my little sister and Nate's little sister were visiting and I was surfing almost every day, I knew I needed to get off that stuff. I can actually feel the Larium lifting a little each day and my normal state of happy equilibrium seeping back.

Doxy may make us sunburned, but I've got Zinka and one hell of a base tan.

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