Thursday, June 25, 2015

That thing I call labyrinthitis

It's been over a year since I wrote about labyrinthitis—the affliction that caused me to feel spacey, dizzy, and out-of-it for several weeks running last winter. I call it labyrinthitis, as a kind of working title, though really I'm still not sure that's what it is. What it is, is just an odd feeling of being  disconnected from reality. It's sort of like being mildly drunk, without the accompanying mood lift.

Though I haven't brought it up much here, it brings itself up often enough. In the past year, every time I've caught a cold, I've ended up with some degree of spaciness about a week later. I had a cold last week, and I'm experiencing it right now. I'm used to it now, so it's not as scary as it was the first time, but it is undeniably annoying. 

It takes away my appetite. It ruins my ability to concentrate. It makes me feel sleepy all the time, even when I'm not remotely tired. It is, in short, a minor annoyance that becomes a major distraction. But never fear—I think I know how to beat it!

I think it's triggered by dextromethorphan, the cough suppressant!

I'd never before felt like this after a cold, until that epic coughing cold last January. It's a good thing I like to blog about my sorrows, because reading my posts from that time is giving me all sorts of vital information about my actions and symptoms, which I can compare to what I'm going through right now.

Early last week, when I was still in the feverish stages of my cold, I was trying to avoid getting one of my Stuffy Noses from Hell, so I took a 12-hour decongestant pill in the evening, then before bed, I took a 12-hour cough suppressant pill. Then I tossed and turned all night, unable to sleep even a wink! And lo, about a week into my infamous cold of last year, I had a similar experience of sleeplessness after consuming cough syrup and decongestants.

The plot thickens! The next day (last year) I was in what I called "zombie mode." I attributed it then to lack of sleep, but later I realized it might have been the first onset of my own special brand of "labyrinthitis." Similarly, a few days ago, the day after the night I couldn't sleep, I also spent the day fully awake but spacey and like a zombie. I attributed that feeling to lack of sleep too, but I marveled to myself how similar sleep deprivation feels to my labyrinthitis. Is it really a coincidence? Or was that spacey feeling actually a side effect of the dextromethorphan? Recreational users refer to this drug as DXM, and for the sake of brevity, so will I.

This week and last, I've only taken a cough suppressant twice—the night that I couldn't sleep, and last night. And both times, I've spent the next day in a stupor, regardless of how much sleep I'd gotten. Last night, I slept just fine. I think maybe it's the combination of DXM and pseudoephedrine that keeps me up all night, but the DXM alone makes me spacey. Last year was the first time I ever took cough suppressants, and I really went on a spree—I believe I referred to myself around that time as "swilling" cough syrup. So if indeed the DXM was in some way responsible for my spaciness, it's no surprise that it took me weeks to get over its effects.

If I can avoid labyrinthitis (or whatever that weird feeling is) just by avoiding cough suppressants, I'm all for it. I hear honey is just as effective. But I'll have to wait until the next time I get a cold to find out...and if I never get another cold again, I won't mind missing out on that learning experience.