Thursday, 20 February 2014


Zero is never nothing as any scientist will tell you.  It’s merely a point on a long and sliding scale.  The aim of anyone taking Prednisolone is:

 a) to get cured
 b) get off the dreadful drug

I thought I’d managed that.  My polymyalgia vanished into the sand and the steroid that fixed it tapered from 40 right down to none.  It had been a long haul.  Two years.  5 mgs a day this month, then 3 and then finally one.  I’d alternated between nothing one day and 1 mg the next.  I felt  fine.  Moving to zero was simple.  Just stop.  I had.   Perfect.  Bright skies, clean air, a sense that my head was my own again and nights were filled with unencumbered non-fat face sleep.  

Suddenly, however, there I was.  Less than zero.  Withdrawal symptoms sneaking out of the bushes.  Colds arriving and never leaving.  Small cut from my recently returned Eczema so slow to heal. Great physical exhaustions plaguing me.  Loads of sitting there staring out of the window without the energy to even check my phone for email or flick the pages of the newspaper.   

I read.  I managed that. John Williams’ Stoner.   Couldn’t put that down.  It’s about someone who allows the vicissitudes of life to dominate him and to dog him all the way from a promising lectureship as a young man to that state of never having achieved anything worth remarking about that faces so many at the times of their deaths.  Does it matter, I wondered.  Are we here to make a mark?  Do we need to leave something behind beyond a pile of old letters and a sack of worn out shoes? 

In the finality nothing matters is the standard approach.  Not mine, however. You have to grasp at life.  Put the Williams book back on the shelf.  Turn the Kindle off.  Get out there and write your own.  Don’t let life just fade to grey and then to ore grey and finally to black. 

What I’d discovered was that coming off prednisolone wasn’t really just a matter of stopping.  There are withdraw symptoms.  Withdrawal difficulties.  Things that keep you awake at nights.  Cold turkey wouldn’t hack it.  After a month of zero I returned and took a few.  Spent a week alternating iron and vit c tablets with good old white prednisolone.  Let the tiredness leave me.  Told the cat it was all alright.  Got up and turned the machine on.  Wrote a few thousand words.  Determined to write more.  Decided to take another prednisolone.  To spread the drop to zero over a slightly longer period of time.  To win ultimately but to do it slowly.  I put some bluegrass on the player and got the banjo breakdowns running.  Tea.  Another few hundred words.  Suddenly life looked better.  Love Minus Zero/No Limit  as Dylan has it.  It’s the No Limit part that’s important.  Check back, there never was a year zero.  Nothing is impossible.  It’s always something.

I’m back on no prednisolone again now.  The perpetual flu has lifted and the energy once again flows.  But I’ve those boxes of the drug out back still.  The ones I was going to send back to the pharmacy.  Maybe I’ll hang on just a while longer yet.