Monday, July 10, 2006

Lariam Dreams

Before we moved here, malaria was much on my mind.

Should we take anti-malarials? Should I give them to my (then) pre-teen? If you do a simple Google search on Malaria, you will start to get an idea of the magnitude of my problem. Coupled with the fact that malarial mosquitoes are ONLY female, only come out at dusk, and only bite around ankle level, the whole issue gets more complicated. People who claim they have been bitten "repeatedly" are often talking about bites during lunch on their arms by male mosquitoes. A lot of people who claim life altering effects from some drugs can't even spell the drug name properly which makes me question their reliability as sources.

Western Doctors don't skimp on their advice to take anti-malarials, and my husband's company is very clear on their insistence that all employees take proper precautions against the disease. But that's the "party line" and doesn't cover the many issues surrounding the use of anti-malarials. And honestly, the things my husband's company doesn't know about living in Africa would fill the cargo hold of the next Africa-bound freighter...

Finally, after tons of research and soul searching, we decided to go ahead and begin taking Lariam (mefloquine) and to give it to our son. This particular anti-malarial is administered once a week, in pill form and of the options available made the most sense for us.

I tried to ignore the problems it had caused with people who had a history of clinical depression.

And the stories of Gulf War vets who had committed murder (usually of their families) under its influence.

Thankfully, after more than a year of taking it, I can report that we are not homicidal or paranoid, and in fact the effect of the drug, at least on our son, has been completely unremarkable. This is a relief, because we seem destined to be outdoors at dusk and it's kind of spooky how, when we do get bitten because we forgot to DEET up, it's only on the ankles. We assume it's the girl skeeters that are bitin' us. So we hope our drug therapy will help keep us safe, and only occasionally wonder if we are doing the right thing...

You see, Ted and I have what we now call "Lariam Dreams".

These would be dreams that are more vivid, more "real", more "in your face" than normal. In our Lariam Dreams, we are able to do all the things you normally can't do in your dreams. We can run, we can scream, we can fight back without feeling like we are fighting through jell-o.

This is nice for the dream.

Not so nice for the dreamer.

I have lost count of the times we have had to gently shake each other into wakefulness during a vivid nightmare where the dreamer has become a running, screaming windmilling entity who is, at the very least, twitching and moaning in their sleep, complete with whole body goosebumps.

It's a conundrum. I truly enjoy being able to scream for help and yell at the bad guys in my dreams, and being able to actually run from them is a miracle of dream science, but they are so much more 'real' and vivid these days, I wonder if the trade off is worth it.

The good news is, when we cautiously questioned Cooper about his dreams these days, his answer was "I don't remember what I dream about." Phew! At least one of us is still sane.

Then again, I despair about what my sleeping life will be like when I stop taking Lariam and can no longer run or scream in my dreams. When the characters in them stop making sense and start being goofily impossible again. Will I start waking in the wee hours in protest of them? Or will it be a blessed relief when I start having dreams about purple goats as house pets in a house I've never lived in, on Pluto?

Only time will tell.