Lariam Nightmares

Posted by on March 15, 2013

One of the most prevalent illnesses in Guyana is malaria, which is why all Project Trust volunteers are strongly advised to take anti-malarial medication. There are a number of options available, and I have been taking Lariam whilst overseas. It’s a once weekly pill (which is nicely convenient), but it comes with a huge list of side effects (which are less convenient). Unfortunately the Lariam medication caused me to suffer awful nightmares every single night for the first 2-and-a-bit months of my gap year. On 19th September 2012 I was sat in a seemingly un-ending PTFA meeting, and in my boredom I found myself writing a poem about the nightmares I was enduring at the time. On that note, I present a poem that I have imaginatively entitled “Lariam Nightmares” – enjoy!

Note: aside from a few “one-off” incidents now and then, the last nightmare I remember having was around mid-November, so there’s no need to worry about me any more!

Lariam Nightmares

From my hammock I hear them draw close,
The flying pest I hate the most.
They want my blood, don’t you know?
The horrid, whining, bloody mosquito.

The bites are sore, but that’s not all:
On the mozzie itself, parasites crawl.
Malaria, Dengue and Yellow Fever,
You don’t want these; I don’t either!

Yellow Fever’s no problem, thanks to the nurse,
And Dengue brings pain, but not death’s curse.
Malaria by far is the worst of the bunch,
It can be fatal, and that’s not just a hunch.

But because of the vaccine1, survive I will,
The docs call it Lariam, an interesting pill.
It keeps me alive, so the benefits are strong,
But it has side effects, and the list is long!

Some are most rare, I will confess,
Like anxiety, depression and suicide no less2.
But some are more common, affecting one in three,
And as luck would have it, that one is me!

They say “troubled sleep and vivid dreams”,
I doze off just fine but I awake in screams.
For the last few weeks, every single night,
My dreams reveal a terrifying fright.

Back in England they were never this bad3,
My dreams were weird, but that’s all I had.
There was no sign, no warning, no shot over the bough,
Before my dreams dived straight to hell.

But then I flew to the land of water,
And cheerful dreams were lead to slaughter.
In their place came the dreams I now fear,
Visions so bad I’ll omit details here.

The details I’ll leave but the themes I will tell,
So you can taste a slice of my personal hell.
The nightmares so far seem to target my fears,
Though I don’t have too many, and they’ve changed over the years.

Where once I was afraid of monsters under the bed,
These are no longer the thoughts haunting my head.
As I’ve grown up, so too has my biggest fear,
And these days it concerns those I hold dear.

In most of my dreams I look down from above,
On family, on friends, on people I love.
In the dreams they need my help and support,
But I can never reach them; in some way I’m caught.

Compared to any other, these dreams are worse,
But others do exist, so I’ll write another verse.
In one dream I drowned in a river of blood,
I’ve seen death, fire and nothing good.

I have 50 more doses of the Lariam pill,
But I don’t want malaria, so take them I will.
My dreams, my nightmares may remain obscene,
Alas… the curse… of Mefloquine4.

1 Yes, I’m aware Lariam isn’t technically a vaccine, but prophylaxis is too big to fit that line.
2 I’m not making any of this up – the list of side effects for Lariam is genuinely scary.
3 The Lariam course required me to take the pills for 3 weeks before I left the UK to see how my body and mind reacted to them.
4 The medical name for Lariam is Mefloquine.

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