Avonex Dreammares and The Hitman’s Thank-You

One interesting fact that I read recently was that many MS patients (as well as patients with any other neurological disorders) have trouble dreaming.  I’ve not had trouble being able to dream, but I have noticed that lately I’ve been having much more vivid dreams, some of them more nightmarish than anything else.

In the past, I’ve never really been able to remember much from my dreams, and when I do remember I don’t usually remember much.  Most of the time my memorable past nightmares involved hiding from someone in an abandoned barn.  So analyze that.

When I realized I was remembering a lot more from my dreams than usual (a couple weeks ago), I decided to make note of each of these dreams, and I’ve noticed a pattern:  I have a vivid dream or nightmare every week on the night that I do my Avonex injection.

Now that I’ve figured out how much water I need to drink to be fully hydrated before an injection, I’ve overcome most of the side effects that I initially experienced (fever, chills, headache, waking up dehydrated).  The randomly crazy acne that came on over the first couple of weeks is all but gone, too.

But once I noticed the pattern, I realized that perhaps my dreams/nightmares were related to Avonex.  And Google helped me out a little bit, leading me to several websites where posters complained of the same problem.  One poster said she was dreaming the “weirdest things EVER” and that totally describes the weekly weirdness I’m experiencing.  I inject around 7 or 8:00, and when I go to bed I proceed to have super-weird, super-vivid dreams.

EXAMPLE (What I’m sure you’re all waiting for):

A lot of the nightmares I’ve had in the past two months since I started Avonex have been super scary, but this week’s was so weird it’s almost laughable how strange it was, so here’s a dreammare for you.

This week I injected on Sunday (I have been slowly moving the injection back to the weekend one day at a time so that it will not be on a school night once school starts back).  I went to bed Sunday night and dreamed that I hired an hitman to kill four people.  I did not know these people.  Or, rather, I should say that I did not know them, but obviously dream-me knew them.

I kept trying to tell dream-me not to hire the hitman (who was not played by Jamie Foxx, much as I wish he was).  However, dream-me would not listen to me-me and went on with the plan.

Anyway, the hitman came back to my house to inform me that the job was finished and presented me with a gift to thank me for hiring him.  I think it says a lot about my personality that, even in a dream in which I am hiring someone to kill people, I am careful to hire only the most polite of hitmen.  So what did he get me?

He got me four of these Angry Birds plush toys.  Specifically, he got me the red, yellow, black, and white ones (because everyone knows that the blue one is useless unless you’re trying to kill a pig in a room made entirely of glass).  The hitman told me this was proof that the job was done.  This is not proof of an accomplished hit, but because dream-me is stupid, she totally let this pass and accepted the thank-you birds.

This is where this dream/nightmare (I don’t know which to call it, because while the subject matter is kind of scary, it’s also somewhat hilarious) gets especially ridiculous.  Obviously if I come into possession of a plush toy of any kind, I immediately give it to Killer, who loves “new toy” more than any other phrase.  However, dream-me didn’t give the toys to Killer… she put them on the nightstand.  I mean, come on.  Who is this person?  First she hires a hitman, then she accepts Angry Birds plush toys as proof/thanks, and now she doesn’t even give one to Killer?  What is WRONG?

Anyway, the dreammare came to a conclusion as the cops came to my house to question me about the disappearance of these four people.  All probably would have worked out well for crazy dream-me, except the cops saw the Angry Birds plush toys and KNEW THEY WERE A THANK-YOU FROM A HITMAN BECAUSE APPARENTLY THESE ARE A COMMON GIFT FROM HITMEN TO THE PEOPLE WHO HIRE THEM.  I mean, really.  Where does my brain come up with this stuff?

After the cops revealed that they knew the origin of my Angry Birds, I woke up.  So, kind of a lame ending.  We will never know what happened to dream-me after her evildoings.

I don’t see these dreams/nightmares as a reason to stop taking Avonex.  What am I, a seven year old who’s afraid of the dark?   I can handle a nightmare or crazy dream once a week if it will keep me walking longer.  But is it weird?  Heck yes it’s weird.

Have you ever experienced vivid nightmares/dreams as a side effect from medication?  Or at all?

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8 Responses to Avonex Dreammares and The Hitman’s Thank-You

  1. I’ve never had dreams due to medication, but I have had two very vivid ones that I remember clearly (and they’re quite short): two snakes were chasing me and then all of a sudden an old man was in front of me holding one of the snakes and he threw it at me. I obviously jerked awake right when the snake would have hit me. The other, I get stung by a bee and when I pull the stinger out, it looks like a tuft of red steel wool. This actually makes my scalp tingle every time I remember it because it’s the kind of thing that grosses me out.

  2. First, let me say I love that you dreamed about Angry Birds. That cracks me up! Second, I had a vivid recurring dream as a child of a man in an Asian type mask chasing me. The first two nights of the dream I would run away and as soon as I left the driveway and ran onto the street the man and his house would disappear. On the third night of the dream, I got to the edge of the driveway, turned around and yelled, “Haha, now you can’t catch me!” I then proceeded to theatrically jump onto the road only to find out that he didn’t disappear. I woke up in a cold sweat. Dreams are so crazy!

  3. Rachel Bailey says:

    Hey Elizabeth! It’s been ages since we’ve been in touch, but I’ve been reading your blog the past few weeks and thought I’d comment, both to de-lurk/say Hi! and to tell you that omigoodness yes, medicines play a huge role in how vivid my dreams are.

    I have no clue what sort of drug Avonex is, or what brain-chemicals it might mess with, but any time I change the type of anti-depressant or anti-anxiety pill(s) I’m on, it always messes with my dreams. I tend toward having vivid dreams, but it definitely varies based on what I’m taking at any time. Pain medicines (like after tonsil surgery) also change up my dream patterns. One heart medication my mom used to take would actually give her night terrors — where she would have horrible vivid nightmares and literally wake up screaming. Like you see on tv when someone bolts upright in bed with a scream? Yup, that. And then she was all panicky and had trouble falling back asleep. Needless to say, she doesn’t take that medicine anymore.

    I think the vivid-ness of dreams (and how well you remember them) is probably based on two things — how your REM cycles flow (you dream only during certain parts of the REM cycle and not during others, and how soon after a dream part of the cycle you wake up makes it easier to recall the details I think), and whether there’s spikes/dips in serotonin or any of the other brain-chemicals related to cognition or emotion (since dreams are sometimes your brain’s way of sorting through the daily mess of new memories)…..

    Anyway, it must be very odd to have a weekly vivid dream session. My experience has been with drugs taken daily, like an anti-depressant, so I have the same type of dreams all week, for months at a time. If the dreams end up getting worse, or you decide they are more annoying than hilarious, you might try changing the time of night that you inject. (If possible — all I really know about Avonex is what I’ve read on your blog, so that may not be an option.) Or, you could ask your doctor about taking some sort of sleeping aid or anti-anxiety pill just on your injection days. (Again, this may be a huge Avonex drug-mixing no-no; I’m just tossing out ideas.) Something like Ativan or Klonopin, in a small dose, might balance out whatever brain chem craziness the Avonex is bringing on, or just help you sleep more deeply and not remember your vivid dreams. Obviously I’m not a Doc or a Pharm, just someone who’s taken more Rx than I can count over the past decade. =D And wow, I think I just wrote a novel for a comment. Oops!

    • EGL says:

      Hey, Rachel! Glad to know you are reading!

      Avonex is an Interferon beta-1a drug which effects the immune system. Since MS is really just that my crazy-overactive immune system thinks my brain needs to be fought and destroyed, Avonex kind of tells my immune system to reroute its forces away from my brain.

      My neuro has me take Aleve 2 hours before I inject and Tylenol 2 hours after, so I am not sure how many more meds I’d want to add into the mix. Even if it’s okay to take more stuff, I just don’t know that I’d even want to!

      As for the time I inject, my neuro encouraged me not to do it too early since then I might have some more likelihood of flu-like side effects. I’ve tried times between 7:30 and 11:30, but it seems the dreammares come regardless of when I inject. Good suggestion, though… I was trying different times because I hoped it would help at first!

      • Rachel Bailey says:

        Aaaah, that makes a lot of sense. I knew MS had some associations with the brain, but I didn’t remember that it was the immune system attacking it that caused MS problems. If I think of the Avonex as like putting up “detour” signs around your brain so that your immune system stops running in and making a mess, then there’s probably a surge of brain chemicals right as the signs go up. And that’s probably what gives you the dreammares.

        I totally understand the “omg no more pills!”…. at one point when I was just starting a new medicine I was taking a handfull of like 7 pills, because they were levelling me up 25mg at a time until I got to like 250mg, when I finally got a single 250mg pill to take. Oy, I hated it! But I wanted to make the suggestion anyway just so that you know there are lots of medicines available that could potentially calm the dreams down, in case they get worse at some point. I know that even if I don’t decide to take another medicine, it’s always comforting for me to know that if something gets bad there are options that can help.

  4. Dyan says:

    So I just stumbled upon your blog when I googled “Avonex dreams” – your dream is hilarious!! I just took my first shot last week (a quarter dose) and have had crazy whack-a-doo dreams the last 4 nights!!! The new med is the only connection I have to make, but if this is what a quarter dose does, what the heck will tomorrow’s half or the full dose in 2 weeks provide?? Hope it’s as entertaining as yours 😉 Thanks for the reassurance that I am not alone 🙂

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