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The Power of One Pill

Dyane Leshin-Harwood

Pills.  Ah, pills.  “Pill” is such an innocuous-sounding word, but anyone with bipolar disorder who takes medication knows that pills are anything but harmless. However, unless you depend on medications to keep you stable, and unless you've experienced a med horror story, it's hard to understand why someone highly sensitive to meds would TOTALLY freak out at missing just one dose.

Over the past year I've become used to taking my MAOI med three times a day. That hasn't been a big deal - I'm incredibly grateful for it since this drug brought me out of bipolar depression.

But as ridiculous as this may sound, refilling my medication has been problematic. Here's a little backstory...please forgive me for it being tedious!  It's difficult for me to spice up the topic of medication!

When I first started taking this medication, my psychiatrist wasn't willing to arrange refills.  His rationale, which he explained to me rather apologetically, was that he wanted to keep close tabs on me. While I was frustrated with his philosophy (and I told him so!) I understood where he was coming from. Eventually I asked him to arrange refills and he complied with my request, which was great.

Last week I noticed my bottle was getting on the low side and I called Costco to refill it. (Unfortunately, I didn't think to ask if their pharmacy offers an “auto-refill notification” system so I could be contacted when my medication was ready.  CVS has an auto-refill system that I use with my other medication, and it’s awesome.) In any case, I thought I would be able to get mine without missing a dose.

I forgot that a holiday was coming up, Memorial Day, and that the Costco pharmacy would be closed exactly when I needed to pick up my medication.  That meant that I was going to miss at least one dose, which sent me into a panic.  I was furious with myself because it was my fault for what happened!  Furthermore, I was also mad because I hadn't thought to ask my doctor if he could prescribe me a few extra "emergency pills" in case this kind of situation happened. (BIG DUH!)

My husband Craig was in the same room when I flipped out about my error. We’ve been together for sixteen years and this poor man stood by my side after I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  He has been to hell and back in helping me with all my emergencies, care taking, my seven hospitalizations, you name it.

As I threw my tizzy fit, he casually said, "Don't worry about it."

"What?" I screeched, just shy of a yell since the kids were outside.

Then I angrily muttered, "You'd probably feel differently about it if you were hospitalized seven times in the nuthouse!"

I could sense the hairs on his arms raise in aggravation.  He said nothing and walked away.

At that point I knew I needed to calm down, so I tried thinking rational, soothing thoughts such as:

"You won't go off the deep end just for missing a dose!" and:

"It'll all work out!" and even:

"Let go and let God!"

Lo and behold, my mood actually started to level out. I released my anxious fears because there was absolutely nothing I could do short of robbing Costco.

I felt contrite for blowing up at Craig, and I tracked him down.  I told him I was sorry; luckily he accepted my apology and gave me a hug.  I know he's burned out from having heard about my medication woes for so many years.  Anyone, even Mother Theresa or the Dalai Lama, would be tired from my numerous complaints, emergencies, and years of seemingly never-ending depression.

While I blame myself for not creating a good medication refill system, I do give myself a break regarding my feelings about missing doses.

So there you have it.  "What's the point of this post?" you may be thinking.  (I know that's what I would think!) Well, if you have bipolar disorder and take medication, I implore you, don't wind up like me.  See if you can arrange an auto-refill system with your pharmacist.  I know CVS does it and I'm going to call Costco to see if they offer the same program.  I'm also going to check in with Dr. D. about having an emergency supply of my medication - at least a few days worth.  I’ve been advised to buy a weekly pill dispenser as well to give me more notice when I’m getting low on meds.

I do make a point of carrying an extra dose in my purse in case I find myself away from the house unexpectedly for a chunk of time.   These are all little things that can make such a big difference in my peace of mind, and yours.  Take care and may all your script refills go as smooth as silk! ;)

Dyane Leshin-Harwood is on the International Bipolar Foundation’s Consumer Advisory Council. Dyane has been a freelance writer for almost two decades, and she’s a contributor to the new, cutting-edge website  She blogs at  Dyane is working on her book Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder and is the mother to Avonlea and Marilla.  Apart from enjoying family time, Dyane is having a blast with her third “fur child” Lucy, her ten-week-old Sheltie puppy.


You sound just like me!!!my husband is the same as yours. Plus just as many hospitals stays.I have been out of meds since Nov I will be back on them June 20th thank god it has been difficult ins problems my doctor closed her practice 2 month wait for new doctor..script cost problems..ugh..I had some rapid cycling scared me to death I thought I was going to have to put my self in..people just have no idea what it is like in the ward!!

Dyane, I can relate, for I also am medication sensitive. I have found, though, that the more anxious I get about missing a dose, the worse the consequences. So, while trying my best to prevent missed doses using the techniques you listed, I try to take a deep breath and tell myself that I'll make it. I may have a rough patch, but it isn't the end of the world.

I've had the same experience, but I thought of it as a break from my daily drowsiness and I didn't freak i took melatonin and it did help, I thought , I am not going to let this drug control my life and my sleep patterns, of course I still take it , so I don't become manic, but occasionally I let it go for a day or two to cleanse my system and it also helps me take less..Just my thoughts! Thanks for your article!

i have my psych fill my scripts as we live in Turkey and some are not expensive so not all pharmacies will stock them as they make no profit on them...i always have 1 months supply on hand in case we need to evacuate due to political an expat i hoard my meds like i hoard food!

Our minor daughter has Bolar disorder, so we manage her 6 meds a day. My husband recently freaked out when he realized her 3 month order did not arrive, and the mail order company had swiched us without us keeping that on the radar. I tried to stay of ouf hs way when he was sure the meds were somewhere in our house! Ergh. Needless to say, a week later, it is straightened out. But someday,she will be responsible for her own meds. It is hard to imagine that happening.

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