I take meds. I have taken a prescription medication since I was 17 years old. That’s 23 years, if you’re counting. Taking a daily prescription changes the way you have to approach life. It removes a chunk of spontaneity.
Every insurance company I’ve ever had limits you to a 30 day supply of pills. I guess they don’t want you to OD. More likely, they want that sweet, sweet copay every month like clockwork. That would be bad enough, but inevitably if you’re taking multiple drugs, your 30-day cycles are out of synch. The pharmacy will not let you refill your prescription more than a couple of days early. That means multiple trips to the pharmacy every month, because on any given week, I can guarantee that something will be running out shortly.
If you are in the position of taking pills on a daily basis, you are generally taking them because, if you don’t, Bad Things Happen. In my case, Bad Things means (among other things) elevated blood pressure. So, if I quit taking my anti-hypertensives, my BP would skyrocket. But I probably wouldn’t notice the difference. Oh, I might get some headaches, but I might not. But it would undoubtedly start damaging my body in myriad little ways. My blood vessels would start leaking. It would start damaging my retinas. That’s what hypertension does. So, you can’t stop taking your drugs.
That means, if you’re going to be traveling, you have to have all the meds you’re going to need before you leave. God forbid you find yourself in a strange town, and you realize you don’t have enough beta-blocker to last until your flight home. And let’s say you need an extra two weeks worth to get through your vacation, but it’s too early to get your normal refill. In order to get your pharmacy to pony up the pills so you can leave for Munich, you may need a note from your doctor and the pharmacy manager, and use several verbal threats.
What I’m saying is, you can’t just jump on the plane and fly to Paris. For that matter, you can’t just drive to the coast, unless you remember to pack all your meds. No more spontaneity. And you know Survivor? And how you thought you could do pretty well on that game? You would have out-played that guy who walked around naked, right? Well, you can’t. You won’t. Ever. They can never drop you on a South Pacific island without even a toothbrush, because you need that pharmaceutical lifeline, that tether to civilization, your meds, whatever you do, where ever you go. Sometimes it sucks.
Recently I added a couple more drugs to my pharmacopoeia. Years ago, I was taking enough to justify a pill keeper. You know, a little plastic case with compartments labeled S-M-T-W-Th-F-Sa. It was a handy way to make sure I didn’t miss a day. But now I have a couple of meds to take in the evening, as well as in the morning. Some of those pills look a lot alike, so I pretty much had to go to a bigger pill case, with ‘morning’ and ‘evening’ sections.
The new pill case is freaking huge. It’s made of thick, heavy plastic, with a pale blue side and a canary yellow side. The individual compartment lids snap closed with an authoritative solid sound. I hate it. I hate what it represents. It’s a giant neon sign flashing the countdown to my old age and mortality. When I pick it up, I can hear the creak of my walker, and smell the stench of nursing-home disinfectant. I feel the pressure on my ribs from being lashed upright in my wheelchair, enduring the long days between visits from my children. It embodies my ever-increasing dependence on these stupid drugs, and my permanent relationship with them, and is therefore a lens to focus my frustrations. It’s an extreme reaction, I’ll admit.
There are many things worse than living with prescription medication. Not living at all, for example. I’m reasonably healthy, with excess weight being the most pressing health problem I have. It could be a lot, lot worse. I remind myself that I’m really very, very lucky, and that thanks to amazing innovations in the drug industry and the field of medicine, I can live a very, very long time in pretty decent health. I try to think positive thoughts. But I still hate that pill case.