No Refills

Click to read Jennifer's bio

Click to read Jennifer’s bio

Does anxiety make us do stupid things? Or do our stupid actions cause anxiety?

As I roll around this spastic hamster wheel of my own creation, I realize it probably doesn’t matter. The result is the same. Utter and complete exasperation. Heart-pounding worry. Multiple imagined scenarios of worst cases.

I forgot to order my meds. Again.

Every few months, I find myself staring down the empty bottle neck of my meds.

It shouldn’t sneak up on me like this. My physician, insurance company, and I have a nice, little arrangement for ourselves. She writes the script, they fill it, I retrieve it from the mailbox. Couldn’t be any less painless.

Still, ordering the refill never fails to elude me. Night after night I extract my one and a half pills from the dwindling supply and think, Oh crap, I need to remember to request the refill tomorrow, until I scramble around like a mad woman willing time to stop and the protective powers of the pills to stretch until the next bottle arrives.

Then, there are the months, like this one, on which the prescription expires. No amount of scrambling in the world can make that zero turn over to one, two, or three. And no matter how much my world threatens to come screeching to a stop, the bare wheels of my psyche grinding against the metal tracks of everything else in my life, no one else scrambles. Pharmacies don’t scramble. Doctors don’t scramble. Their office staff certainly don’t scramble.

I am at the mercy of my anxiety-induced inability to prioritize, naturally prone tendency to procrastinate, and the procedural quagmire of the medical powers that be at their best.

Add to this dysfunctional mix my desire to switch to a different physician. Geographic and logistical factors necessitated the switch. The timing was all mine. I chewed my cud for just long enough that when I spun into action, it was time to collect vaccination records for my school-going daughter – and reach the bitter end of the last refill granted by my previous physician.

Records transferred and initial appointments scheduled but not met, I called the new office. After a hairy game of phone tag in which I finally relayed the mail-order pharmacy’s fax number, I thought the receptionist would make medicinal magic happen – only to receive a call hours later that the doctor could not, in fact, request the script since she had not yet ‘established care’. They suggested I call my ‘old’ doctor.

I did – and had a frustratingly circular conversation with Calvin. To his credit, Calvin towed the front counter company line. And probably protected my HIPAA rights. But the only one he was shielding my information from was me! ‘I see no record of any prescribed medication,’ he kept repeating. He actually told me it’s not that he didn’t think I wasn’t telling the truth. Well, thanks. He also asked if I was an active patient. No, Calvin, but neither am I an active patient at the place that is currently holding my records hostage.

I am in limbo!

I finally pleaded, ‘If I could just leave a message for the doctor. I know she’ll understand.” I knew my long-standing physician would not cause me this undue stress, especially as she was well aware of the conditions necessitating this particular prescription in the first place. She was not the gate keeper; this Calvin was.

So now I wait.

I wait for the return phone call from the doctor who technically no longer has allegiance to me – save her adherence to the Hippocratic oath. I will wait for the arrival of the plastic pouch on my doorstep when and if someone decides to fill my prescription. Or I will wait until my first appointment with my new physician to establish care and see if I suffer withdrawal in the meantime.

No worries, right? Wish that were the case when there were no more refills.

Edel Rodriguez/theatlantic.com

Edel Rodriguez/theatlantic.com

© Jennifer Butler Basile and A Canvas Of The Minds 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jennifer Butler Basile and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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21 thoughts on “No Refills

  1. This describes EXACTLY why I’ve become so hesitant to ever rely on medication again for stability. Even though I can’t deny the meds are effective, the process of making them magically appear in the bottle where they are at my fingertips and at my disposal is anything but easy. The whole process, especially for someone who has difficulty anyway with logical and methodical thought processes, is damn near impossible. Factor in all the insurance regulations, unavailability of doctors or appointments, the cost of gas to chase everything down, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

    Just this morning I made an appointment to see my physician for refills, but felt that familiar panic when I know that gathering together the required information, driving across town to sit and wait (and sit and wait), have the conversation with the doctor, and then actually pick up the meds days later … well, it all feels too overwhelming. The whole time, I’m cussing and fussing at myself for ever allowing myself back onto the hamster wheel of prescribed medication.

    Of course, the alternative isn’t so pretty. So I try (try, try, try) to complete the cycle, yet again.

    • I hate the idea that the two alternatives seem to be the ‘not so pretty’ one and feeling a sense of resigned surrender in taking medication. Time and again, I’ve heard the argument that one wouldn’t question taking meds for diabetes, high blood pressure, et al. Why do those with unseen mental conditions – myself included – hesitate to control or alleviate our conditions with meds?

      Is that part of why it’s so damn hard for me to order them in a timely matter? My subconscious is one wily MFer. I wouldn’t put it past her.

      BUT I may have gone off on a tangent you may not have even been hinting at.

      Regardless, I feel your frustration and certainly the overwhelming part of it. I may have gotten just a tad bit snippy with poor Calvin. Good luck with your acquisitions and thank you for your thoughtful comment.

      • was wondering how you found my blog (and thanks for visiting), and managed to track it back to this post (which was written so well, and perfectly describes the process) … I’ve had a love/hate relationship with meds for a very long while now, in that when I was a young mother and was struggling with bipolar and chronic depression (and PTSD and DID et al), the doctors put me through a multiple years-long gauntlet of trying out different combinations of meds in an effort to provide some sort of relief and stability, only to eventually shrug their shoulders and throw their hands in the air, admitting defeat, as in … “you have too many conflicting symptoms for us to find an effective treatment” which served to leave me in probably worse shape than when I entered into the whole hamster wheel of prescribed medication.

        Yes, there were some brief years where I was more stable and even productive, but I really credit that more to the one-on-one counseling and group therapy sessions, rather than the meds, although the meds surely were a significant contributing factor. And then I lost my insurance, and lost access to meds (and therapy), and went through a severe withdrawal, becoming more suicidal than ever before. It left me stained with the impression that I should never (EVER) trust my life to meds again, because when they are unceremoniously removed from your life, you find yourself afloat in deep waters with no life raft. It took me YEARS to finally allow another doctor to convince me to give meds a try again, but truthfully, I still can’t trust them. I use meds for pain management, but do so with the knowledge that they can disappear again at any time (money, insurance, availability to doctors).

        I don’t mean to sound cynical (even though I suppose I am when it comes to meds), and even though I would be the first person to admit that there were times in my life when the meds are probably what stood between me and the very real possibility of ending my life, in the end, I’ve ended up landing on the side of “don’t trust in the meds to help, because the meds can disappear in a flash”.

        I’ve known many folks who are able to find some relief by adhering to a routine that includes medication to help maintain the chemical imbalance in their brains, and for them, I am grateful that they have been able to find some relief. It just isn’t what works for me, which leaves me always negotiating other means of surviving my own propensity towards suicide. These days, it’s more about pain management (osteoarthritis et al), and always ALWAYS looking for healthier ways to stay engaged and move towards positive thoughts and yes … laughter. As you said yourself on your About Me page on your blog, laughter is a very powerful weapon in the struggle against depression.

        • You’re right. There is so much more to factor into recovery and/or a steady quality of life than one miracle pill. My own successes have come when my medications were used in conjunction with therapy, lifestyle changes, etc. And with very real chance of sounding trite, laughter really is one of the the best medicines.

          Glad you’ve found a regimen that seems to work for you. Wishing you peace of mind and a modicum of comfort.

  2. I enjoyed your style of writing indeed.

    I wish you luck with getting the medications as soon as possible and wish you well.
    Sorry for your need to play cat and mouse. Not fair.

    • Thank you! Assuming I’m the mouse end of this equation, I don’t feel I can totally vilify the cat given my poor planning. But it’s certainly an imperfect process all around.

      • Yes, surely something one would avoid in having to do…But as smooth the process, the better!

  3. Are you sure that those you mention as not scrambling around aren’t in fact doing just that? Perception is a funny thing….

    I found that I tended to forget to take my meds and then I felt great because it must have meant I was on the mend. Perception again 😉

    • Perhaps others do scramble. Just happen to know from experience in one particular clinic, that, no, not scrambling 😉

      I did hope my hiatus would show a miraculous recovery. Alas, it did not. But it did reemphasize my need for the meds. Reminded me of an already perceived, but forgotten perception!

      Thanks for your comment. Perspective/perception really is everything!

  4. That happens to me ALL the friggin’ time! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone through painful withdrawal symptoms because I procrastinated until the very last minute to reorder my meds, and then some problem happened and I couldn’t get them for a week or two. I feel like a heroin addict, begging, “Please, just get me the stuff, I need it! I need it, man!” A few times I actually tried to go off my meds completely, because I was tired of dealing with the withdrawal symptoms when I couldn’t get them.

    • Oh, never a good idea, eh? I’m amazed at how quickly the withdrawal symptoms seem to take hold!

      Totally feel you with the abject begging. Glad I got across the desperation.

  5. For the most part (*knock wood*) I’m very good with getting my meds refilled regularly. I’ve been taking medication for migraines — both acutely and prophylactically — for about 18 years. Though the preventative stuff has been on-again-off-again in looking for something that worked, eventually finding nothing that does (not unlike my mental health care!), I think it helped to train me from a relatively young age to manage medication. This helped tremendously when I began taking psychoactive meds.

    Also, my insurance is one month at a time, call in, drive to the pharmacy and pick up — at least my pharmacy is open 24/7! I think while it can be a pain in the neck to do that every 30 days, you are by necessity made much more aware of the status of your medication.

    However now, like you, I am transitioning. I went from a place where I could leave a message for my doctor and know the refill would be processed within about a day to where I don’t know if I’m even going to get a refill unless I go in and see him. And he is in the office only one day a week, so I’m usually scheduling at least two weeks out. It’s the same doctor I always had, he’s just moved and scaled back his practice. So I feel your pain on the office staff situation. Because it’s not like medication withdrawal can be a life or death situation, right?

    • A set schedule, like your 30 day routine, would probably help. Though it would probably become a routine every 29th day for me! Perhaps it’s my passive aggressive subconscious pushing against one more thing I need to train myself for – but as I may have hinted at in another comment, that’s a whole other analysis for another time! 😉

  6. Oy, I have done so many times too… SO annoying. Getting a super big weekly planner and putting it on the wall RIGHT in front of my bed so it is the first thing I see in the morning when I wake up is helping…

    • I should do that too – and put a sign on my bathroom mirror, a post-it note on my forehead . . .

  7. Oh, this is way, way too familiar.

    I just relocated and switching doctors ran me to the limit of my supplies of Rx’s and had to start alternating days for some meds so they’d last long enough to see a doctor and now to wait for the mail order refill. Literally have to skip today so that I can be sure to have enough to make it until Tuesday if necessary, and these are not PRN drugs! I also had to jump through hoops to get a refill from the old doc even though I now live 400 miles away because it took so long to get in to see a new doctor.

    Ugh. If it were optional, none of us would do this.

    • Crazy that this is such a common phenomenon! Do you think it’s the system or something in us that makes it so? Or a combination of the two?

      Hope you’ve got it all sorted out now!

  8. Ugh, I’m sorry. I’ve had that happen several times and I’ve ended up in the E.R. because I lose my ability to speak and I can’t do anything for myself. I finally started (after a couple more moves) saying, “I need a refill right now, from someone, or I’ll end up in the hospital.” Which is true. That generally makes them put someone more knowledgeable on the phone, who indeed also freaks out over the situation and does something. Hope it doesn’t happen again.

    • Thank you! For you as well! Even after all my whining, your ‘no refill’ situation sounds worse! Good advocating for yourself!

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