Some people use pill organizers, some people get their medication done in bubble packs at the pharmacy. This is how I organize my medications:
Morning stuff is on the right, right side up. Evening is on the left, upside down. In the middle is a little shot glass that I count each into before I take it. When I take my morning medications, I turn the glass right side up, and when I take my nighttime medications, I turn it upside down.
This system works very well because it’s easy to see how much of what I have left at a glance and on the “occasional” day when I end up at the hospital for whatever reason, it’s easy and quick to just dump the whole thing into a bag and take it along.
Two days ago I was feeling kind of off. I wasn’t entirely sure why, but there was something a little wrong. It wasn’t bothering me too much, though, so I didn’t give it much thought. It got a little worse throughout the day but again, could’ve been a cold, could’ve been something I ate or didn’t eat, who knows.
When it was time for me to take my nighttime medications, I found myself a little confused because I looked at the glass and it was upside down. I went back through the previous hour or two as best I could (thinking was definitely not my strong suit at that point) and was almost entirely certain that I hadn’t taken my nighttime medications – I must’ve turned the glass upside down by accident when I’d taken my morning medication.
The following morning (yesterday), I woke up and felt GHASTLY. I was shivering and sweating and no matter how much blanket I wrapped around myself, I couldn’t stop shaking. My brain wasn’t working well, either, and I had a nasty headache and my eyes hurt. After a while of trying to figure out where and how I could have possibly caught covid, I hauled myself out of bed and discovered another thing: my entire body hurt. I have many parts that hurt all the time anyway, but it felt like every cell in my body had tried to do one of those fancy exercise schemes that that only have capital letters and numbers in the name. There were weird little painless but annoying jolts of what could almost be described as electricity bouncing around in my head and back.
I squinted at the bathroom mirror and the face that looked back at me looked pretty rough. Like a version of me from a movie where I’d just woken up after getting completely hammered and starting (and winning, of course) an enormous bar fight. One of those bar fights where people get hit with pool cues and chairs but the band keeps playing. But that’s when I figured out what was going on.
I was in withdrawal.
The glass had been upside down the previous evening not because I’d accidentally turned it that way when I took my morning medications, but because I hadn’t taken my morning medications that day. That explained everything – how I’d felt weirder as the previous day went on, and why it even hurt to pee. Not in the “it burns because you need a round of penicillin” way, but in the “I don’t think I’ve felt my bladder muscles ache before” way. It also explained why I was having trouble rounding up a couple of brain cells to help me put together some sentences so I could communicate with J.
J agreed with my assessment and asked if there was anything she could do. I immediately took my medication (the usual amount) and two PRNs for good measure, then sat on the couch and shivered and sweat under a blanket for a while. My resting heart rate at that point was around 115, and after a little while I decided I’d try to distract myself by working on something until things kicked in and I started feeling better.
I went down to the basement and started to staple some screen onto some scrap wood to make a flat-bottomed bird feeder, but it got harder and harder to both concentrate and do anything. When I realized I was on my knees on the floor with sweat pouring off me while I tried (and failed) to hold a piece of screen still, I gave up. Went back upstairs, talked with J for a couple of minutes, and then went back to bed.
It took me a long time to relax enough to fall asleep but it seems I did at some point. When I woke up, I felt like a brand-new person. No aches aside from the usual ones, no more sweating or shivering, and my brain was back to being able to put simple sentences together.
I’ve read a number of horror stories about people quitting SSRIs and SNRIs cold turkey (often without the approval or supervision of a physician) and based on my experience yesterday, I can only say that I’m VERY lucky to be Dr W’s patient because he is a firm believer in small, gradual reductions.