The Power of One Pill



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.

(***Trigger Alert: suicidal ideation***)

Over the past year I’ve become used to taking my MAOI med Parnate (tranylcypromine) 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 when twenty other meds did not.

But as ridiculous as this may sound, refilling my Parnate 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 Parnate, 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 of Parnate 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 lithium, and it’s awesome.) In any case, I thought I would be able to get my Parnate 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.  I give myself another break for how powerful a pill can affect my system.  The following tale is why I’m letting myself off the hook for my tantrum one last time.

One, itsy, bitsy psychiatric pill made me suicidal.

My former psychiatrist prescribed me an antidepressant medication called Elavil (amitriptyline) and after I filled the script, I took my first pill. Literally two hours later I wanted to hang myself with my bathrobe belt and Craig, thank God, was home.

I told him I felt suicidal and he rushed me to the hospital. There is no way that anything else but that pill that made me feel that way.  I know the subject is so morbid to think about, but up to that very afternoon I knew that if I would ever actually take my own life, I would *never* use that horrific method.  I think that my brain played tricks on me, triggered by the medication, because someone I had cared about had hung himself just a month before that awful day.  I suspect my brain synapses wanted to do a copycat action in reaction to the medication. Who knows? Again, thank God Craig was home.

Because of what happened with Elavil, I’ll never underestimate the potential consequences of missing a single pill or taking a single pill.  I’m paranoid, yes, but now don’t you understand why I feel that way?

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 Parnate – at least a few days worth.  I’ve been wisely advised in this comment section by Rob to buy a weekly pill dispenser to give me more notice when I’m getting low on meds. (Thanks Rob!)

I do make a point of carrying an extra dose of Parnate 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! 😉


imgrescat pills(Hope this cat photo doesn’t offend you – I thought the expression was hilarious!!) 😉


My Little Old Soul

Old SoulMarilla – age six


I’m trying valiantly to pull out of a foul mood.  How did I get sucked into this morass?

Well, I’ve been reading too many horrific news items, something I usually try not to do.  I’ve been grieving the loss of my father more than usual, and I’ve been frustrated with writer’s block.  I even started crying this morning when my sweet Lucy pup peed all over Avonlea’s backpack instead of on her pee pad sitting directly next to it.

Oh well.

Just now I took my sorry self outside to our patio.  Lucy is out here with me sniffing some bushes and steering clear of the chicken coop.  The air is the perfect temperature: not too cool and not too warm, and it’s sunny.  Getting outdoors was a wise move, and I’m starting to feel my gloom shift.  My crabbiness dissipates a little more as I hold nine-week-old fluffbug Lucy for this photo:

lucy babe

After I ran into my bedroom crying over the puppy pee incident, I felt horrible.  I knew I was overreacting.  The botched potty training merely served as a catalyst to unload the sadness I’ve felt the past week over my Dad, over the Carol Coronado tragedy, over the Santa Barbara shootings and other atrocities.

My six-year-old daughter Marilla, disturbed to see me sob,  followed me into my room and she wrapped her arms around me.

“Don’t worry Mom.  You’ll always have me.” she said as she sprinkled my face with kisses.  My moody “‘tude” was melted by her affection and empathy.  Ever since she could talk, Marilla has been compassionate and wise beyond her years.  In 2013 when  I suffered one of the worst bipolar depressions of my life, Marilla told me,  “Mommy, I’d like to give you a talk!”  I had no idea what she meant, but I nodded yes.

She took me to her bunk bed, and told me how much she loved me.  She added, “I’m sorry about your father.”  I couldn’t even speak and I just sat there immobilized with tears rolling down my face.  

I know how this may sound – that I was being co-dependent with my little girl, and that it was unhealthy and unfair for me to place that burden upon her.  In self-defense, I was so hopeless and over-medicated that I couldn’t help but say yes to such a loving gesture.  

I’m still uncertain if our talks were “wrong” in the eyes of psychological professionals.  With Marilla I repeated a behavior I created during my childhood, except the roles were reversed.  When my Dad was deeply depressed due to bipolar disorder, I tried my best to cheer him up with loving words, reassurance that he’d get better, and affection.  I didn’t have as much empathy and knowing as Marilla, but I attempted to lift his mood because I loved him so much and I couldn’t stand to see him suffer.  

Lifting my Dad’s spirits made me feel valued, and while no parent wants their child to derive their self-worth in such a way, I have no regrets about what happened.  I don’t feel scarred by the role I took on with my father, and hopefully Marilla won’t be adversely affected by our conversations either.  She only gave me two or three of of these special talks, but I’ll never forget them.  

After what happened when I was depressed and during other times, I’ve become convinced that Rilla possesses an old soul.  A comprehensive definition of the term “old soul” is:

A spiritual person who is wise beyond her years; people of strong emotional stability…someone who has more understanding of the world around her.  Some people even believe an old soul is a person whom has learned from past incarnations, or lives. They acquired certain knowledge from their past lives and apply it to their present life…”

While I believe in mediums and the Afterlife, I’m still not sure about reincarnation.  I don’t know who Marilla takes after personality-wise from both of our families.  I’ve never given it much thought if Marilla is channeling one of our relatives, although I would find it to be fascinating if she was.  

What matters most is that I have a child who expresses compassion and love in an amazing, profound way.  Now that I’m stable, I’ll never expect Marilla to take on the responsibility for improving my mood.  We all know that’s my job.  

I had no idea I’d be writing about Marilla today, but now that I have, I feel much better.  Puppy pee on backpacks?  What puppy pee? ?  That’s now in the distant past.  My heart is focusing on the present, as I realize that being the mom of a little old soul is one of the most beautiful gifts I’ve been given in this lifetime.