We’ve all been there. Something goes wrong somewhere and it delays us being able to get the medicines we’ve come to rely on to make it through each day. Maybe it’s a problem with a doctor writing a prescription in time before you run out. Maybe you have the physical prescription, but the pharmacy it out of the medication and needs to order it. Maybe funds are tight, like they are for many of us, and you just can’t afford the medication. It could really be any reason, but most of us have had times when this has been an issue. So now what?
My medication nightmare began over a month ago. I live in the Canary Islands, near Spain, but I order the thyroid supplement I take for my Hashimoto’s through a company in the United States. Since it’s being shipped internationally and has to go through customs, I am always sure to allow plenty of extra time. I’ve never had a problem, until now that is. It’s been over a month and I still have not been able to receive my medication. No matter what I do, I seem to hit another roadblock. At this point, I’ve actually cancelled the order and attempted to reorder in hopes I won’t have the same issues, as I’ve never encountered this problem before, but only time will tell.
So what can you do if you run out of a medication? Hopefully, you’ll never be in this predicament, but if you are, here are some things to try.
First, try to avoid the problem. It happens. Many of us take multiple medications throughout the day. It’s easy to lose track of how many pills you need to make it through the week. You look at the bottle and think you’ll be okay, until, before you know it, you’re down to your last pills. If you can, try to order the medication before you’ll actually be out of it. This will also allow time for the pharmacy to order it if necessary. Some pharmacies have automatic refills to help with this, but a good way to ensure you won’t run out is to make a habit of reordering the prescription a week before the date it was last filled. For example, if you last filled your prescription on the 20th of the month, reorder it on the 13th of the next month. Set a reminder if you need to.
Second, pay attention to how many refills you have left. Often with chronic illnesses, you may take a specific medication for months or years on end. With the exception of pain medications, doctors will often allow multiple refills on a single prescription. Try to pay attention to this so you’re not trying to refill a prescription when no refills are available. Even when you or your pharmacist notices a new prescription is needed, the doctor’s office may not be able to fulfill the request immediately for any number of reasons. Therefore, it’s important to allow time for this. The one week rule from the previous paragraph works well here too. Ideally, you may have realized the need at your last appointment and requested the prescription then, but allowing the week buffer leaves enough time for your pharmacist to contact the doctor and the doctor to respond.
But what if you miscalculate or are even away from home and run out of your medication? Or maybe it’s a weekend and your doctor’s office it closed? There are a few things you can do. If you’re using your home pharmacy and have a history of taking a particular medication, your pharmacist may be able to give you an emergency supply of the medication, or just enough to make it through a couple of days until a prescription can be attained. You can also take the original bottle from the prescription into another pharmacy and, providing you have refills, the can fill the prescription or contact the prescribing doctor or even an on-call doctor when necessary. In a pinch, you may also be able to find a walk-in clinic and have the doctor there address your prescription needs.
Even with all of this in mind, sometimes life happens and you’re stuck without your meds. As a chronic illness sufferer, I know that with some of my medications, even just missing a single dose can make a huge difference. Then, of course, dealing with the resulting flare can be horrific and impact every aspect of life, from sleep habits, to brain fog, to eating, and participating in daily activities. This is the position I currently find myself in.
As I said earlier, I’ve been waiting for my thyroid supplement for over a month, but it’s caught up in customs. Initially, I tried rationing my medication to try to make it last longer in hopes that my order would arrive from the US. I would either take less doses each day or take smaller doses to stretch out what I had left. I figured something was better than nothing and really expected this to be a temporary situation. My body can definitely tell the difference. Even with the smaller doses, I was much more tired than usual, experienced more migraines, and just generally had more pain.
Now I’ve been without my medication for a while, and my body is not happy. I’ve become virtually dysfunctional. My fatigue is unending and the pain is unbearable. It’s hard for me to complete work, do household tasks, and even spend time with my daughter. All I want to do is stay in bed all day.
As much as I’d love to build a blanket fort and not come out until this nightmare is over, life must go on. For me right now, that means trying to organize my house and make it more livable as I’ve recently moved. I don’t feel well. Like I said, I’m exhausted, weak, and in pain, which is making it difficult to focus on even basic tasks. In the life of a Chargie, these factors can lead to disaster.
Not being able to take my medications has effected me in ways I would have never imagined. Recently, I was trying to make my house a little less chaotic and more settled after my move. I decided I would at least try to get rid of some of the empty boxes scattered throughout my house, as I thought this task required very little energy or concentration. Well, Things didn’t quite go as I had planned.
I was attempting to fold a larger box to get it out of the way. Like I said, I’ve been feeling weak and my dexterity is waning from being off of my meds for so long, so the box slipped out of my hands. I bent down to try to catch it, when SMACK!!! I hit my head on the corner of a cabinet. OUCH!!! As if I didn’t already have enough problems, I managed to give myself a concussion. Even the most menial tasks can require Herculean effort on a bad day. For more on this story, check out my YouTube video above.
Through all this pain and aggravation, I did learn a few things. First, plan ahead. Normally, I do this, but this time it wasn’t enough as my meds are still being held hostage. Maybe now I know that what I thought was more than sufficient time may not be. Second, have a Plan B. In my case, there’s really not much more I could have done for this particular medicine, but it’s good to know alternatives if you do find yourself out of a medication. Panic and stress will only make everything worse. Most importantly, if you do find yourself in this situation, be gentle with yourself. If you are already in a vulnerable and weakened position from being without your meds, pushing yourself will generally make you feel worse. While yes, life has to go on to some extent, pick and choose your battles so you don’t make your flare worse than it needs to be. Everything else will still be there when you’re feeling better.