Once a week I refill my pill box. I take two antidepressants and one mood-stabilizer, along with a handful of supplements – fish oil, glucosamine, daily vitamin etc.shutterstock_190984571

One-by-one I take each bottle out of a basket, open it, deposit the pills in their daily nook and put the bottle back into the basket. I take my medications without fail and I have done this little routine countless times over the years.

Last week I screwed up. Big time. I forgot to put one of my antidepressants in the mix. It took five days and a swan dive into my black hole before I realized this. I probably would have discovered this faux pas sooner if I had been paying attention but I have been under a lot of stress lately and it has been difficult to focus on anything for long.

Day one and day two were typical crappy days. Day three my lovely mania emerged. I spewed my anger and frustration all over the newsroom. I realized what I was doing but my mouth was on cruise control and wouldn’t stop.

Day four I awoke with my head in a vice grip. Bouts of sudden dizziness hit me. I could not focus on anything but the bad things going on in my life. My appetite vanished. Anxiety and sadness sat heavy on my chest. WTH? Maybe my meds had stopped working.

I turned to my Hail-Mary, last-ditch solution: exercise. Maybe if I exercised really hard for long enough I could generate enough endorphins to counteract the depression. So I strapped on my running shoes and hit the road – for three hours.

I didn’t run the whole time. I was crying too hard sometimes and my knees began to ache. The tightness in my chest wouldn’t lift so I ran some sprints. Still nothing. No endorphins. No relief.

I got home, took a bath and slept for three hours. Day five I sent an email to my bosses telling them I wouldn’t be able to work: Please don’t call me. If you need me, txt or email.

Boom. Down goes Frazier.

That night I pulled out my pill box and poured the evening’s pills into my hand. I stared. Where is the Lexapro? I wondered if maybe I accidentally took it in the morning. Then I looked at the next day’s pills: No Lexapro. Then the next day: No Lexapro.

S#*t. I forgot to include Lexapro in my weekly cache. I immediately took the Lexapro. But now what? My nurse practitioner had often told me that if you stop taking an antidepressant it might not work again when you start back up.

I woke the next morning in a somewhat better mood but still unable to concentrate. That night I made damn sure I took my Lexapro. I woke up the next morning and stared at the ceiling assessing my mood. I felt fine. I FELT FINE!!! I still had the same amount of stress but I was no longer in my black hole! Halle-frickin-lujah!

I’ve heard people say they stopped taking their antidepressants cold turkey. They’re sick of taking them, they can’t afford them, they’re gaining weight or worried about the side-effects of long-term use.

The idea used to intrigue me. No more. Never will I stop taking my antidepressants without the blessing of my nurse practitioner.

I have a new protocol for taking my meds. Take the bottle out of the basket. Open the bottle. Deposit the pills. Put the cap back on the bottle and LEAVE THE BOTTLE ON THE COUNTER. Do not put the bottle back in the basket until ALL PILLS HAVE BEEN DEPOSITED INTO THEIR DAILY RECEPTICALS!

These aren’t M&Ms, you know.