My Careless Medication Mix Up

For the vast majority of people, life with a chronic illness like multiple sclerosis (MS) means a life with medication. Not just the disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) used to help manage the course of MS itself but prescription pills used to treat the symptoms of this disease. Now, in recent years, I have managed to cut quite a bit of prescription medication out of my daily regimen, but as of now, I am still not living 100% pill-free. I am writing this post as a cautionary tale for anyone out there (even if you don’t have MS) who has to take prescription medication. You see, the thing about living a life with medication is that it’s much more than just remembering when to take different pills; learning how to physically manage the medication you have to take is also a vital part of living with a disease like MS.

So many pills

When I was first diagnosed with MS, the neurologist I was seeing at the time prescribed medication like she was earning commission by the pill (well, maybe that isn’t so much of a stretch - haha). Anyway, small blue tablets, yellow capsules, white pills, oval pills, little pills, and big pills. Pills, pills, pills; so many pills! I quickly learned how to efficiently sort them all and keep track of when I needed to take them, as well as whether or not I had actually remembered to take them so that I wouldn’t double-dose. Incorporating several of those plastic Monday through Sunday pill organizers (each a different color for different times of the day) into my daily routine was an obvious first step. To help me remember to take those pills at the right times, I had several alarms set on my phone. So far, so good, right?

Organizing my medication while I was out and about

Well, what was kind of tricky was managing my medication when I was out and about. First, I literally just used plastic sandwich bags marked with a permanent marker (morning, noon, evening) to hold all my pills for different times of the day. While away from home, I simply kept those bags in my pocket so that when my alarm went off I could just reach in and grab the pills I needed, but constantly reaching into my pocket and popping pills that I kept in a plastic bag sort of made me feel like a bit of a druggy. Then, I found these small plastic bags at the pharmacy which were actually meant for holding and organizing pills and even had the day and time printed on them. I thought that was cool for like a week, but then I just felt like a really organized druggy.

Now, really quick, if this is how you keep your medication organized when you are out and about? That’s great! I’m not saying there is anything wrong with using plastic bags to organize your pills or that I would even think it looked sketchy if I saw you pull one out of your pocket. Do whatever works best for you. All I’m saying is that it made me feel weird, that’s all.

A pill container that attached to my keychain

So, I eventually found and settled on one of those small metal pill containers that attach to a keychain (you can find them at pretty much any pharmacy). To me? A small black container attached to my keychain felt a lot more discreet than a pocket full of plastic bags, and it worked out perfectly for years! As I cut out more and more medication from my daily cocktail, I was able to fit all the pills I would need for the day inside just one, and because I eventually learned how each pill looked and felt I could just grab what I needed from it when my alarm would go off; no muss, no fuss. But for the first time in almost 8 years, that little keychain pill box would lead me to make a mistake and mix up my medication.

I was reaching the end of my energy limit

The other week, I was out getting coffee with a friend when I needed to take a pill. Without breaking our conversation, I pulled out my keychain and grabbed the one blue tablet I needed to take like I had done a thousand times before. This medication doesn’t affect how I actually feel, so when I started getting kind of tired maybe 15 minutes later, I just assumed I was reaching the end of my energy limit. So, we decided that we should call it a day, especially because I had taken the bus to get there and I had a bit of a trip to get home. As I got closer to the bus stop, I was quickly starting to feel really heavy, and my legs were not moving the way they usually moved, causing me to stumble and have to put my hand on something like a light post every now and then. I would walk about 10 feet, stumble a bit, stop and take a second to stabilize myself and then keep walking. But the closer I got to the bus stop the heavier I felt, the worse my balance became and the further away the stop looked. What was happening? What did I do to trigger this? I was just sitting down and having coffee with a friend!

I had basically drugged myself

I finally made it home, and I felt so relieved to be able to just collapse into my bed because I was honestly surprised that I had not tripped and fallen on my face. I laid there and replayed everything I could remember from the day over and over in my head as I tried to figure out why I felt the way I felt. Then it sort of just dawned on me; I got up and grabbed a prescription bottle from off my nightstand and dumped out the pills into my hand. The prescription was for Klonopin (clonazepam) which I sometimes take to help me sleep. Next, I dumped out the pills I had thought I had taken while getting coffee and what do you know? Both prescriptions were small blue tablets, but in the past, Klonopin had always been yellow! I don’t know if the color changed because the pharmacy started buying from a new manufacturer or if it was because the dose I had was much higher than I usually got, but it all made sense. I had simply taken the wrong pill. I had accidentally taken a sleeping aid which I hadn’t taken in a long time, causing it to hit me extra hard. I wasn’t stumbling around and growing drowsy because I had pushed myself too hard; no, I had basically drugged myself.

That day could have gone very wrong

I got really lucky. That day could have gone very wrong. I could have actually injured myself and all because I mixed up some medication. But now I know. Now I am aware of that possibility; now I am going to be much more conscious about how I organize my medication, and now I am going to always double check what I am taking to make sure it’s actually the right thing. I have always looked at my mistakes (be them small or big) as learning opportunities, and man did I learn a valuable lesson from this one!

Have you ever made a mistake like this regarding your medication? What do you do to try to avoid this from happening? Share below!

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