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Medication Hoops

I knew our healthcare system was bullshit, but in the past week I realized how much it sucks.

For a while, I was on a medication that worked great for my anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, I recently started getting tremors on the medication. At first, I didn’t make the connection between my meds and the shaking because I felt a little felt burnt out when it happened and figured I had gone into an anxiety attack. I realized I wasn’t having an anxiety attack when the shakes started happening when I was completely calm and relaxed otherwise and eventually noted that this was happening within an hour of taking my meds. It was bizarre to suddenly find my body shivering uncontrollably, but I wasn’t cold and I wasn’t in panic mode. Even then I wasn’t that concerned because I was unaware it could be a concerning side effect. Worsening depression or suicidal thoughts? Yes. Mild, uncontrollable shaking that last a couple hours? Eh.

Part of me felt that my meds possibly triggering shaking was a fair trade off to having stable mental health. Then shaking occurred on a day when I had yet to take my meds and that’s when I started to get worried. I called up my doctor, who was like “OMG you’re having tremors. We need to get you off them!” She wanted me to take the lowest dosage possible for a week and then stop taking it, but realized I was already on the lowest dosage—my chart still showed I was on two medications and I had accidentally gave her the wrong name when she asked which one I was still taking. I asked about splitting pills in half, but she said to get off them entirely in this case and call her back in a week unless there was a drastic change in my mood. I don’t recall if she explained why I couldn’t split pills, but I think my med was a slow release and good old Google says some pills you shouldn’t split including those with a slow release feature.

After three days of being off medication cold turkey, it occurred to me why my doctor would have preferred to wean me off the medication. The withdrawals were fucking awful. I’m constantly tired due to insomnia, but it got worse when I got off the meds. I was more than tired—I was exhausted and fatigued. I had barely any energy to function like a normal human being and no motivation to do anything outside of my responsibilities. All my energy reserves was being used to fight the half of my now un-medicated and unrestrained brain that tries to work against me while also trying to be a productive member of society in order to pay bills. I felt like all those times I stayed up for 30+ hours straight trying to get a cosplay done before a contest. If I could have curled up on my bed all day next to my cat, I would have gladly done so. Mood wise, I thought I would be fine since I had came to the conclusion that a good chunk of my anxiety had been a result of a toxic work environment, which was remedied with a new position. Nope. At best I was a tired, anxious mess with a brain that never shut up about every little worry and at worse I was wishing an act of God would take me out of my exhausted existence.  

After a week of this withdrawal bullshit, I passed along an update to my doctor’s office. We played a bit of phone tag and I was eventually informed that a prescription had been sent to the pharmacy at the store I work at. “Great!” I thought. I went to go pick it up during lunch. They weren’t done filling it, but the pharmacy tech had an important question for me.

 “Are you aware that this med is going to cost $300?”

No, I was not aware. In fact, I was a bit blind-sided since every one of my medications had cost $4 for a month’s worth or $12 for 90-days worth.

“Is that without insurance?” I asked.

“It would have been $350 without insurance. You could try finding a manufacture’s coupon—”

“I’ll call my doctor and see if she can get me something else.”

I kind of wanted to explode, but pharmacy techs (or anyone in pharmacy for that matter) don’t set the prices of meds. It wasn’t their fault I was on completely on edge and the medication I was prescribed to help with this was way out of budget for the average retail employee.

I did another round of phone tag with my doctor and explained the med she prescribed me would be hundreds of dollars. She prescribed me a new med, but if that didn’t work then I would need to get something called a formulary from my insurance provider.

It didn’t work.

“Uh…well, it’s not any better…it’s $435,” the other pharmacy tech informed me when I went to go check the price after receiving my message. What the fuck?

Not being on meds was like playing Final Fantasy and going into a difficult boss battle without any provisions. The experience with the pharmacy was like going to a shop to prepare for that upcoming boss battle and then finding you don’t have enough Gil to get the one item that would end the fight instantly. (And you bet it’s a boss fight that’s preceded by an un-skippable cut scene that you’ll end up watching over and over because you keep losing).

As my medications weren’t being covered by insurance I had to get a formulary, which is a list of medications that your insurance provider will cover. The problem was I don’t do well with phone calls even in the best of times due to anxiety and I became more spacy and forgetful the longer I was off medication. Plus, it was Friday when all this happened so even if I did get it right away the earliest I’d be able to get it to my doctor was the following Monday. I did find my insurance’s website did have an online chat option as well as a formulary so I was able to confirm through the chat if this was what my doctor needed.

It wasn’t.

For whatever reason, the formulary that my insurance will cover wasn’t through my insurance, but through my employer. I had to go on the computer at work, find it, print it out, and send it to the doctor. A couple days later, she prescribes me something that is thankfully covered by insurance and only cost $4. Which is great considering I have been through most of the generic medications at this point and was worried there wasn’t going to be anything that would be covered.

Thank the mighty sun god Ra that I didn’t need a medication to keep my body from shutting down and/or I wasn’t suicidal because I might have been dead by the time I got anything. It should not be this hard to acquire a prescribed medication for an on-going health issue, especially when you pay into insurance. You should not have to look for a manufacture’s coupon just to be able to afford medication—that’s disgusting that some people actually have to resort to this. I have been through most of the generic medications and was worried that there wasn’t going to be anything on the formulary that my insurance would cover. My insurance already doesn’t cover therapy that could be beneficial to my mental health so it’s extra important for me to be able to regulate my mental health through medication. It was evident I needed medication once I got off one that had been working beautifully, but gave a horrible physical side effect that could have been permanent if I had continued to take it. My mind was sick and I had to jump through hoops in order to find something that would make me better without costing an arm and a leg. Honestly, that’s infuriating.   

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