For those who deal with chronic illness, the idea of only taking two pills a day is a funny joke. Taking that few pills is no different than brushing one’s teeth: It's just a basic part of daily life. Right now, I take 13+ Western medical drug capsules per day. Then there are the supplements. Unlike Western drugs which are chemically based and therefore often quite small in size, herbal supplements are not compact. They often require multiple pills per supplement daily in order to get the necessary dose. I don’t even keep track of the total number of pills anymore, but it’s in the dozens per day. Whenever I see new practitioners, they look at my list of supplements and immediately declare, “You are taking too many things.” However, once we review the list and I tell them what each supplement is for and what side effects I have when I stop it, they agree that I shouldn't mess with the system I have going which helps keep my body relatively stable and decreases my pain levels.
Managing all of those supplements requires a system of organization that most individuals with health issues work out after a while. Opening a dozen bottles at every meal each day gets tedious. The typical pill keepers on the market are meant for someone taking only a few small Western drugs per day. They’re pretty pointless for someone using large numbers of herbal supplements. Early in my illness, a fellow patient showed me her technique for managing pills: An organizer she found at the hardware store for sorting nuts, bolts, and nails. I picked a similar plastic box organizer (pictured above), and it has become vital to my supplement management. These can be found at craft stores, organizer stores, hardware stores, and superstores. My supplement doses change regularly, so I prefer not to mete out more than five days at a time lest I have to redo them. On every fifth day, though, I sit down and listen to music for 15 minutes while I fill my supplement box. As I fill the box, I try to integrate mindfulness meditation into the process: I remember consciously what each supplement is for, and I ask for help in achieving its goal.
Chronic illness affects every aspect of a person’s life. Taking supplements becomes an integral part of life, one that can often seem like a burden. Finding ways to make the process a little easier can help relieve some of the resentment one feels about needing assistance in order to be semi-functional.
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC