Over-the-Counter Medication

October 31, 2015

Enough was enough.


It was day 10 of my16 days bedridden in the hospital.  Who knew that buying cat food and bottled water would result in a broken shoulder and neck?


Finally, the nurse said, “You need to manage your pain medication before you can go home.”


“So...” the nurse continued, but I just tuned her out.


GO HOME was all I heard of this message.


I felt a little smile dance across my face, and then I thought…Manage Your Pain Medication.


What does she mean by that exactly???


To be honest, this was making me a bit nervous.


And that sleeping pill fiasco the night before was still on my mind.

I just don’t DO medication. 


Last night for instance, after being up to after 2 in the morning the past several days, it was gently suggested I take this sleeping pill, Ambien. This made me a bit apprehensive.

Terrified, actually. 


I never took any kind of sleeping pill.  Would this make me more tired, sleep heavier or longer?  Would I feel hungover?  Would I feel nauseated when I woke up?


So last night, I, in the most adult demeanor possible, refused to take this Ambien. Two nurses, my parents and doctor were crowded around the little arm table attached to my bed staring at the seemingly white innocuous substance.


And then gawking back at me.


“What is this going to do to me?” I tearfully asked the doctor. 


“It. Will make. You sleep,” she said.


That REALLY did not answer my question.


I never take aspirin, medication for a cold or any other Over The Counter (OTC) medication.  While I am very literate, I don’t even understand medication labels. 

I did, however, try taking pain relief a few times:


I hurt my knee.  It ached.  I asked a co-worker what to take for it. 


“Do you want pain relief or inflammable relief?”  she asked. 


I decided to ice my leg instead.


I once had a miserable cold.  My head hurt, throat ached, and I had a bad cough.   

After going to the medicine section of the grocery store, I was more confused than ever.  A clerk presented me with option after option.  Feeling overwhelmed, I went home and slept for eight hours.


I felt better.


When I had a cut (my cat scratched me), my dad instructed me to use Neosporin.  I just thought fresh air would heal it.


I also thought Neosporin was for burns (as the label said) such as the rash, I had last week.  This maybe explained why Neosporin did not help my rash whole lot

So getting back to my nurse’s question, “Do you want to take Vicodin or UnpronouncibleDrug?”  




Instead, I told her, “I can function without pain medication, thank you.”


But the thing is, as my nurse just told me, I was on pain medication since I was admitted in the hospital.  Every morning the nurse would talk to me and poke my vein.  I thought she was drawing blood. 


Why didn’t anyone tell me I was on pain medication?


It is also interesting as I had a professional job and a graduate degree, but I could not seem to understand my new surroundings.


In about eight minutes (the amount of time I calculated my accident took), I was forced into this world where I did not understand medical terminology, know what questions to ask, how to make decisions on my healthcare and how to advocate for myself.

I had to learn how to fend for myself in an unfamiliar place that was in a different language.


And I could not even use GOOGLE!


 And now, I am faced with a choice.


Vicodin or UnpronuncibleDrug.


 “Vicodin is not as addictive,” my nurse said.


I was really beginning to freak out.


I remember when Donna from Beverly Hills 90210 had some kind of back problem. She was popping in pain medication with some freaky sounding music playing.  I just remember some kind of drama as she was being transported to the hospital with all of her concerned friends, “I thought she stopped doing them!”


And on a more serious note, a professional man was addicted to painkillers and killed a family while driving.


So was this it for me?


Will this pain medication make me feel loopy? Will it make me sleep 20 hours a day?  Will it make me not be able to have a conversation?  Will I be slurring my words?  Will I not be able to think clearly?


And what does addictive really mean? Will it be like when I was addicted to nicotine?

“Cathy, you don’t have to be a warrior!  Take the pain medication,” my mom said.  While I appreciate the sentiment, it really did not help me make a decision.


Randomly, I picked Vicodin.


My plan was this:  I would not take Vicodin until the pain was absolutely unbearable.

Which was 15 minutes later.


I rang the nurse, and she came in about 20 minutes later to give me Vicodin.  I no longer CARED if it was addictive.  My arm was on fire.  I needed the pain to stop. Now.

But the pain didn’t stop. 


“Because it takes 45 minutes for it to work,” she explained.

From NOW????


I can see why Vicodin is addictive.


“Don’t worry Cathy, I have a plan,” my mom said of my concern of Vicodin addiction.

I knew she would.  Because she is my mom. 


Two months later, her plan worked like a charm.


She weeded me off of Vicodin and gave me another Over The Counter drug.

It was…


Extra Strength – Arthritis Relief


Did I mention that I was 38 years old?


At age 38, I would have never considered any kind of arthritis relief medication. I would have chucked the Extra Strength Arthritis Relief back on the shelf and came home with aspirin.


I would have probably taken one or two aspirin and returned to Vicodin because I was still in pain.  And then I would be like Donna from 90210.


Or worse.


Over The Counter medication and home remedies are just NOT my thing.

Shouldn’t there be a book, Over The Counter Medication For Dummies?


Or maybe a cheat sheet to understand basic vocabulary and precautions with Over The Counter medication.  This can be like the laminated one I have with key Spanish speaking terms that is sold at major bookstores.


I vowed to do a better job of understanding these kinds of medications by buying different medication to learn how to read labels.  I would then have them on hand when I am sick.


After four years, I felt I accomplished the mystery of OTC medication.  Or so I thought.

This past weekend, I hurt my foot.  With pride, I borrowed some of my dad’s Ibuprofen without even having to think about it. I saw the name, the familiar orange bottle, and I was set. After taking it, I felt a bit tired, and my foot felt so much better.




I told my dad that he may need to replace the Ibuprofen (since I took the bottle home with me).


“What version of Ibuprofen did you take?” he asked.  “So I need to know what to replace.”




“The a.m. or the p.m. one?” he said.


I think I have more work to do.




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