Total Cost: Around 10 bucks or less for practice pills.

Total Time: 30 minutes a day for a week or two.

My lifelong inability to swallow pills has long been a source of confusion and unnecessary discomfort. It was one of the first things that popped into my head when I began this year long project of self-improvement.

I’ve been chewing all my medicine and vitamins for my entire life and its never a particularly pleasant experience. I even chewed my Penicillin pills after getting my wisdom teeth removed, which to this day is still the most disgusting thing I’ve ever tasted. Most vitamins aren’t too bad if they’re book ended by coffee or tea, but many kinds of medicine taste vile when chewed no matter what food or drink you try to mix them with.

I understand how strange this sounds but swallowing pills has long been my white whale. Being unable to swallow pills has always seemed peculiar and unnecessary to me, but in truth I have tried and failed to learn this skill many times in the past. I’ve taken plenty of (probably deserved) flak from friends and doctors for it over the years all well.

A strange thing about learning how to swallow pills as an adult is how few solid resources there are on this subject online. This is such a seemingly simple thing to do that there really isn’t much to find beyond the basic “level one” tips. Even the specialized articles on the topic of adults who struggle with swallowing pills failed to mention anything which worked or that I hadn’t already tried before. I have to admit that I felt like a total idiot while reading articles on wikihow which were telling me to do exactly what my mom had me try when I was younger.

I finally stumbled on a youtube video by user Trickofdisaster which contained the trick which allowed me to swallow my first pill.

It’s quite simple and its the only thing that has ever allowed me to swallow a pill whole. You basically just take the pill and shove it all the way at the very back of your tongue. The very back. So far back that just getting a pill near there will probably trigger your gag reflex. It sure did for me! The goal is to get it so far back on the tongue that the simple act of closing your mouth will get it down your throat, you don’t really even swallow to get it down.

The whole reason I couldn’t swallow pills in the first place was because of my hair triggered gag reflex, so it stands to reason that training to suppress the gag reflex a bit will help swallow pills. After 15 minutes of gagging while repeatedly trying to get a pill to sit on the back of my tongue, eventually the reflex started to tame down a bit and I got the pill to stay there for a second or two. I closed my mouth and the pill was gone. The first pill I got down totally surprised me, I barely felt it go down and I was stunned that I had finally swallowed a pill for the first time.

I immediately tried again but was back to gagging; looks like I still needed practice. For the next week I spent 15 minutes every night trying to git a few pills down. It got easier and easier until it eventually got easy enough that it only takes a few tries to be able swallow one. I still can’t pop a pill in my mouth and swallow it completely comfortable, but after all these years at least I can do it with some struggle, which somehow feels like a weirdly large accomplishment.

As cliche as I didn’t want it to be the secret to swallowing pills was what all my friends had been telling me for years. Just relax, man. If you can’t get a pill down your throat its entirely due to some kind of mental blockage, you don’t have some weird or impossible to overcome natural reflex.

Though I’m not entirely sure why I developed a fear of pills over the years it became completely evident to me that I had one after going through this experience. The more I psyched myself about this fear the harder my gag reflex would trigger, while the more deep and calming breaths I took the easier it became. Putting pressure on yourself only exasperates the problem.

This week’s challenge exposed some problems with the 5 and 50 format. Though I spent less than my 5 maximum hours on trying to solve it, overcoming a long-time fear is something which may or may not take more than a week to do completely. I made more progress on being able to swallow pills this week than I ever was able to in the past, but I can’t say that this strange struggle is completely over. It’s still a bit of an ordeal to get a pill down, but at least I don’t have to chew them anymore.

I hope to be able to swallow pills effortlessly in a few weeks and finally put this weird source of anxiety to rest. For now I feel very content that I was able to make any progress on this on at all after all these years.

5 and 50 has given me a powerful tool to compress and compartmentalize problems. By placing a 5 hour restriction and a one week deadline on a personal issue I’m lighting a fire under my feet which feels very enabling. When I had the rest of my life to learn how to swallow pills the task felt hopeless. When I had just five hours to succeed or fail at it I was very directed and motivated. Combine this with the fact that failing at a project means I have to make a video and write a blog post about how I was unable to accomplish something new, and what you have is pretty a potent recipe for self-improvement. Bring on the next Moby Dick!

– Aleco Pors