I have been going to the same pharmacy for as long as I can remember. They know me by name. They know that when I pick up my bag of prescriptions, it’s usually 6 prescriptions that I have filled.
Last week I went to pick up a prescription for Prevacid (because stomach problems go so well with mental illnesses, right?), and when I got to the pick up counter at the pharmacy, the pharmacist said, “Picking up just one prescription today?” I had picked up my 6-pack last week, and although she may not have been aware of that, I still wanted to ask, “Does that matter? Why is that your business?” And of course there was someone behind me in line.
Why would a pharmacist feel the need to say that? It was also interesting because this same pharmacist, a couple months ago, had printed out a list of my medications, “flagged” my prescription profile and when I came in said “You’re on a lot of medications, we should talk about this,“ to which I said, “I’ve been on these medications for years, and the dosages haven’t changed in over a year, or longer.” I had to sign off on some form. I am not sure if it was some proactive legal “pharmacist consultation” form or something like that, but if she was really that concerned, she should have flagged my file when all of these prescriptions first started appearing.
I had another interesting encounter with one of the pharmacy assistants a while ago while bringing in prescriptions to fill and keep on file. I asked him to fill the usual 6 and log the refills and said I would be back the next day to get it. It was after 6pm and he asked me if I worked. I responded that I do and that I work full time. I feel like he wanted to ask me, “How is that working out for you?”
It’s unpleasant to feel like you are being judged for filling your prescriptions. But there are pharmacists/pharmacy assistants there who at least use more discretion. When I come in to order my prescriptions, they’ll just say, “The same as last time?” or show me the screen to verify.
Writing this actually reminds me of something that happened at my last job. I never disclosed my diagnosis to my boss, but I had told him that I have an anxiety disorder and I go to a psychiatrist and sometimes required extra time on lunch for my appointments (since my office was so close to the doctor I was able to pull it off). One evening, I was putting files away and on the way back to my office, my pill box (a.k.a. mini pharmacy with pills for the day – Ativan, Rivotril, digestive enzymes) dropped out of my pocket and spilled all over the carpet, IN FRONT OF HIM. I was so embarrassed, but he was really kind about it and helped me pick everything up and said, “You should see what some of my clients carry on them!” We never spoke of it again. I don’t think he really knew what to say but it’s not like he recognized what each pills was or knew what it was for.
Is it written somewhere that someone with a mental illness like type II bipolar disorder can’t work, hold down a full time job and lead a “normal” life? I don’t think there are any rules against it!
Any time I have left a job, it was because I wanted to, it was always my decision to do so. I am in control of my life.
I found a great article on Huffington Post Canada, “5 Things People With Mental Illnesses Can Do”, that I want to share, because it’s so relatable and empowering. This particular part of the article hit home:
Do not minimize my illness by stating that it will pass; that it’s just a phase. Trust me, I’d love for it to pass too. I’d love for this to be “just a phase.” Because imagine how much more I could do if I wasn’t so wrought with anxiety that I have to cancel bridal showers, family dinners, and avoid friends. I can’t overcome the symptoms of my illnesses. But I can write about them. That I can do.
YES – How many times have you had someone tell you, “This too shall pass.” The saying is trite and it’s just empty to people like us. The worst thing you can do to your friend or loved one who has a mental illness and is going through a difficult time is to say that, and to call it a phase. Bipolar disorder has cycles. My bipolar disorder has many, many cycles thanks to its rapid cycling component. But what I like about this particular excerpt is the honesty – let’s get real, if the rough periods just “passed” or were a “phase” and had a specific duration, maybe I could do more. Maybe I wouldn’t have missed that wedding, that bridal shower, that bachelorette, that baby shower, that bat mitzvah, countless birthday parties, family dinners….maybe I would be a world traveller like my sister. Maybe I would have taken a different path in life.
You know what? I can’t live in “Maybe-land” and wonder “What if?” I am a firm believer that what will be, will be and if it is meant to be, it will happen. There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but you learn to manage your symptoms. And you know what I can do? I can help people. From the safety of my couch/bed (or wherever I write these blogs from), I can make the conscious choice to help by sharing my story, my thoughts and letting others know that someone else thinks the way they do.
Maybe I am not a world-traveller, a life-saving doctor or a high profile business woman, but I am owning my life and my illness. And that takes guts. I am not shy about my feelings towards mental health stigma and the importance of seeking treatment. I am myself when I am able to be. And the best part is, my dream job was always to be a writer. I am not a journalist or a novelist (yet), but my job at the office is 99% writing and look where my creative energy and urge to help brought me? To Healthy Minds Canada. A place to find my voice and to be myself!!
About Melanie Luxenberg
My name is Melanie Luxenberg and I am finally ready to live openly with mental illness. I was first diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder in 2003, which I still experience. At the same time, I was diagnosed with Social Anxiety (which I also still experience), and then briefly experienced Agoraphobia. I have had depression on and off since I was 13 years old. In July 2010 I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II. Shortly after it was realized that I experienced rapid cycling. I can experience multiple cycles in a week. Despite my diagnosis, I completed a university degree and then a college program. I have always held stable employment, regularly taken my medication and regularly attended my doctor’s appointments. There have been times of hopelessness, but I have always found support from my family, husband and 3 dogs. I am a law clerk, social media/content writer and of course, mental health advocate. My Twitter feed is full of mental health advocacy messages. I hope one day to see the end of stigma towards mental illness, because stigma has to stop!