I dropped two more prescriptions off at the drug store yesterday. I get a little uneasy doing that because they tell a story to strangers without any context.
Both were for anxiety, and I wonder if the pharmacist thinks, “Yeah, she looks high strung.”
I never really considered what pharmacists thought about me until I was about 22. I picked up birth control pills one Friday and the slimy guy behind the counter handed me the bag, but didn’t quite let go of it. He looked me in the eye, winked and said, “Have a great weekend.”
But my pharmacists over the years have rarely been like that. Mostly, they’ve been warm and good natured. My favorites have taken some time to get to know me just a little bit.
As they hand over my depression meds, anxiety meds, and sleeping meds (because of the depression and anxiety meds), the good ones will ask me about my job.
A simple question—How’s your semester going?—is enough to return my dignity and to remind me that I’m a three dimensional person, even to the pharmacist.
The problem, I think, for pharmacists and others in health related fields is that they see us through a lens of illness and incapacity. They see us at our most vulnerable. They give us pills for pain and for coughs, for thyroid and emotional imbalances.
It’s hard to feel like you’re seen as a professional and a parent, when you sign on the dotted line for your ration of Ativan and Effexor for the month.
My favorite clinicians, though, are the ones who combine care of my ailments with care of my soul. I appreciate so much those who know me well enough to be able to level the space between us by calling out the ways in which I’m competent and accomplished, by acknowledging that I exist in a world where I, too, have status.
My favorite pharmacist always asks about my job and family. She also tells me about her little girl and sometimes seeks advice. As she handed me my filled prescriptions yesterday, pills that suggest my lack of emotional competence, she also handed me her recognition of me as a fellow human.
“How’s your semester going?” she said.
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