He KNOWS Me (NOOO!)

I don’t think I would want to work at a pharmacy.  No one goes to fill prescriptions thinking, “Hooray!  Yet another reminder that I am not well, and I get to pay money to be reminded!  THANKS, PHARMACIST!”  Plus, it’s always a little embarrassing to pick up pills because now some random human is privy to my secrets.  Maybe they don’t know what my medicine is for, but maybe they DO.  I mostly try not to look at the pharmacist.  It’s like a drug deal.

Except, wait, it literally IS a drug deal.

If I could, I would always walk up to the pharmacy counter with a large floppy hat and sunglasses, wearing a black trench coat, and I would be staring mostly at the ground.  Are those new floor tiles?  They’re fascinating!  Inevitably, though, I’m always already at the store to pick up milk or something, and then I suddenly remember I need to pick up pills. I do a quick 360 degree scan to make sure no students are in sight (not kidding), and I rush to the pharmacy counter to pick up the drugs as quickly as possible.  “Quick – hand over the goods.  Here’s my credit card.”

I don’t really say that.

Most of the time.

Okay, fine. I never say that.  It turns out that I could, though, because last week I found out a horrifying fact: I am such a regular at my pharmacy that my pharmacist knows me.

It started innocently enough.  I did my regular scanning turnaround, and no students were in sight.  I walked up to the counter and said I had to pick up pills for Hazel Hillboro.  The pharmacist asked for my birthday, looked me up, and then went to go get the pills for me.  When he brought them back, I handed him my credit card.  He said, “Can I see your ID?  Actually, wait, never mind.  I know you.  You’re here all the time,” and he didn’t even look at my ID.

WHAT?!?!?

I wanted to protest.  “No, sir.  I am not here ALL THE TIME.  It’s not like I hang out here on the daily.  Also, this is totally unfair.  I don’t know your name, pharmacist.  I can’t access your birthday.  Hey, are you on any medications?  I feel like you should tell me all the things you’re on, since you already know all about mine.  It’s only fair.  Everyone knows drug deals should be a two-way street.”

Wait a second, are drug deals a two-way street?  I’m not sure.  Do people send their drug dealers Christmas cards?  Invitations to baby showers?  I don’t know too much about the illegal drug scene.  I’m on too many legal drugs as it is.  I won’t add any more drugs voluntarily, thank you very much.

I think this was a significant moment in my medical history.  MY PHARMACIST KNOWS ME.  Not only that, he classified me a being there “all the time.”  Those were his literal words:  All. The. Time.

Yes, I’m on a lot of medications.  I’m on one in particular that is ridiculously expensive.  That one’s for my brain tumor.  Any time there’s a new pharmacist, they raise their eyebrows at the total and say, “Ummm…are you aware of how much this drug costs?”

Yes, I am.  Your shock never makes me feel better about handing over that much money.  I could have gone all-inclusive to Europe on how much I’ve spent on that drug.  Trust me, I’m not excited about it.  I never want to talk about it, though, so I keep studying those oh-so-interesting floor tiles and say, “Yeah, I know.  I’ve been on it forever.”  And then the floor tiles get a little blurry and I start wondering when they’ll give me back my credit card so I can get the heck out of there.

I tried to justify the pharmacist’s recognition of me by thinking that maybe I’m the one customer who’s on crazy expensive pills.  Maybe he thinks I’m pretty, and that’s why he recognized me.  Right – that must be it.  I’m fabulously beautiful enough to leave an impression on this random pharmacist.

(Excuse me a moment.)

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

(Okay, I’m back).

The hard truth of the matter is that I’m at the pharmacy quite a bit.

Of all the places to be a “regular,” I never would have picked my neighborhood pharmacy.  Why can’t I be a regular at Tiffany and Co. or a swanky wine loft or something?  I’m a regular at a pharmacy.  COOL.  My family would be so proud.  In the event that I ever do anything warranting an acceptance speech, I’ll be sure to say, “…and thank you to my pharmacist, who was always there for me, since I was at the pharmacy *ahem* ALL THE TIME.  He knew all about my secrets, but I didn’t even know his name.  What a tragic story.”

Starting tonight, I’m going to find somewhere really amazing to go.  Then I’m going to go there every single day until I’m a regular, and I won’t feel so losery about being a regular at a pharmacy.

I Have a Drug Problem

Most people who have drug problems have a problem with putting drugs in their body when they shouldn’t.  I have the opposite problem.  I hate hate hate taking drugs, even when (especially when) I really need them.

I’m not exactly sure why this is.  Maybe it’s a pride thing?  I want to be okay without these drugs.  I don’t want to need them.  The problem is, I do need them.  I need them for a variety of things.  I just hate taking them.  I can’t be the first person in the world with this type of problem, right?  The issue is, unfortunately, that this is a somewhat serious problem.  I can’t just not take drugs when I’m supposed to.  Theoretically.

It started eight and a half years ago with a brain tumor diagnosis.  It was absolutely terrifying for a little while, but I eventually learned that it was non-cancerous and “easily manageable.” As long as, you know, by “easily manageable” doctors meant frequent blood tests, MRIs, so many endocrineologists that I should make a facebook group for them, and a daily cocktail of drugs that makes me feel like a ninety year old. I have to use those weird daily sorted pill boxes that you see casually strewn about in nursing homes.  Oh, and now I also have a side dish of bipolar disorder.

Easily manageable.

Okay.

I’m not going to go through the history of the past eight and a half years right now.  If you follow this blog, I’m sure through pieces here and there you’ll eventually get the full story.  It’s actually pretty fascinating.  There are all the elements of a good read: true love, fake love, betrayal, near death experiences, secrets, loss, redemption, hope…you get the idea.  It’s just that living it is a lot different than reading it in a novel.  Living it is kind of a hot mess.

Which is why I need drugs.  I need drugs to keep my brain tumor from growing, and I need drugs to keep my bipolar disorder from turning me into a version of myself that I hate.  But… I hate them.  I have this internal battle every time I open a pill bottle.  It’s almost Shakesperean: “to take or not to take”?

Every time I have a good day, I wonder, “Do I really need these? Could I maybe be okay without them this time?”  And every time I forget to take them (really forgetting or just “forgetting”), the answer I find is no.  I am not okay without them.  Yet.

Think about being a kid in school – the one message you heard over and over again was “be yourself.”  Imagine a world where doctors tell you, “Take these drugs, because you can’t be yourself.  You have to be this drugged up version of yourself, otherwise you’re completely nuts.”  It’s strange.  It’s scary.  Who am I really?  The crazy me or the me on drugs?  WHO IS HAZEL HILLBORO?

Sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder about the person staring back at me.  She’s a stranger.  It’s very weird.

My psychiatrist tried to make me think of mental illness as more normal by saying, “Think of it this way – if you were a diabetic, would you refuse to take your insulin?”  I immediately said, “Yes, I probably would.”  My husband laughed, and my psychiatrist looked at him, startled.  I’m glad that he laughed, because it made me laugh.  I realized I’d given the wrong answer, but at least I’d given an honest one.  And if you can’t laugh at these kinds of things, you’re just going to cry.

I don’t know why I have such a mental block about putting foreign substances in my body.  Surely in any other case, this would be a good thing.  Unfortunately, for me it means that I make it more difficult for myself to get better.  Chalk it up to another piece of my crazy.  Hopefully another blog post down the road will explain how I got over this, and I now have no problem being in my mid-twenties and taking enough pills to fill a pharmacy.

That’s an exaggeration, but not as big of one as I’d like it to be.

Excuse me – I have to go take my 4:00 pills.

That one’s not an exaggeration.