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To the Pharmacist Who Judged Me While I Was Having a Migraine

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Today, I went to the pharmacy. I often go to the pharmacy, so often, in fact, they know me by name. But this was not my pharmacy. This was a branch of the same pharmacy in a different location.

I showed up and I requested my three days of emergency refills for two psychotropic medications I take, one of which is a controlled substance.

Of course, like any other public place, there were fluorescent lights, which immediately sent me into a migraine. I was standing too long in line and despite the support of my service dog, I started to sway on the spot. I kept almost falling over just while waiting to talk to you for the first time. Then when I got to the window, I was slurring and stuttering.

Several things happened here at once.

I looked like someone who was under the influence. I sounded like someone under the influence. I was requesting a refill of a controlled substance. I told you that my medication was 45 minutes away and even though I got it filled six days ago, I didn’t have access to it because it was 45 minutes away. That sounds a little strange, right?

So, the first person I spoke with asked me to step to the side and speak to the pharmacist. She asked if I was waiting to speak to her, and in a garbled language known as aphasia, I tried to say yes. She gave me a concerning look and told the guy I had first talked to that I wanted to talk to him. He referred me back to her. She directly me if I needed to talk to her. I tried to say yes, but the words just weren’t working. She looked at me and said, “Just say yes.”

My heart dropped. The tears started to well in my eyes. If it was as easy as a simple, “yes,” do you think all of that would have just happened?

She finally came over and I tried to explain the best I could while stuttering and slurring. Yes, I know my medication was just filled. No, I can’t go get it. Yes, I know it’s only 45 minutes away.

I was crashing. It was all I could do to hold on to the counter to not fall. My legs started going numb and weak because that’s what happens when I get a really bad migraine.

After deciding she would fill one medication but not the controlled medicine, she walked away to her throne where she could see everyone. Then she looked at me and said, “Go have a seat.”

Well, the thing about the seats is they are about 20 feet away. And right now I’m holding on for dear life to this counter and I know that my body is not going to make it 20 feet over there.

Once again, sounding like someone under the influence, I tried to talk. I somehow managed to get out “someone else pick up.” Or at least that’s what I was trying to say. I’m not sure if they understood.

I steadied myself on the counter, had my service dog get up and hobbled out of the store before it got so bad I lost the ability to walk.

After I left the pharmacy, I cried tears of embarrassment. It has literally been weeks since I’ve left the house, and even longer then I’ve gone somewhere by myself. And this is what happens the first time I go out.

Congratulations, Ms. Pharmacist. You have successfully demoralized me.

I stay away from the public because of people like you. I stay away from most people actually, because of people like you.

I fear an encounter with a law enforcement official when I am having an episode because I think they will come to the same conclusion you did: under the influence. I fear hospital admissions and discharge reports with labels like “drug-seeking behaviors.”

It is already humiliating enough to be like this around the people I love. And people like you, the way you made me feel today, is why I have started having anxiety attacks before leaving the house.

I understand you don’t know me. I understand what it looked and seemed like.

Looks can be deceiving, though.

I was not under the influence. I am not a drug-seeker.

I can’t make the 45-minute drive to my medication because of my migraines, which you just witnessed in front of you and yet didn’t understand. You interpreted my appearance and how I presented myself and judged me, instead of having empathy for me and asking me if I was OK.

I left without any of my medication. I’m still out of medication. On the weekend we will have time to go pick it up.

It’s never really simple with me. I’m not a horse. I am a zebra, but I’m more than a zebra — I’m a zebra unicorn.

It’s never as simple as just saying “yes.”

Follow this journey on When Mental and Chronic Illness Collide.

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Lead photo by Thinkstock Images

Originally published: December 11, 2016
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