I am an excellent student. I have a steady job as a veterinary assistant, I pay most of my bills on time, and I remember to wash my laundry at least once a month. However, don’t let this lackluster personal assessment fool you—I am not an amazing adult. I am not all there. I doubt I ever will be. And so it is that sometimes the most simple, and yet most crucial, things in my life go unheeded.
Take medication, for example. It must be taken continuously, at a predetermined time, and the bottle will not magically refill itself when it has emptied. These things are obvious, and should be easy to remember.
Some people can handle the moderate weight, the lukewarm responsibility, the trifling time commitment, of medication. Others, like myself, cannot.
“How have you been feeling lately?”
“Well, you know how it goes. Not great, but not horrible either, I guess. Just keep on trucking...“
“Ah. Not great, though. Are you satisfied with the effects of your medication?"
"Oh, man, I don't really know--"
"Perhaps we should up your dosage. Say, to 175 mg?”
Hmm. That extra 25 mg could weigh a lot, heavy enough to break through the wet newspaper that contains my noodly capacity for memory. Oh, hell.
“Sure, why not? Let’s give it a try. After all, if some is good, more must be better, right?”
I wonder if they teach that censorious look at medical school. If they did, she got an A+.
“Not so much. Here’s your prescription.”
Tadah! I am now a New Person. New responsibilities hang from the tool belt with which I equip myself. I have now been prescribed with not just some, but more of the medication that could make me suicidal. Or homicidal. Or dance-fever-cidal. Something. Gotta remember to go pick it up from CVS. Gotta remember to take it. Gotta get better at this, because goddammit, I’ve gotta be a big kid someday.
Step 1: Go to the pharmacy
I’ve always gone by my middle name, but all those official places like doctor’s offices and military bases want me to go by my legal first name, the damn nit-pickers. I always have this fear, when picking up medication, especially antidepressants, that if I stutter and stammer about it:
“Hi, I’m here to pick up a prescription for Kai--, I mean Mary So-and-so...”
--then they’ll think I’m trying to steal somebody else’s prescription. Next, they put a hold on my medication, and I go into withdrawal, while they question everyone I know about my suspicious drug habits. By the way, who names a kid in this generation “Mary,” anyway? It sounds old. Extra suspicious.
No offense, Mom.
“Hi, I’m here to pick up a prescription for,” I take a deep breath, preparing myself, “Mary Dozier. D—O—Z—I—“
“Let me just take a look.”
HaHA! I’ve already driven all the way here! I gave her the right name, probably! I even spelled it out, and a crazy person wouldn’t be so helpful, right? This is how it begins. I can be a responsible adult, and take care of the things that keep me all in one piece. Maybe I’ll even get to the point where I have a clue what I’m doing with my education, and have some stability, and then I’ll be able to get an apartment and a dog, and--
Don't tell me I'm overreacting. A small victory is still a victory.
The pharmacist slides back into view, an apologetic head and shoulders only.
“Ma’am, I’m sorry, but it looks like we don’t have a prescription for Mary Dozier filled today.”
She looked a little taken aback, and in retrospect I can’t blame her. A college student with the expression of a kid denied Christmas is pretty pathetic. You have to understand, though: Withdrawal HURTS.
After I’d given her the information on my doctor, so she could make the calls and get this whole thing figured out, I went home a little more settled, resigned to doing this the hard way, but not without hope.
The hopelessness began when I drove back the next day, headachey and shaky, praying to Whoever would listen that all lines had been untangled and all red tape had been hacked apart. If I could get my meds now, I’d be able to walk straight and speak coherently in time for work later.
This time, a man in his late 20’s was at the drive-through pharmacy window.
He didn't know me. That didn't matter.
I smiled wide, displaying how calm and collected I was in the face of so many difficulties. He looked a little unsettled, so I toned down the grin a bit, but man, if he knew how much trouble I’d gone through…
“I’m here to pick up a prescription under Mary Dozier, D—O—Z—“
“Let me go find that for you.”
Mission freaking accomplished. I was doing so well, better than I would have done if I’d had Mom to rely on to get the meds for me. It’s so much easier to be dependent when there’s somebody physically at hand to depend on.
“Ma’am, are you sure you gave us the right name?"
Hold up now... What if I’m some crazed junkie?!? What if this is just a test? Thinking this hard right then was making my eyes twitch. What if people pick up other people’s prescriptions, and it's not such a sketchy thing? Wait a...WHERE THE F*&#$ ARE MY MEDS???
"...Cause we don't have anything under 'Dozier.'"
“Oh, uh, really? Cause I was here just yesterday, and the lady told me that she was going to contact my doctor and figure this whole thing out. I mean, I REALLY need these meds...”
I twitch a little more noticeably, because if I look too sane, he might not take me seriously,
“and she SAID she was going to figure this OUT, and—“
“Ma’am, I understand that completely, and I’m going to work hard to fix whatever happened. Who did you say your doctor was?”
I dug through my purse and handed him the medical info sheet my doctor had printed for me after my last visit, with her name and number at the bottom. I was far too frustrated to be a big girl and spell things out for these people anymore. The man looked at it, looked at me, looked back at it, and got this exceptionally somber look on his face when he looked at me again.
“Ma’am, this is your prescription.”
I stared at him for a moment, not understanding.
“Well, yeah it is, I get 175 mg of this stuff once a day, and…” I trail off.
I can tell that at this point, he is calling on all of his customer service skills not to let a smirk shine through his solemn expression.
“Do you mean to tell me I actually had to give you that paper?”
He wouldn’t look me in the eye, but he had the temerity to grin. He was lucky he survived that smile.
“Yes, ma’am, that’s generally how it works.”
Well, that was finally done. Didn’t matter as much, now, because my head was already thoroughly screwed up, and the meds wouldn’t be ready until tomorrow. At that point, I got to enjoy the full brunt of withdrawal: twitching hands, a spasming head, dizziness, and ridiculous mood swings. I've definitely done this before, so it wasn't exactly a surprise. I also knew that, if it went on for too long, and the pain got too irritating, I would develop…interesting ways of dealing with it.
“Erica?” I called my best friend once I’d driven back to the dorm. “I need food.”
“So why don’t you go to the grocery store?” She sounded tired, probably working on homework or something else trivial. She didn't know how much fun this was going to be.
“I haven’t had my meds for two days.”
I heard her inhale sharply, and then she said, resignation (Or maybe excitement!, I thought) apparent,
“Oooh, sweetie. I’ll be there in 15 minutes.”
When she pulled up, there were other people in the car, so I grinned. I didn't know where she'd gotten them, and I didn't care. Company! That was exactly what I needed. Along with cheese. And soup. And maybe cookies. And a puppy! We needed to go get a puppy RIGHT NOW…
I buckled in my seatbelt, and Erica’s eyes got wide at seeing the grin plastered across my face.
“Oooh...sweetie?” she repeated.
“Oh, don't worry, I’m great, fine, peachy, just a little wonky, but I just need cheese!”
An acquaintance of mine, in the back, hadn’t ever seen me like this. He was a good friend, but he just wasn’t experienced in dealing with this aspect of me.
“You okay, Kaitlin?”
“I’m fine! Nothing’s wrong! Cheese-ho!”
I think Erica had given them the down-low on the way over, so nobody asked for more information. Until, unfortunately, Erica stopped the car short of our destination. We took a side trip to a gas station on the way to the grocery store, and I was immediately and irrevocably bored. Foolish, foolish Erica. Acting casually, I prepared myself for adventure.
“I’m just gonna walk the rest of the way! I’ll see you guys when I get—“
“OH no you don’t,” she said, grabbing my hand as I reached for the buckle of my seat belt. “You’re going to stay right in this car for 5 minutes, and then we’re all going together. I swear we’ll get you cheese, honey. Just hold on for two seconds.”
As soon as nobody was watching me, I shoved open the car door, unbuckled my seatbelt, and made a dash for it, cackling like a crazy woman. After they’d grabbed me and shoved me back in the car, the boys looked just a little more freaked out, but Erica assured them that all I needed was food and medication.
“Speaking of which, Kaitlin, where ARE your meds?”
“CVS!” I giggled, breathless from my short flight. “I tried to get them yesterday, but the lady didn’t tell me she needed the paper, and she was just a head and shoulders anyway, so WHAT could she know, and then the guy laughed at me and wouldn’t give me any meds and then I called YOU—“
“Okay, okay, got it. Let’s just get to the grocery store.”
At the first red light, I tried to again taste sweet freedom, because it was SO MUCH FUN, but Erica was more prepared this time and put the child lock on my side of the car. So I pouted.
They couldn't contain me forever, though. Once we got to the grocery store, I took off down the aisles, shouting,
as the boys sprinted after me and the carry-outs stared in what I could only imagine was awe. The boys apprehended me again as Erica trudged after, stoic in her new role as care-taker of the crazy. I got my cheese though, dammit.
Next, I had to have soup. Wasn't sure why that was important, but I was fairly certain I would die if I didn't get soup, LOTS of it, and NOW. Leading my entourage of concerned friends, I dashed to the soup section, and froze, like a deer in the headlights.
"Ericaaaaaa..." I whimpered, shell-shocked.
"What? What happened?!?"
"There's too many sooouuups..." I said, looking at her with betrayal, as if she'd created this soup catastrophe herself.
Relieved that nothing worse had happened, she picked up a can of vegetable soup, figuring that was the easiest way to please me. I'm vegetarian, most of the time, and she is much more distinctly carnivorous, so her patience in dealing with my needs that day was even more heroic than you might have thought.
Too bad it wasn't good enough.
"NononononoNO!" I yelled, sagging on to her arm under the weight of so much disaster.
"They try to trick you! Did you know that sometimes, when it says vegetable soup, there's still," I inhaled, and then whispered slowly, "beef broth in it?"
I watched as the horror of the situation dawned on her, or maybe it was the hopelessness, as the odds weren't looking good for ever getting me out of that grocery store. She read the back of the can, and put it back without a word. We tried 4 or 5 different cans, before she convinced me she'd found one that contained NO meat bits of ANY kind. I don't remember if I ever even ate that soup.
In fact, I don't remember a lot of the rest of that day.
The next day, Erica took me to get my pills, and I spent several hours praying for them to kick in, taking as many aspirin as I felt I possibly could. Later, my friends told me the experience had been like caring for someone who’s stupid-drunk, or high, or maybe both at the same time.
Judging by my hangover, there's nothing I can do but agree, and thank my stars they haven't tried tranquilizing me yet.