Medicated: tales from the pharmacy waiting room

I woke up this morning in the worst possible way: roused from a deep sleep, mid-dream, by a knock at my front door. Mind you, I dread waking up by any means, but I despise it especially after a night of more-than-mediocre slumber, something I don’t experience often. But the knocks continue, and my anxiety consequently kicks in, my heart pounding like the visitor’s knuckles against the wooden entry, as I consider all the possibilities of who’s producing the dreaded noise I cannot ignore.

My first assumption is always the police, belly full of donuts, with a warrant for my arrest. Maybe they found leaked video footage of freshman me stealing Four Loko from the local gas station mart four years ago, or my now-of-age self buying vodka for minors at the liquor store down the street. I remind myself, in hopes of calming myself down, that it may just be the usual Jehovah’s witnesses, the postman, or someone who simply meant to go to apartment 28 two doors down but instead wound up at mine.

I answer the door, albeit reluctantly. It’s my unofficial roommate, a couch-surfer who relies on my futon for sleep and my one-bedroom apartment for shelter, who stumbles in. It’s the first day of her post-undergrad job and she’s late, also drunk. I can smell the scent of built-up acetaldehyde, the devil behind hangovers, from each breath. 

“I went to Brendyn’s apartment last night to go get the shit I had left but then his roommates were there and they just quit their jobs, so I decided to join in on the celebration.” I chuckle at the irony. “I also did some cocaine. But only two lines”, she reassures me. I hear the sound of the toilet seat opening, followed by a loud post-vomit FUUUUUUCK.

Thirty minutes later, nearly fifteen minutes late to her first day, she’s gone and I decide to get out of bed. I down my meds with yesterday’s leftover pumpkin spice latte and am out the door, ready to get more of both.

I sit awkwardly on the dainty couch in my psychiatrist’s office, my body weight shifting every few seconds due to nerves and excessive caffeine. We talk for a while and she asks how I am, even though she already knows the answer. I tell her I’m unwell. I tell her that I sometimes don’t leave the house for days, my hypersomnia prevents me from receiving adequate nutrition, and I’ve officially stopped going to class and turning in assignments. I’ve even missed a midterm. With little to no hesitation, she advises me to drop out of the semester, despite finals being next week. I’ve already done so, not formally with the university registrar, but mentally. I have not yet mustered the courage to go to the dean’s office, a room located at the very bottom of a cold cinderblock building (quite fitting, I would say). Confronting someone of higher authority, like the police officers I thought were behind my door one hour prior, frightens me. And so I’ve put it off.

In the meantime, Dr. M decides to increase my dose of lamotrigine, an anticonvulsant prescribed for epilepsy that doubles as a mood stabilizer. This marks the first time I’ve increased my dosage in nearly two years. The addition of fifty milligrams to my already whopping three hundred feels like a slap in the face. It’s hard to accept that I’m sick again.

I smile, however, at the Klonopin refill form I grasp firmly in my hands like treasure. Controlled substances are federally regulated and attempting to obtain a prescription nowadays often raises an eyebrow. Benzodiazepines, in particular, are notoriously susceptible to abuse and/or addiction. As a result, I tense up when I ask my psychiatrist for more, both of us secretly fearing that I may succumb to its perilous consequences.

As I wait for my medication— the pink circles that make me slur my words and the pink ovals that attempt to keep me sane— I glance around the pharmacy and people-watch discreetly. All of us are here because we are sick in some way or another, contagious or not. The fear of the unknown results in personal space as common courtesy. The three other people waiting and I obey this unspoken rule, each of us sitting on opposite sides of the room.

The pharmacist is taking longer than usual to call me over, so I find ways to keep myself preoccupied. I make an origami crane out of the the take-a-number tag I was given. I assign medical conditions and prescriptions to each of us in here. The girl in front of me twiddles her thumbs, her head down, making sure to not make eye contact. I armchair diagnose her with panic disorder. She looks like she could be a Lexapro girl, perhaps with a side of Xanax. The other girl, a few seats away, is glued to her phone. I see her Instagram feed scroll as her freshly manicured index finger swipes down the cracked screen. I can’t figure out what she’s waiting for, she looks so normal. Vitamins? Birth control? I give up. The last person, a young boy in a hoodie and sweats, coughs into his elbow and then clears his throat. Penicillin for strep, the mononucleosis of college. I’ve been down that road.

My number, 56, is eventually called. The pharmacy technician, an older lady with strawberry blonde hair who’s always cheerful, throws three orange bottles into a brown bag. I verify my name and then birthday, and I can’t help but think that she most likely has them memorized since I see her so frequently and only asks due to policy. I’m reminded of the Domino’s pizza delivery guy and the Starbucks barista, and I add cheerful pharm tech to my list.

Walking back to my car with my baggie full of pharmaceuticals, I sing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” that played in the waiting room.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Had a very shiny nose
And if you ever saw it
You would even say it glows

I then drive home, pop half a fresh-out-of-the-pharmacy Klonopin, and go back to sleep.

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