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“Shoot, if it was me, I’d take a vacation instead.”
I could not believe my ears when I heard those words, but that is what the CVS Pharmacy tech said to me after I paid $143.60* for one of my monthly prescriptions. Without fail, every month when I pick this up, the tech asks me if I am aware that it costs $143, as if I should reply, “Oh, no thanks- I actually don’t need that medicine after all.”
*The $143.60 price tag is after insurance and a $100 manufacturer discount.
What these techs do not know is how many medications I have tried before this one... too many to remember all of their names.
They do not know I have a doctor’s appointment Thursday to request a new medication because I can’t afford this one... it doesn't matter if this is the best medicine for my body and brain, I simply cannot afford to take it anymore.
They do not know how much I have cried over health insurance... from insurance plans confusingly wording their policies in order to be deceitful to still paying off a brain MRI I had in January, I have shed countless tears over medical expenses.
They clearly do not know how awful I feel about myself sometimes, even though it is something I cannot help... I feel broken. I feel shame. I sometimes hate myself, all because of genetics and brain chemistry.
They do not know a vacation doesn’t fix anxiety and depression...
Would I love to take $143.60 every month and put it into a savings account to take a big vacation every year? Of course! Would lying on a beach, or nestling in a cozy mountain cabin, or exploring a new country give me happiness? Of course! Would I be cured of all my anxiety and depression upon my return? No.
The stigma that mental illness is (no pun intended) all in one's head is a huge reason I am not very open about my own struggles. If a pharmacy technician, someone who works in the medical field, cannot empathize enough with my situation to not make a snarky comment at my prescription costs, why would I open up to those who don't know anything about mental illness?
Taking medication is not a sign of weakness. Many of those with mental illnesses, myself included, do not want to be on medication. Medicine is expensive, side effects are widespread, and it is difficult to come to terms with the fact that you need help.
- Mental illnesses are often hidden beneath the surface. It is extremely likely that a close friend or relative of yours has a mental illness, but doesn't show any "signs" of it. Some of the "happiest" people you know may be struggling on the inside.
- It is OK to ask, "Are you OK?" If you are concerned about a friend or colleague, you can speak up. If they do not want to talk about it, don't pursue the conversation, but sometimes just hearing someone's concern is enough to put a little light in a day of mental illness.
- If someone you know is open about their mental illness, ask questions to understand more about it. Come at it from a place of curiosity and wanting to understand, not a place of fascination. It is not a comfortable topic of conversation, but the more the general public understands about mental illnesses, the less of a stigma there is.
Every person you interact with each day is dealing with way more than you know. Do not judge by the surface. Be compassionate. Have patience.