Last week, my doctor prescribed me some anti-depressants to help me stop crying all the time. It was an exciting event for me, because I don’t like crying all the time. The doctor’s office called in my prescription to the Safeway down the street, which is maybe the most depressing place in Portland. It nearly qualifies as an anti-depressant all on its own. If you’re ever having a bad day, take 5 minutes and pop over there. I promise you, most, if not all, of the other people in there are having a day far worse than yours. So anyway, I headed out of the doctor’s office, on foot, and walked with a vague optimism down NE Broadway toward Safeway, and the uncharted mental territory that waited for me inside of a pill bottle. I walked in through the automated sliding doors and headed through the frosty frozen foods section, instantly causing the sweat soaking my face and clothes to turn me, momentarily, into a lumbering, shivering manatee-shaped Popsicle with legs. I arrived at the back counter, and proceeded to have an interesting conversation with the pharmacist.
“So is this one of those where I’m not supposed to drink or tell jokes or expect to ever get up again” I ask. No response. “Does insurance usually cover this stuff” I ask.
“Yeah,” replies the pharmacist. “Usually.”
“Well that’d be a nice change of pace. The only thing they ever seem to accept is my monthly payment. They’d better cover this though, if they want to keep me alive to keep paying that bill. It’s just basic economics, really. I don’t understand how they don’t get that. Dead customers aren’t great for business. Amiright?!” Some of the women giggle with jaded amusement behind the counter. I am killing it today.
Later, during the QA phase, when I’m receiving my shiny new bottle of anti-depressants.
“OK,” she says, “once you start taking this, it’s important to keep taking it. Your body kind of…gets used to having it.” She says this as if it weren’t an alarming statement.
“So it’s like an addiction?” I ask, rhetorically.
“No, no. It’s just that, over time, it can become difficult to stop taking it, without certain side effects.” She is wearing a white lab coat, which I guess lends her credibility, even when issuing statements like that one.
“You mean like withdrawals?” I ask.
“Yes. You might experience nausea or headaches or depression or sleeplessness.” She says.
“So like if I was addicted.” I ask.
“Well umm…” She looks uncomfortable.
But then I have an epiphany. I tap the tip of my nose with my finger, giving her the universal code signal. “Ah. I get it. That’s one of those words you’re not allowed to say.”
She smiles in an awkward way that makes me feel sorry for her, and also makes me increasingly worried that we are being filmed.
“Well ok. I’ll just keep taking it. I won’t cause any trouble.” I have capitulated. My fate as a future drug addict, accepted.
“Unless you get more depressed. Then you should stop.” She adds, almost as an afterthought.
So, to sum up, the drugs for stopping my depression might make me MORE depressed and probably also addicted, in which case I will be forced to continue taking them, indefinitely, or else face potentially horrible withdrawals that may end up being worse than the original symptoms for which I so recently consulted my physician. Welcome to the United States of Big Pharma. Tell me again why my old strategy of self-medicating with alcohol is a terrible idea, fit only for degenerates.