Crazy does not mean anti-social. Crazy does not necessarily mean unkempt, unsanitary, offensive or mean-spirited. Crazy is not silly, laughable or entertainment. Crazy is definitely not stupid.
Ever since Ronald Reagan said, “We will no longer warehouse our mentally ill”, the pharmacy is the place where they get the gear needed to navigate in the world. We call it Clozaril, Seroquel, Abilify and Zyprexa… among others. These drugs have been called pharmaceutical straitjackets. The problem is that “chemical warehousing” with the best agents is ridiculously expensive. No insurance and the crazy person is fucked.
I have known Marilee ever since she introduced herself to me in April, 2006 when I was a new pharmacist at Mainland Pharmacy. Marilee is huge. She has packed on plenty of pounds due to her medications. It is something she lives with. Underneath that huge body on a small frame is an absolutely stunning woman.
She called me out front and introduced herself to me with these words, “I am just your neighborhood insane person.” She looked for a reaction and got nothing from me. After four plus decades, there is very little short of child abuse that can get a rise out of me.
Marilee went on, “I hope that you will be patient with me. I try really hard not to
but I can get a little obsessive with my drugs. I ask lots of questions.”
I assured her that it was okay, that my job was to answer questions and, every Friday, there were plenty of questions. After awhile, she lightened up. Maybe she began to trust me. I treat Marilee just as I treat anyone else. No prejudice against the crazy. No snide remarks to the tech. No hidden laughter. No making fun like an adolescent.
A few weeks ago, at 4:00 PM on a Friday, Marilee’s time and day, I looked out and watched her for awhile. There was something not right. For a crazy person, she had always been a picture of composure. This woman is dignified. She sat forward on her chair and glanced nervously to her left and right.
I walked out front and sat beside her. “Are you okay, Marilee?”
“I am crazier than Jack Nicholson today. I hate days like this.”
“Oh,” I said. What do you say to that?
“You can’t see him, but that dumb sunuvabitch keeps telling me to do stupid things.”
“Are you having a schizoid episode, Marilee.” I have suspected other people at times, but this was the first time that a patient reported directly that she was having hallucinations.
“You are right about that.”
“What does he want you to do?”
She gave me a little smile. “I’d rather not say.” She looked to her left and
said out loud, “No, I am not.”
I asked her if she needed to discuss her medication with her psychiatrists.
“There is nothing they can do. I can’t afford the good medicine. I’m in the donut hole and the haloperidol is not doing the job.”
Now, I am not even going to comment on the calamity that is Plan D. You can discuss this nightmare, this national disaster, this shame if you want to. I’m out of it today. Marilee is a woman in her early 40s, disabled, unable to work right now. I’d like to ask Ronald Reagan if this is what he envisioned.
What could I do? I sat with her for awhile and she said that it was good to talk to a real person. She explained that her hallucinated person was forceful, clever and, get this, more real to her than I was. She had learned what was which and who was who.
Last week, I went out to say hello and sat down beside Marilee. She was her normal self. Smiling and friendly. She asked me how I was doing. I told her about my childhood polio and the muscle pains in my shoulders and neck that have persisted for years. “My shoulders are killing me today.”
“I can help that,” she said and proceeded to give me the best shoulder massage that I have ever had. I let her. I took it as a gift. I could not refuse this expression of love, if you will. I just sat there and accepted her acknowledgment that she likes me.
What do we do? As a culture, a society, a profession? Not much, I fear. It is all local, you guys. It is individual. There are no rules. All you can do is look up from your computer screen or counter once in awhile. I definitely do not like you very much if you make fun of the Marilees who come in your store. You have an opportunity, every day, to express your humanness. Just remember that Crazy does not mean Untouchable.