Thanksgiving 2013

 Bless us, O Lord, and these, Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen

     In Catholic school we all prayed this together before we ate at lunchtime.  

       I am no longer a Christian, but, if I am mindful, I still stop and say a prayer (or think a prayer):  I give thanks to the animal whose life was taken so that I could eat it.  I acknowledge the animal’s suffering and sacrifice.

      One time, when I was shopping at the grocery store, I found a whole chicken laying on the shelf in the toiletries isle.  Someone had taken a chicken out of the freezer, put it in their cart, and then decided, whilst shopping for shampoo or razor blades, that they didn’t want the chicken any longer.  

      Instead of taking two minutes to return it to the freezer, they just left it in the isle.  

       The chicken was laying in a pool of water.  It was defrosted.  The store couldn’t put it back in the freezer; couldn’t sell it.  I knew that chicken would have to be thrown out.

      I felt so sad and angry.  Maybe I’m a hypocrite because I eat meat raised on factory farms, but how could this person be so disrespectful?  That chicken had a horrible life and someone could not even respect its body, which was intended for our food.  

       I know there is no heaven, but if there was, that poor chicken should be there.

      I also hate it when I see people bowling with frozen turkeys.  Really?  Really?  Have some fucking respect! 

                       *                            *                        * 

      Several years ago I was feeling very sad all the time, and I went to see a psychiatrist.  This was the year I moved across the country to attend my grad program.  I was also still with John, my restraining-order Ex.  He was killing me.

      I still can’t write about him on this blog.  I don’t like to revisit that time of my life. 

      Anyway, I went to the psychiatrist and he said that I was suffering from a major depressive episode.  He wrote me a script for antidepressants.  

      I went to the drug store to have it filled.  When I returned to the pharmacy to collect it, I was billed $120.  

     This was for paxil.  Generic paxil.  It was the lowest possible dose, too–I think 10 or 20 mg. 

     I’ll never forget the surprise I felt when the pharmacist rang me up at the counter, or the humiliation when I told her that I was sorry, but I couldn’t pay.  I literally did not have the money. It was the beginning of the month and I had just paid all my bills. 

    I apologized for wasting her time.  I tried to be stoical about it, but inside I felt ashamed, and I the deja vu memories of what it was like to shop at the store when my family was on welfare.  This was before the discreet EBT cards–it was still food stamps. The things people would say, my God, how could you say that to a parent in front of their children…? 

     The pharmacist looked at me.  I remember her face.  She was some sort of East Indian–maybe from Indonesia?  Young woman, maybe 30.  She was wearing a headscarf and a long dress under her white pharmacist coat.  Had to be Muslim. 

     “Wait just a minute,” she said, and went over to a computer.  I saw her typing on it and assumed that she was shopping around, trying to find a way to charge me a lower price for the medication, or maybe just cancelling the order so that she could give me the Rx script back.

     After about five minutes, she came back with a plastic card with the drug store’s logo on it and a magnetic strip on the back. She said that it was an employee card or a membership card, something like that.  

      “I will only let you use it for this medication.  No narcotics,” she said.

       Then she swiped it through the reader and charged me $10 for the paxil.

      My mind was blown.  There was no reason to do that, except for the goodness of her own heart.  She was breaking the rules to give me that discount card.  She could get in trouble for doing it.  And she didn’t even know me–she’d never laid eyes on me till that day.  

     I thanked her and said how much I appreciated what she did for me.  I almost cried but didn’t, because I will not cry in public. 

      I did cry when I got home.  It was a gratitude-cry.

      That card has long since expired, but I carry it with me in my wallet.  It is a memento.  

     I gave the pharmacist a Thank-You card and filled my Rx there for 9 months.  I don’t think that the paxil helped my depression, although the side-effect of gnarly super-vivid dreams was quite interesting (truly–I have not dreamed with that intensity since I was a child). 

     That pharmacist gave me mercy.  I don’t know what else to call it.  And she did it completely of her own volition. 

P.S.  I expect this story probably sounds trivial, but if you’ve ever been poor and desperate, you know how humiliating it is to ask for help from someone whom you know doesn’t want to give it. 

     The depression stopped when I finally got rid of John.  I quit the paxil shortly thereafter. 

14 thoughts on “Thanksgiving 2013”

    1. “do not expect kindness from anyone”

      Ouch. That seems rather bleak.

      But…it did happen. You were the recipent of a ‘random act of kindness’.

      Perhaps you should try to ‘pay it forward’. Perhaps that might help change your expectations.

    2. Cousin, there is nothing wrong with my sense of civic responsibility…
      …and my perception, however “bleak,” is accurate in my experience. I’m not complaining, just reporting.

      I wrote about this event because it was exceptional and seemed to fit the holiday theme.

  1. Your story reminded me why I ultimately chose counselling psychology over clinical or psychiatry. What good can a mental health specialist do, if he/she does not consider the environment and context that people find themselves in? – IN

    1. I just started grad school so it will be several more years before I can say with confidence that I have any expertise 🙂 But the field is social psychology and counselling psychology (integrative), both research and practice. Yet, this is one of the underlying philosophies of what I am studying: the idea that human beings must be understood in their social context. Psychological assessment must include a wide variety of sources and perspectives, covering both the intrapersonal and environmental factors. Otherwise crucial pieces of information could be lost, and your proposed treatment will be at best, ineffective. And I’d argue that ineffective, when you have to pay for it and waste time following it, counts as harmful.

  2. A heartwarming story. Interesting that your depression ended when you got rid of your ex. Why didn’t your psychiatrist just tell you to give him the heave-ho?

    Clinical psychologists (as distinct from psychiatrists) believe that a lot of what passes for acute emotional distress can be ascribed to early childhood experiences combined with subsequent exposure to adversity, and that genetic markers, as yet, explain very little.

    Distress is dose dependent: the more severe the maltreatment and the earlier you suffer it, the worse it is and the greater your risk of adult emotional distress.

    Similarly with adult adversity. For example, there’s a very significant correlation between personal debt and mental illness. That’s why Brits and Yanks have twice the rate of mental illness compared with mainland Europeans (23% compared with 11.5%).

    Personal debt and chronic financial insecurity are massive risk factors for mental illness. When post-crash austerity was imposed on the Greeks, the suicide rate, which had been one of the lowest in the developed world went through the roof.

    For the sake of our own mental health and that of our children, we can’t afford to let the wealth disparities between the 1% and the rest continue to grow exponentially.

    Nor can we afford to become credit-addicted consumer junkies in the way that Madison Avenue and big business would like us to.

    Just my ten cents’ worth, and no, I’m not a mental health professional.

  3. Excellent story (but you are an excellent story teller, I hope you know that!) and I love that you still have the card.
    This also goes to show why you should always be nice to service personnel. Aside from general karma, that is – they don’t always have a lot of discretion as to what sort of favors they can do for you, but if you’re nice they will usually make your life a little easier or more pleasant and if you’re a jerk they can make your life more difficult.

  4. Old or Useless things kept in wallets or purses–I wonder if that would make an interesting website or blog. People could write in and tell stories of why they keep things they no longer need or use like your old discount card in their wallets or purses. Maybe such a site already exists. Anyway the old, useless thing in my wallet is my draft card. I’m not really sure why I’ve kept it all these years. I was probably one of the last guys to get one. Maybe as a reminder but for the grace of God, I could of been sent off to places like Pleiku or Da Nang.


  5. God, I know how that feels. She was very kind to you, and sadly, that is so rare a thing as to be priceless. I am divorced, I cant work, and I have no insurance, One of my boys paid for my thyroid meds for me and I nearly cried. I need those meds or I will become very sick, but I would rather go through that than ask for help.

    1. I’m sorry to hear that, Rissa. The health care system in our country is a disgrace. It’s the shame of the nation.

      I hope you continue to get your medication and stay healthy.

      Thanks for your comments! xoxo

  6. That pharmacist will always remember you. Let me tell you how it went. That pharmacist’s workday life is hell. Twelve hours at a time of bitching and moaning and crying and squalling from asshole barbarians over things over which she has no control. The way she’s treated by employer doesn’t make things any better. She can’t tell the evil mothers she deals with all day long to fuck off, but, every once in awhile….you can reach out and help someone in need. The fact she stuck her employer with the bill just makes that moment all the more priceless.

    It happens more than you think. Trust me.

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