The Pharmacies Aren’t All Right

Reader, this is a different post. If you’re looking for pop culture, this isn’t for you. Instead, I am going to talk a little about a big problem. There will be discussion of suicide*.

I don’t talk about my day job much. I suppose at this point I should say my former day job. I side-stepped from retail pharmacy into a different sector in late September. For sixteen years, however, I was a retail pharmacy technician with one of the big chains. I was one of the lucky ones. I got out.

A pharmacist who had no business managing one of the busiest pharmacies in my town killed himself the other day. His name was Josh. He was young. The pharmacist in charge at my current job used to have Josh’s old job. He was livid when he learned this information, despite never meeting the man. The other two pharmacists that I now work for knew Josh. One of them had worked with him for a short period of time. The other knew him from school. We don’t know why this young man made the decision to end his life, but one thing is for certain: his work life definitely wasn’t making things any better for him. How do I know this? Reader, I lived it. I’ve been there.

For the last four years, prior to my new employment, I was miserable every single day. My home life deteriorated. My hobbies crumbled, taking away my dreams of ever having a career that let me write words for money. I almost stopped reading entirely. My days consisted of getting up, drifting through the bare minimum of housework that was required to keep my household from descending into utter chaos, going to work, making it through a shift, and then coming home. I was bitter and depressed. Relationships suffered. I frequently thought about just going to sleep and not waking up. I began to experience suicidal ideation. It became commonplace for me; there were fewer days when I didn’t experience those thoughts than when I did.

The company that I worked for has no empathy for its employees. Tasks were increased even as labor hours were cut. It happens in every single field, but in healthcare, this is a harmful, dangerous trend. I was a pharmacy technician. If I made a mistake and the pharmacist didn’t catch it, someone could get hurt, sick, or worse. It’s happened before. Feel free to search for “pharmacy errors” on Google and you’ll find more results than I can discuss here. These things happen because corporations like CVS and Walgreens have decided that it’s more important to make money than to work safely. It’s been deteriorating for years.

In 2020 everything became exponentially worse.

You don’t need me to tell you what happened in 2020 that might have made anyone in healthcare a great deal more stressed. No, a retail pharmacy isn’t on the same level as a hospital or even a clinic. Nevertheless, we were still out there on the front lines, dealing with people who couldn’t or wouldn’t stay home. We were wearing masks, but we weren’t permitted to enforce the mask rule. And as far as protecting the employees? My company’s answer was a goddamned joke. Acrylic barriers were shipped to the store months after the pandemic started. They were approximately 24 inches wide and comically flimsy. People poked their heads around them constantly because the spaces between the barriers and the walls were larger than the barriers themselves. Posters proclaiming that we were heroes appeared on doors. We got a small bonus, once.

It was decided that technicians could be trained to give COVID-19 immunizations. I agreed to do the training and began giving shots the same week that the CDC lowered the age limit to include 12-year-olds. I didn’t get a raise for taking on this new responsibility. To be clear, intellectually, I was happy to contribute to the effort to help people become immunized. In reality, it caused incredible amounts of anxiety that broke my brain. I’m still trying to recover from the experience of regularly shutting myself up in a small cubicle with a non-immunized person several times per day, wondering if I was going to get sick from this and potentially carry it home to my spouse (who works from home anyway, even prior to the pandemic).

I might have made it if corporate hadn’t decided to start offering same-day COVID tests through our drive through. To be clear, the pharmacy staff was responsible for taking samples of potentially infected mucus and testing it for a harmful virus. We didn’t get a raise when this new, potentially dangerous responsibility was thrust upon us. We were responsible for dozens of tests every single day on top of our regular pharmacy workload. This workload included making phone calls to patients to urge them to enroll in various services that we offered at the pharmacy, inquire as to why they were late refilling their prescriptions, and to offer to convert all of their future maintenance prescriptions to a ninety day supply. We had the least amount of employees in the pharmacy that I had ever seen in my entire career.

It was killing me. And I was, again, a technician. I couldn’t imagine doing that job and being the person responsible for all of that. I was crying every single day, even the ones that didn’t require me to go to work. I thought about taking my life. I thought about it every single day. I couldn’t see a way out of the situation that I was in. I had tried, fruitlessly, to find work at a hospital pharmacy (because I wasn’t going to move to a new retail chain — that way held only more pain and suffering on top of having to learn a new system).

I got out in time. Josh didn’t. Who knows how many in the profession aren’t? If you search for statistics you’ll find disappointing information. Corporate lack of empathy for employees in this field is staggering. You cannot and should not treat the pharmacy the same as the dairy or canned goods section of a store. The metrics that have been designed to increase profit are ruining lives on both sides of the pharmacy counter. Nothing’s being done and I’m so angry that I can’t see straight.

The entire American workforce is experiencing problems unlike anything that I can remember. I’m not implying that pharmacy employees are somehow worthier of respect or consideration, but we walk the line between healthcare and retail, and it’s a hard place to be. The individuals in the stores are breaking and none of the top individuals at these companies care.

So if you’re in line at the pharmacy, and the line isn’t going as fast as you want? Or if the person at the register doesn’t seem as personable or friendly as you would like? Try to be patient.

*If you are having thoughts of harming yourself, please know that you are not alone. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Nothing Ever Stays Buried For Long: Why You Should Read Mira Grant’s Feedback

Gather ’round, my dearest little chickens. Once upon a time, I thought that I had retired from reviewing books. Indeed, I thought that I had retired from even semi-serious blogging. Life has a way of Happening, you see, and it has been Happening to me in great, terrible quantities for the last six years. I broke in 2019, in ways that wouldn’t let me write or review with any kind of reliability. So I stepped back.

I’m not entirely sure that I’m un-retired. This is a special performance; I’m one small voice, but if even one person is inspired to read the book that I’m about to discuss, then it will be something. That might be enough.

I’m here to talk about Mira Grant’s Feedback.

Not nearly enough of you have read this book. I know this, because of something that I found on Twitter. Here, just take a look:

Further digging reveals that Into the Drowning Deep has done well! Feedback, sadly, still needs to catch up.

So I’m here to contribute to the cause. Let me see if I can remember how to do this…

Continue reading

She Wasn’t Mine

Star Wars wasn’t my fandom.

Oh, I saw most of the movies.  I watched Episodes IV – VI with my father and brother when they were re-released in theaters when I was in high school.  I had watched A New Hope at some point in my childhood and…

…it didn’t go well.  It scared the ever-loving snot out of me, to the point where I avoided most space-centric fiction unless somebody else happened to be involved.  My father and childhood best friend both liked Star Trek, so I got a fair amount of exposure to that particular corner of nerd.  Other than that?  Space was not my friend.

Not until Firefly.  However, I would argue that Firefly was more of a western anyway.  But that’s neither here nor there for the purpose of what I’m doing today.

So no, Star Wars wasn’t mine, and as such, Carrie Fisher wasn’t mine.  I re-watched Episode IV last week with my husband and a friend and while I enjoyed the experience a great deal, I believe that Rogue One will be the Star Wars movie of my heart.  If there is a scrappy female to thank for me getting into the franchise this late in the game, well, that honor goes to Jyn Erso.  Anyway, after my viewing of EpIV last week, I was in awe of Leia and her completely unimpressed attitude at her supposed rescuers.  She’s resourceful and tough, and I wish that I had grown up with her the way that some of my best friends did.  I went home that night and purchased Fisher’s memoirs (all three volumes).

Then I learned about her marvelous writing career beyond her personal accounts (which are marvelous).  Her work as a script doctor.  Her unabashed transparency about her own mental demons and struggles.  Wow, I thought.  Carrie Fisher is pretty damned awesome.

Tragically, 2016 attacked and swept Fisher away just as I was starting to truly understand how fantastic she is.  I am saddened at her death, and I wish that I could claim her as a role model the way that so many of my peers in fandom do.

Join The Revolution

I would say something witty and a little self-deprecating right now, but I don’t think that’s the best way to go about saying this.  So I’m just going to say it:

I’ve been sick.  I had to take some time off from most of the things that I usually do.  Internet usage was one of those things.  Unfortunately this particular illness flare came about at the same time that I was trying to begin building my page here.  It also lasted for a really, really long time, SO MUCH LONGER than I thought it would.  But I’m getting over it and I’m trying to take back my life.  Go me!

What, you may ask, have I been doing in the meantime? (You probably aren’t, we just got acquainted and all of that.)  In between sleeping a lot and working not much at all, I managed to read a few things that I really loved.  Here’s a bit about a couple of them. (PS: links will open in new tabs/windows.)

 Borderline

Borderline by Mishell Baker is one of the best things that I’ve read this year.  It’s a strong contender for most enjoyable piece of fiction, certainly.  It was refreshing to read an urban fantasy that bucks so many of the trends of the genre.  From Baker’s website: “A year ago, Millie lost her legs and her filmmaking career in a failed suicide attempt. Just when she’s sure the credits have rolled on her life story, she gets a second chance with the Arcadia Project: a secret organization that polices the traffic to and from a parallel reality filled with creatures straight out of myth and fairy tales.”  Millie also lives with borderline personality disorder, which is an extremely misunderstood psychological condition.  Baker skillfully weaves her tale around a set of characters who aren’t always likeable, but who are compelling nonetheless.  I can’t wait for the sequel, Phantom Pains, to be released next March.

GFR

The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley is easily the best nonfiction that I’ve read in a long, long time.  Not all of the material is new, if you’ve followed Hurley’s online presence in any sort of capacity.  Having it all collected in one handy, llama-covered volume is excellent either way.  Hurley is insightful, straightforward and powerful in her call to arms to geeks and feminists of all flavors.  I would recommend this volume to anyone who considers themselves a part of any of the above mentioned camps.  Pick it up.  Read it.  Re-read it.  Give it to your friends.  Read it yet another time.  And then pick up your sword and get to it.

Vive la revolution.