Exposed: A Nasty Trip to the Pharmacist

July 26, 2013 Natalie Jeanne Champagne

When you are diagnosed with a mental illness, it can feel like your life is suddenly on display. You can feel sort of like an exhibit at a museum - one your family and friends and psychiatrist want to tend to. It's not easy getting used to this, but what about when you encounter people, situations, on your road to recovery that make you feel exposed?

Defining "Exposure"

Let's check in with Wikipedia to define the word:

Hmm. I have always been impressed with the versatility of Wikipedia, but I am taken to a page on photography. Lists on lighting and other things which confuse me even after drinking too much coffee.

I typed in many variations and, aside from learning what angle I should tilt my camera to capture the essence of a tree at dusk, I am met with one word--Stigma. And this makes sense: when we are learning to accept the diagnosis, to take care of ourselves, we can feel as if our lives are no longer our own. We can feel exposed and we can feel stigmatized.

An Example of Feeling Exposed. . .

I feel as if this blog is sort of confusing and I need to reign it in a bit. The idea for it was simple: To describe an experience I had yesterday at the pharmacy. An experience that made me feel both stigmatized and exposed.

I was waiting diligently at the pharmacy where I pick up my medication each month. I was told, as usual, that I would wait fifteen minutes give or take another forty-five minutes. This is usually a great time to try and not waste money on some pretty essential things: chocolate, make-up, vitamins, dog treats, and other stuff. As I was trying to convince myself that I probably did not need "ash-blue" mascara to liven up my life, my name was called to pick up my medication.

I had a new prescription; an anti-inflammatory for a sprain that has left me cursing and limping. So, doing her job she pulls out the bottle of medication to tell me that it may or may not cause death etc. But before she does this, she methodically pulls out the other bottles, carefully placing them in a blue basket on the counter. A basket with see through edges. A basket with about 7 different prescriptions in it. Suffice it to say a couple of these are not mental health medications but I found it hard to listen to her rambling on about the new prescription when I was suddenly, acutely, aware that there was a rather long line-up behind me and my bottles of pills---the labels clear for all to see--were sitting on the counter.

She finished her explanation and slowly put the bottles in a bag---a clear bag. I kid you not. I was without a purse to stash them in and told her this. I also told her, nicely, that it would be preferable to have my medications in a proper bag and not visible to others. She laughed. A light laugh, but a laugh. I pushed on, explaining that the medication I take is personal. I wonder how she might feel having bottles of mood stabilizers and antidepressants on display? I was kind in my comments, even gracious, but was met with the following reply: "These were in three separate bags before!"

I am certain that pharmacists are trained to respect privacy but this is not the first time this has happened to me and it is probably not the last. It made me feel exposed and not because I am ashamed of my mental illness, but because it's a private part of my life. That said, I have had some wonderful pharmacists and I must give credit where credit is due.

In conclusion: I will take advantage of the pharmacies free "delivery service" from here on out.

Insert expletives and an apology for the length of this blog.

APA Reference
Jeanne, N. (2013, July 26). Exposed: A Nasty Trip to the Pharmacist, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 20 from

Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne

August, 8 2013 at 3:57 am

I've been lucky that this sort of thing has never happened to me, I use CVS pharmacy and they never say anything about my rx's without calling me aside, as I've seen them do for everyone else too. they have a spot at the counter for consultations and that is where they talk to people, in low tones so others can't hear, unless of course they are trying VERY hard to hear it, which I've never seen. They never stop and tell me about the side effects right there, they ask if I have any questions about the medication and they give a print out of side effects and other useful info. If I were you, and it's at all possible, I would switch pharmacies. Oh and my rx's are always in a white bag that can't be seen through and they never open it up and take it out. Sometimes they annoy me when they take forever to fill the rx and especially when they tell me that they have to order because they are out of it, to me that's just poor management, they should keep better track of what they are getting low on and order before someone comes in to get some and then ordering it. that's my main problem with my pharmacy.

August, 5 2013 at 5:30 pm

I dont know wherd you are located, but the US has federal laws regarding privacy as it relates to healthcare. Violations of HIPAA laws carry high fines and even imprisonment. That pharmacist was notonly lacking in courtesy; she may have broken the law. When things like this happen to me, I remind myself that while I may have some measure of stability at that moment... I may not always be able to speak up for myself. What about those that would take that kind of treatment as a damaging blow to their stability. We should speak up whenever we can. Every word we speak against those that prey upon the ill matters.

August, 2 2013 at 4:11 pm

Living in a small town, it was easy to find a
locally owned pharmacy. I know everyone there and they know me. It's comfortable there! None of the
pharmacists has made a remark in public which
requires a personal conversation. I agree 110% with Lori. The older I get the more I realize that
the general public is NOT interested what-so-ever
in what's going on with me. And if they are, they
must be totally bored and need to get a hobby.
Try other pharmacies. In addition, nobody cares
how many bottles of pills are in my basket on
the counter. Except,perhaps,my insurance company!

July, 29 2013 at 2:52 pm

Being a pharmacist myself, I apologize for the attitude shown to you..... Some people just do not understand common courtesy, they are clueless., until something happens to them to teach them to be more compassionate. Actually, it seems that most people do not pay attention to or care about what is going on around them. Yes, I too suffer from MDD and used to,be so very sensitive about it until I noticed that people are more absorbed in their lives to even pay attention to me. I am grateful to have the opportunity to be more compassionate. I have seen soooo many of my patients afraid to take an antidepressant until I step in and tell them that I take one! :) hope this helps

July, 29 2013 at 1:23 pm

You handled the situation awfully calmly. (As did you, @Carl). I'm not embarrassed but I definitely believe it should be up to me how much I reveal about medical conditions. I've also dealt with insensitive pharmacists (along with good ones) lately. What angers me is there is no excuse for it. We see enough Privacy regulations and so do they. Is it that they think all their education is used behind the counter? That place no importance on empathy? Interpersonal skills? I was called back to pharmacy 3 days in a row and when I complained,her reaction was "oh, well". I switched pharmacy. And I wrote them about it. I spend A FORTUNE on Rx. I don't have tell them my name but when your custom is not valued, your privacy is destroyed; the don't deserve you. When we go to the hospital they take name and address, next of kin in a privacy booth at the pharmacy, they act like you're buying milk. Their education is lacking.

July, 28 2013 at 9:48 am

Using mail order is a good idea, but not always feasible. And whatever wiki says, yes, because your Rx's were paraded out for others to see and hear, details of your life that shouldn't have been exposed were exposed.
What's surprising and troubling about this is that not only mental health issue, but also physical health issues--and the Rx's that treat them--are personal, not info we want broadcast to everyone in line behind us in the pharmacy. You'd think all pharmacists would be sensitive to this, but it seems to be hit or miss. At the pharmacy I usually use, there isn't a patient consulting counter, which I wish all pharmacies had, because it provides some level of privacy, but all the pharmacists are discrete, considerate, friendly, helpful. When I've had to use other pharmacies, I've gone thru unpleasant episodes like yours the other day.
My most embarassing one, however, was at a clinic when a nurse came out into the waiting area to ask me questions about my symptoms. A high school student of mine was in the waiting area and my symptoms were indelicate ones I was somewhat embarassed to share even with the doctor. I spoke in soft tones hoping she (my student) wouldn't hear me, though she could easily hear the clueless nurse. If she did hear anything, she never let on, then or in class. Thank goodness.
Sorry to ramble on--the main thing, it seems to me, is that you're perfectly justified in your feelings and you handled the unfortunate situation with grace.

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