She came in all spruced up, hair curled, make-up just right. She carried herself well with perfect posture. Except for the curious scars on her left cheek, her complexion was flawless. At first impression, I thought her story was going to be a little more positive than most of the stories I hear day in day out.
My hunch was debunked about 2 sentences into our conversation.
She wanted Alprazolam (Xanax)... a highly addictive drug, which can net sellers upwards of $5 per pill on the streets. It is a medicine I choose not to prescribe, because you know... the rotten few have ruined it for the deserving many.
Before turning Cindy away, I listened, disheartened, as she told me her story. She had been locked away in a tiny room, a prisoner in her own home, with very little food and no sunshine. The jailer was her husband, who had gradually become more abusive, at one point smashing her face and fracturing her left cheekbone. At his breaking point, he threw Cindy in a bedroom, locked the door, and she wouldn't see the light of day for 9 months. He had become her sole source of food, freedom and fear.
After Cindy's daring escape, she began to have nightmares and anxiety, developing classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. She was prescribed Xanax to fight her fires, which helped her cope and quenched the flames. She began to help other women with similar stories, and soon became a model of strength, a pillar of support for others. Reaching outwardly helped her heal inwardly. Eventually, she was hired as the director of a local goodwill organization, and she felt strong enough to wean from the Xanax, another captor from which she wanted to escape.
But slowly, her nightmares and flashbacks re-emerged, the embers re-igniting. For the last 6 months, she had embattled the discomforts with stoicism, but finally accepted the need for extrinsic help. She wanted... needed the medicine to cope.
So she sat in my office, crying, hoping for a prescription.
Her story was compelling. It sounded legitimate. Her external scars glaring proof of something gone awry. I told her that I don't prescribe that medicine, but would refer her to our in-house psychiatrist who could give her that, or something more effective. She cringed under the weight of the inevitable wait.
Maybe her store is true, every word. Maybe she is the exact person for whom this medicine is designed for. Maybe she deserves this med, whenever she needs it.
And maybe.....she told me a darn good story, and has developed a Streep-like ability to cry when the moment is right.
I'll never know. She has never returned.
But I have returned again and again to thinking about that experience.
And it haunts me, did I do the right thing?