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Jessica

At first, I thought I’d been burgled, and in a way I had. The living room a barren wasteland, only punctuated by books and magazines left piled on the floor. The beer cans and bottles falling over on the desk look like a game of crazy alcohol dominoes, the dregs dripping down the side of the desk like pointless salty tears. Rubbish is strewn over the kitchen floor and the bin in the bathroom is stuffed full of bloody sanitary towels, and the half completed red paintwork that was supposed to cheer the bedroom up, looks like a congealed mess of heartbreak. And worst of all, there’s a shattering, incredible lack of miaow. And now, when I turn the boiler on it makes a tiny growling sound and I always look round expecting the pitter patter of paws on the carpet. But they never come. And I’ve got to leave this mess to go to work, but not before getting hold of some anti-depressants.

Lloyd’s is the antithesis of what a community pharmacy should be, all sanitised, friendless and unwelcoming. And they want ten minutes to fill my prescription, and I want to be anywhere but here. And that’s when I hear a squeaky, mousey voice calling my name.

I recognise the voice, but not the person behind it. “Hello, it’s Jessica”, she says.

Jessica was a nursing auxiliary I worked with in a care home, a bubbly, vivacious, blonde with an upbeat look on life, an extremely hard and dedicated worker. And I’m talking to the same person, only I’m not. She’s lost a significant amount of weight, seems nervous, an indescribable ball of anxiety and fears.

I go over to her. She says to me “I’ve got cancer. I’ve lost everything”. And then, she bursts into tears. I immediately kneel down before her and hold her hand, current crisis forgotten. This show of emotion is too much to bear for the Lloyd’s staff though, and we are both quickly ushered into a side room.

It’s an advantage of the cripplingly introverted to listen, because often there’s a lack of ability to do anything else. And she does talk, she tells me how she lost all her money, how her relationship crumbled under her illness and how devastated she feels. And I think, I really need to say something now, something for reassurance, but I can’t find any words. And then, she goes into her handbag, and pulls boxes of tablets out and places them on the table. “They didn’t tell me what these are for”.

Finally, something I can help with. I move closer to her and go through her medication with her. She seems to brighten up a little and smiles weakly. And then, without warning, the door opens from the outside. Lloyd’s want their room back. We hug and go our separate ways, I decide not to cash in my anti-depressant prescription. I never saw her again.

You know, I once got told, how can you look after other people if you don’t look after yourself. But the opposite is actually true. It’s because we care so much for others, that we leave nothing left for ourselves. And sometimes, just sometimes, it’s a little too much.

* Jessica is a pseudonym

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