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After a hard year, Xrayser reveals how 2020 became a bit too much

Mounting workload and staffing issues left Xrayser struggling to keep his head above water during the COVID-19 pandemic

It took a call from C+D editor Beth Kennedy for me to realise just how much I’d been affected by this year of changes, and yet still I’m finding it hard to type the words “stress” and “depression”.

Despite having counselled patients many times to accept mental illness as normal and as real as backache or conjunctivitis, I thought such problems were unlike me, but then 2020 has been a year unlike any other for all of us.

As activity in March trebled for most pharmacies, Mrs Xrayser and I began to stay behind after work to finish dispensing the flood of prescriptions and came in on Sundays to erect counter screens and lay out social distancing markers on the floor.

Then came the requirement to open shop on some bank holidays. All we had time for by way of enjoyment was a trip to the supermarket on the way home, where we’d wave our NHS smartcards and get priority access to the wine isles that enabled our now practiced mantra of “work, drink, repeat”.

Throughout the months of lockdown, we saw ever-increasing prescriptions for anxiety and depression, which I thought I was immune to. Besides, it was hard to talk to anyone about being stressed without feeling guilty that at least I still had a job.

I’d not been furloughed or shut my business, so, despite inflated wholesale costs, shielding staff and concerns about my 97-year-old father, I should have had nothing to worry about. In fact, my reaction to all this was to shut away and shut down.

Emails went unanswered and blogs went unwritten until, just as I was thinking it was all getting a bit too much, my regular locum Richard beat me to it and announced he was quitting pharmacy. This left me facing months of working a six-day week. 

My panicked reaction when he told me he was stopping work was to immediately email every pharmacist in my contacts. By chance this was timed just right to get a reply from my colleague Ellen. She was being made redundant as her multiple continued its programme of pharmacy closures. Just as I was thinking I couldn’t manage another month working every day except Sunday, Ellen started with us.

So maybe you’re struggling to balance employer’s demands with these new ways of working, or you’re a contractor anxious about how you will repay the advance payments, or perhaps separation from family and friends is making life difficult to bear.

Even at the best of times pharmacists have a stressful, pressurised and hugely responsible job that can bring any of us close to breaking point, so please do talk to your family, talk to your friends, talk to Pharmacist Support. But most of all, don’t let stress bury your head as I did for many months meaning that work and responsibilities slip by.

A long-running C+D contributor, the identity of Xrayser remains a mystery, but his irreverent views are known by all. Tweet him @Xrayser

For more information on getting help with mental health from Pharmacist Support, visit their website or call their helpline on 0808 168 5133

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Pharmacy Manager
Newquay, Cornwall
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