My care experience: mental health addition

Receiving help here in the US can be, at times satisfactory, but mostly a nightmare. In general, the US has a pretty crummy healthcare system. Many people go without the care they need and should be able to receive.
I have been fortunate enough to not be perpetually sick, but I do feel like I’ve been to the doctors a fair share the past five years. I used to get my blood taken every six months related to my Thalassemia. While I was in nursing school I had to make sure I was up-to-date on vaccinations. After visiting family in Greece, I came back with inactive tuberculosis. I had to go to a specialist for testing and was put on a 6 month medication regimen. Last year I got sick three times in two months. I had to go to two OBGYN’s within a month because I was having extreme menstruation.
To say the least, I’ve probably been involved with the healthcare system more so than the average Jo.
Luckily, I have my family’s insurance to help me through these instances. Even so, trying to find care within our network is a pain in the ass.

When I first came here, back in January, I started calling around to clinics. I wanted to find a doctor to establish care with and to hopefully start working on my mental wellness. I was constantly referred to other clinics, flat out told I couldn’t be a patient, and had to wait three months before an appointment. I tried explaining how I needed to see someone sooner than that. I wasn’t mentally healthy.
I felt like I was being ignored.
As soon as I mentioned the words mental health to the receptionist at my old clinic, I was screened by a nurse a few minutes later and scheduled the following day. It was clear to me that I wasn’t going to get that response here.

My friend, who was staying with my family for a few weeks, had bronchitis. While she checked in at an urgent care clinic, I did too. If no one would help me get help, I was going to fight for it myself.
The receptionist told me she wasn’t sure I would get the help I needed at her clinic. I told her I didn’t care. I just wanted to see someone.
I met with a nurse practitioner. She was an odd ball. She talked about betas and alphas, showed me her tattoos, and told me to get into counseling. I was already working on that anyways. She prescribed me Sertraline and Lorazepam. I was given no information regarding the medicine, except the basics of what they were used for, and sent out the door.

I started taking the medicine as prescribed. I knew I needed to find an actual doctor I could consistently see. I scheduled myself a follow up appointment with another clinic. This clinic, by the way, had originally turned me down. I met with another nurse practitioner about three weeks later. She asked me how the medication was doing. I told her I wasn’t sure I saw much of a difference. She extended my Lorazepam and helped me schedule an appointment with the psychiatry department.
I met with a third, nurse practitioner. She specialized in mental health. I filled out a depression & anxiety form, which I had done two times prior. I also filled out a mood disorder form. After talking with her, she diagnosed me with Major Recurrent Depressive Disorder and anxiety. She didn’t believe I fit the standardized criteria for Bipolar Disorders/Borderline Personality Disorder. She upped my Sertraline dose to 100mg and prescribed me Hydroxyzine to help with my insomnia/anxiety. I was to stop taking the Lorazepam since it is highly addictive.
I was then scheduled two follow-up appointments with two other people.

Around the six week mark, I met with the fourth nurse practitioner. I told her my suicidal thoughts weren’t as aggressive and I was feeling slightly optimistic, but I had this feeling it wasn’t going to last. As if something bad was going to happen. I told her I struggled to sleep, as I had the previous three medical personnel I met. My insomnia issue was shoved under the rug.
By the time I had met with her, I was having strange symptoms. Granted, they appeared while I was packing my belongings from my home I shared with my ex. I wasn’t sure if it was the new dose of Sertraline or the circumstances. My hands wouldn’t stop trembling, I was dizzy, my blood pressure was extremely elevated. She lowered the dose back to its original strength and told me to keep giving the Hydroxyzine a try.
Also note, I was supposed to see this person after the next lady on my schedule. So, a good portion of the 45 minutes I was allotted, 10 of which went by on my own because the nurse didn’t tell her I was ready, was filled with patient intake.

Shortly after I met with this psychiatrist, I met with the person I was supposed to see first for intake. She had apologized to me about their scheduling issues. Since most of her intake form was filled out from the previous lady, she didn’t have much left to do herself. I once again told her I wasn’t sure the medication was working and how I wasn’t getting any sleep. At this point in time, I had slipped into another depressive episode. My sleep concerns were once again pushed under the rug.

During all these appointments, and driving all over the place to different locations, I had been seeing a counselor. It took me about a month and a half to find a counselor within my network and one I was comfortable with. They seemed to be the only one paying attention to what I was saying. And they pushed me to keep scheduling appointments when needed.


Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

After my most recent spiral into madness, AKA: suicidal, I called for an appointment.
“You have a follow-up with — in a few weeks.”
“I know that, but I need to be seen sooner.”
“She doesn’t have any earlier availability.”
“Alright. Well, I need to be seen by someone. I am close to admitting myself somewhere.”
“Oh.”

Yeah, Oh. That seemed to get their attention.
I was scheduled after the weekend.
I once again filled out the mental health forms, sat while a student nursing assistant stumbled through my medication list, and quietly took it as the nurse practitioner told me she didn’t know what to do. She didn’t want to switch my medication because I had a follow-up in a few weeks. I asked her if there was anything to be done about my sleep issue.
I received a shrug, was somehow scheduled earlier with my follow-up lady, and sent out the door.

Yesterday I saw my main psychiatry nurse practitioner. For some reason Bipolar disorder was in her notes, even though we hadn’t discussed it our last appointment.
“Huh, I wonder why that’s there.” She had mused to herself. And although I have stayed within the same clinic, one hand was not talking to the other.
She switched my antidepressant and finally addressed my insomnia issue, even though I had expressed to five different people how much distress it was causing me.

I feel like I’m being dragged through hell trying to find consistent, good care. Every medical professional I have met has been kind and I feel comfortable enough to explain how I feel. Yet, I am still frustrated.

I have insurance. Yet, I am terrified to go to the ER because I know the bill would be devastating, insurance and all. I have been lucky to see my counselor at least twice a month, when others are booked 6 weeks out. I am appreciative that I only have to pay $20 for my medications, when others have to pay hundreds.

I have been lucky, yet I still feel like it isn’t enough.
If it isn’t enough for someone like me, who is lucky, then how is it enough for the less fortunate?

Our system is fucked up. It is understaffed. People are not taken seriously. Mental health is not a priority, when it is just as important as anything else.
People are terrified as is to get help because they can’t afford the care. Now imagine that person struggles with debilitating depression, yet the world tells them it’s normal and to get over it. Not only can they not pay to get better, they feel shamed to even try.

When is this going to change?

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