In the last week, I have developed an intense anger that I’m having a hard time letting go.
I wanted this blog to be a spot to raise awareness about mental health…but after the events of this week…it seems likely that there are more people that are suffering and being sick that “healthy” and trying to manage their illness.
Let me rewind.
In 2014, I needed to see a psychiatrist. I had been taking anti-anxiety medication for some time, but there was something different going on. I was unwell…anxious…unable to cope/focus/function.
I was put on an 18 month waiting list, but in the meantime, I was able to see a psychiatric nurse at my local health center, who presented my case to the psychiatrist, who would prescribe me whatever medication she thought I needed. The prescription came with zero follow up. No instructions. No warnings. This was standard practice at the health center.
I began the medication and felt unwell…but thought that was part of the process. 72 hours later, my then husband took me to the hospital because I was scared of everything…to the point that I couldn’t leave the house and was crying in fear…I couldn’t tell you what scared me – I just felt an intense amount of fear.
The ER doctor was furious that I would be given a medication without any follow up. He gave me something to help calm me down and I came back the next morning to meet with the hospital psychiatrist, who prescribed me something else. Again, there was no follow up. This was a one time thing and I would have to come back to the hospital if there was a problem. The different medication seemed to be a bit better, but still life was so incredibly difficult. I was stuck…
Thankfully, through a friend of a friend, I was put in touch with a psychiatrist in the USA that would take me as a patient. Six or seven times, I paid for flights, hotels, meals, treatment, and medication while I was there. I never complained, because he saw me as a real person and spent time with me to figure out what was going on. The diagnosis: Treatment resistant DEPRESSION (not anxiety!!) that presented itself with symptoms of anxiety. He tried a few different medications and doses before he found the exact “cocktail” that I would require until I was a bit more stabilized and balanced. Have I mentioned that all of these medications help me pack on 45lbs in a matter of months? I work out, I don’t eat like a heffer…and when I spoke to any medical professional about it, they said as long as I was healthy, to be grateful that it was “only” 45lbs and not more.
Let me stop here. I’m not trying to cry in my beer here. I’m not trying to tell you my sad story. I consider myself blessed and very grateful for the support network that I have – because without it – I can’t imagine that I would have been able to get this far.
Finally after 18 months, tens of thousands of dollars later (including weekly or bi-weekly sessions with an incredibly wonderful psychologist with a reasonable fee that didn’t treat me like just a number), I got to see the psychiatrist.
This lady was a bitch. She was cold, clinical, and I was unprepared for the short time that she would spend with me….considering all that I had went through. She made a few changes….and then scheduled my next appointment in three or four months.
At my next appointment, I was armed with a list of questions, description of my symptoms and this ended up forcing her to to spend more time with me. I haven’t really touched on how bad things were….but I felt awful. I wasn’t always able to get out of bed. For anyone that hasn’t experienced depression,….please realize that this isn’t a choice. I’m not staying in bed because I want a holiday. I could not get out of bed. At one point, I asked her if she had ever seen someone as “bad” as me get better. She told me that she had seen people in much worse shape than I make a full recovery. Whatever that means.
At the beginning of the year, I started to feel that I had made tremendous progress in therapy. I had improved my self-care, I had created a toolbox to help me deal with my illness, and I felt stabilized. I asked if I could go off one of the medications in her cocktail that she had prescribed to me. She agreed that I could taper off one of the medications.
During this time, I felt awful. Walking up the stairs took more energy than I could muster sometimes. My perfect toe pushups that took me forever to achieve were no longer… I tried to live my life to the best of my ability….but I was constantly having panic attacks, feeling over-stressed, and picking fights with those closest to me. I didn’t sleep. Some days I didn’t eat much and others I was insatiable. I somehow blamed everything else in my life…..unaware that clearly I was depressed and that the medication decrease wasn’t working.
I was so convinced that life was going so well because I was able to stop taking a medication…that I ignored all of the signs, until I had an appointment with her, where she clued me in pretty fast.
She hummed and hawed….and somehow decided that she’d like me to try Lithium. I had heard of Lithium….but I thought it was for something else, not depression. She confirmed that yes, it was used to treat bipolar depression….and that no, I did not have that, but maybe a smaller dose might help. MAYBE. She wanted me to research the health effects before I agreed to taking it. And again, see you in four months, don’t let the door hit your ass when you leave.
I was so shocked….I had nothing to say. I didn’t ask her what I should do in the meantime. I mean I was already putting so much effort and time and money into my mental health….but I know that medication makes up part of the solution – at this point.
Once I did some basic research, I found out that there are short term and long term side effects, including liver damage. I called her office a few weeks later to tell her (well, her nurse, as I am never actually allowed to speak to the doctor) that things weren’t going well but I wasn’t ready to take Lithium. If was bipolar – well sign me the FUCK UP, but I’m not, and I wasn’t comfortable with the risks.
Her nurse told me that maybe I had done too much research and that I could either take the Lithium, wait until my appointment, or go to the hospital. Thanks, bitch.
So I carried on. I saw my psychologist every week. I tried to anything and everything just to keep me afloat. I still had another two months before I saw my psychiatrist and I didn’t know how I could hold on for that long….I was barely keeping my head above water….
Tuesday, I called the doctor’s office and asked to speak to the nurse. I said, I just need something to help me get to work. It can be short term. It can be for two weeks. I just need help. She took down my notes, and then asked me if I had tried yoga or acupuncture or something else, because in reality, medication is nothing but a crutch.
A crutch? There is a chemical imbalance in my brain. I have a medical condition. Is insulin a crutch for diabetics?
I kept my composure as I explained that I socialized, I worked out regularly (including yoga), I meditated regularly, I saw a psychologist, and I have tried everything but acupuncture, simply because the funds aren’t there. I spend up to $600/month on co-pays and psychology….I don’t any more money for acupuncture sessions… She told me that she’d tell the doctor that I called.
Wednesday morning, as I called from my bed, because I couldn’t get out of it, and again I told the nurse that I was in rough shape. I needed something to help me get to get to work, concentrate at work, and that I was prepared to suffer every night and every weekend, if she could just help me with something, that could get me through the days at work. She told me that she would pass the message along to the doctor, who would probably let me know if there was something that could be prescribed by tomorrow afternoon. I panicked. I had been suffering since February…it I had let things go to long. waiting until a “maybe tomorrow”…didn’t sound like a great plan.
I couldn’t take it anymore. I needed something. An ativan. A freaking valium. Whatever. It was at this point that I went online to see if I could buy Valium online. Isn’t that disgusting? I was going to try to buy illegal and dangerous drugs – because I just needed a few days of relief. I’m not being a baby here. I had been suffering since February….the doctor admitted my depression was not in a healthy state….yet….I was just supposed to suffer. I wasn’t suicidal so going to the hospital wasn’t an option.
I considered trying to find someone that sold pot. I hear that everyone that smokes pot is soooo relaxed.
Have you truly read the last two paragraphs? I was going to try to find illegal drugs….and I would for sure get busted because I would probably ask a freaking policeman for directions….I was going to break the law because no one would help me.
I called the private medical clinic and made an appointment. Tearful, exhausted, distressed, I showed up and the doctor told me that she thought I should change anti-depressants. I told her that this is not an option right now. I had an appointment with a new psychiatrist on June 4th (I forgot to mention this but I feel so fucking lucky you can’t even imagine!!! Who knows what will happen….but can it get any worse???). I needed something to help calm me down until that time. She said she wasn’t sure what to give me. I said, I see it all the time on TV, give me a Valium. She said she couldn’t. She needs to protect her medical license and that wasn’t sound medical advice. I said, my dentist gave me an Ativan and that helped me. Give me that. Again, no.
Finally, after me crying, begging for her help, telling her just to give me something for the days of the week and nothing for the weekends, she gave me something milder until June 4th. I took it.
I went to pay the bill and it came to $300. I asked why it was so expensive, and it was explained to me that it was so expensive because the doctor spent extra time with me. AYFKM?? The extra time was me crying. I can cry on my own, for free. I didn’t agree to the extra time…. We had established early on in the appointment that I had ZERO suicidal thoughts or intentions… I told her everything that I did to take care of myself, the support network that I have… anyway…
She asked if she could call my psychiatrist, and I told her not to, because she often gets frustrated when I called her. The doctor then said, “I think your psychiatrist is just trying to set boundaries. I don’t mean to offend you, but perhaps you have an unhealthy behavior and are calling her too often.”
BITCH – I call her one to two times in a four month period. When something is wrong. (I did not say that).
She told told me that she suffers from anxiety, so she knows what I’m going through. OH, I”M SO FREAKING SURE YOU DO. I’M SO SURE THAT YOUR SAVINGS ACCOUNT HAS BEEN DEPLETED TRYING TO FIND A FUCKING DOCTOR.
I walked across the street (because I had taken an Uber there because I was way too exhausted to drive), and filled the prescription. I took one of the pills and it made a difference! I felt calmer, was able to think clearer.
I was exhausted from the day, but better. I still had to do all of the self-care things that I would have done before, and this was a temporary solution, but it was a solution.
The next afternoon, I received a call from the RECEPTIONIST at my psychiatrist’s office. They had called in a prescription for Ativan. Ok. I thought well, I’ll finish off what the doctor from yesterday prescribed, and then fill the Ativan (again, please keep in mind this is all short term medication…not something that I will take on a regular basis…but that I needed something since I had been suffering since February). The pharmacy near my house called and I told them that I’d pick it up later in the week.
The pharmacy called back and said that they weren’t sure that they could fill the Ativan because of what the doctor prescribed yesterday. I said, ok, well, call the psychiatrist’s office and let me know what the solution is.
And this is where it got ugly. The nurse called, telling me that I had filled various prescriptions and THREE different pharmacies, and that I had seen a doctor yesterday, and that I had filled a prescription for Ativan on May 3.
I said, yes, the pharmacy next to the doctor yesterday, because I had no idea when I would hear from your office, I have a pharmacy at near work for the Ativan that the dentist prescribed me (he gave me FOUR pills for my dental treatments – half of them are still at home waiting for my next appointment), and then the pharmacy near home. I generally just use the two – one near work or one near home. They told me a long time ago that everything was linked to my Health Care Card, so even if I went to any pharmacy in my province, they would all see what I was taking. Meaning – I can’t go to one doctor’s office and say, Jack me on the good stuff, then go to another doctor’s office, and fill both prescriptions. Even if it’s at different pharmacy chains.
Apparently, I should have told the RECEPTIONIST that I saw a doctor yesterday. And that it was highly suspicious that I went to THREE different pharmacies (even though I explained why), and that until my next appointment with the shitty psychiatrist, I would not receive any assistance.
I asked her to clarify again….why was this suspicious? Why was I in trouble???
Apparently, because+ I got a prescription from the private doctor. Again, I explained why, and then suggested, if it’s such a big deal, why don’t I return those pills to the pharmacy and I can then take what you (or your boss) prescribed?
Absolutely not. I asked why not. She said because of how I “hid” everything and that the psychiatrist will be discussing my behavior at our next appointment. Can I just explain that the doctor gave me a low-dose anti-anxiety medication for TEN DAYS?
I lost it. I asked her how a doctor can tell me that I’m sick and then send me away for four months and refuse to treat me. She told me that clearly the doctor thought that was what’s best for me. “And when I call, in distress, asking for some help?”
Then she went into how it again how I’m using medication as a crutch and that I need to do more to help myself. Medication is not the solution and I’m placing too much importance on it. I need to really think about other ways to help myself.
I said thank you and goodbye.
Let me just say again:
- I workout (including yoga)
- I meditate
- I socialize when I can
- I read books and try to expand my knowledge for different techniques to help deal with depression
- I see a psychologist who has told me that at times – I push myself too much in the sessions – all in an effort to get better.
- I have a self-care plan
- I reach out to my family/friends when I need to
- I try to do something over the weekend that brings me joy – even if it’s just for a few minutes.
If I didn’t have an appointment with a new psychiatrist in 10 days….I don’t know what I’d do. I’m trying desperately to let this go….to not take this personally…but…I’m sick. My sick is not imagined. Yes, I’m placing a lot of importance on medication at the moment, because that’s the piece of the puzzle that isn’t being addressed.
Last winter, I sat down with two amazing parents that lost their daughter to mental illness. When I described my experiences to date, they nodded along… Their daughter…died of her illness….along with a medical system that is failing us. Their daughter passed away more than ten years ago. NOTHING HAS CHANGED.
I have come so fucking far in the last 2.5 years….I can do so much more than I would have ever thought possible and I’ve kept quiet for too long.
I don’t know what I’ll do in the future….But I am going to spread the word….when I’m stronger. I won’t let someone else have to go through all of this.
Most of all, I’m hoping that the new doctor accepts me as one of his patients on the 4th…and that I’m seen as a person, not a number not a paycheque, and not an inconvenience. I’m just trying to get my health back.