Quarterlife Chronicles: New Beginnings and an Unexpected Ending

It’s hard to begin the explain the roller coaster that life strapped me into without warning.

This summer has been one of the best, most productive summers I’ve had since I can remember. Many milestones were achieved, so I had so many reasons to celebrate. I got my license. I became more independent. I was selected for an amazing job opportunity and have been preparing for it to begin in September. My boyfriend and I had our 3 year anniversary. I’ve been traveling a lot and getting to be more adventurous (I want to go for round 3 of whitewater rafting!).

In the meantime, a lot of awful things were happening. My boyfriend has been out of state for most of the summer and his stay has been much longer than both of us were prepared for. Then I was told that one of my aunts and one of my uncles (they’re married) are both severely ill and I was blindsided by the bad news.

My aunt and uncle (they’re technically my great aunt and great uncle, but my family is super close) have always been like grandparents to me (they’re my grandma’s brother and sister-in-law). I used to spend a lot of time over their house having sleepovers with my cousins when we were young andI live 5 minutes away from them, but since life has been so hectic, I haven’t made visiting them a priority. In June I got to spend a lot of time with them at one of my cousin’s grad party and then a family party at my grandma’s the next day, which was great as always.

When I saw my uncle at the two parties, he didn’t look well and I had a hunch his health was worse that what he had been telling people. That man has endured so much regarding his health. My great-grandma died from heart failure. A few years after my grandma nearly had the same fate as her mother, my uncle too nearly died  from congestive heart failure (gotta love genetics). His condition required more in-depth surgeries and treatments, but he made it through only to end up with prostate cancer. After more treatments, he survived and was diagnosed with melanoma on his face. The cancer was removed, but not before it metastasized (spread) to his back/spine.

My aunt also had a history of health scares. She survived breast cancer and later sever issues that affected her reproductive organs. About the same time that my uncle was diagnosed with melanoma, my aunt learned she had a large brain tumor that had to be removed despite being benign (noncancerous) because of it’s fast growth and location in her brain. She will be getting surgery this month after she and my uncle come back from vacation.

My uncle is not undergoing surgery since his tumor is so deep in his spine. At this point, I think he might be stopping all treatments and I am forced to deal with the fact that I am probably losing a family member in the near future, something I am not remotely prepared for. I mean, no one is even prepared to mourn the loss of a family member and I know that I am lucky to be able to (hopefully) spend some time with him before his time comes. Still, I’m at a loss.

I’ve been to many funerals in my almost 24 years, but only one has been a relative, my (great) uncle who my family and I lost to suicide when I was young. The feeling of his loss permeates through every happy moment my family experiences and the idea of losing another uncle who my family has been able to love and cherish a lot longer terrifies me. I used to have severe anxiety about my grandma dying after she got sick (ironic since I used to pray every night to not wake up the next morning) and now my anxiety pertains to how losing my uncle is going to ravage my family. My grandma and my aunt and uncle are super close. They talk on a near weekly basis if not more frequently. They are the closest among the 5 siblings in the family that are still alive. My aunt and uncle have two sons, one with 3 daughters who are in their mid to early 20s (one is leaving for England soon for a semester abroad) and the other lives states away and had 2 young daughters. The rest of my family and I will be heartbroken when we lose my uncle because he’s pretty much the unofficial patriarch of the family.

I’ve dealt with bad feelings. I’ve dealt with depression. I’ve dealt with being suicidal. I’ve dealt with losing people in my life to suicide. But this particular kind of grief is an emotion that I’m not familiar with. The closest I’ve been to grieving over a loved one in recent years was when my boyfriend’s grandpa, whom I got to be close with during the first year of dating my boyfriend, passed after a long battle with cancer. His loss was filled with sadness, but also peace since he was no longer suffering. With my uncle, I’ve never seen him during his sick times. Cancer and heart disease and other health conditions become more “real” when you see your loved one in a hospital bed, plugged into IV machines and monitors. My uncle has cancer and is dying and doesn’t look like it.

I’m currently processing this as I’m in a hotel room out of state visiting my boyfriend. I didn’t get to deal with the news about my aunt and uncle much on my own last week or this past weekend when I was out of state spending time with my boyfriend’s family. I’m trying to find something to get me through this and prepping for the grieving process and doing things that boost my mood are currently what’s occupying my time. I hate how ruthlessly ironic life is because I found out that my uncle is dying this past Monday and the next day was one of my cousin’s first day as a legal adult. It’s poetic is the worst way, but I guess that’s life. I’m experiencing quintessential life experiences. My younger cousins are not so young anymore and my family member who seem like they will always be around and getting older and sick and will die.

I’m a human adult I guess and I’m not sure I like it.

The Quarterlife Chronicles: Overcoming Driving Anxiety

This past Thursday, I hit a milestone that was many years in the making – I got my driver’s license!!!!!

My journey to getting to this point has been a little unusual, but I know a lot of people can relate to my driving anxiety because driving can be terrifying. When I was 16, I went to my local Department of Motor Vehicles center to go for my permit. As the youngest person in my group of friends, the wait and excitement for this day was almost unbearable. I had studied my butt of and aced the permit exam. I almost cried tears of joy because it felt like I was finally becoming an adult. Little did I know that I was in for a whirlwind of suck.

My last name on my birth certificate and social security card didn’t match because my Mom divorced my biological father when I was young and she was told that all she had to do was change my name on my ss card to change my name officially. Despite going by my name for most of my life, I had to wait to get my permit until I was 18 (when I would be allowed to change my name without needing the permission of my biological father who I haven’t seen sine I was little because he is not allowed to legally contact me for safety reasons).

It was such a long and expensive process to change my name, but I was finally able to get my name change and I.D. when I was 20. After that I was pressured to get my permit and license. Getting my permit was a walk in the park, but I was terrified just thinking about getting behind the wheel. My mom was an awful driver and I live near a city that has terrible traffic and unexpected construction projects. What made me even more anxious was when my boyfriend and I were traveling out of state to visit his family for Thanksgiving and our car spun out of control due to awful, icy road conditions and ended up in a ditch on the side of the road. We and the car were fine, but we were stuck there for a while. Luckily, AAA came to save the day and we made it to our destination safely. However, I would replay that moment in my head any time someone would ask me when I was going to get on the road.

My anxiety (and I know it presents this way for others) consists of me imagining the worst case scenarios for various situations. For the longest time I would picture myself having a panic attack while on the road and causing a fatal accident. When people would bug me about driving, I would start to resent them and not want to spend time with them. Not being able to drive negatively impacted my life. I lost touch with friends who lived far from me because I couldn’t go to parties or just hang out with them whenever we wanted. I missed certain opportunities because I didn’t have a consistent means of transportation. I’m very lucky that my Pap would help me out by riding me to places, but when you don’t drive, you start to feel stuck. Not driving made me feel like I was stuck in stasis and that my life would never change. I had so many panic attack and tear-filled nights because I would see my friends do amazing things that I could have been able to participate in had I had my license and a car. At the same time, because there was so much riding on me driving, I felt an immense amount of pressure, but I was stuck in the cycle of anxiety.

So you’re probably wondering, what changed regarding my anxiety?

Therapy (but not what you think). I never specifically addressed my driving anxiety in therapy because I figured once I got my Generalized Anxiety and depression in check, I would be in a much better head space to tackle driving. It worked! I learned healthy ways to come with my anxiety (venting, finding what I could change in a situation, exercise, eating better, etc.) and in turn learned to love and respect myself more. My depression was die to certain situation in my life that I couldn’t control or wasn’t changing enough and learning Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and mindfulness techniques helped me reign in my “despressed” thoughts. Investing in learning how to drive and empowering myself became more of a priority once I wanted to live and make the most of life.

Find a motivator. For me, it was getting to the point where I couldn’t deal with missing opportunities that could change my life regarding my career. For a job that I was just hired for that is one of the coolest, career-making opportunities I’ve ever received, I needed to have my license and a car. I wouldn’t have been able to even interview for it had I not got my license. Another source of motivation was that my boyfriend has to travel out of state for work a lot this summer and I didn’t want to be stuck at home while he is gone. Think of whatever getting your license or overcoming anxiety can give you. The biggest selling point for me was independence.

I tried the “slow and steady” method. I would only try learning to drive when I felt like it. Sometimes I would go weeks and months without driving, but eventually I would try driving around the neighborhood or in school parking lots on a nice day. Then I moved on to trying to drive at night for fun things, like going to get food.

I tried to find what I could control. People reminded me that I could pull over to the side of the road or in a parking lot if I felt overwhelmed while on the road.  That reminded me that I had some sort of control if I thought at any point I would be unsafe on the road. I also was told that I need to focus on driving safe because I can’t control what other people do, but I can work on reacting as safely as possible.

I got a driving instructor. This has been integral to overcoming my anxiety. I was very lucky that there was a reputable driving instructor who happened to live in my community that would drive to my place to give me lessons. I would drive to the DMV and we practiced everything I needed to know for my test since a huge reason why I put off getting my license was that also have test anxiety. I practiced the course, parallel parking, and every other possible thing I needed to know so I was comfortable when test time came. It really helped. I know I messed up a few things (my instructor’s car was a little different from the Jeep I normally drive), but I got my license and know how to drive safely.

I practiced (and practiced and practiced). After a certain point, getting more driving in before my test became a almost a game to me. My boyfriend joked that I was his “chauffeur” because I would drive us anywhere and everywhere. To his parents who live 3 hours away. To the city. To parks. I wanted to challenge myself to drive further and in different conditions (while maintaining safety of course) and that I did. The practice made me more comfortable and my instructor told me that she was happy I was getting the practical practice on top of just what I need to know for the test since driving is about more than just getting your license. I even drove through one of the scariest bridges in my city that most people I know have a hard time because it’s a 4 lane bridge and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected.

The last few pieces of my driving anxiety are driving alone and driving to a new place. I drove GW (the Great White Jeep aka my boyfriend’s Jeep) by myself the other day and I wanted to cry tears of joy. It was a little hectic because we live on a highway, but I survived. It felt so good to have that independence I always wanted. In August, my boyfriend and I will be visiting a friend who lives pretty far away from us (almost 3 states away from us) and I’m so happy that I have my license so he doesn’t have to drive the whole 10 hours it will take to get there. I’m nervous about having to use the GPS while my boyfriend sleeps, but I’ll let that go until the time for it comes. I become stronger every time I overcome an aspect of my anxiety, but I won’t berate myself for residual anxiety, especially since all people experience some sort of anxiety. My anxiety is no longer debilitating and I have a good cry instead of having panic attacks, which is huge!

Now I’m on to the next steps, buying my first car and prepping for the next semester and my new job in the fall. I’m so proud of the progress I’ve made and that my self confidence has been the highest its ever been. If you’re dealing with driving anxiety, I hope the tips I shared help you get closer to the life and independence you deserve!

 

The Quarterlife Chronicles: My Feelings on Advocacy

I’m going to get super real with whoever reads this…

I’ve been experiencing burnout regarding mental health advocacy.

It’s not what I’m advocating for that is turning me off, it’s the mental health advocacy environment online. Before I get started into why I’m feeling this way, lemme back up quite some years to when my advocacy work began…

I originally didn’t choose to be an advocate. It was my only option for survival. When I first became cognizant of my mental illness symptoms (before I knew they were due to mental illness), I tried so hard to deny them and convince myself that I was “normal”, which in my mind meant not being different from everyone else. I was in middle school and high school, the time where conformity was essential to not drawing unnecessary attention to yourself, which as a painfully shy adolescent was my goal. I just wanted to keep my head in my books, do well in color guard, and focus on working towards college. All I wanted was college, not panic attacks and feelings of unworthiness.

I reached out for help when I was at my wit’s end. Time and again I got denied. I advocated for myself by doing research and continuing to reach out. I needed to figure out what was going on with me. My feelings were legitimate (despite everyone else wanting to convince me otherwise), I just needed validation in the form of a diagnosis. Once I received my diagnoses,  I felt such a relief. It was like someone finally understood what I was going through and that my experiences weren’t brought about by my own doing or because I was a “bad” person. But getting diagnosed didn’t mean my experiences with mental illness were over.

It took so much trial and error to get to where I am today. I’ve gone through several therapists, doctors, and treatments. Had to fight to get taken off certain meds because of side-effects,to get hospitalized so a doctor could switch my meds, and against the stigma of taking meds period even though my improvement while on them were noticeable I advocated for my respect within my family whenever loved ones would question whether or not I took my meds when they angered me or when they say something that stigmatizes mental illness. I will admit that I wasn’t an advocate 24/7 (it’s kind of hard to advocate for yourself when depression takes away your ability to function), but I learned I had to be the hero of my own story.

I started advocating for others when I decided to share my story – first on a Facebook video and later on by speaking at schools through my local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Through my connections with organizations, I became known for my fundraising efforts and outspokenness regarding fighting for mental health awareness and against stigma. I don’t share all that I do on social media. I had previously shared some projects I work on and am vocal about my involvement in Team Not Ashamed as one of the co-leaders, but my work for my community/city/county/etc. isn’t always broadcasted. It shouldn’t have to be. I do this because it’s the right thing to do, not for popularity or accolades. My desire for societal change is bigger than my ego. Also, this article by the wonderful Sarah Fader is eternally relevant and elaborates on my opinion.

I can’t say that all my peers in the mental health community who label themselves as “advocates” share our perspectives on pushing ego aside and it’s been bringing me down. The older I get, the more I have to remind myself of quotes from the wise Brené Brown. She once explained how she has to remind herself to expect the best from people. That people who let us down in one way or another (co-worker being late on a project, child spilling food on their clothes, etc.) aren’t purposely doing these things to screw our efforts over. Now I don’t think people do things to make my life worse, but I have to keep boundaries and block people who are not truthful or helpful.

Based on life experiences and me being a realist, I’m always slightly apprehensive to trust people to be genuine, even when it comes to advocacy. I can’t be friends with every single advocate, but I will stand beside them to fight to improve the quality of life for our community as long as they aren’t damaging the mental health of others. The latter hasn’t been frequent enough for my liking. Some advocates don’t deserve their title because they are argumentative and they have the opinions that only people with experiences/opinions similar to their own are valid. Others focus too much on their likes and followers to take care of their mental health or to do something that is actually meaningful for the mental health community. The worst (in my opinion) are those who shame peers in one way or another for being upset or triggered by things they come across.

Another hurtful thing I’ve come across is multiple people in my life (including some advocates) twisting the truth, whether by exaggerating the truth or blatantly lying (thought I consider both a breech of trust) because they want attention and sympathy. We have to stop craving sympathy and seek empathy. I can share numerous stories about situations that have occurred in my life that would make people cry, but I don’t want people to want to help my efforts because they feel bad for me. I want them to put themselves in my shoes as a human being going through tough times because of societal ignorance and lack of government support for policies and services that would help people like me. Empathy is the only way things will change, both for ourselves as individuals, the community of those of us living with mental illness as a whole, society overall.

And this brings me onto another issue I’ve had lately: people only doing their advocacy efforts online and not in society. This feeling was so evident while I was in a meeting yesterday for a mental health committee I’m on for my county. If you are capable of doing offline advocacy, please do. This is not a message to people who are currently disabled by their condition. We need you to take care of yourself and survive. But for those whose lives are more stable, we need you to take a step back from the internet to help create change. Now I will never deny how valuable the internet is, but if you’re only focusing your efforts online and not within your community, you need to read these tips…

Some ways to do offline advocacy:

Educate yourself. Be willing to listen and learn. Read up on mental health issues that do  not personally affect you. If you want to advocate for others, you have to have a better understanding of the perspectives and experiences beyond your own. Read up on perspectives and experiences other than your own, especially those of people in different races, religions, genders, sexual orientations, etc. It will make you a stronger advocate and a better person.

Volunteer and raise money. It’s free to volunteer with an organization (save for the cost of getting somewhere). Raise money and awareness for efforts that create positive change for our community (I’m a broke college student and managed to raise over $1,000 in a month for my NAMI chapter by getting out there and doing work) because money=power in this day and age, especially when there is a lack of funding for mental health services/programs.

Get political. Contact your state/local government officials to educate them on the importance of taking mental health issues seriously. Pay attention to legislation (if you’re in the U.S. and need somewhere to start, NAMI has a great hub for mh legistlation updates and you can sign up for their policy newsletter). Call legislators out for not caring enough about mental health and use facts on top of personal stories to help show them the reality of what we experience. Call out friends and celebrities who stigmatize mental health issues and/or perpetuate the lie that people with mental illnesses are automatically violent.

Become certified.  In most places, it’s free to get trained in adult and child Mental Health First Aid (I can guarantee it’s free if you’re in Allegheny County, PA) and it’s such an invaluable certification. You can become a crisis hotline/warm line operator if you can mentally handle it (few people are cut out for it and I know I got burnt out from being the crisis specialist for an online support group). Another way to get certified to help people (and paid) is to become a Peer Support Specialist or whatever the equivalent is in your state/area.

We have to do more than share inspirational quotes. We have to do the dirty work. You will be so glad once you start because it’s so rewarding. Now let’s get out there and change the world!

 

 

The Quarterlife Chronicles: Resiliency>Happiness

My brilliant friend Bethany inspired me to share my experiences regarding navigating life as a twenty-something who lives with mental illness. I’m 23 (I’ll be 24 in less than three months) and even though I’m commonly mistaken for a teenager, I feel like I’m much older because of all I’ve experience in my short time on this planet. Since I’ll be 25 in almost a year, I want to put some of my realizations and life lessons I’ve learned out there to not just help people in my age range, but people of all ages. Because of all of this, I decided to start my Quarter-life Chronicles.

I’m at the age where people are telling me that these are supposed to be the “happiest years of your life”. How depressing is that? To peak in your twenties. I wonder if those people were also lied to about high school being the “best four years of your life”. Happiness (and love) is what we’re “supposed” to desire according to our society and it’s kind of gross how often people try to push happiness on others.

You see the cookie-cutter sentiments pushing the importance of happiness:

“Do what makes you happy!”

“Strive for happiness, not perfection!”

“Think happy thoughts!”

Happy girls are the prettiest girls!”

Not going to lie, these quotes make me cringe for so many reasons. If these phrases help you, that’s great, but there’s a huge gap between happiness and reality. Reality is not “rainbows and butterflies”, nor does it involve being happy 100% of the time. It’s a roller coaster of highs, lows, and the in-betweens. You get thrown curve balls that hit you like a punch to the gut and knock the wind out of you. Emotions are not static. Life isn’t static (not matter how slow your progress may feel).

Happiness is fleeting. It’s a temporary high that you hope will break up the monotony of painful and boring moments. When you chase happiness, you’re running towards one finish line after another because you don’t know when the race really ends.When you feel physically unable to feel anything because depression strips you of that right, happiness feels like a foreign language that you learned in middle school, but can only remember bits and pieces.  You can’t quite remember the significance of it.

For many years, I resented every time I felt anything other than happiness. I equated not being happy to being “broken”. I wanted to be a robot who could be serviced to be on the “happy setting” like everyone around me. Because that’s not really a thing, I felt defective. I had no warranty and no way to exchange my life for a new one. In order to try to work towards happiness, I desired a lot of things. I wanted to be a specific kind of “skinny” (a toxic mentality), wanted thick, lustrous hair (probably never going to happen unless I wear a wig), a ridiculously difficult position to achieve at a prestigious government health organization (“Shoot for the stars they say!”), and to meet a bunch of other ridiculously unrealistic goals.

Over the years I realize happiness means different things to different people and businesses try to sell you happiness in the form of diet pills, make up, gym memberships, vacations, clothes, and other material goods that you think you “need” to be “happy”. You know what I need and want more than happiness? Resiliency.

Because treating and recovering from mental illness isn’t like recovering from a broken bone, I have to accept that the recovery period is indefinite. I will likely be working on my issues for the rest of my life, but at least I’m working on myself (unlike most people without mental illness). I want to be able to bounce back from life-altering experiences in a more timely fashion like a rubber band (or gumband as we call it in the Burgh).

I’ve fought damn hard to become more emotionally resilient and stable. It took more than a few (almost) quarter-life crises to conclude that what I really need isn’t happiness and it allowed me to tailor my plan for working on my mental health to better suit my needs. I can confidently say that I’m the most stable I’ve been in my entire life and I know that is largely due to the fact that I shifted my efforts from seeking happiness to seeking resiliency.

Think of it this way: I’m in a really healthy, positive relationship with my fantastic, supportive boyfriend. I’d love for us to get married and have a happy life, but I acknowledge that our relationship isn’t 100% happy. No relationship is. The levels of happiness may waver due to circumstances like a fight or going through other times that test your relationship. What’s going to help you get through those time to get to the happy ones? Resiliency. Doing the work with your partner to strengthen the relationship. Communicating. Learning to cope with negativity in positive ways instead of putting on a happy face only to become passive aggressive or blow up. If I sought a relationship for solely happiness, I would never be content.  I apply this mentality to my relationship with myself.

While I wish most people I come across happiness, I also wish them/you all resiliency. May you become stronger over time and reach out for help to fight your way through your obstacles. Don’t strive for happiness. Strive for realness and resiliency.

 

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes

To say that I’ve been dealing with some changes in my life would be a gross understatement.

I’ve dealt with some highs and lows in my life over this past month. I had a two-week long bereavement period for lost life plans because of some unforeseen circumstances that were beyond my control (I’m graduating even later than planned). Unlike previous situations where  I was thrown curve balls, I allowed myself to feel, regroup, and deal with it in constructive ways. After I cried all my tears, I focused on what things I could control and dealt with the changes constructively.

My goal of getting my driver’s license is closer than ever. I accomplished some huge driving milestones (started driving lessons, learned how to parallel park, drove 3 hours/160+ miles to my boyfriend’s family’s home in Ohio). I’ve made my physical health priority by adopting some intuitive eating priciples, eliminating some foods from my diet that make me feel crappy, and exercising almost every single day. Over the past 3 years, I’ve made lifestyle that lead to me losing 20lbs and feeling a lot better, so I’m excited to increase the changes that I know will lead to more improvement regarding my physical and mental health.

Another way I’ve improved my mental health is by not tolerating as much bulls*** as I have in the past. I deleted Facebook friends who were former friends or people who detracted from my life in one way or another. It feels so good to no longer have that temptation of checking up on my former best friend who stigmatized and mocked people with mental illness or getting infuriated by insensitive posts made by people I stopped having things in common with a long time about. Recently trust was abused my someone I was close with and I stuck my ground by not letting my sympathy for others overpower the fact that I deserve respect. I’m sticking to the boundaries and values I live by no matter what temporary discomfort it brings (thank you Brené Brown for your infinite wisdom on this topic).

Making the most of my life is a new challenge for me. For years  I loathed waking up in the morning because I craved permanent sleep to end my suffering. Now I have a slight fear of death, but so do most humans because it’s natural to not want to die. I make a point to branch out socially and venture outdoors. I embrace my mess “Jeep hair” when I drive it without the top and doors. I’ll listen to the same song over and over again if that makes me happy. I’m embracing imperfection and inner strength. I dance like I’m on stage or I just want to express myself.The writer’s block I felt due to being emotionally and physically drained has waned. I’m starting to feel the exuberance I hadn’t felt since I was a kid and it feels so damn good.

I’m adapting to the growing pains. Embracing my (almost) quarter-life crisis. I’m accepting that it’s perfectly okay to be simultaneously elated and terrified by the opportunities that are coming my way. In a weird way, I’m learning what it’s like to live life and feel. I’ve been recalibrating my emotions and realizing that my feelings are often the same feelings every human being feels regardless of their mental health status. I have learned a lot and still don’t know everything, but that’s what living life is for. It’s time to “turn and face the strange“.

 

 

Adventures in Finding a New Psychiatrist

I’ve had a psychiatrist ever since I was in high school, but most relationships with these clinicians have been rocky. I’ve been in the process of trying to find a new psychiatrist (lucky number 5) for months after going to therapy to overcome by fear of them after I had a horrible psychiatrist whose inability to listen to my feedback about meds nearly cost my life.

I can navigate the healthcare system pretty well. I’ve been able to find my own primary care physician/general practitioner, pulmonologist, etc., but it’s been a battle to find a psychiatrist. In a world where 1 in 5 people live with a mental health condition, it shouldn’t be this hard. So here are the hilariously frustrating things I’ve experienced in the past month:

  • Came to the conclusion that I want a psychiatrist (huge breakthrough for me), called my insurance company and they tell me I can see any psychiatrist (something I already knew, but still awesome!) I decided to look up doctors on my (prestigious and world-renown) healthcare system’s website to keep all my medical records in the same system.
  • Spent hours looking up doctor reviews on various websites (if they’re available) and try to narrow down a list of names of doctors to call. (Had about 20 before this point, and narrowed it down to 5)
  • Called the behavioral health services number to ask to be connected to a specific doctor’s off. Got connected, but had to leave a message.
  • Get a call back from the office and they asked me how long I had been experiencing postpartum depression (postpartum depression? I have never even been partum. Me having had a baby is news to me!). I quickly realize that the psychiatrist I asked for specializes in postpartum depression and is not a general psychologist.
  • The laughing ends and I get angry because the only specialties listed on the doctor database website are geriatric and child psychology, not postpartum depression. (Great job healthcare system!)
  • I call the behavioral health number and they tell me they can’t give me names of psychiatrist, but they can schedule be for inpatient services. (Great to know, but not really applicable)
  • Have a visit with my new primary care physician (who is super cool!) and she tells me that she no longer has a list of psychiatrist names since the healthcare system thought that removing referral requirements would increase accessibility for patients. (Haha, riiight? Oh wonderful healthcare system. How I loathe thee.) She told me she feels awful about this and wished me luck.
  • Called my insurance again for round 2 (*Ding ding*) and they repeat that I can go anywhere. I explained how I am well aware that I can go anywhere but was looking for a specific list of psychiatrists. They give me an number to call.
  • Call the number and once I dial the right button to connect me to a representative, I wait for 10 minutes while the phone rings and rings and rings. I decide to call back and someone answers!
  • We talk, the rep gives me doctor names and numbers to call. I look up the doctors to see if they’re in my system (there are 2 healthcare systems in my area) and most of them are not. I call the number the rep gives me for one office to talk to a receptionist and it connects me to the same behavioral health scheduling woman I talked to before who connected me with the postpartum doc.
  • I tell her the doctor I want to connect with and she connects me with the doctor’s personal voicemail! I quickly end the call and dial the number to the office that the doctor included in her voicemail. I get connected to a mental health service organization and not the office the doctor is a part of. (I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone or someone is going to pop out with a camera and say “Gotcha!)

In all seriousness, I’m thankful that I’m far enough in my recovery process to know that these problems are due to our failing national mental healthcare system and not a reflection of me, but it’s still pretty damn frustrating. I will continue on in my journey and won’t give up hope!

Until next time,

Nic