Falling Through the Cracks

It is so easy to fall through the cracks of the mental health system! It infuriates me. I can ramble on for hours about all of the times that I have personally felt as though I was forgotten. Today, I will share one example.

If you have been reading my blog, you know that I was pretty depressed for a significant amount of time recently. I made and attended an appointment with my psych med prescriber, a Nurse Practitioner who specializes in psychiatric medicine. I have seen him for about three years and we have a decent doctor-patient relationship, but I think that he is heavily influenced by big pharma, as many prescribers are. He tolerates my strong will and we compromise on my treatment plan, but I want to explore other options besides drugs because I have tried *so many* without success, or with side effects that aren’t tolerable. I have mentioned to him several times that I would like to see a psychiatrist at the University of Michigan Psych Department, but he always seems to change the subject and hasn’t made the referral. At this particular appointment, he brought up the GeneSight test, which I will blog about very soon, and successfully derailed the conversation. After my appointment, I realized that the referral wasn’t addressed. Again. I ended up at my Primary Care Provider’s office a few days later because I wasn’t feeling well and I mentioned that I would like to have a referral to U of M and she sent an urgent referral right then.

I ended up at my Primary Care Provider’s office a few days later because I wasn’t feeling well and I mentioned that I would like to have a referral to U of M and she sent an urgent referral right then. I really like my PCP. She takes care of business. She told me to call U of M if I hadn’t heard from them in 2 days. It has been 3 days, so I just called. My PCP’s office gave me the wrong number, so I ended up calling U of M’s Psych Emergency Department on accident, but they gave me the correct number. I’m lucky that I am functioning well right now because I have a strong aversion to making phone calls, and under circumstances in which I am very stressed or depressed, I avoid doing it altogether. Anyway, I called and they told me, without asking for any information regarding my urgent referral, that they “are full until June,” and that they are suggesting that people call back in mid-May to schedule for July. WHAT THE FUCK?! Sounds like they weren’t going to call me to let me know this, so it’s good that I called, but now I have to put this on my calendar for mid-May, hope that I am functioning enough to do it myself, and deal with scheduling an appointment at one of the busiest months of my year.  I’ll put it on my to-do list.

All of this runaround is difficult to manage on my own. I am lucky that I have an awesome PCP and a good support group. What challenges have you faced in getting mental health treatment or support? How did you overcome them?

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Dr. Copeland’s Concepts Essential to Self-Help

Concepts that are essential to self-help, according to Dr. Mary Ellen Copeland:

  1. There is hope. It is only when you feel and believe that you are fragile and out of control that you find it hard to move forward.
  2. It’s up to you to take responsibility for your own wellness.
  3. Education is a process that must accompany you on this journey.
  4. You must advocate for yourself to get what it is you want, need, and deserve.
  5. Support is essential.

Source: Copeland, M.E. (2002). The Depression Workbook: A Guide for Living with Depression and Manic Depression (2nd Ed.). Oakland: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

I wish that someone had told me these five things the very first time that I experienced symptoms of bipolar disorder. I kind of want to have them printed on a card that will fit in my wallet so that I can remind myself of these concepts when needed and even share this knowledge with others that may benefit from it. I was going to talk about which aspects I think are the most important, but they are equally crucial. What do you think? Is there anything that you would add to the list?

Holding My Breath

Picture a person in a scary movie who is hiding from a bad person. What do they do when that bad person is within very close range? They hold perfectly still, doing their best not to make a sound. They hold their breath. No movement.

Have you ever tried holding your breath when you are scared? That’s essentially what I do every time that I am afraid to make a move because of my mental illness. I’m doing it right now.

It is painful! But not in the same way as when you are actually scared for your life and forced to hold your breath for as long as possible and then slowly let it out because you can’t hold it anymore without passing out and now, instead of holding your breath in, you have to breathe as slowly, evenly, and shallowly as you can so that it is QUIET. It is the slow, even, shallow breathing that hurts. It hurts because your heart is pumping a million miles an hour, ready to fight or fly, but you are forcing your lungs to pretend like nothing is wrong. They want to suck in as much air as possible and propel you into victory, but you’ve chosen to make them do something that doesn’t feel natural to them.

For me, normal life is halted when I am severely depressed. If I make a decision, it is usually a bad one, so this is my coping mechanism. I become lethargic, with almost no interest in food or the activities that I usually enjoy. I cancel plans, push people away, skip showering, and more. I don’t like doing this to myself. It hurts me to see myself falling into these patterns. But I don’t know what to do differently. I am the scared victim in the movie, hiding from myself. Putting life on hold so that I can survive the next 30 seconds.

I’ve spent countless hours learning coping skills from therapists and self-help books. Some really helpful stuff, but my memory is awful and when things start to go sour, I can’t remember what to do to help myself. I’m 34. Maybe my memory sucks just because? Maybe it’s because of years of different psychiatric drugs? Maybe it’s due to past trauma? I don’t know why, but my memory sucks, which sucks.

Because I’m terrible at helping myself in these times of severe depression, I rely heavily on my husbeast and my mother for support. I become so tired that I fall asleep in the middle of the day and sleep for up to 6 hours. I wake up dazed, hungry, and thirsty, but can’t muster enough energy/willpower to walk myself to the kitchen to get food and drink, so I lay on the couch until my husbeast comes home. He finds me cold (I usually don’t have the foresight to grab a blanket) and starving. But food doesn’t sound good. We both know that I need to eat, but it’s difficult to do so when nothing sounds good.

I don’t like putting that burden on my support group. I see the toll that it takes. I fucking hate that sometimes I need to be rescued. Sometimes = multiple times per year, often for weeks at a time. I have always been the empath/caregiver, and don’t like being on the other side. I want to be able to take care of myself! I’m screwed if there’s ever a zombie apocalypse, WWIII, etc.

My condition affects other things like my part-time job, my small business, and my friendships too but I’ll write about that later. Not really sure where I am going with this, I guess this is a status update. I’m holding still. Doing my best to survive another hour. It hurts, but I’m doing okay. Today’s accomplishments:

  • eat (orange for breakfast, ramen for lunch)
  • drink water (only did 1 bottle, but better than none)
  • put on more than just a bathrobe (I did undies, sweats, and a t-shirt)
  • take care of something other than myself (baby chicks)
  • channeled bipolar energy to create art
  • nap
  • blog about feelings/progress/whatever this is about
  • avoided going to the hospital (keep telling myself one day at a time)

I hope that your day is going well.