Tuesday, August 27, 2013

on finding a doctor

this post is  just me talking about finding a new doctor and about being nervous. some of it is a repeat of stuff i've written about before.

(and it is also a re-post from tumblr.  yes, i have a tumblr. i'm too old for tumblr and do not give a fuck!)

soooooo, years ago, when i was just a wee lass (22) i started having panic attacks.  i didn’t know they were panic attacks, because they just felt like i was dying what with all the dizziness, heart racing, sweaty badness that accompanied them.  i did, however, realize that these episodes happened as a result of certain stimuli, and so i got really compulsive about my schedule and life in an effort to avoid anything that made me feel “weird.”  i had a routine, i stuck with it, and when it was bumped off schedule (someone came over unannounced, the phone rang, the bus was late) it would kind of freak me out.  by “kind of” i mean, “totally.”

my mother works in mental health as a social worker.  i grew up aware of mental illness, knew people with various diagnoses, and never thought of mental illness as this weird shameful thing.  or at least, i never said that out loud. at the same time, it never once occurred me during this falling apart phase in my early twenties that i might have a mental illness.  i didn’t know anxiety was a thing, and the depression that came along with it seemed so dull compared to the franticness of the panic.  yes, i spent hours lying on the floor of my apartment alone weeping, but that was nothing compared to either feeling like i was having a heart attack or worrying i was going to have one.  one night it got so bad i called a suicide hotline, not because i wanted to die, but because i was so afraid and alone and the number was right there in the phone book. needless to say, they recommended i see a professional.

after that, i went to the nurse on campus and she diagnosed me with anxiety and OCD.  she had samples of paxil, and so i started taking them.  in fact, almost all of the paxil i took that first year was free, courtesy of GlaxoSmithKline.*  the first month was awful; i couldn’t eat anything because everything tasted bad, i was exhausted, and felt like i had been dipped in lead.  but i wasn’t freaking out all the time and i had stopped the incessant weeping.  in time i got used to the pills and while it was a dirty secret that i told hardly anyone about, i got through it.  my mom was incredibly supportive, and i remember calling her after i was diagnosed and crying about how relieved i was that it wasn’t all in my head, at the same time being mortified that it was mental illness.  anxiety and depression aren’t like having another biological disorder; do you know how many people tell me i just need to exercise more and eat better and get more sun and “stop worrying?”  no one tells a diabetic to just buck up or “jesus, why is your pancreas such a pussy?”  even if you think, intellectually, that mental illness is just a different kind of illness, having it and dealing with it reveal the biases we carry as people and a society.

i tried going off the paxil once.  i felt like i needed to peel my skin off.  i had a nervous breakdown that involved a lot of weeping in the shower while the mary tyler moore show played on repeat on my dvd player.  needless to say, i went back on.

lately, i feel the disconnect coming back.  i’m anxious and crying a lot, my body feels like a foreign agent out to get me, and when i get stuck on a “bad loop,” worrying about a thing to the exclusion of all other things, i can’t stop it.  i have thoughts that don’t pause, i get hung up on weird, minor things that no one else notices, i stay awake all night thinking about how it and berating myself for being so dumb/ugly/fat/worthless.  i cry at good things, i cry at bad things, i feel like i’m going to cry every second of the day.  i know what happens after this.  it’s not good.

i don’t have a shrink, and haven't had one in a long time.  the past six years i’ve gotten my paxil prescription from any doctor that will see me when i run out.  “medication management” hasn’t been my thing; i just maintain as best i can.  i know this time i need to find a specialist, that in addition to medical intervention, i need some good old-fashioned analysis.  to that end, i’ve been looking for a nice ARNP that specialized in psychiatry.  it’s taken me three weeks to find someone who will see me.  anxiety isn’t a popular thing to treat, and i think some practitioners write it off as drug-seeking (because truth be told, benzodiazepines are the shit).

what bothered me the most over the past few weeks is how hard it was for me, someone who works in health care, someone with a good grasp on what i need and who is seeking it out before i get to the incapacitated, can’t-go-to-work phase, had such a hard time finding a doctor.  i have a family who knows about what i’m going through (my husband and kids are fully in the loop, because i don’t want my kids growing up to think this is something they should be ashamed of), i have a good vocabulary and can express my needs, i have people who love and support and me, and because i’m not the “right kind” of mentally ill, or so sick that i need immediate intervention, i’ve been blown off by 60% of the mental health providers in a three town radius.  how fucked up is that? why do i have to be so sick and feel so bad that i can hardly manage daily living before anyone takes me seriously? how depressed is depressed enough? why do people i talk to for five minutes over the phone get to decide that?  it’s been an incredibly frustrating time for me.  i finally got a call from a nurse practitioner today who will see me next week.  the moral of my story is this: mental health care in the states is seriously fucked. 

*i could talk about the ssri conspiracy to get low-income people hooked on their drugs until the cows come home.  anyone who has ever taken an ssri for an extended period of time knows that you can’t just stop taking them.  they fuck your shit up.  in order to never go through that withdrawal again i’d punch a baby in the face.  it’s that bad.

1 comment:

Nimble said...

You are being a good self advocate. And yes it's amazing how we Americans who want medical care (including mental health care) have to hack our way through the underbrush to find resources.

Blessings and I hope you soon feel release from the weight you're carrying.