Tag Archives: Mental health

Girl, Interrupted

 

When you fill your time reading multiple books & watching many movies on the subject of loony bins, you run the risk of believing you belong locked inside one. Sometimes you have to be careful to pay attention to the line between reality & fiction. Granted, some of the stories I have read & watched are in fact based on true stories, which makes it that much more frightening in my anxiety & depression filled mind.
Recently, I have watched Girl, Interrupted repeatedly. If you ask me why, my answer would be one of uncertainty. It just feels like something I want & need in my life. I also love the story & the acting. What I love the most about the story though, is that it is adapted from the story of Susanna Kaysen. The more I read about her, the more fascinated I become with her. It took her into the 90’s to release Girl, Interrupted, even though the story actually happened in the late 60’s. That gives me a great deal of hope in regards to having my book published once I have it finished.
That’s the problem, isn’t it? My finishing it. I have given that a great deal of thought recently. What I have come up with is the fact that many of the stories I am reliving in the retelling were so painful the 1st time, I’m beginning to feel the same pain during the writing process. This is a contributing factor to my worsening depression. That being said, I will not stop writing. I will not give up my dream, even if I am aware that the cards are stacked against me. The literary world is not an easy one to break into these days.
I’m working on getting out of my way. It’s not easy, but if I’ve survived myself this long, I should be able to do anything!

 

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I’ve fallen & I can’t get up

Do you ever ask yourself how you happened to find yourself in a particular situation at some point during your life, good or bad? Of course you have, we all go through up s& downs, happy times & tragedies. It does seem, however, that some people are more prone to struggles, pain, sadness & failure, as if they are somehow cursed or followed by the proverbial dark cloud. That would be me.

As I type this, I find myself sitting on a bed with no frame, in the spare room of a wonderful & caring friend much younger than me, because I am once again homeless & hoping to start over. During the last 7 weeks I have found it difficult to do even the most basic of tasks, such as showering, brushing my teeth, changing my clothes, working my job or serious challenges such as finding the will to live another day. For the first time in my 42 years, I don’t care if I live or die. Considering the life I have led, the things I have endured, been witness to or caused myself, one would think that suicide had crossed my mind multiple times. The truth is, no matter how dark the skies, how difficult the challenge, until now, I always fought my way back up & started over again. But not this time. I don’t know if I have just finally hit the wall as far as having the strength to start over yet again or if this particular scenario & the outcome have damaged me deeper than any other period of failure in my life. I do know one thing….this time something has to change permanently, there is no alternative.

When I reach inside my memories, looking for a reason why I insist on living such a miserable, painful, mundane life; there are many signposts leading me to this exact moment.

But I keep running into the same answer….at the very back of my mind, locked behind layers of doors & brick walls, hanging on a wall….is a mirror. The reflection in the mirror is of me. I am the reason I have chosen to live this miserable, painful, mundane life.

Me!

Now what?

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Looney Binz ‘R Us

When I woke up that first morning at Gateway, after only a few hours of restless sleep, I could feel immediately this was a bad idea. The fear began to immediately kick in….What if I get stuck in here long-term? What if they only see in me what they want to see & not whats really going on with me? What if they dope me up so much I end up not even caring or fighting anymore?

As I lay on the cement twin bed they provided me with, roomed with three other women, I was alarmed by the sound of the food cart being dragged down the fluorescent lighted hall. That’s when really began to feel real to me & I started to take it all in a bit more. Seeing the other patients in their varying states of consciousness saddened & frightened me equally. They saddened me because just knowing that people are struggling so badly mentally, at all ages, only to find themselves in a locked mental ward, which is actually more like a minimum security prison than a mental hospital. This is where it got frightening…no freedom, locked doors, WAY too much down time & only a total of an hour outside a day. It’s no wonder there people get stuck in the system & have such a difficult time outside those locked doors. Needless to say, I did a lot of pacing, and not sleeping most of my time away like the rest of the patients.

To me they just seemed so defeated. As if they just gave up on fighting for sanity. It was as if they enjoyed being locked inside, unlike myself. It’s a personal nightmare of mine. I observed them in complete silence most of that first day. You never know when you may do or say the wrong thing & set one of these women off. I wasn’t in the mood for a confrontation. They knew I didn’t belong there, but wanted to believe that I did, or that they actually had a shot of what I still have the ability to achieve. Every time they asked me if I was leaving early, their next sentence would be….”that’s what they say to all of us”. Little did they know that I truly was in there over a mistake, a misunderstood statement. I think there was a lot of surprise floating around that place about how calm I stayed through it all. I’m not an idiot! If I start getting all demanding, angry or pushy, they could surely justify keeping me locked down for longer & I wasn’t having any of it.

There is something that I want to make very clear. I do not regret that I had this time to reflect on my life & see what it is exactly that I’m doing wrong. I watched everything, everyone…..I just had to. I have to make sure that I get my emotional & mental issues under control, so I don’t end up back in this place for a real reason.

After breakfast, which consisted of a 4oz container of milk, single serving bowl/cup of Cheerio’s & maybe some eggs & a bagel, I was shuffled off to my evaluation meetings with my case worker, therapist & eventually psychiatrist. It all happened very quickly, which I appreciated. Unfortunately, while they did all agree that I am not a danger to myself & don’t belong in that facility, they had to keep me one more night & release me the next morning.

There was no group therapy, no one-on-one therapy, nothing but med pass, sleep, meals  & a little outside time. No wonder they’re so depressed, these women. There was one in particular, who’s names I will not use. She was from England & had come to the states to look for her grown children, with whom she’d lost touch. In the end, before she was picked up by the cops, she was at the home of a certain celebrity, throwing rocks over the walls at the staff, insisting they let her in, because (in her mind) she was in a relationship with this man. It truly is sad, because she was a sweet little British woman.

Like I said, my interaction with the patients was limited. My friends inside were the staff. These were the people I could relate to & we spoke most of the time I was locked up before being sent  home via taxi, leaving me to later in the evening take the bus to Culver City to retrieve my car & drive back home.

I am still have bad withdrawal symptoms & that’s okay, I know I can get through it, at home, not in a locked mental ward.

I wish the staff & patients at Gateway much health & success. I won’t forget you, even though we only spent a short time together.

Tomorrows entry: After Care through Los Angeles County

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5150

For years, the first thing that came to mind when I heard or read that number was the album 5150 by Van Halen. I guess if I think about it, I have known for quite some time that this number stood for a 72 hour psych hold due to concern of people who may be a suicidal threat to themselves or a threat to others. What I can say is that I never thought I would associate it with myself or my life experience. That all changed last week.

I have sought medication treatment for my anxiety & personality problems for several years now. Sadly, of the four I have tried so far, not one has worked. They have, however, given me many not-so-fun side effects that include weight gain, loss of orgasm or even much interest in sex at all, dry mouth, insecurity & a certain amount of shame for even taking such drugs. The stigma of mental illness is something that I can not seem to reconcile myself with. I consider myself to be a highly intelligent, if not highly educated, person. Most roadblocks that have been thrown my way throughout my life I have easily been able to either jump over, walk around or just knock down as I walked through it. This is not the case with my struggle with anxiety. I have written extensively about my anxiety in the past, so I’m not gonna rehash it here. What I do want to focus on in this particular blog post is the results of adverse reactions to psychotropic drugs, the pain & suffering involved with weaning off of these drugs & strange situations one may find themselves in as a result of isolation, confusion & fear.

For the past year I have been taking Zoloft in an effort to curb my anxiety & panic issues. I believed for a while that this medication was helping me. Six weeks ago, I realized that with my situation in Los Angeles quickly deteriorating, something else was off, so I made a visit to a doctor I found on the internet. His determination, in a most non-medical term, was that I was suffering from the “Prozac Poop-Out” as he called it. His suggestion was for me to up my daily dose of Zoloft to 100mg from 50mg. To me, in the moment, that seemed justifiable. Not even considering the consequences, I agreed to this plan & began doubling my dose immediately. It didn’t take more than a day or so for me to notice the difference, the problems, the crippling fear, the severe mood swings. My rationale was to wait it out & see if once the higher dose got into my system, maybe the side effect symptoms would dissipate. Well, they didn’t. What happened next is something that I never would have been able to admit or ever write about until now. I have come to a certain peace within myself & an understanding that I have an issue, it is mental, but it is still, whether I like it or not, an illness.

Here is my 5150 experience~

I have always had a way of finding free or inexpensive services, especially when it comes to mental health services. I am very grateful for that ability. I also believe it has a lot to do with my strong need to be well. I will stop at nothing to get the very best out of the life I have been given a chance to live. I fight my illness, always have. I don’t like it one bit. Imagine if you can, loving something so completely that to be without out it causes you an ache to your very soul. This is how I feel about my desire & almost constant need to travel, either for work or for pleasure. Although, I admit, I haven’t been doing much pleasure traveling in quite some time. I haven’t left Los Angeles in six months now, which in itself is usually a sign that something is wrong. I don’t enjoy sitting around any one place for that long, without a break. Okay, I’m getting off track here, too much back story, not enough relevance.

After my experience with the doctor who doubled my Zoloft & then refused to see me when the side effect symptoms began taking over my life because I was unable to pay for the visit, I needed to dig deeper for help & it had to be immediate. Don’t you just love that? A doctor can alter your life, your mind & your ability to care for yourself with a medication, but they can’t be bothered to see you for an emergency follow up due to your inability to pay. Oh, how I love being American! When I ran into this roadblock, I scoured the internet for mental health services in the area & came up with Exodus Mental Health Urgent Care. It sounded perfect to me. Finally, a place where I can explain what is going on in my mind & they will help me make it better. YAY! My euphoria was short lived when the Nurse Practitioner informed me, after about an hour of being there, that she didn’t feel comfortable sending me home, as she thought I may harm myself. As she was saying these words she also informed me that this was to take place immediately. In that moment I was the property of Los Angeles County Mental Health Services for at least 72 hours, or so they thought!

I have never had a suicidal thought in my life. I have too much to live for, mainly me & my desire to have as many good years on this planet as I can. I refuse to allow my life to be one entirely made up of tragedy & failure. This is why I fight. This is why I get right back up every time I fall down. Needless to say, I was not too excited to hear those words coming out of Erins mouth. I admit that I made a terrible mistake during my conversation with her. In explaining the adverse side effects caused by the Zoloft, I explained something that was happening when I would go outside for a cigarette. I would just be standing there, on the balcony ledge, staring up at the beautiful Griffith Park Observatory & suddenly I would get these frightening thoughts that I was going to fall off the balcony & die. Never did I say jump or having a desire to jump. It was all based in fear. That statement is what caused me to be locked down. It is frustrating when someone takes your words out of context, especially when your freedom is at risk & your mental capacity is questioned like never before. I felt fear, frustration & at the same time complete defeat. Let me explain why I chose that word. I had given up control of my inner battle to the “professionals”. I figured “screw it, I’m not doing such a great job managing my anxiety symptoms, I’ll take the help being offered me”. I made a conscious choice to give in to the resources given to me. I was exhausted & could really use the help of a support system. Seeing that every member of my close knit support system is in Detroit, I needed to trust these strangers. It was not easy, but they gave me drugs to make sure it was much easier, as I slept away much of my first day locked down, before being transferred at 3am to Gateway Mental Hospital.  This was the second sign that things were not going the way I had hoped walking into that facility that morning.

I spent 18 hours of my initial lock down in a reclining LazyBoy chair, covered in a blanket, surrounded by severely mentally ill people, as well as homeless people who were in a bad way, needing to be fed, showered, given some meds & a comfy place to sleep for the night. It wasn’t frightening, though it was annoying at times. I guess I was more flattered than annoyed at the male nurse who hit on me during his ENTIRE 8 hour shift. I’m pretty sure that’s unethical, but it was flattering, so whatever. He gave me special privileges not given to the others, such as smoking more & for longer periods of time, where I would just lay on my back on the round table in their smoking courtyard, enjoying the warmth & the beauty of the sky above me. Does any of this sound like it’s coming from a woman who is a danger to herself? I digress…

I am guessing on my timeline, as this weaning off Zoloft, as well as the medications I still have in my system from lock down have clouded my short term memory a bit. It was around 2pm that I was given the Risperdal & Ativan. Needless to say, I was out for around 6 hours. There was no real explanation as to why I was taking the Risperdal, other than to say it was an Anti-Pyschotic (which I was then reassured I wasn’t….duh!) & helped to quiet irrational thoughts. Well, it certainly did it’s job! When I woke up after dark, there was an entirely new & not nearly as friendly group of staffers. The night people do not have the people skills that the day staff did & I was pretty troubled when I woke up to see all new people. The fact that they were unwilling to speak with me, except in short, snippy comments to anything I attempted to ask them. My only choice was to go back to sleep. They informed me that I was to be leaving soon for Gateway at 10pm. I was awakened at 3am & expected to just jump up, climb up on the ambulance gurney (that’s right, an ambulance ride, care of the county) & be strapped down for “safety”. I was really out of it, still a bit woozy from the drugs they gave me, the Zoloft side effects & having just been woken up to leave. It was a quiet & not too long ambulance ride across town. When I arrived at Gateway at 3:30am, I was expected to sit down for an intake meeting & answer all sorts of questions. It was annoying, exhausting, repetitive & the room literally smelled like shit. (I later learned that the staff restroom was out of order & that was where the smell was coming from) After all my belongings were inventoried & taken from me, dozens of papers being shoved in front of me for my signature without any explanation, it was after 4am & time for me to get a few hours sleep. I was shown to my room, where the other 3 women inhabiting it were obviously sleeping on their twin beds. The room was one of three in the ward. The other two rooms only had two beds & also came with their own bathrooms. I wasn’t so lucky, given the time of night I arrived….whatever, just let me sleep already, damn! As I lay down on the small bed that would be my home, it felt as though I was laying on a cold cement slab. Not only did they leave the ward chilly at all times, but we were only provided one small, thin blanket to cover us while we slept. I was told I could ask for another for more warmth the next morning. I still don’t understnad why that lady couldn’t just go get me one. It was a very uncomfortable few hours sleep & I was in for a different kind of awakening the following morning…..the patients.

Come back again tomorrow for the second part of this stories….Gateway Hospital (or as I like to call it now “Gated, Locked Down Looney Bin”)

For now….it’s time for me to sleep. The sleeping pill I was given by my new Psychiatrist is kicking in & I look forward to a full nights sleep for the first time in over a year.

Until the next installment, my friends…….<3

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19th Nervous Breakdown

As I write this, at 5:30am, just over 24 hours since my last post, it feels likes weeks already. The pain that has been lifted from my soul, my heart, my shoulders, my brain….it’s immeasurable. While I was typing yesterday, I felt hopeless & scared beyond anything that I have felt in years. I hate that feeling & was falsely under the impression that I had fought & won my battle with anxiety, panic & fear. Why do we do this? What it is that makes feel such shame for having a mental disorder? I have a dying kidney & I’ve never been ashamed of that. I’m just saying.

I have suffered both of these ailments all my life, but the anxiety is humiliating in my mind. I don’t openly share it with people. I actively hide it, in fact. I have so many stories of having anxiety or panic attack in social or public situations throughout my life that I could fill a book. I have left friends at concerts just because I felt if I didn’t I would die. I have hidden in bathrooms, so the people I was with wouldn’t see me freaking out. I’ve collapsed when my legs would give out on me. I used to go directly to the ER from the bar when I was young, for either problem, but as far as my friends were concerned, it was always about the kidney.

You know what just hit me? It seems as though being a drug addict or alcoholic is even more acceptable in our society today than mental issues are. That’s just bullshit! Oh & while I’m on the subject of drugs & addicts…Wait, let me preface this by saying that I have no animosity towards addicts. I love & have loved many….friends who have died, a lover who died, many family members who are either in recovery or still struggling. That being said, there is a phenomenon brewing these days, which on a very serious level, is justified. Benzodiazapines have become, as a recent doctor describes them, the devil. I can see the point, to an extent. While I am very against the over-use of prescribed drugs & even any use of some, I have found that one medication helps me feel more “normal” & capable of being a productive member of society. I have also tried quite a few anti-depressants to see if they can curb my sometimes crippling fright. I have found one of those that works & I am not necessarily ashamed that I take these meds, but I don’t advertise it. It’s because of the stigma attached to these drugs that keep me in silence, for the most part. Those people who are closest to me know of my struggles. Trust me, I tried for 35 years to curb the anxiety & panic without any drugs. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I did try using alcohol for several years when I was young, but that just made me act like an idiot, so I gave that up. I tried breathing, meditating, therapy…nothing made it stop, until I was prescribed, against my wishes, Xanax. I am both sorry I ever took that first one, knowing that I may never feel that calm & normal without medication again; and relieved, that there actually is a way to feel like a functioning human being.

What I really need is to find a way to accept my shortcomings. I deal with all my other ones, why is this one so difficult to just accept? Why is mental health such a taboo? Maybe I should look for a support group or something….

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Far Away Eyes

Have you ever looked deeply into your reflection in the mirror & seen a stranger staring back at you?

Well, this is the place I find myself in these days. I’m not exactly sure when it happened or how I missed the transition. Was it sudden? Or did it happen gradually? However it came about, it has scared me to my core. What I find myself allowing to happen to my life disgusts me in ways I can’t even find the correct words for. Tonight was the breaking point for me. Something has to change, NOW, because I can NOT do this! I will not lay around on my ever-expanding ass while I watch everything I worked tirelessly over the past 6 years fall further from my grasp. Suddenly I feel a sense of panic that I can’t shake, the likes of which I thought I overcame 4 years ago. I realize that when the plans I had when I moved to Los Angeles began to crumble, I could feel the confidence I had in myself slowly begin to chip away, as if I had an internal sledge-hammer & I was subconsciously tearing myself down from the inside. There is no way that I, with a little hindsight, blame this descent on the city or the inhabitants. I did this at first, because it’s always easier to blame your circumstances on other people or your environment. I am smarter than that & know it comes from within.

Why wasn’t I born with that genetic drive to succeed? How is it that I can be so naturally creative & talented, yet have no motivation or discipline to pursue my dreams. I really can’t stand that cliché’ “Chasing your dreams”. It’s not how I see things. I believe more in pursuing your passion, the need to create to feel vital, as if it is water & when you deprive yourself of that outlet, you die a little inside, until one day you wake up & find yourself feeling empty & broken. I am beyond angry with myself for being such a lazy, slacker slob.

Today I woke up & felt as if I had fallen asleep in a bed of wet cement, only to find myself feeling stuck & unable to move. By later in the evening the panic attacks I thought were long gone shook me so deeply that I was afraid I may die. I truly hate that feeling with every ounce of my being. A major problem with having this feeling now is that being new to this city, I have yet to find resources & a support system to turn to for help. I don’t know how to find a doctor or a therapist who will work on a sliding scale, because I have fallen so low that I am honestly destitute. I am days away from losing the apartment I feel blessed to have found 3 months ago. Everyone back in Detroit wants me to just pack up & drive back there, so I am surrounded by my built in support system. Yet there is this screaming voice inside of me that says doing that would be a HUGE mistake. Here I am, crippled by fear, unable to even force myself into the shower or to fold & put away my clean clothes that I finally washed yesterday after a month. If I don’t find some help TOMORROW, I don’t know what will happen.

Let me make this PERFECTLY clear, I am not now, nor have I ever been, suicidal. Too many years of my life sucked for me to just give up on it now. Besides, I couldn’t do that to the people who love me. It’s just a pathetic, cowardly way out of a bad situation & usually, if I stick it out long enough, things will turn around for the better. I just don’t think I can hold on without having a complete breakdown if I don’t find the help I need tomorrow. When I think about that last sentence, my level of panic begins to rise again. Since I don’t have health insurance, like so many people in our country, if I do have a breakdown I’ll end up in some disgusting, scary state mental hospital. That is a fate as bad as death to me.

My brain does not accept any of this. My logical side is bitch slapping my emotionally driven side. There is a huge war going on inside my brain as I type this. The main question being asked is “how could this be happening? I don’t get crippling depression, never have. Why this time? Why now?” I wish I knew the answer to even one of these questions. Damn it! I am wasting away & feel too overwhelmed to stop it on my own. It’s actually pretty amazing I even found the strength to type this out tonight, as I haven’t written in nearly two months, even though I think about doing so daily. That’s something at least, a positive sign. Now, here’s to hoping I can wake up in the real morning hours tomorrow & find some fucking help! I refuse to feel again what I felt tonight.

You know what the worst part is about where I find myself mentally at this moment? The fact that I can’t cry, nothing, not a drop. It is such a healthy release of pain & stress, yet much like sleep, it is starting to elude me again. I haven’t felt this lost since last year when Corey & my Grandfather passed in a 7 day period. At least that was justifiable. This is just unacceptable to me! If anyone is reading this & has some useful suggestions for me, I would greatly appreciate whatever you think may help.

Here’s to hoping that tomorrow is the first day on the road back to my happy & successful life!

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Dear Doctor

I recently spent a day in the local office of the Department Of Human Services, in which I wrote about the plight of the struggling “lower class” of American. I thought that was as bad as it gets, until yesterday.

Imagine yourself suffering a severe panic disorder most of your life, being unemployed & denied medical assistance from the state you live in, because they decided to “close enrollment for the adult program”. What do you do? Well, what I choose to do is use every resource I have to seek free services.

Before I left Detroit for Florida I had found a fairly decent place called Team Mental Health, who offer counseling, social work, community assistance & psychiatric services free of charge. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than no help at all & exactly what I needed at the time. I dealt with these people off & on for 3 years, even after I moved out of state, when I would make appointments while I was home visiting. Within the last year this particular office was open, they went through many changes, therapists & doctors quitting, you could just tell they were falling apart & wouldn’t be around much longer. To me it didn’t matter, as I had found a good all inclusive doctor in Florida & no longer needed them.

Then I moved back. I have already established that this was NOT the best decision I have made in recent times, but I’m here now, so there’s no need to dwell on it & I don’t have the funds to move out of state again. Once I got myself a bit settled in town again, I began making calls to this service I once used, only to find out that the office I was attending had in fact closed. They did leave forwarding phone numbers on their outgoing automated phone service & I began calling the office in Detroit, as it was close to school, which would be convenient for me. I called & called, but every time I would get someone on the phone, they didn’t seem to understand what I was asking for. I didn’t either, to be honest. All I knew is that I was a former patient in their Dearborn office & now wanted to start up with their office. This process took me 2 months, because that’s how long it took these people to understand me & tell me the proper steps I needed to take to start over again with them. This should have been my first hint that mine would NOT be a good experience in this new office, but being broke & in full on panic mode, I really had no other choice or options.

Finally & to my surprise, last week I was able to score an intake appointment yesterday at 11 am. I was so excited & had even asked them to call me the day before to remind me & confirm, as my memory has given me trouble lately because of the insomnia problem I’ve been having (I’m guessing, I really have no idea why my memory is getting weirdo on me). I remembered the day before yesterday that I had the appointment yesterday, but had not heard from their office, so in the afternoon I chose to call myself & check. They did confirm that I had the appointment the next morning…..sweet, I thought! I’m on my way to feeling better & more like me again. GREAT news!

I made sure to arrive 10 minutes early for the scheduled appointment, just in case. I think this is always a good idea. When I drove up & parked, I noticed that this place was PACKED! There were several people standing around outside smoking & when I walked through the door, it was just as busy in the waiting area. I signed in & took a seat. That was when I started to feel the panic kick in. I don’t know why, I just felt nervous & really uncomfortable, with the idea of having to explain my circumstances & situation to yet ANOTHER group of strangers, hoping beyond hope that they would be able & willing to help me once again, that they would actually see ME & believe in what I was telling them.

The only way to describe this place, as I sat there, having waited an hour & a half AFTER my scheduled appointment time to have the process started, is chaotic, crowded, unorganized & incredibly sad. As I sat in one of the two waiting rooms in this facility, I am surrounded by people as desperate, if not more so, than myself. There is also a group of men from an area court ordered halfway house who apparently spend the entirety of each Thursday in this facility. I learned a lot from these guys. I’ve already explained what an open, honest & social person I am, so I found myself talking to several of the men living in this halfway house. What I found out troubled & really pissed me off. This is a home where drug addicts & drug dealers share a living space. All of these people, I hope anyway, are doing all they can to find a better, healthier & happier life than the ones they are attempting to leave behind. I did feel a bit uncomfortable with all the attention I was getting throughout the day by these guys, but I was personally having such a bad day & the situation we found ourselves in together. I’m pretty sure that had it not been for the support of a few of these guys, I would have had a much bigger breakdown than I did. I just can’t believe our justice system is set up to force dealers & addicts to live together & this is an “alternative” to prison or county jail time. If the dealers aren’t changing their ways, then it makes it so much easier for the addicts to stay in their bad habits. What a broken system the state of Michigan has in place. I doubt there is a very high success rate at this particular halfway house, or any other that are run this way….but I wish the guys I spoke to all the best & hope they see that there is an honor in living a straight, legal life. I’ll see some of them there again, I’m sure & I appreciate their support on what was a terrible & humiliating day for me.

While outside, taking a cigarette break as an excuse to get out of that chaotic building, I talked to a couple guys from the group home in particular, who told me they were in the home for having been dealers. I don’t hide from anyone how I feel about drug addiction & dealers & I didn’t lie to these guys either. I told them both flat out that I believe they are suffering karmic law for having sold death to people. When you make a choice like that, to aid an addict in their slow, but certain (if they don’t seek treatment) death, then you bear a part of the responsibility for their situation. Sure, if you don’t offer then with the drugs they’re seeking, someone else will. You know what, let that someone else give them their drugs & hopefully they’ll get busted eventually as well. Every time  I hear of a drug dealer being busted, I smile. One less money hungry, heartless dealer of death on the streets. I know this sounds harsh, but when you spend the majority of your life in a city filled with drug addicts, some of whom are people you love, you develop a dislike towards dealers.

After an hour & a half of sitting around, going outside to smoke, talking to the other people left milling around the 2 waiting areas, I heard the girl at the desk ask who was there for intake. There was a woman & her brother who went up & started talking to her. Well, I jumped right up & ran to the desk in a flash, hoping to draw attention to the fact that my appointment time was 11 am & it was now 1:30. The woman said their computer system was down & that I wasn’t on the printed sheets of paper she kept looking at & I’m saying “look lady, I know I had an appointment at THIS office THIS morning at 11 am. I even called to confirm yesterday afternoon & I was told my appointment time was 11 am” At this point, the tears start again, because now I’m fearing I have spent all this time sitting in this insane place, wasted all the gas I had in my car only to be told they can’t find me on their pieces of paper? No, no, no…..this is NOT how this is gonna go down. There was NO way I was able to walk out of that building yesterday with a NEW appointment on ANOTHER day. I would have ended up in the closest emergency room suffering a massive & uncontrollable panic attack.

Seeing this in my eyes, the women at the desk went into high gear to get my rolling in their system, probably just to get me the hell out of the building, even though I wasn’t a nuisance, I was just very emotional. The process I had to go through yesterday, even if my appointment time HAD been met was gruelling. I had to first meet with an intake specialist, who takes a bunch of personal information, as well as employment information, medical questions, etc. The guy that I met with was just wonderful. He was warm & engaging, He was very sympathetic to my tearful outbursts & patient with me when I had to compose myself to start talking again. After seeing the intake specialist, I had to meet with a social worker to do their intake. Every “consumer” (that’s what they call their patients) has a social worker, for help within the community….help with food, medical, employment, living, clothing assistance if & when needed. I sat with another very nice & understanding guy, who despite continuously being called away from me, stayed very focused & asked me yet another group of questions, all to add to my new chart that would be given to the doctor later.

It was getting later in the afternoon by the time I finished with the social worker, but I found out that I would be seeing the doctor that day & I was SO relieved….at that time. I went for another smoke, came back in & stood up against a pole, as most of the seats were being occupied by the halfway house guys. Interesting that not a single one of them got up to offer a lady their seat, but can I really expect chivalry from guys in their situation. I could, but it wasn’t happening yesterday. I had another conversation with an older gentleman from the halfway house, who while he was extremely nice & I actually enjoyed talking to him, insisted on repeating over & over again that he wasn’t trying to pick me up, even though he found me to be very attractive. Had he not kept saying this to me, our conversation would have been much more comfortable & interesting to maintain.

While I stood in the waiting area (which was really just a very large open room with several tables surrounded by chairs) a peer specialist, or something like that, came up & asked to speak to me. We sat down & started having a conversation. Apparently, it’s his job to talk to the “consumers” & see what type of things they need help with. He ended up being very cool & while his name escapes me, offered to try & get me hooked up with the people who run production at the two local large concert theaters downtown. That’s a great little networking connection for me & completely unexpected.

It was almost 4 pm exactly when they called my name to see the doctor. I had now been in this building since 10:45 am & had not had anything to eat the entire time, while my stress level continued to rise. I was ushered into the office where the devil in the cream suit was seated. I wish I could have taken a picture to post on here, so you could get an idea of how cold & separated it felt to me. There was a memo in large print clearly taped to the front of the devil/doctor’s desk stating “DO NOT MOVE CHAIRS CLOSER TO DESK, THANK YOU”

WOW! Ok, I won’t, but man, the amount of distance between the desk & the chairs was a good 10 feet. These were no comfortable easy chairs or nice living room chairs. These were the same uncomfortable chairs littering the waiting area outside this door. I first chose to sit in the chair with the arm rests, for obvious reasons, but after sitting there for about 3 completely silent minutes, I realized I couldn’t even see the devil, I mean doctor’s face, so I moved to the other chair, so I could look at the man I was speaking to, or thought I’d actually be speaking to. Let me explain.

This is literally, without any exaggeration, the way our conversation went down.

Doc: “Why are you hear? What have you been diagnosed with?”

Me: “Panic Disorder”

Doc: “I DO NOT PRESCRIBE ANY BENZOS, I DON’T BELIEVE IN IT!”

Me: “Um, ok…..well, can I ask why you don’t prescribe them, by chance?”

Doc: “I DON’T HAVE TO EXPLAIN MYSELF TO YOU!”

Me: “Ok, well, I’m sorry I asked. I just don’t understand why you had to say this to me when I hadn’t even asked you for medication, nor had I even had a chance to utter an entire sentence to you.”

Doc: “Do you have any allergies?”

Me: “Yeah, to Bactrim, but that’s an antibiotic & I doubt you’ll be needing to prescribe that to me (attempting humor)”

Doc: “I AM A PHYSICIAN & I DON’T APPRECIATE YOU INSULTING MY INTELLIGENCE LIKE THAT!”

Me: “I’m sorry, what? I wasn’t trying to insult your intelligence, I was try to make a…”

Doc: “WELL, YOU DID!”

This is the moment I shut down. When the man showed zero interest in me or what I had to say, I had decided I would NOT be seeing him again! How dare he call himself a physician when he barely bothered to raise his eyes from his computer screen to look at me, unless he was scolding or judging me. It took EVERY bit of strength within me to keep from reacting to him, knowing that if I did, he would see this as a sign of aggression & try to spin that into some sort of depression/bipolar thing & I am NOT about to be misdiagnosed one more time in my life!

Let me explain, as a side note, what I’ve learned from living with Panic Disorder & ADD my entire life. I am KEENLY aware of my body. I know every little aspect of how it works, I know every little bad feeling, what it means, where it comes from & how to deal with it. I also know my disorders. I have done extensive research, trying to find out what was so wrong with me for so many years. I have studied clinical depression. I have studied bipolar disorder. I know that ADD with Panic Disorder presents very similar to bipolar, the OBVIOUS difference is in the mood swings. I do not, nor have I ever, had extreme mood swings, with times of extreme mania & times of extreme depression.

So, I kinda just kept my mouth shut & my answers to his benign questions were brief. This is when the tears started again. I was crying out of frustration for having to keep my thoughts inside while this man continued to belittle me & make me feel horrible. Once I started crying, the devil, I mean doctor, said “You seem to have some depression”.

I answered as calmly as I could & with the least amount of sarcasm possible. (which can be QUITE difficult for me at times) This is what I said to his mention of me seeming depressed.

Me: “You know what, you’re right, I am feeling pretty depressed right now. A friend of mine just passed away last month, as well as another 6 months ago & too many to mention to you in the past 6 years.  I received a denial letter from Medicaid yesterday, I haven’t been able to collect on my unemployment for the past 4 months, due to a glitch in the system, I’m flat broke, had to give up (hopefully temporarily) the dream I moved back up here for. I miss my job, I miss the traveling, I miss being financially comfortable & successful. I haven’t had a decent nights sleep in over 7 weeks. My memory seems to be fading. I’m exhausted, so yes, you could say I’m feeling a little depressed.”

That was basically the end of our big 15 minute “psychiatric evaluation”. I would lay somebody to see what this man wrote about me. The craziest thing about this interaction, in my mind, is that the man ended up prescribing me a benzo for the panic anyway, after his making a point of letting me know he didn’t prescribe them. I DO NOT appreciate being stereotyped & that is EXACTLY what that man did when he looked at me & I told him what my issue was. Talk about confusing, hurtful & unnecessary!

After I escaped the office of the devil himself, I was escorted back to the other side of the building, to meet & speak with my therapist for the first time. She was a very nice girl who listened to me while I went on for nearly an hour about how terrible my experience with the doctor was, how all I wanted to do was get back to myself & coming here was difficult & humiliating enough, without the added cruelty of this doctor. She was very gracious & seemed genuinely surprised that the doctor had acted that way. We decided together that from now on, I would go on a different day, when the other doctor was there, to see if that would be a better fit for me.

When I finally left the building it was 5:45 pm. I felt completely emotionally & physically exhausted. I was starving, but too upset to eat. I felt as if I had taken even more steps backward, rather than a step forward in the right direction. I felt hurt.

Needless to say, I will continue to attend this office & continue seeking services there. I have no other options. I need help in getting my panic & anxiety back in check, so I can regain my motivation & confidence. I can only hope the other doctor is at least a bit more sympathetic to me, or at least willing to take 5 minutes to just talk to & get to know me. We’ll see.

Thursday was my first & last meeting with the devil in the cream colored suit & fancy cuff links.

I am hoping my ascent from hell will be quick & without too much extra suffering, here’s to hoping anyway!

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