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!