Tag Archives: generalized anxiety disorder

Good Boundaries Make Good Neighbors

If there is one thing I could say is my least favorite thing about living in the city (and that is putting it mildly) it would be living in an apartment building.

To say that sharing walls with other people is enough of an inconvenience for me that it blows past trying to avoid stepping on used needles, people entering and exiting the bus without any concept of keeping other people from being on time, and parades for “most annoying city thing” might be something of an indication that my real problem is this; the people thing.

No, people on the streets in Seattle aren’t nice. They call it the “Seattle freeze,” people here will honestly just pretend you don’t exist when it is convenient for them to do so. Even worse is that these folks, when snuggled into their apartments at the end of the day, seem to also believe that whatever happens in the walls of their little unit has no effect on anyone else -and why should it? This is my home.

This is not something I can pass off like a torch and say, “ah, well, this weird and overwhelming rude-neighbor-noise-problem has nothing to do with me!” I know very well that it does.

You see, most of the time I have a very hard time asserting myself. I realize that might sound odd to anyone who knows me because I tend to have a bit of a controlling reputation, but it is true. I really struggle in situations where I feel like my boundaries are being violated and I need to stand up for myself.

Part of the problem is that I don’t really know how to assert the boundary in the first place, especially with a neighbor. So when my neighbor spends two or three weeks encouraging their children to scream as loud as they can over and over again and I do nothing (“just ignore it,” right?) a precedent has been established; screaming all day and all night is ok.

At my last apartment, that was my method… and not because I have a great time ignoring horrible sounds, oh no. In fact, I am pretty sure I don’t have access to that part of my brain, or it broke, or never quite grew in. This is especially true with repetitive noises, nothing will make me psychotic faster than a repetitive sound that I cannot avoid.

At the same time, I was terrified of what might happen if I did say something. If I waited to reach out to my neighbor when I was already agitated from the noise, wasn’t there a risk I might have a panic attack at their door or, even worse, snap at them? What if the psychosis brought on a moment where I couldn’t control myself? What if I acted like such an asshole it made things worse? What if they called the police on me for not making sense and seeming threatening?

Ultimately, no matter where I tried to go with this, the final result seemed thus; no matter what I do, pissing off my neighbor could be the biggest mistake I could make. An angry neighbor can make your life hell. 

The truly funny part was that right before I moved some gentleman went to some of my neighbors and asked them about me. I figured that since I hadn’t ever approached any of them, their responses would probably be neutral.

Nope.

The responses they got were overwhelmingly negative. I was a hermit. I was cold. I was rude. I was constantly on autopilot.

And while these things are probably true (because I was always pissed off at those people for making stupid amounts of noise) it became clear that avoiding confrontation was not making people like me. In fact, they probably liked me about as little as I expected they would if I had said something to them about the noise!

One of the things I really took away for my hospitalization a couple weeks ago is that I need to work harder at being assertive and setting up boundaries with people. Again, this is something that is pretty easy to put on the list, but following through with it can seem like a daunting task.

My first day back from the hospital I approached neighbor-with-screaming-kids (I call him the butcher since it constantly sounds like he is murdering children two doors away -I dare say I would be more nervous if the kids didn’t seem to keep multiplying or answering the door grinning) when I couldn’t rest because (you guessed it) his kids were screaming.

Though he seemed somewhat incredulous that seven blood curdling screams happening simultaneously could be heard in my apartment (really?) he kept the kids quiet for a good 12 hours before the screaming started up again.

Last night I had a panic attack while trying to eat dinner because I could hear an adult over there encouraging the kids to scream louder. This unit is not next door to me, it is on the other side of the building! So, for a second time I approached my neighbor, this time with the blank pallor and the uncontrollable twitching that accompanies a panic attack. After he smiled and laughed a little a six inch Bugs Bunny sporting a pink beret, a shaggy pink sweater, and a green pencil skirt appeared on my shoulder,

“And of course you know this means war!”

Maybe my neighbor doesn’t like me, but chances are he probably wouldn’t have liked me anyway.

I’ve made the first step in establishing a boundary. Screaming at that level = inappropriate. Having established this idea with my neighbor, I feel much more relaxed about calling my building manager or the police if (or when) the screaming starts up again.

There are often times in my experience with bipolar disorder where it feels like I’ve suddenly woken up. They don’t last long anymore, but when it happens I look around me and see how much of my life has been reduced to nothing… then I spend the better part of the next few days trying to set something up again. Just enough that the ball will keep rolling without me pushing it every few feet. Practicing being assertive and setting boundaries (um, no, pizza with no sauce is not pizza!) while I briefly have the frame of mind to do so will hopefully help it stick when I don’t.

A Missed Dose

In the last 28 years I have not skipped or missed a dose of medication.

Wednesday night as I huddled in the ER (for the second time in two weeks) the team of doctors and nurses surrounding me looked started as I told them this fact. I guess it never occurred to me that this might be unusual in any way, but in an emergency room where they’re relatively used to patients with mental illness suddenly stopping their medication and sailing into big episodes that might be landing them there… well, I quickly felt that the staff probably did not believe me.

It is true, though. And while most people would try to praise this as an act of good self control or healthy living I fear that the truth is actually somewhere in the realm of the opposite.

You see… when I was 17 I was taking an antidepressant that (little did I know) was slowly dissolving any semblance of sanity I had left at the time. Despite the fact that it was making me worse and worse, I took it religiously. At the time I was being treated for obsessive compulsive disorder, and frankly there were many things in my life that I needed to do religiously or I firmly believed I would die very suddenly.

I have always been the sort of person that once a routine has been established I have a very very hard time deviating from that routine, even when it is harming me. For the last several months, for example, I have eaten one large fried egg over medium and a slice of buttermilk toast for breakfast every day (at least, every day that I could eat). There are times when I struggle with the notion that I probably shouldn’t eat so many eggs (hello cholesterol), but the best I can do when I feel really ballsy is switch out the buttermilk toast for an english muffin. Not eating this breakfast is… well… wrong.

Anyway, at 17, taking said antidepressant religiously and spiraling into a very dark, weird place I was quickly in an psychiatric inpatient hospitalization situation. Within 24 hours I became outrageously ill, and I’m talking the most ill I had ever felt in my life up to (and even after) that point. Eight hours of uncontrollable vomiting and dry-heaving, and dizziness to the point of being unable to even dress myself.

This also happened to be the time when one of the nurses decided to display an abuse of power, laughing at my sudden illness, yelling at me, accusing me of having an eating disorder, and refusing to help me for several hours. By the time I was able to deduce that I was having withdrawals from my usual medication regimen, the damage was already done, and the fear this experience had instilled in me took root very firmly.

I could not and would not ever stop taking any medication suddenly for any reason again if it was in my power, and the paranoia and fear that manifested from this situation has often swung me into the danger zone in the opposite direction. What I mean is that while I don’t feel compelled to stop taking my medication suddenly (or act cavalier about keeping up with taking it), I have become even more obsessive and paranoid about taking these pills. To top it off, I’ve had many instances of not being able to remember if I took them or not, and then accidentally taking them several times over just in case I had forgotten.

Realistically this doesn’t provide a much more safe environment, and suffice it to say that withdrawal of many drugs is probably extremely preferable to overdose.

I had been feeling really rough on wednesday, a lot of the dizziness and nausea from the week previous had returned. By the time I took my dosage of lithium for the night, I vomited it back up in a matter of minutes.

Though I had already been advised earlier in the day to go to the ER by my doctor to receive intervenes nausea medication and fluids, it wasn’t until the panic of suddenly being lithium free for the first night in four years set in that I was heading straight for the hospital. I was certain that if I didn’t feel horribly sick already (and I did) I was headed for a night of fire and brimstone.

By the time I got to the ER I was hitting patches of uncontrollable crying. I was terrified, and even though the seasoned internet sage reported I would likely only experience mental and mood symptoms from the missed dose, the way my body reacts to medications (or lack thereof) has been significantly different than the norm in almost every situation. I had no way to know what might happen next.

So the doctors dealt with the nausea and the fluids, and when I brought the idea of “missing” (or losing, rather) my lithium dose that night the doctor instinctively told me to take it again when I got home.

Now, given my history, this is something I had already considered myself. However, I had been pretty dehydrated for a week or so and I was concerned because dehydration can lead to lithium toxicity. When I said this to the doctor, I also mentioned that I have already experienced lithium toxicity before and wouldn’t like to do it again. His conclusion was that they would check my lithium levels in the blood they had already taken earlier when I checked in.

Thirty minutes later he walked into my room and commented that my lithium levels were a bit higher than he expected. He advised I wait until the next night to continue with my lithium.

Among the papers I was given when I headed home for the night was the lab report that included my lithium level. It was nearly twice my regular level.

When I read that I was immediately glad I had gone to the ER and not just taken the lithium again. If I had, I would have undoubtedly experienced lithium toxicity, as I was nearly there already. For the first time I felt grateful for having vomited… and I can’t help but feel slightly mystified at the possibility that my body was rejecting the excess lithium all on its own.

I am now back on track with my medications and working with a GI specialist to try to pinpoint the source of my stomach issues. It is a little funny how not eating can make eating something as basic as plain white rice taste amazing!

Is Lactose Free the Way to Be?

I’ve been conducting a few small experiments and it seems the combination of seroquel and stress/anxiety has rendered me temporarily lactose intolerant.

Thankfully this is something I recognize to be temporary because it has happened before several times. Living with IBS and intense and constant anxiety has often meant that the smallest thing (whether that be stress or chemical) can throw my body completely out of whack. It has happened with stressful jobs I’ve had, antibiotics I’ve taken, medication I’ve tried for acid reflux (which is a little ironic), and as a kid the simple joy or excitement of staying the night at a friend’s house could set it off.

I didn’t understand the connection until I was in my early twenties and in a high-stress job in the fashion industry. I found myself getting exponentially more ill as the job progressed, and when I went to see a doctor (who was by no means a specialist) I was told (without any tests being administered) that I must be gluten intolerant. That diagnosis was all the rage at the time.

I was mortified, because if there is anything I love more than cheese (and it feels a little blasphemous to say this because of how much I love cheese) it is a well crafted donut or beautiful fatty-fat slice of homemade bread.

After nine months of adhering to a strict gluten free diet (and expelling a LOT of tears about having to part ways with most of my favorite foods) it was clear the diet wasn’t helping. I skipped the first doctor and went straight to a specialist, who told me within three minutes of entering his office that I wasn’t gluten intolerant at all.

I left his office and immediately found myself a maple bar straight away.

It appeared at the time that my problem was actually lactose intolerance, but within three months of quitting the high-stress job I had no problems with eating dairy anymore.

Even though this isn’t really new to me, it can be both frustrating and inconvenient to avoid certain foods (especially when they are already in my fridge).

I’ve discovered that many times I can kind of see the problem coming because the first indicator I’ve noticed that something is wrong is that I will suddenly be unable to tolerate caffeine. While I don’t drink much of it (I usually treat myself with a cup of tea here and there) I find that once caffeine begins to wreak havoc on my digestive system, other problems are not far behind.

As I’ve mentioned, this also makes things challenging when trying medications. There have been a handful of psychiatric drugs that I’ve tried that have completely disrupted my digestive system, and unfortunately it appears that seroquel is one of them. At this point I am still taking 25 mg, but I don’t expect things to remain that way for long once I meet with my gastroenterologist.

While cutting down the seroquel from 50 mg to 25 mg did improve a lot of the pain I was experiencing, the other aspects of the digestive problems seem just as prevalent as before. -And even at 25 mg I haven’t felt hungry in six weeks.

The only reason I am waiting to contact my psychiatrist about cutting it out completely is that there may be something the gastroenterologist can do. However, if the only suggestions she has are to put me on one of the drugs that has already had a similar effect on my stomach the decision to eliminate seroquel completely is an easy one.

Though I do also realize that stress is a contributing factor in this situation, having somewhat settled in to my new apartment has helped my external stress level go down a bit. Even though the stress I have been feeling has been reduced slightly, my digestive problems have been getting worse… leaving seroquel to take most of the heat as the culprit here.

I think one of the big factors that people forget about when it comes to treating psychiatric disorders is the fact that many people have other medical conditions that can make them good or bad candidates for certain types of treatment or medications. It is a part of the puzzle regarding why one treatment doesn’t fit all, and I believe it is an element often overlooked when addressing that topic.

Viewing the Past Through Someone Else’s Eyes

While I’ve met many people who have had symptoms of mood or anxiety disorders appear in their 30’s or 40’s or 50’s and can only imagine how jarring the result must have been, I find myself at the other end of the spectrum.

Many of my childhood memories involve big emotional explosions (good and bad) and frankly, the anxiety I feel today spans back to as far back as I can remember.

Though my emotional journey has been somewhat complicated, it seemed to me (as an adult) that my experiences with anxiety haven’t been. The anxiety is something that has always been there, but for a long time I didn’t see it. The feelings I had were typical for me (for lack of a better word), I really didn’t know anything different.

I think the difficulty in this route (vs the sudden, immediate cresting of symptoms later in life) is that the realizations I have had about the depth of my anxiety have happened slowly over time. There was no one moment where everything became clear, it has been more like a trail of discoveries.

Discovering, for example, that I have been having panic attacks since I was in 5th grade and I didn’t know it (because it was something that just became part of my life).

Or discovering that my unruly digestive tract and IBS is related to the anxiety I have always experienced.

This time, a few weeks ago, I was cleaning up some papers before moving and found a note written to me by my boyfriend my sophomore year in high school. The note was one of distress, and he said I was acting completely different at school than I did when we were hanging out otherwise. Apparently in the setting of school, I could hardly speak to him, let alone do things like typical teenager hand-holding in public.

Though I don’t remember any of this taking place, I admit I was a little shocked when I read about it. What I do remember was that this boy’s interest in me finally detached the creepy tentacles of the teacher who had been sexually harassing me for the last two years, and for that I felt an incredible weight lifted off my shoulders.

Apparently even without that weight, my social anxiety was practically paralyzing. I admit, I don’t remember feeling terribly anxious about school, but based on that letter (and others) everything I did and felt was within the realm of what I already knew: a world based on anxiety.

It isn’t very often I find things like this that can lend such a different perspective on the past, but when I do I am thankful they can give a little insight about things that took place (and the status of my mental health at the time).

Anxiety; The Emotional Loner

When I told my therapist last week I wasn’t feeling any emotions (only anxiety) I was shocked at his response.

“Anxiety is an emotion,” he said, “it is an emotion based on fear.”

I don’t know what was more shocking, his response, or the fact that I was shocked by it!

I guess in my experience, anxiety has never been a member in my usual emotional club. This might have something to do with the fact that I have bipolar disorder, though it might have more to do with the fact that I also have generalized anxiety disorder.

Er… let me explain.

Because I have bipolar disorder, my moods are very erratic. They aren’t typically logical, but they can be reactive at times. I’ve been tracking my moods for three years now and they jerk around all over the place.

And then there’s anxiety.

My feelings of anxiety don’t follow the other emotions, or the other types of responses I have due to bipolar disorder. On the contrary, I’ve been tracking my anxiety levels for three years as well and they most often have nothing to do with my other mood swings.

While the bipolar mood swings will build up and die down (for me somewhat rapidly) my anxiety level almost always remains relatively constant (minus panic attacks). It has for as long as I can consciously remember.

Sure, it will get worse if something stressful is going down, but even when something stressful isn’t going down, or something fun is going down, it is there. It is like a feisty leprechaun inside my chest who holds onto my spine, takes a deep breath, and then holds it to take up as much space in there as possible.

Most of my anxiety these days is almost purely physical, I’ve learned to cope with the serious quantities of dread I’ve felt every day since childhood (or, at least, I thought I did). I think this is another reason why I haven’t been considering it an emotion, because it feels much more physical these days.

On top of that, I’m sure the fact that all my other huge emotions have been overshadowing any emotional aspect of anxiety for a while now. Like I said, it pops up every once in a while (that dread) but for the most part, I’m too busy feeling depressed, or elated, or a horrible mixture of the two to notice it.

I know that this “overshadowing” of emotion put on by bipolar disorder is another reason why when all of my emotions (except anxiety) disappeared last week (we are still looking into why that happened, you can expect more on that odd situation later) I quickly felt like that little leprechaun was working overtime.  There was nothing to dampen his smug little escapades.

Ultimately, the concept of not feeling my typical barrage of emotions made me… well, anxious. It didn’t matter much, considering that anxiety was already present. Still, I wanted to demand my therapist explain to me why that emotion remained when all the rest (many of which I typically enjoy) were gone.

The answer?

Still a mystery, but I feel like I am getting closer to figuring it out every day. We still need to run more tests, I need to take more notes, and though my other emotions are returning (sporadically) I feel totally confounded by the whole situation.

Have I ever felt nothing except anxiety before?

If I have it has been too long for me to be able to recognize the feeling, since childhood, perhaps… probably more specifically before the 6th grade. Even then, most of my anxious memories are littered with anger. A substantially pissed off kid, angry for not knowing why I felt so afraid all the time.

“At 28 you think you’ve felt every emotion there is? You don’t think there are any you haven’t experienced?”

My therapist brought up a good point. I have gotten used to feeling so many emotions that it can be easy to feel like there couldn’t possibly be any beyond the ridiculousness I’ve experienced. I’m sure that isn’t true though, heck just last year I had a manic episode unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before, and found myself in the same kind of uncharted territory two weeks ago.

I guess I find the notion of unlimited emotional possibilities a bit tiresome… frankly it can be very difficult with the ones I’ve already got.

At any rate, once I know more I’ll share it. This whole thing has been a big learning experience, and while it can be rather disconcerting getting thrown a curveball I am someone who is always eager to learn something new. I can’t say this is the way I wanted to learn it, but it is too late to look back now.

Insensitive Conversation Triggering Bipolar Episodes

When I think of the things that trigger bipolar episodes for me, the initial things that come to mind are physical pain (like headaches or having the flu), graphic violence on tv and in movies, and music (usually the slow, sad, self-reflective song can put me into a state of depression almost immediately).

What I consider less frequently is conversation, particularly insensitive conversation, because I have systematically rid myself of most of the people in my life who continuously made insensitive comments.

Now, as someone who has been living with bipolar disorder for over ten years, I know that at the heart of it, I am an incredibly sensitive person. Given that fact, it seems fitting that my kryptonite, the person who can send me into an episode in a matter of seconds, is just the opposite; the insensitive person.

What baffles me about the many people I have known who have been insensitive is that most of them don’t know they are acting that way. For this reason I’ve often given these folks the benefit of the doubt (despite wondering why they don’t seem to pick up on the fact that I am enraged or in tears after whatever comments they have made) and allowed them to continuously hurt me by triggering episodes over and over and over again. Thankfully as I’ve gotten older, I’ve cut most of these people out of my life entirely.

As someone who spends most of my time trying to avoid becoming upset or upsetting the people around me, it is incredibly frustrating to me that there are so many people out there who don’t pay any mind to what they say or how what they say affects others.

I want to clarify that I am not suggesting everyone dumb-down their conversation for people with bipolar disorder, but I think there are ways to bring up sensitive topics without doing so in a triggering way. Chiefly, I think supportive, positive talk is key… but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Most of the time I am triggered in conversation it is because the person I’m talking to seems to be pointing out very intense, true fears I have about my life (but not in a gentle or supportive way).

For example, I was meeting up with an old friend for lunch who I hadn’t seen in over a year. I was feeling pretty nervous about having put on some weight, and the second thing out of my friend’s mouth (well, ex-friend now) was, “wow, you’ve really put on some weight!”

I’ve also found myself in uncomfortable positions where people have gone on to me at length about buying big expensive toys for themselves when they knew I was homeless and couldn’t afford to feed myself.

Beyond the fact that any human being might be distressed (or even just flat out offended) by such remarks, people with bipolar disorder often have exaggerated emotional responses to things that shock or upset them. In conversation you might find that, having triggered this response, the result might be like flipping on a light switch and the “on” phase of the switch is accompanied with tears, a sudden silence in conversation, or intense hostility or agitation.

Having bipolar disorder often feels like actively playing a game of Jenga, with every new experience each day we’re having to re-balance ourselves to keep from toppling over. It takes a lot of time and patience, and when someone comes in and can make one comment that smashes everything we’ve built… well, the emotional tidal wave that follows makes it incredibly difficult (for me) to rationally be able to stop and say, “well old chap, it seems that wasn’t a nice thing to say. Care to change the subject?” While I realize a lot of people seem to act this way because they aren’t aware they’re doing it, I have had a very difficult time pointing my frustrations out to them without also, you know… eating them alive.

Here’s the thing about bipolar relationships: it takes two. No matter how hard the person with bipolar disorder is working cognitively (plus therapy and taking medication) we still need the people in our lives to act like civilized human beings who take an interest in how their words and actions affect those around them! If the people you talk to seem to get extremely upset when you do, consider that you might be half of the problem. Sensitive people are sensitive, but I can easily have active conversations with myriads of people who do not elicit the same response as someone who is acting insensitively.

The insensitive person’s response when I am triggered by a comment makes a big difference in how the next few minutes (or weeks, if it is a bad episode) unfold as well. I’ve known some people who can immediately detect my change in mood when this happens and while one or two have said something about it (even a simple, “maybe that didn’t come out right,” is enough to help me feel like the person didn’t mean to upset me) it seems more often the person just ends the conversationTo me, this is the worst case scenario, because it seems like these people recognize they’ve hurt my feelings but don’t have any intention of apologizing or acknowledging it to my face. If I am thrust into an episode of depression because of one of these situations, the scenario where I feel abandoned and like the person talking to me doesn’t care about what just happened will be much worse, and I will often be stuck… fixating on what happened for days, if not weeks.

What does that tell you? Just say something. If you’ve stumbled into a place in conversation where you’ve upset the other person, apologize. You don’t need to apologize for your point of view, or even for what you said, but if you care about that person and feel bad about upsetting them… say so! All it takes is one, “I’m sorry I upset you,” to help diffuse the situation.

For the record, here are a few topics that are generally considered triggering for me (if you find you are easily triggered, skip past the bullet points):

  • Violence, that includes being on the receiving end of violence or an instigator
  • Rape (unless we are talking about Game of Thrones and even then, this can only be mentioned as a passing remark), definitely no rape jokes.
  • Animal cruelty
  • Suicide
  • Self harm
  • Sexual harassment
  • Bullying
  • Abuse
  • People’s weight, my weight, or people telling me how to lose weight
  • People telling me what and how to eat
  • Money, or all of the expensive things you are excited about buying. I can usually give people a pass on this once or twice, but it is difficult for me to hear this (particularly from my family) when I am struggling financially. This is a tricky subject, because though I am generally interested in what people are spending money on to enjoy their lives, it also is a continuous reminder to me that I do not have those things.

I would say (as a general rule for conversing with me) if I’ve told you that I am stressed or worried about something, don’t go on to describe the worst case scenario to me! The thing is, I’ve already thought about it a dozen times or more, and I am having a conversation about it to be reassured by someone, and to stop feeling so stressed out about it.

The key to having a conversation with someone who is sensitive is to couple up feelings with words. Consider your own feelings as a model. If you’re about to say to someone, “wow it looks like you’ve gained some weight,” consider how it would feel if someone said that to you. Would you be happy that they noticed and brought it up, or would you feel self conscious? Chances are, if you say that to someone else, they will ALSO feel self conscious!

If someone tells you, “I am really stressed out about starting my new job,” don’t exacerbate the situation. If you know (based on what this person has told you before) that they left their old job because their old boss was really horrible, perhaps skip the part where you mention, “yeah, I hope your new boss doesn’t suck too.”

Sometimes (ok, most times for me) people who get stressed out easily need help focusing on the positive. Most insensitive remarks focus on things that we have negative connotations with, so focusing on a positive remark (instead of the initial negative one) can make a big difference in conversation.

For the scenario above with our friend who is stressed out about starting a new job, a positive spin might be to say, “the new company you’re going to be working for seems really cool,” or “I bet it will be nice to be able to start fresh,” or “once things become routine at work I bet it will be a great fit!”

The most common questions I get from parents and friends of people with bipolar disorder is wanting to know how can I be supportive?

Be positive. Let us know you understand we’re stressed (don’t tell us not to worry), but try to help us look on the bright side.

The Long Shot

Yesterday’s adventure (of trying to hunt down an emergency Lithium prescription) started out with an electric jolt to my need to find a solution. It ended with what might be the biggest miracle I’ve experienced since 2014 rang itself in 4 months ago.

Being threatened with only having five days of lithium left (and no refill or psychiatrist to speak of) I kicked it in to high gear yesterday morning.

pleaded with my primary care doctor’s receptionist to land me an appointment at the end of the week (as a last resort) to which she generously complied.

I asked my pharmacy to send a request to my old psychiatrist’s office for another refill, even though I knew that would be a big shot in the dark.

Finally, after running some errands in the sunshine (wasn’t it supposed to rain all day yesterday?) I stepped into the clinic where I see my therapist (and should eventually be seeing a psychiatrist).

My therapist, a contemplative woman who is a great listener and empathizer, is a little lacking in the area of organization. She had no memory of leaving me a voicemail last week that said, “oh yeah, come in Tuesday at three and I’ll write you in for an appointment, only call back if you want to cancel.” Thankfully (considering my frustration around the Lithium issue) she agreed to see me despite never having actually made the appointment.

She told me she was 99% sure that the house psychiatrist would not be willing to refill my medication, something I expected to hear anyway. She told me to try calling my old psychiatrist’s office and pleading with them, something I didn’t feel so great about.

When I asked when I would be able to make an appointment for an intake with the clinic psychiatrist there (I gave them my paperwork a month ago) she said they didn’t make appointments. They just went through whatever people had applied in the order they were received. For that reason, she claimed she could not give me any idea of how long I would be waiting (“at least a month” was all she could say) or any indication of exactly when I would be seeing this phantom psychiatrist.

This sent up some BIG red flags for me. I have never associated my therapist’s personal disorganization with the clinic itself, having seen other therapists there that had no trouble calling me back or being on time or scheduling my appointments, but having to put the faith of my future mental health treatment in the hands of someone who isn’t willing to give me anything more than their word that I’ll eventually see them… well, I don’t operate on a currency made of promises. To me an appointment is an agreement (which exists on paper or in a computer somewhere) on both ends that we will meet, and without that I have nothing.

On top of that, how can I be expected to know how long I need my new Lithium prescription for if I have no idea when I will be able to see the doctor who is supposed to write the next one? That doesn’t make sense.

I walked out of the clinic feeling totally defeated, and in a small fit of hysteria (overlooking the busy freeway) I called my old psychiatrist’s office.

That’s when I’d remembered something I’d been told a few months earlier. An anonymous tipster revealed to me that the psychiatry department of my previous psychiatrist (which did not take any of the insurance plans I was now forced to apply for through the healthcare reform) was considering taking one, JUST ONE, of the plans available. They told me to select that plan, and then call at the end of April to see if the plan would be accepted. I knew this was a huge long shot, but if you remember… I was extremely upset about having to leave my previous (kick ass) psychiatrist. Because of this tip, I had selected the plan in question and yesterday (as April had ended) I found myself in a position to ask their office if something miraculously had changed.

When the receptionist said (what sounded like) yes (I could barely hear over the roar of the traffic) I ran to the nearest building and popped inside to make sure I hadn’t imagined it.

You mean, I thought, not only can I begin seeing my previous psychiatrist again, but he can also then refill my medication in the next couple days?!?

I hadn’t, in my wildest dreams, imagined that scenario would have worked out! It is not very often I have two large, looming problems solved with one phone call, and I thanked the receptionist profusely.

It is so nice to know that these two big issues are now taken care of, and that I don’t have to rely on what seems to be a particularly flaky system to try to receive care. I was extremely upset to have to give up my whole healthcare team when everything changed over with the health care reform, and now (through a couple good tips and a lot of good luck) I am back to having my original healthcare team back.

The trick at this point will be to keep them, because Corey and I will need to move within the next few months. In order for me to keep this insurance and these doctors, I have to remain in King County, something that is another long shot (as housing prices have skyrocketed) but something I also feel more and more compelled to make work since it will be worth the work!