Managing Mental Health is Hard
It's been a really hard year for me and my anxiety. A really hard summer, especially. I've been plagued with panic attacks, racing thoughts, migraines. I've been focusing really hard on self-care and rest these past few months and giving myself a break. Not every message needs an immediate reply, not every task has to be completed five minutes after it's assigned. It's OK to pause, process, get in the right mindset.
But even though I've been taking care of myself to the best of my ability, my anxiety has run rampant. In the past, I used to take medication for it and it really helped my symptoms, so I thought I should see someone again and get back on it.
I came to this realization when my youngest son said to me right before school started, "Mom, we didn't really get to play outside that much this summer." And I felt like a horrible mother. But being outside in the heat exacerbates my anxiety symptoms. All I wanted to do was lie down in the A/C. Many days, we just watched a lot of movies and read books and played games inside. It was the best way to take care of myself, but it wasn't doing what was best for my kids. So I struggled. Constantly.
I called around to various psychiatry practices. I figured the sooner I could see someone and get a prescription, the sooner things could be more "normal" for me and my family. Yeah.... not so fast. I have pretty decent medical insurance. And if I wanted to see a counselor, I could see someone pretty quickly and just pay my co-pay and be on my way. But I need to specifically see a psychiatrist who can prescribe medication. I tried calling 6 different places. Several were not taking any new patients. One didn't accept insurance at all and everything had to be paid out of pocket (why is that a thing?!). And the rest each had a waiting list to even get onto the schedule. THEN, you'll have to wait three months or more to get seen. THREE MONTHS. Maybe that doesn't seem like a long time, but when every day is a constant battle with your brain, it's an eternity.
At the end of July, I finally got an appointment for the end of October. When I asked if there was anything that could be done for me to get seen sooner because I was really struggling, the answer was: "If it's that bad where you can't wait for an appointment, then you'll need to go to the hospital." I was speechless. I still am. Go shell out hundreds, probably thousands, of dollars at the ER to get a prescription that costs $20. OR wait 3 months with no relief.
There is something very, very wrong with the mental health system in our country. But the reason I'm sharing this story is because I want people to know that the answer to improving one's mental health isn't always easy. People will say, "Go see someone already" or "Just take meds". I would love to. But I can't yet.
I don't know what I or we can do to change the system. Or how to make mental health care more accessible. But I do know that talking about the problem will at least begin to shed light on the issue.