How To: Visiting a New Doctor

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If you’re not me, it’s a simple process. You wake up, have breakfast, or maybe some coffee. Maybe you call in to work to make sure they know you might not be in today, or you’re leaving early, or whatever. You take a shower, get dressed, and just go about your day.

Obtaining that new doctor is probably a simple process, too. You might ask someone if they can recommend one, or you get a referral from some more official place.

This is not how things go if you’re me.

Step 1: Getting a new doctor.

I mentioned before that my old mental health doctor retired for-real [she was leaving before that, but then she didn’t] over a year ago. I don’t know what happens in the ‘real world’ when a doctor retires, but, when one retires in the VA, one of two things happen: you get reassigned right away, and end up with a surprise appointment [which happened with my regular doctor], or you sit around waiting to get reassigned.

That second one is what happened with mental health.

Now, it’s no secret that I have problems. I’m not hearing voices or seeing things, so they’re not the really bad sort of problems. They’re more like the ‘no energy won’t get out of bed life is pointless why bother and oh by the way everything makes me anxious’ problems. So, the prospect of getting to know a new mental health care provider? Really anxious-making, with a side of ‘I don’t want to waste their time’. So I didn’t push.

They’d get to me eventually. Or, I’d die, and that’d be good, too.

That was my mindset, until the nausea.

I’d gotten to the point where I wasn’t going anywhere, or doing anything, or eating much, because the anxiety was causing pretty persistent nausea issues.

So, I broke first. At around 3am, I ended up sending my regular doctor a ‘secure message’.

I got a call back within two days, which resulted in an offer of a new antidepressant that promised magical things, like good sleep, a little less anxiety, and a decree that all nasuea but the most legitimate, stomach-bug related issues would be punched directly in the face.

Also: Why the hell hadn’t I been reassigned? That’s not right. I need to be reassigned. She [my doctor] was going to call them right now, and get them to reassign me.

Mental Health called me within the hour, and they were very sorry that I’d gone so long without getting a new doctor.

Then, they assigned me to a psychiatrist, and said I could request a therapist for actual therapy once I’d seen her.

My appointment was Monday. The Monday that just passed. The 8th. There was at least a month between the story I just related, and my appointment. Which means…

Step 1: Pre-Panic Panic

Oh shit. I’m seeing someone I’ve never seen before. But she has access to my records, so at least she’ll know some stuff.

But what do my records say? Probably just thirty pages of, ‘Big faker’.

But I’ve also got a new medication on the way.

So, the Pre-Panic Panic for the appointment was aborted, and the panic about the New Med set in. I spent the time between my prescription list updating and actually getting it [a process delayed slightly by my forgetting that I had to contact pharmacy to let them know I had prescriptions waiting that I wanted mailed out] researching the new medication.

This, of course, meant horror stories.

Lots of horror stories.

And lots of fretting about it on Facebook. And, after getting it, and remembering to take it every day, a lot of self-praise for remembering to take it every day.

Step 3: One More Week, Better Reset My Sleep

I managed to forget about my appointment until about one week before. I spent that week not being very hungry, and having stomach problems, which means that the New Miracle Drug isn’t going to cover everything. So, I make a mental note to ask for something more.

Then, I panic about being a drug seeker.

I also start trying to get to the point where I’m waking up at the right time. I fuck this up two days before by falling asleep after getting fairly sick.

Step 4: Oh Shit

The day of the appointment, I woke up early, and prepared myself by taking everything I could think of to keep my stomach where it belongs. I make sure everything’s charged and ready to go. I find my loosest-fitting clothes [I attempt a bra, but that just seems to increase the anxious-feelings].

I get ready, basically.

And then we leave for the bus stop.

I attempt to use my iPod to pull me away into some sort of fantasy world where this isn’t happening, but it doesn’t work.

By the time we get to the bus stop, I’m shaking and fighting nausea, but this could totally be because I haven’t walked that far in a while.


I do not have a clever measurement for how close I came to yarfing on that first bus. My thoroughly empty stomach had crawled its way up my esophagus, and was waiting impatiently at my tonsils, wanting to be let out, like a desperate, confused puppy.

See? Not good. Because it’s good when a puppy wants out. This is more like a desperate puppy wanting to be let in so it can unleash the most hideous bout of runny puppy-shits all over your house. Possibly on your table and everything.

I won that fight, though. Which is good.

See, I have this near-phobia about vomiting in public. Or in front of anyone, really. I’m always afraid it’ll set off a ‘Revenge of Lard-Ass’ style chain reaction.

This sort of fear is not good when you’re already anxious.

The crisis was averted, though. Sorta. I’d won for the moment. But, by the time we were getting off the bus and heading for the light rail, my tongue had gone slightly numb.

I wasn’t expecting that. I usually get some sort of warning before the anxiety even ramps up to ‘impending pukefest’ — a sort of cold feeling in my head even before the dizziness starts. I may’ve missed that, though, because it was slightly chilly outside.

I insist on sitting in the stepwell on the light rail. I couldn’t explain myself at the time, but I can now.

For some reason, the light rail is a ‘calm place’ for me. Even when it’s really crowded, I feel kinda okay there. And I feel really okay in the stepwell. It makes no sense, because that’s probably the least safe area in the event of an accident, but, well, anxiety is really irrational, so fuck you.

By the time we get on the second bus, I’m exhausted. Or, at least, my anxiety-gland is exhausted. I’m still shaking, and I’ll continue shaking for a while, but there’s nothing left in me to sustain the high level I was at when I was trying to decide whether I would puke, pass out, or a combination of the two in some order.

And we were an hour early.

Step 4: Where the Fuck….

Early is good, though, because the new doctor was on a different floor from the check-in place. This gave us time [Gremlin was with me; if he hadn’t gone with me, I wouldn’t have gone at all] to figure out where the secondary waiting room was.

And get a soda in the little shop. And spend most of the time waiting outside. And for me to find out exactly how many people feel the need to ask questions about the ZBoard.

Never get a ZBoard if you don’t like attention. That thing gets questions from every damn stranger. They practically come leaping out of passenger jets, screaming, “DOES THAT THING HAVE BRAKES?” just before they explode like a meaty water balloon on impact.

When we went back to the secondary waiting room, it was empty, so, bonus.

Step 5: Finally Seeing The Doctor

Understand that there are actually, like, twenty steps in this list. I left out the parts about ‘anxiety-shitting’ and ‘hiding in a closet’ for brevity, though.

She had to lead me through a rat-maze of hallways to her office, told me to sit down, and led me through a series of questions from some list on her computer — stuff about drinking, sexual trauma, housing.

I hate the drinking questions. There’s never an option for ‘About half a shot, once a year.’

She went through my previous antidepressant list, and asked me why none of those worked.

Short answer: side effects.

In one or two cases, they made me feel like a passenger in my own body, and someone else — someone I didn’t like much — was at the wheel.

She told me that some people like that, then says she was going to suggest what I was already on.

I mention that I’m sorry for wasting her time.

Then, between reminders that she doesn’t do therapy [she’d get me assigned to someone who did, though], we talked about other stuff. Like, the fact that I was afraid to tell her anything.

“What’s the worst that could happen?”

Easy: you wouldn’t believe me.

“And if I did?”

I had nothing.

And then she said something that didn’t hit me until the next day: “You really can’t see any good in it?”

I really couldn’t.

Step 6: Now that you’re here, you might as well….

Since I can’t see the good in anything, I’m terrified of asking for things that might help me. But I knew I had to, at this point, even if it got the big red DRUG SEEKER stamp put on my records.

And don’t ask me how the fuck you get a stamp on digital records. Seriously, fuck you, logic. There’s no room for you.

But, honestly? I knew I’d need it. And I knew exactly what would work. Because I’d gotten it before — last refill about a year ago, thirty little pills that lasted me until November.

So I asked. And received. And asked to pick it up today instead of waiting.

And I made it out alive. Back into the fucking rat maze, and down to mental health’s personal pharmacy check-in, so I didn’t have to go through the ‘take a number and wait’ mess.

A stop to set up another appointment, and I ran back outside, because fuck 45 minutes of waiting in there where the people are.

I did spend about a half hour sitting outside the door to pharmacy, watching the monitor for my name, though. And I found out I wasn’t quite done panicking yet, when a stranger made physical contact with me. Just a nice little flash of cold in my head, as if to remind me that I only thought my batteries were drained.

Then, home, and eventually bed.

I woke up the next day sore and unable to think clearly…to snow and freezing temperatures.

I ended up going back out into the world in that shit, too.

I’m still recovering from Monday, and I’m not really sure how good or coherent this is, but this is my second attempt at writing it, and I don’t want to try again.

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6 thoughts on “How To: Visiting a New Doctor

  1. I’m still amused by the ‘tard assuring me that the VA has the best healthcare system on the planet. And the eventual punchline that he’d meant among free healthcare, if you don’t just give someone actual money to get something magically done in under a year.

    More and more, I’m thinking PelosiCare might be worth it just for the laughriot.

  2. That sounds like an awful day. :( I totally understand thinking you won’t be believed. When I went to my psychotherapist to get approved for FMLA I was positive I’d be denied. The paperwork said “Severe Anxiety”, but I was sure I’d be denied. My pacing, crying, freaking out self, even after being escalated to the crisis center or whatever, just knew I was gonna be denied. But I wasn’t. Like you said, there’s no room for logic in our brains, so it’s better to spew out all of the ugliness and let them make the call.

    And about the prescription, maybe it’d be easier for you to refill while you still have a little left so you can prove you’re not a pill popper. “See – my prescription of 30 was filled in April, and now it’s October and I have 3 left. No abuse here, but I need more.” Then shake the bottle and grin big. It’s solid!

    • I think, if I’d had any left, I might’ve tried that. Of course, if I’d had any left, I probably would’ve taken it so I didn’t have to go through what I did just to get there.

      That’s why I went with over-explaining the whole ‘You can see when I last refilled it there, right? I took my last one in November, which was months after. I don’t take it very often because I know how people can get addicted, and how getting off them is bad, and I don’t really want to go through that. And I can’t always avoid the situations where I need it, but I was doing okay before by taking a dose with me just in case, or taking one when I knew it’d be bad. And then, if nothing bad happened, next time, I might be able to get through without it….’

      Then, of course, I get to have these persistent thoughts of, ‘Okay, I think I overdid it there. Maybe I should’ve said something different, because over-explaining shit like that might be what drug-seekers do.’

  3. After a dozen years in nursing homes, here’s my assessment of the quality of care given by various providers: Medicare and Medicaid are the absolute best. People are the most happy, they cover more things and procedures, and they set the bar with New Stuff. The absolute worst, brace yourself, is Kaiser Permanente. They really are worse than the VA. And they cover the least amount of things and procedures, and what they do cover, they don’t cover as much of, so your out-of-pocket is always higher. The VA is second worst, though, if for no other reason than you have to wait fucking forever to get anything done. That they are also sometimes very difficult to convince of a problem, and not at all serious about mental health, make it the worst if your problems are not directly physical. So for you, Hunter, unfortunately they are the worst. But it is better than nothing at all.

    I don’t know how depressing that was. Mostly I want you to know that the horrible experience of the VA is not at all a figment of your imagination.

    Also, anxiety shits are the fucking worst.

    But I’m so so glad you got some help. It’s really awesome when people unexpectedly take you seriously.

    • Mental health occupies a tiny little corner of the facility, as far as I can tell — the second floor part is either a new addition, or it was always there, and I didn’t know about it because that’s where the Psychiatrists live [above all the lowly therapists].

      I would definitely rank the mental health part of the hospital slightly higher than the pharmacy, though — that’s one tiny room, and they no longer have monitors showing the names in the ‘atrium’.

      As far as care? Yeah, they’re pretty bad. Not in the actual care aspect, although that’s sometimes terrible, but the wait just to get a new doctor? It’s rather insane.

      Once you get through the two years to get rated, you’re looking at at least six months for a regular doctor, and, yeah, I really was expecting to wait at least two years to get back into mental health.

      And I wouldn’t have even bothered with their ‘crisis’ option, because I think they only have one mental health care provider working that area per day.

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