Sharing (Part of) My Mental Health Journey on #WorldMentalHealthDay

Sponsored by World Health Organization (the day, not the post)

The overall objective of World Mental Health Day is to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health.

The Day provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide.

I’ve blogged quite a bit about my mental health, from describing my symptoms to exploring resources and beyond. I grew up in a world surrounded by the realities of mental illness filtered through the steadily enforced lens of silence. The silence was truly worse, hence my commitment to speak up now as often as possible and whenever possible.

However, I am unsure what I should address today even from my most recent years.

?The fact that Medicare approved therapists based on population density not expertise and certainly not a tool to promote mental health supports for elders. Medicaid does that same. I have Medicare b/c of the bizarre rules of SSDi, but I also have primary insurance through my wife (thank god.) My therapist has tried to get approved by Medicare three times and is always denied because there are “enough” approved therapists in her zip code. So I have to pay for Medicare, but I cannot use it for my mental health (it would cover a part of my copay) to access a very specific treatment  from a trained professional (EMDR.)

?During the pandemic, some insurance companies waived the copay on teletherapy appointments. Not all did, in spite of the widespread economic struggles. Since this summer, some insurance companies have stopped ALLOWING teletherapy appointments. This compromises the mental health of everyone. It compromises the physical health of the therapists and their coworkers. It forces therapists to make treatment decisions based on insurance rules, not best practices. So the people who truly need face-to-face treatment to resume for health reasons have to take a back seat to those who could wait, but are forced back in by their insurance provider.

?Pharmacies drastically changing hours of operation, incessant cramming their “special programs” down my throat, and constantly rushing because they are understaffed and overextended. I had an issue with a refill that two years ago would have been resolved by a five minute conversation with our long term pharmacist, but now he has a mandatory lunch 30 minutes and the techs don’t know me and tend to assume I’m being untruthful because it is a controlled medication. I could wait for his lunch to end, but we’ve hit a bunch of other issues. These are simple mistakes that are ratchet up by the staffing structures of the corporate pharmacies.

?On a personal note, I am struggling with “reentry” to a world that was already pulsing with anxieties for me. I have a social anxiety diagnosis, among others, and found the isolation of quarantining bearable, even helpful. Still, of course, I want to return to the world. It is scary because of the virus. It is scary because I’m actually more at risk of being yelled at (my absolute baseline fear) in public by someone because I wear a mask or express concerns about cautions. It is scary because my previous safe spaces are drying up – especially Starbucks – from the economic and social fallouts of the pandemic. It is scary because of the deep held ignorant desire to “go back to normal” versus the actual truths of the new normal.

?I’m in the midst of a physical health crisis, possibly Achalasia, that has decimated my well-being. I am anxious to get through the last round of testing and onto the treatments. Two treatment involved hospitalizations. Obviously, that worries me with regard to exposure to COVID-19, but it also triggers some deep concerns tied to my complex trauma past – especially being in the hospital without being able to have my wife stay by my side. I fear holding myself together by myself in that situation because people with mental illness have terrible experiences in the medical system. Having my symptoms or pain dismissed, the fear of triggering a “she’s crazy” response, just feeling afraid for several days on top of everything else. To make it worse, I’m struggling to connect with ‘Donna’ the scheduler for the AGH Esophageal Institute – I’ve called her every day and always get voice mail – so I’ve already lost an entire week of making a plan. And that’s terrifying.

?The mental health of the people we rely on to protect us – first responders, healthcare workers, journalists, politicians, etc.

This post didn’t turn out the way I started. I was going to dive into my actual timeline of symptoms and diagnosing. I suppose I’ll save that for another post.

You deserve to find support and care whether you have a mental health diagnosis or dealing with the stressors of the pandemic. If you need help managing life or you need help advocating to access medical treatment, reach out for help. Your concerns that are not directly tied to COVID-19 are directly valid and worthwhile to address. It isn’t a competition.

You deserve support and love and peace of mind.

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