Too Poor for Wellness (With Some Good News)

I’m feeling stuck, and it’s because of money. I saw a path other than traditional psychiatry through integrative medicine, and I wanted it to work. I’ve been working with practitioners over the phone for months. The science is fairly simple, and it involves real healing at the heart of a chemical imbalance like the one at work in depression–I’ve been using amino acid supplements to help my brain make more of its own serotonin and dopamine, and to help it transmit and absorb those chemicals properly. I’ve written about this, before. It’s been hugely successful. But I have to stop moving forward, and stay where I’m at now, because apparently, I’m too poor for wellness.

Here’s what I mean by wellness: feeling good, rather than feeling not sick. I want to feel less anxiety, not simply that I have medications that manage my anxiety. I can still feel it, trying to create havoc, in the background of my mind, even while the medication (Klonopin, primarily) keeps the symptoms like agoraphobia (fear of leaving my house) under control.

But let’s back up: I sought out an integrative medicine practitioner for help with migraines. As long as I keep taking a low dose of the amino acid supplements I started in the course of this treatment, I don’t get migraines! I don’t get any hormonal symptoms at all! I don’t wake up with headaches, and I don’t wake up feeling exhausted (unless I’ve gotten no sleep). I call that a huge WIN.

Along the way, I did a lot of reading about what these amino acid supplements were supposed to do, however, and between the books and the articles and talking with my practitioner, I really began to hope. I hoped that the chemical imbalance that causes my anxiety and, sometimes, depression, would slowly heal itself, with the help of this relatively new system of treatments. And I might never find out if that’s possible, because I can’t afford the hourly rate, the lab tests, or the extra supplements. I’m mad about that!

I’m also mad about this: people who offer things that help with anxiety/mental health really need to prepare themselves better for ANXIOUS PATIENTS. I’m not a high-maintenance patient, mostly because my anxiety is something I’m highly aware of, but when I am feeling extremely anxious after providers of alternative treatments have done something like charged me an unexpectedly high amount in an invoice, I would really appreciate it if the anxiety that caused me to seek their services in the first place played some role in their responses. “The doctor doesn’t make exceptions of any kind” was the entirety of one response I received, from an office that sees thousands of patients. Surely, there are several of us who feel anxious about money. When I email anyone asking “Why was I charged twice what I thought I would be charged? Can this invoice be altered in any way? This will have a huge impact on my family’s ability to by groceries!” then is it wrong to expect a little empathy in the response I receive?

As you may have noticed, this has become a rant. I’m feeling stabby, and I need to rant this week. I’m going to continue to rant, now. Warning: I’m about to rant about medication, psychiatry, and anxiety about long-term health effects of taking medication for more than ten years. I’m at seven years, so it seems like the time to think about this for me, but you may want to skip the next paragraph if it’s not something you want to think about. Important! The side effects of NO meds, for me, would be daily panic attacks, agoraphobia/not leaving my house ever, being afraid to eat and answer the phone, among other things. I just want to try life without SSRIs, because I’m not sure I need them. I want to taper with the help of a psychiatrist, because that’s the ONLY healthy way to taper any prescription medication.

Thanks to for being awesome about free images.
Thanks to for being awesome about free images. And thank YOU for reading my rant!

Now then, here’s my rant about how, in my experience, the Wellness Community has failed to take my wellbeing into account:

The same practitioner who is too expensive to continue working with frequently enough for me to have any hope of trying to get off my meds (something I had hoped to TRY, eventually) and supplies me with Monster Supplements voucher codes to make it a little easier on my pocketbook, suggested that I read a book called The Anatomy of an Epidemic, which is apparently about the long-term health impacts of taking medications for depression and anxiety. A book written by the practitioner himself addresses the physical damage done by trauma, anxiety, and medication, in the long term. When I wrote an extremely anxious email about not being able to afford his services, he replied that I could find the supplements on other websites, for less money, and did not address in any way the fact that I now had all this knowledge about potential harm being done by my current medication regimen and NO MORE HELP. In fact, I’m pretty sure that he could have shaved off a significant amount of time (and MONEY on my BILL) in the one session we did have together, had he simply not started the conversation we had about how psychiatrists, in general, don’t really seem to be motivated to help patients like me, who are concerned with the long-term use of the medications they prescribe. Looking back, I can see $100 and a lot of time and energy and anxiety that I would not have used up, had he just stopped talking, after he agreed with me when I said that it seemed healthy to TRY life without Effexor. But no, we had a conversation, one I was then charged for, about how psychiatry would fail me, Integrative Medicine would help me, and then, HE SENT EMAIL SAYING THAT INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE WOULD NO LONGER BE HELPING ME (outside of allowing me to buy supplements). It doesn’t take a genius to guess that maybe, that would do more harm than good. And this dude is supposed to be providing HOLISTIC care.

The good news is that I’ve dealt with my fears, tallied up how much I’ve gained from this whole process, and moved on, all by myself. BECAUSE MY THERAPIST IS ON VACATION. Because the universe is apparently testing me, somehow. I’ve come out on top, universe! Do you hear me? I win! Here’s the result: I’m ok with taking the same dose of supplements I’ve been taking, and I will see one of two providers, infrequently, to keep an eye on how that’s going, as long as they are up front about how much it will cost and agree that, barring any real increase in cost (ahem, NOT accidentally talking for too long), I will pay only the amount agreed on in advance for their time.

I did that all by myself, by talking to my support system (Nathan! thank you! friends! thank you!) and looking carefully at my family’s finances. Oh, and by the way–our food benefits from the department of social services are completely up in the air, because they don’t know how to deal with graduate student pay and “can’t verify” Nathan’s income without a whole week of work. And I’m not freaking out about that.

I feel better after ranting. I win.


  1. Rose Holmes said:

    I am so proud of you!!! You have amazing coping skills! You can do this, “this too shall pass” and you will be that much stronger. MOM

    August 9, 2014
  2. emma said:

    unfortunately from my experience (which at the age of 24 years i find to be appallingly extensive) with the mental health care system this is rather typical. i myself suffer from ptsd and a tributary of related symptoms/’disorders’ and am well familiar with the struggle of dealing with persistent anxiety though i would not presume to be able to know your personal experience – it is after all, personal. i would like to applaud however your choice to try coping with your anxiety in other ways than relying solely on pharmaceuticals. (sp?) while not the best choice for everyone, from my experience when dealing with anxiety being able to genuinely feel and process the anxiety itself instead of merely trying to numb or escape it is supremely beneficial in the long term. it is also enormously courageous and calls on and builds an admirable degree of self-honesty, self-will and self-discipline. it sounds like you have a strong loving support system (mom, husband, etc) and though i know that the mental health care system can seem both financially and emotionally inefficient and/or unsupportive don’t forget the people that love you (and that begins with you!) are an indispensable support also you are not alone – there are thousands of us fighting the same battle every day. don’t be afraid of failure either! for every bump in the road you have a new opportunity to re-evaluate,make new discoveries, and build upon yourself. just because something doesn’t work for you doesn’t mean you’re a failure – its a new opportunity to learn more about yourself. wishing you the best! -emma

    August 29, 2014

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