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.
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.