Seeing a psychiatrist today was a no go.
But as I take these steps, I figured I would document them for those who are overwhelmed or confused by the process like I am. We can work through this thing together.
First, I have to admit that I had more help than most people have access to. I have insurance. Many people do not. Either way, there are options out there for you. I have been on both sides.
I will warn you now. If you don’t already have an established provider, it is going to be extremely frustrating to be seen unless you call 911 or there is an emergency mental health clinic in your area. This is the second hardest step in getting help, next to accepting that you need it.
My husband did most of the work for me today. He took the day from work in order to assist me in getting the help I need. After calling our insurance company to access a list of psychiatrists in our area, we were sent on a wild goose chase. Many of the offices he called were not accepting new patients and I would have had to be placed on a waiting list in which case, I wouldn’t be seen for another month or two.
If it were me, I would have given up after the first few phone calls. J was resilient though. Over the course of almost 5 hours, he must have called at least 50 different numbers in order to find someone who could get me in within a day. He explained the situation, stating over and over that we did not want inpatient treatment, but a psychiatrist that would provide outpatient med management.
It paid off. He eventually found someone who could see me tomorrow. While he was on the phone with various offices, I contacted my primary and made an appointment in case I needed a referral. Fortunately, I did not, but this is not always the case. If you can’t find a psychiatrist, your doctor has an obligation to help. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to keep your primary doctor informed.
After all was said and done, my provider offered the option of printing the necessary paperwork online so that I could complete my intake at home. Most of the time, you’ll do this in office.
So I sat there and began filling it out. First are your typical forms. They ask for your personal information as well as your insurance information. Next, your consent to disclosure. For me, I chose to allow my husband, my mom, and my primary doctor access. After that, you get a little packet (or ya know, several sheets of paper) explaining policies, payments, procedures, and patient rights. You have to sign these or they aren’t going to see you.
And then the fun part. The intake questionnaire. My first page was basically just a redundant form of part one. More personal information like name, social, insurance information, etc. The who, what, when, where, and why.
I struggled with the next page. (I have no shame. It is today’s featured photo.) A “problem checklist” in which you rate your issues on a scale. This one in particular was 0 being none and 4 being severe. (Yes, okay, you caught me. I fudged the suicide question because, well, I don’t want to be committed. I’ll be honest with the psychiatrist though.) Reading through the checklist made everything feel that much more real. And it upset me to think about each of my issues individually.
I chose to show this particular page to J, so he could see an itemized list of my problems. He didn’t say much. He didn’t have to. He just pulled me into his arms and told me that it was going to be okay. I think a tangible list made it that much more real to him as well.
The following pages were meant to be filled out in detail. Family history, substance issues, trauma history. These were easy enough. Until it came to the psychiatric history. I failed to keep a detailed record of my medications and therapists over the years. I urge you to start this now, as I am. I couldn’t give anything more than ballpark dates and a half-assed list of medications I have tried before. It is so important to keep this information on hand.
And that is pretty much it for the day.
I do want to point out once more that there are resources out there for low income individuals and people who do not have insurance. Last time I sought professional help, I just walked into a Comcare crisis center and told them I needed to see someone immediately.
I know this shit sucks. I wish I could help everyone individually. It is so much easier when you have someone to help walk you through the process of finding help.
I have spent countless hours searching for answers only to get vague information or to become so overwhelmed that I shut down and give up. I don’t want that to happen to you.
If I can do it, you can do it.