This week is Maternal Mental Health Week. I've been pretty open about my personal struggles with postpartum anxiety. That's an ongoing struggle for me but I feel so much more myself than I have in a long time, and that's a good feeling. You might remember my friend who racked up loads of medical debt? She's not the only one floundering in the current healthcare environment. Even with decent employer-sponsored insurance, I still struggled to get treated for my own concerns.
Initially, I made an appointment to see my Primary Care Physician (PCP). She's the one who prescribed me Zoloft, which has been working really well for me. I'm extremely grateful that I could walk out of her office with a treatment and didn't have to wait for a referral to a specialist. Since she isn't a psychiatrist, she scheduled a follow-up appointment with me for a month later. In the meantime, she set up an intake call that would help me navigate the mental healthcare options in my area.
I know, it sounds too good to be true! Well - it kind of is.
The intake representative called me the day after my appointment with my PCP. They went through another lengthy questionnaire before telling me they'd email me a few options by the end of the day. One email came through, then another, a few hours later. Turns out the initial options she had selected didn't accept my insurance. I was left with one option for counseling and one for psychiatry - both were quite some distance from me so it would be inconvenient to go.
It didn't matter if it was going to be an hour long drive one direction - that's what I was willing to do to allow myself to heal. So I followed through and I scheduled an appointment. I chose the 23rd, thinking this psychiatrist had an opening within the coming two weeks. When the scheduler repeated back to me, "May 23rd ," my eyes bugged out of my head. Thank goodness I'm not an urgent case - honestly, I'm okay with going to the back of the line on this one. Still, I think people struggling with any mental health issues - especially maternal mental health issues - deserve better than two months of waiting to be okay again.
And then the third person to do an intake call rang me up. We ran through the same series of questions. Yes, I feel like I'm a failure. No, I don't want to hurt myself. After this third conversation, the woman on the other end of the line told me I would need to return a packet of medical paperwork within five days, or my appointment would be cancelled.
By this point, I knew that our move was possibly pending. I didn't see the sense in driving three hours just to see a psychiatrist. If they were helpful and a good fit, then I'd be stuck trying to replicate that in my new hometown. Better to just establish a connection with someone where we move, I told myself. I never returned the paperwork.
All in all, my struggle to access mental health care taught me a few things. Even when a system is designed to make things easier for the patient, it doesn't always consider how many layers of work goes into the patient end of things. It's a lot to ask someone who's barely holding it together to sit through three anxiety-triggering phone conversations and fill out fifteen pages of medical history, to be seen months from now. When moms suffer, the family suffers. My hope is that next year, I'll be celebrating Maternal Mental Health Week with a smile on my face and a great therapist in my corner.
How has Maternal Mental Health touched your life? What made it difficult for you to navigate the healthcare system? Tell me all about it @pi3sugarpi3