Okay, time to give an update in the depression saga.
For those of you who missed last month’s installment – I have been having tearful, inconsolable crying breakdowns. Perfect Husband seems to think that this is an abnormal state, and an undesirable one for the future mother of his children to exist in. He seems to feel that his first act as a good father is to get me happy before I try to grow a fetus in my depressed, distressing womb. So I mention it to my doctor during my PAP test and she tells me that this is VERY important but that she doesn’t have time to talk to me about it, since I am just booked for a physical and she is moving to different city next Tuesday. She encourages me to try a mental health facility in the local hospital, and asks if I want her to keep my file. I say yes, since woman doctors are scarce.
I had no idea where exactly in the hospital I was supposed to go. Do I go to emergency? Or is there a special set of doors for people-who-need-help-but-only-kinda-sorta? Perfect Husband suggested I call 811, so I did. The guy I spoke to had no idea.
“I’m going to transfer you to one of our RNs. They have access to more information than I do.”
So I speak to a male RN. He asks me a bunch of questions and says that yes, I assess as definitely depressed. He doesn’t seem to believe that I can be this depressed without thoughts of suicide, and keeps saying stuff like “are you sure you aren’t having thoughts of death?” He can’t help me himself, but he give me the number to the local mental health centre and encourages me to call them.
I do so, but they’re only open Mon-Fri, 9-5, when the depressed population are sloughing their way through another meaningless workday. Thankfully, I teach puppy class Monday evenings, so I called Monday morning. When the lady answered the phone I explained that I needed to be assessed for depression, but my doctor was too busy for me so did they have someone who could do that for me? She asked for my address and then said irritably “That’s the wrong part of the city. You need to call the other branch. I’ll transfer you.”
Another lady, sounding older and more crotchety, picked up the phone at the other centre. I started to explain about my doctor, but she cut me off with a bored “hold please” and I listened to eighties power ballads for several minutes. When she came back, I shortened my story to “I need to be assessed for depression. Can you help me?”
“I’ll have to take your name and care card number and someone will call you back after I’ve put you in the database,” the woman said blandly. She took my information and hung up on me. She didn’t ask if I was suicidal. I waited and waited, and no one called. Just doing this runaround was putting me near tears. How many people do you need to call and say “I need help” to before someone actually helps you?
Just as I was getting ready to leave, the phone rang. The lady who talked to me on the phone asked me that same bunch of questions, and told me that I definitely assess as depressed. But she didn’t think she could help me. She recommended to me that I talk to my GP. I explained that I had, and my GP was too busy to talk to me about it, and had told me to call the mental health centre, and had then moved practices the next week. She sounded slightly shocked, and told me I should go back to the GP.
“Tell them that you want to book an appointment specifically to talk about your mood. She’ll ask you a bunch of questions, and then she’ll be able to prescribe an antidepressant or possibly refer you to a psychiatrist. I’ll fax her some information about what we have spoken about today, and recommend you for antidepressants and the “Bounce Back” program that we offer. Will you promise to call her?”
“I don’t know where she is, now.”
“I can find that out for you. The thing is, you could go to a walk-in clinic, but you should really have someone who knows your medical history, and besides, you’d need follow up care. I could try and get you an appointment here, but frankly we work by triage, and since you don’t want to hurt yourself, it could be a long time before we managed to fit you in.”
My mind filled with images of pressing masses of people each claiming to want to hurt themselves more than the guy next to him. “Take me next, not him, I’m much more suicidal!”
So I called my GP’s new office and asked to book an appointment for the day after I returned from vacation.
“Uh, yeah, that’s, like, next week,” said the guy.
“Yes, yes it is,” I agreed patiently.
“The thing is, I don’t have her schedule for that far in advance.”
“What, next week?” I asked.
“Yeah. Could you, like, call later this week, or even better, early next week? I should have her schedule by then.”
So while I was on the other side of the country, Perfect Husband called and asked to book an “extra long” appointment to talk to the doctor.
He took me in on Thursday, after I called in to work for being jet lagged. We sat and listened to a pair of women complain about taxes, low income housing, the general way that everyone spits on the poor etc. It was clearly half walk-in clinic, half not, because there was a sign up reminding patients that if someone was called in ahead of them, it was probably because that person had actually made an appointment.
They called me in.
“Isn’t that just typical?” one of the women muttered to the other, “see how the people with money get special treatment? I was here before her.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, when was your appointment for?” my husband asked her innocently.
I waited on the table for the doctor. I could hear her outside, finishing with a patient and then being pulled aside by a drug rep, whom she assured she was trying to give out as many free samples as possible. Finally she came in, took my file off the door, and said “what can I help you with today, Carol?”
“Well, I’m here to talk about my depression. I did what you said, but the people at the mental health centre sent me back to you.”
She furrowed her brow and looked at the file, which contained a single, blank, record in it. “Carol, I don’t have time to talk you about that today. I’m really swamped here. When I saw you before, did I tell you I was willing to take you as a new patient? Because I…”
“I’ve been your patient for two years,” I said, nettled. She looked at the blank file again.
“Oh. Well, then your file must be in storage.”
“I was told you brought your patient files with you,” I said, confused.
“Yes, but I put them in storage. The only files I actually have in this clinic are patients who said they definitely wanted me to keep their files,” she said disparagingly.
“But you asked me if I wanted you to keep my file, and I said yes,” I said, tears beginning to well up.
“Oh. Well, I don’t have it, and I’m absolutely swamped today, Carol, I don’t have time to talk to you about all this. What are your symptoms? Just crying a lot?”
“I cry a lot, I’m sad all the time, I have no energy, I crave carbohydrates, I’m gaining weight, sometimes I have insomnia and sometimes I sleep too much…” I reeled off. She scribbled something quickly.
“Well, that sounds like depression. You want antidepressants?”
“I don’t know… I’m worried about side effects. I don’t want anything that is going to make me gain more weight, and my libido is already low…”
“Carol, you can’t go limiting me like this!” she snapped. “Look, I’ll give you some samples of a new antidepressant. You come back in 10 days, and by that time I’ll have your file out of storage.”
Yeah, right. “Well, but, are these SSRIs? Are they safe for pregnancy?”
“Why, are you pregnant?” She asked, folding her arms.
“No, but my husband and I are planning to have a baby sometime in the next year…”
“Well, WHEN you decide to try for a baby, WHEN you get pregnant, THEN we can talk about whether to change medications or take you off of them. In the meantime, take these samples, and come back in 10 days.” She hurried me out of the room and went on to her next patient.
My husband found me coming back to the waiting room in tears which flowed for the rest of the day and well into the night. I just couldn’t make them stop.