My Experience Going to a New Psychiatrist for Medication
I went to a new psychiatric nurse today.
I am on medication for depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and other mental health issues. I have been on medications now for over 15 years and I am doing very well. The problem is that the nurse who has been prescribing my medications just retired last month, giving me only one month’s notice. I had to scramble to find someone new to prescribe my medications so I could continue to be mentally healthy. The first psych nurse, whom I called and left three messages with, never got back to me. Finally, I was given the name of another psych nurse. She actually called me back, and we set up an appointment.
Today was my first appointment with this new psychiatric nurse. Now, I am starting over again with a new person. Even though I have been going to someone for years for my medications and even in the same office, some things happened that I didn’t expect.
I suddenly felt the nerves in my body go on high alert. I wished the person at the check-in desk would smile at me as I gave her my insurance card. I sat with my back to the wall so I could see the whole room and nothing could surprise me. I could not read a magazine because my mind needed to be aware and alert. I waited for the unknown.
I worried a bit when she was five minutes late. Questions filled my mind. “Will she be a nice person? What if she is not nice and I am stuck with her for who knows how long? Will she make this a formal process or relaxed? Will she respect me as a person and not just see me as my mental illness?”
When she finally came to get me and led me into her office, I had to choose which chair to sit in — the one closest to her chair, or the one further away. I chose the closer chair because that is the one I had used with my last psych nurse, and to show myself I was OK. I wish I would have sat in the chair further away to show it would take some time before I could trust her. Maybe next time.
Once she sat down, it was time for the intake. Time to start over again. This is what happened and how I felt:
She had me sign papers covering privacy and conditions of treatment. I felt like I was a business acquisition or a child being told how I could get in trouble.
She took my pulse and blood pressure. It was high. It is usually low. That proved my nerves were on high alert.
She asked me about my doses of medications, including when I had started each one, what other medications I had taken in the past and why I had changed them. I felt stupid because I couldn’t remember. After all, back when I was going through the dark times, I didn’t care what was happening to me or when things changed. I have never been one to write these things down or remember dates.
We went through questions about why I was on the medications, what had happened in my depression, why I was told I had bipolar disorder, when I had been in the hospital, what I had used to try to die by suicide, and many other personal questions about my mental health. I felt like she thought I was still in that state or that she was on edge in case I might be a danger to myself or others now. It felt like I did when I went into the hospital those times and everyone was suspicious of me, looking out for the worst in me. I don’t like it when only the bad and hard times of my life are known without a person seeing me as me — without seeing how far I have come. I don’t like being known as my illness.
She asked me if I felt like harming myself or others today. No, of course not. She didn’t know how, when those questions are asked of me, all sorts of past memories flood my mind and worry comes across me. I wanted to get defensive, but she didn’t know any better. She doesn’t yet know me or trust me.
I know all these things were a part of what needed to be done upon seeing a new psychiatric nurse, but I wish these things would have happened also or instead:
I wish she would have had me fill out the info about myself before I came in to see her in person.
I wish the intake process didn’t have to be just about negative stuff on the first visit. It is hard telling a person whom I don’t even know yet about the deepest, most negative things in my life.
I wish she would have asked me how I have overcome my mental illnesses.
I wish she would have asked me about the skills I have learned to help me cope with and live my life.
I wish she would have asked me to describe my current good mental state.
I wish she would have said a couple of encouraging words or a positive compliment about me.
I wish I didn’t have to always be a patient in the mental health system. It would have been nice if she would have acknowledged that.
In general, I wish I didn’t have to go back to the beginning again, but it is necessary. I am a person with a mental health diagnosis, for which medication helps me to live at a healthy level. So I do what needs to be done. I retell my story of the hard times, knowing it will keep the good times going.
Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.
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Thinkstock photo via vadimguzhva