Somebody Call 911
It all started with an obnoxious heatwave that hung around like homeless in-laws. A man named James Murdough had already died in his cell at Rikers Island- roasted like a chicken in 100 degree heat, a nameless, faceless psychiatric patient - the kind Bill Maher makes fun of on his show- - who fell asleep in a stairwell and some sadistic cop put him in the one place where he, a soldier who knew how to fight for this country but could not fight for himself because, as I was to also learn, those with disorders found in the Diagnostics and Statistics Manual have no voice, or if they do, no one listens. So when I told the customer service representative at Included Health, whose eyes I could literally hear rolling in her skull, that if I did not see my doctor very soon shit would hit the proverbial motherfucking fan, I should not have been surprised by her complete disregard for my desperation. After all, psychiatry and medical practice are separated into two different areas on their website: medical and behavioral. You can see a medical doctor any time you wish, but not a psychiatrist, who’s a medical doctor. So, as a patient of psychiatry, I should known my place: I’m a behavioral problem, not a medical one, as so neatly illustrated by my repeated phone calls growing more and more profane.
What happened, you see, was my fresh bottle of the very pills that the entirety of my sanity depends upon, a precious 90-day supply and the equivalent to a hall pass from admission to a pysch ward or county jail, got fucking wet. I’m like an alcoholic; I live in a bottle, and if I do not have my pills, my medicine, my life can get chaotic, or downright ruined, very quickly. Bipolar and schizophrenic people also wilt in the heat. We are four times more prone to heat stroke than the rest of the going population, and here I was, running around in ninety-five degree heat with obnoxious humidity, and can I please talk to my doctor before I have a stroke? I received many apologies because they completely understood how I felt, but no, you cannot speak to your doctor.
The issue was that I needed a refill on order with the pharmacy so that they could fill the override that my insurance granted me for the damaged pills. And my doctor was on vacation. Not one single asshole at Included Health could pick up the phone and get someone on call to fill my script. They just sent an email to an unmonitored inbox. I was awake for an eight day stretch and slept maybe twenty-four hours in three weeks. I suffered an enormous manic episode that cost me my job. When I was referred to one of their medical doctors to fill the prescription that I was desperately clamoring for, not only did this doctor give me the wrong dosage - further complicating the picture-,but by now I was in a state of dysphoric mania, and this piece of medical trash reported me for violating the terms of service of Doctor on Demand/Included Health because I was disrespectful to him. You get that? I was mean to him. I’m on the verge of psychosis and this boob has feelings. I actually got a letter of reprimand in my account, like a recalcitrant schoolgirl.
We would like to think that we have made progress in the treatment of people who experience mental illness. We have not. Just the fact that we are still using the term mental illness to describe a pathology of the brain shows that these disorders are still viewed through a lens of stigmatization. Mental illness is illness, period. It comes from a dysfunctional brain and it is treated by medical doctors who have medical degrees from medical schools. So it’s time to stop pretending that these disorders have some magical quality that renders them “mental” just because their symptoms manifest themselves in one's behavior. Anything else is just plain crazy.