Imagine if you were unable to put weight on one of your legs. It’s limp and it just doesn’t seem to be operating at full strength. It’s preventing you from getting around to places you love and slowing you down. Would you go see a doctor? Would you try to remedy the situation?
Why are physical impairments seemingly more important than mental health impairments? They can both be immobilizing, they can both cause death (potentially) and they both prevent you from living your best life. So why do the ailments that we can physically see get all the attention? Mental health is just as important.
I recently had some health issues (some of which I am still experiencing), that caused me to seek out doctors. I was having some severe pain, among quite a few other concerning symptoms. I went to urgent care and was diagnosed with appendicitis and sent to the hospital. At the hospital testing was done (CT & ultrasound) and I remained there for a majority of the day, until they released me and gave me a referral to the OBGYN. They said they had found a fibroid on my uterus and MAYBE a mass behind my right ovary, but they said it could have just been part of the bowel but they couldn’t tell. So I was sent to the OB for re-imaging. The OBGYN told me she couldn’t do the re-imaging until my stomach calmed down. She then gave me a referral to the PCP who would give end up giving me a referral to the GI, I’m sure. Wow. All that and I still don’t have any answers. As none of the doctors I saw could tell me what was wrong. I did not go to the PCP or GI yet, as I was beginning to feel better.
The reason I mention the run-around is because I don’t have insurance. These misdiagnosed problems by the urgent care doctor (appendicitis), referral to the OB by the hospital, when they ended up saying they couldn’t help and just referred me to someone else. I have to pay for these mistakes. I have to pay all the test costs and doctors fees and medication costs. I am using my time and my money because others made a mistake. That doesn’t seem fair, especially when we are broke beyond words.
It’s frustrating. It makes me want to stop seeking help. Even with the words “possible mass”, it’s honestly not worth the stress caused by the run-around and various, uncertain answers. If something is serious enough, I guess they will know next time I go in for whatever reason?
But I wanted to touch on some of the reasons that I or others may not always seek medical attention. Because I feel that they are all things that could be fixed. I think that’s important to note. These issues in the mental health system are fixable.
First off, it takes a lot of patience to get a diagnosis sometimes. I get that doctors want to be sure and confirm a serious diagnosis numerous times before telling the patient. And it’s not always a black and white, classic case that can be diagnosed with certainty. Testing may be needing, imaging, hospital stays, specialty doctors, etc. Getting healthy – no matter what you’re facing – will not be a one-stop shop. Doctors don’t always have all the answers, but sometimes our bodies make it hard for them to get one with numerous displayed symptoms. It took my mother about two months to get a formal cancer diagnosis from the first time she went to her doctor with cancer symptoms.
Second off, I don’t have insurance. I usually get some sort of discount for being self-pay (which is usually about 20%). It helps but by no means does it take away my stress. A 50 grand hospital bill could turn into 40, and I’m grateful, but that number is still impossible for me to pay anytime soon. And even if I wanted insurance this very moment, I can’t get it (at least with BCBS) There’s open enrollment I believe twice a year and I am smack dab in the middle of them both. And then even if I was approved for a plan, I couldnt use that insurance I signed up for in November, until January of the following year!!! other programs may offer immediate insurance but the monthly price is literally impossible to afford!! So basically without insurance, I’m f*cked.
Third off, the thought of getting the wrong help is scarier than getting no help at all – ESPECIALLY with mental health. A wrong therapist or psychiatrist could completely put a bad taste in your mouth and lower the chances of a successful recovery. It can be very damaging. However, I am lucky enough to have found a wonderful psychiatrist and therapist. But it took me numerous different appointments through different offices to find them and be satisfied. I didn’t give up searching, but some people do. It is exhausting.
Fourth off, the wrong help is worse than no help. If I’m in a delicate situation with a suicidal mentality, because I dont have insurance – I’m forced to a state funded psychiatric hospital. I’m telling you now – you do not want to be in that hospital. I’ve been there once before when there was a mix-up with insurance and my mom literally rushed down to physically write a check for a few grand to get me out of there. That’s how bad it was. Essentially a jail cell, a holding place until they see you’ve gotten better or are able to ship you off to a different mental institution which is also state funded. There was no help. It made everything worse. I’m so lucky I got out of there. But not everyone can have mom come to the rescue. I would have been stuck there if it weren’t for her and it was doing much more damage than good.
While physical problems may be easier to fix by doctors than things they can not see, it doesn’t mean that those things you cannot see fall out of the wayside and out of priority. Mental health needs to be treated just as seriously as physical illnesses and we are nowhere close to that being the case in the U.S.
While there can be other reasons I dont always seek medical attention at all or immediately, these four I listed are the main attributes for not getting help. It’s a hard place to be in, especially when you find yourself in an urgent situation. Things need to change. How is it okay that I, along with many other Americans, can’t get the care they need – even when they so desperately need it? Our system is broken. It needs to be fixed.