Remember that last post I published? The one from September 2013 that said I would be off for two months? Well, that didn’t pan out, did it.
What has panned out is being hired back to my old job and moving back to the US, which means having to once again enter the US healthcare system.
For my foreign friends – finding docs in the US is a tricky business at best. In The Netherlands, it’s required that your huisarts (GP) is located within a certain distance from your home in case of emergencies so there really aren’t all that many to choose from. Here in the US, you simply ask a colleague if they like their doc and no matter where they are located, go try them on for size.
So in the US, trying to find a psychiatrist presents a whole different challenge. Everyone needs a GP at some point, but not everyone is bipolar. You can’t just walk up to someone and ask if they like their psychiatrist. Even if one out of four people in their lifetime suffers from some form of mental illness, which means statistically those you know have at least one family member that’s seen a psychiatrist, it’s better to keep that question to yourself. Because of that little thing called stigma.
I decided the best route to take would be through a referral service that categorizes docs by their areas of expertise. Heart docs, osteo guys, psychiatrists with specializations in bipolar. As it turns out, my new/former employer offers just such a service. They will even help people hook up with the right attorney, the right smoking cessation program and the right weight loss group. Here’s the catch. One of my colleagues informed me that if someone takes advantage of this service, their manager is informed. The manager is not told what the employee has inquired about, only that the employee has requested assistance.
I work in an industry and for a manager that would severely penalize me for having the condition I do. Damn straight it isn’t fair. Or legal. But it is what it is.
So I’ve resorted to one of those lists from a mental health magazine that is sorted by specialty. Sure, the doc has paid beau·coup dol-ores to be on that list, but it’s the only confidential starting point I have.
No matter who I wind up seeing, I have made a promise to myself. Whatever doc I decide to try on for size isn’t touching the med cocktail I’ve been stable on for almost one year. No one is messing with the concoction that has me in the most stable phase I’ve been in for my entire life. And one mention of putting me on some antipsychotic as a prophylactic? I’m out the door. “Just bill me!” I’ll shout as I tear out the secret squirrel exit, and I’ll never turn back.
Ah, I’d forgotten how much fun the US healthcare system can be when it comes to finding psychiatrists.
The game is afoot.