Nuts & Bolts of Calling a Doctor’s Office

This subject seems to come up a lot, so I thought I would do a Tutorial on how to get in touch with a person and not a machine when you’re calling a doctor’s office.

My first and probably most important piece of information is:

CALL EARLY IN THE MORNING!

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I cannot stress this enough. Even if you have to wait on hold for awhile. I tend to call about 9:45am. By then the logjam has passed and the way is pretty clear.

Calling in the morning gives the doctor the entire day to get your chart, prescribe meds or answer your questions. Lunch time is the usual time they read your message, so if you call in the afternoon, unless you are in the ER, you will be waiting until the next day for an answer.

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If you are really in a crisis (psych, serious fever or infection), I would call back right after lunch. Be your nicest self! NO yelling about “Why hasn’t she called me back yet?!?” crap. Just kindly say, “I need help. I am so ill. Can I come in tomorrow morning? Or might I talk to the nurse or doctor this afternoon?”

“I need help” is a wonderful way of garnering sympathy for your situation.

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A Practice with a Receptionist

If your doctor is in a practice with a receptionist, it’s easier to get a hold of the doc you’re needing because someone should always be available during the 9-5 workday.

You often will be triaged by a nurse before getting a message to the doctor. Still, the earlier you call, the earlier your voice will be heard.

Most offices close for lunch… either between 12pm and 1pm or between 1pm and 2pm. Calling then, you will get a machine. Leaving a message on a machine is like talking into an abyss. Call back when lunch is over.

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Calling Mental Health Professionals

Therapists especially are meticulous with the timing of their appointments. They are 50 minutes long, beginning at the top of the hour, ending at 50 minutes after. I have great luck calling in that 10 minute window between clients. Some will listen to messages and call back during that time, but many pick up the phone, too.

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Know what you are going to say. They have moments to figure out what you need before the next appointment starts. Write it down if you need to before you call. Be ready!

Psychiatrists’ schedules are a bit more wonky, so leaving a message might be necessary. Just as if you were talking to a person, have what you want to say ready. The more info you can leave in the shortest amount of time… being concise… helps everyone get their needs met.

Playing Dumb

When I really need to get through to someone (and you pick your battles here), I feign accidentally hitting the button that says “If you are a care provider and need to speak to someone now, press 1.” Use that sparingly, especially in the same practice. Really, judicious use, please.

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Bypassing Automated  Menus

If you’ve read this far, I get to teach you a trick I learned from another operator. Not specifically for doctor’s offices, but really helpful for banks, phone companies, cable companies, DMVs… any of the bazillion places that have phone trees you seem to be forever lost in.

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Press 0 (zero) fast, over and over and over again. PressPressPressPressPress a dozen or more times. 8 out of 10 times, this gets me to a person.

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Patient Portals

If you doctors’ office has a Patient Portal, sign up for it asap!

In the portal, you can email your provider, ask for refills, make appointments without calling and see your chart and most lab results.

Patient Portals are the best.

Patient-Portal

If I didn’t answer something, ask me about it!

Bipolar Diary: (Fucking) Depression

I am immobilized by depression now.

I cannot work. I can barely write. I am sleeping 100 hours a day.

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artist, Ksenia Anske

Yet ANOTHER Visit to the Psychiatrist

Over and over and over I go, like on a loop, sitting in the Psych’s office, trying to form words that explain how I feel:

  • Despondent
  • Apathetic
  • Useless
  • Premonitions of Agoraphobia
  • Infinitely sad (made worse by Aleppo)
  • So, so, so tired

And words I do not share because they will toss me in the hospital if they fall out of my mouth. We’ll just let them sit in there and rot.

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artist, David Kessler

Medications

Another change in meds. Lowering the Risperdal, upping the Wellbutrin. Will it make one iota of a difference? Can’t I have some speed, please? “We don’t want you having those horrible hallucinations again, do we?” (Yes, please. If I can stay awake.)

Change cannot come soon enough.

Bipolar Diary: Triggers

It’s really sucky to just be living your life, tooling along as usual, talking with your lover… and then BAM! have your head smacked with a baseball bat and suddenly being an incoherent, crazy person contradicting yourself and being mean to the last person on earth you want to be mean to.

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I can’t even find the words yet for how embarrassed and ashamed I am for hurting someone I love so much.

I know. triggers are triggers and sometimes cannot be helped because seeing them down the road isn’t possible.

They still suck.

Bad.

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Anxiety Attack? O, There You Are!

Last night I was talking to my cublet, we were ranting a lot about that Hitlerian President-Elect, sharing our thoughts, our fears… our terror… with each other and then I needed to write.

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Descending Distress

So I went to work on Stunned, Shocked & Saddened and right as I got to the end, I began to feel crappy, then worse, my heart started racing, my stomach was in knots, I began sweating like a piglaletta and finally I told my cub, “I feel like shit! I need to go lay down.”

Once I was on laying on my bed feeling horrid, I began breathing deep to try and lessen the distress.

Then I thought, “Oh, I recognize this. This is an Anxiety Attack.”

I situated myself on the bed, laying down, feeling my body’s frantic fight to keep control over my mind, but I strong-armed the panic so I could do my Mindfulness exercises.

I felt the sheets under my arms and legs… listened to the air conditioner’s humming… smelled the scent of cinnamon from the witch’s broom I have in the corner.

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Working Through the Experience

When I could, I texted my cub that it was an Anxiety Attack so he wouldn’t worry. He then asked if I had meds for that.

My cub is under 30-years old and has zero experience with mental illness, so his frame of reference is me. On meds. Getting new meds, getting them adjusted, and making sure I take them properly. While he knows I do Mindfulness Meditation and that I use it at times of stress, he doesn’t know Anxiety would have been one of those times.

Later, when I could explain better, I shared that I grew up in a Pill-for-Every-Ailment kind of family, so I have always seen meds as a free-for-all. My mom, sister and I have all been addicted to pills of one kind or another… my sister dying of an overdose of pain meds, mainly the 4 Fentanyl patches she had on when they found her. I am now about 2.5 years clean from Opiates (Percocet & Norco). I then shared that while acknowledging my forever-need for Psych meds, I do try to minimize other meds where I can.

Anti-Anxiety meds (Benzodiazepines)  are one of those types of meds I would rather not be using. I tried them when I had the Agoraphobia and hated them; I was doped into a stupor. I was on a dozen other meds including the opiates, so probably to be expected, but still. So I made the choice to not use the Benzos, but Mindfulness and Mindfulness Meditation instead.

Back for Good?

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The picture above is so accurate, showing the electrical currents zapping the brain and heart, sending them surging into overdrive… often for no apparent reason. Mental ones that are short circuiting, sure, but often for nothing we can pinpoint.

I was confused why the Panic Attack even hit in the first place, but my cublet reminded me (lovingly and gently) that the (fucking) Election has brought out intense emotions and then I spent a lot of time writing the previous post. Then the Panic consumed me.

Now that I remember what they feel like, I am on alert (not HIGH alert, though) for when/if it comes a’callin’ again.

Of course, I hope I don’t have another, but if I do, I am ready…

…to breathe.

Bipolar Diary: This Isn’t Good for My Depression

I am horrified to learn I live in a country with so many bigots, xenophobes and hate-filled people that they would elect a crazy man to lead our country.

But, I refuse to give up.

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I am scared; I stand up

I Will Not Be Bullied

I don’t know what or how yet… and the only thing I can physically or financially do is write… but I will write until my fingers bleed trying to share, in words that have not already been said a million times, the impact of this Hitlerian President on those around me. And on me, a mentally ill Latinx on Obamacare, a femme Lesbian, an extremely pro-choice sex worker in love with a Muslim (who I am also terrified for).

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Time for the work to begin.

Bipolar Diary: Utter Disbelief

I confessed to my cublet that I have had thoughts of killing myself as the election cycle unfolded, but I didn’t think I was there tonight despite everything.

And then my Tumblr Feed is rife with people desperate enough to not live a Hitlerian existence for 4 years.

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Here is a Tumblr Page that can help if you are considering dying tonight.

PLEASE DO NOT!

YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!

A long list of ways to calm yourself (self-soothe) and of people you can cling to when you fall into that place.

We are all going to have to regroup and find a way to continue, but we can do it together.

Again, you are not alone.

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Bipolar Diary: Election Day Looming

I am a nervous wreck.

Chairing the Member, from The Humours of an Election, William Hogarth
artist, William Hogarth

I keep seeing what people are going to do on Election Night.

Getting drunk seems to be a common theme and, while I do not drink often anymore at all, I thought “That sounds like a dandy idea!”

I mentioned it to mi osezno, who is a non-drinking Muslim, and asked if he would be disappointed if I got drunk on Election Night. His answer was classic:

if there is ever a time

Then he said:

please drink carefully though

I said I would never drive drunk and he says:

what about Your meds?

Hole-ee FUCK.

I didn’t even think about my meds. Or the precariousness of the Bipolar stuff going on.

Crapola, I cannot drink.

Thank goodness my cublet reminded me. How could I forget?

Anxiety

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Now I have to figure out how to deal with the rising anxiety level I am feeling. I am not even watching or reading the news, but am seeing a tad of stuff on Facebook and a tad on Tumblr. I would be a shaking puddle of nerves if I was absorbing the news, too.

I am so scared of the outcome. I represent everything Trump & his minions despise.

I’ll just keep writing out the stress.