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!

bird-worm

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.

1691333_orig

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.

maxresdefault

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.

closed-for-lunch

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.

clock-10-50_33524_lg

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.

Dial1-blog-680px

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.

IRS-phone-numbers-how-to-get-a-live-person

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.

phone

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!

Into the Abyss

We had some really nasty storms here in Orlando the past couple of days. During one particularly enormous gust, the electricity slammed off.

And They Vanished

I easily have hundreds of thousands of photos on my computer and several hundreds of thousands more on an off-site photo storage facility, SmugMug, that caters to professional photographers. (I love SmugMug; they are awesome.)
smugmug

Anyway, I am in my photos several times a day, so when I opened my Pictures and it was nearly empty of my folders, each one holding thousands of pics, my stomach clenched and I thought I was going to throw up.

Had I done something to them? Deleted them? Filed them somewhere else? I am in this Manic Phase, could I have done something with them and not remembered?

tumblr_ogou2xij5o1uno395o3_540

Delving Deep

I’ve been on the Internet since 1995 and I know how computers work pretty well. I know how it holds things… and how it loses things. I have lost everything twice in all these years, two computer crashes that swept everything into the ether. My pictures, my words. Everything I’d put on the computer, gone.

(Back in the olden days, it was a challenge saving things. Those enormous floppy disks, then 3.5 inch floppies/diskettes… nothing held much data and I knew nothing about external hard drives back then.)

450px-floppy_disk_2009_g1

The first time my computer died and everything vanished, I thought I was going to die. Quite literally. I was in a state of shock for far too long, then in mourning after that. I can still touch those emotions all these years later.

The second time it happened, I blinked, knew everything was forever-gone, took a deep breath, sighed, shrugged… and started all over again on the next computer.

Once I learned how to back-up my work, I did. Having a blog helped tremendously, my knowing my words would be forever online. Then, when I began taking hundreds, then thousands, of photos at births and at Disney World, I tried to keep them on at least 2 computers. Finally, SmugMug came along and I was able to put my pics in a safe, off-site place as well. I felt enormous relief.

But I have not sent any pics into SmugMug for at least 2 years.

So, 2 years of stuff has vanished. Blessedly, Meghann has every picture of her family, grandbabies included, so even though my copies are gone, she has them all for me. Thank goodness for Facebook’s Photos sections, too, so I can grab Aimee and Tristan’s pics again. However, there are loads of pics of me that I do not have anywhere else. Gone.

Recovery

As I said, I am pretty good on the computer, so while I was distressed earlier tonight, even crying at times, I set to work looking for the lost files. Starting at the top and working my way down the tree, I searched. And searched. I scoured the Recycle Bin, recovering everything just in case I was missing something in my being upset. I poked around all the hidden places files and folders could hide, yet found nothing. I tried to move the computer’s date back in time, but it was stubborn and wouldn’t let me.

I was getting frustrated when my wondrous cyber-lover jumped in and brought logic and sensibility into my view, replacing the enormous mountain of emotion I’d been floundering in for the last several hours.

He Googled the problem and, lo and behold, this has happened to others before me! (Can you hear me laughing at how crazy I was not thinking about Googling earlier?!)

googling_god__life_s_greatest_searches_

Apparently, there are apps to use to recover lost data. I am quite scared about downloading just anything lest there be nasty viruses included in them. I’m trying to figure out whether I should research and grab a recovery app to try and find my lost photos… or should I just sigh loudly and move on. At the moment, I am in a resolved place that the Universe doesn’t want me to have those pictures.

I can live with that.

 

Bipolar Diary: (Fucking) Depression

I am immobilized by depression now.

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

ksenia-anske
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.

david-kessler
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.

Politics: Brokenhearted

I go a couple three days without reading even headlines. Then, like tonight, I peek at what is trending.

And now I am despondent.

annagiladi
artist, Anna Giladi

Just the headlines are enough to make me want to crawl in a hole. Imagining these people in control, making rules and regulations (or undoing regulations as the case may be)… it’s terrifying.

Rape

I do not say the word “rape” lightly. I do not use it randomly. I have been raped. I know the seriousness of the word.

So when I say I am horrified seeing who is going into the Cabinet because they are going to rape the United States, I mean it with all the terror that comes with the word.

The people being appointed are going to make the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) “conflict” look like a picnic. They are going to dig deep into the land, tearing up beautiful homes, ruining National Parks… and the repercussions will be felt/known/experienced for hundreds of years after these fucking pigs are out of office and dead.

substance20

Hopeless

I felt hopeless for a couple of hours. My chest felt like someone was sitting on it; I struggled to breathe. My blessed cub held me and talked to me as I cried about how horrible this all is.

And it hasn’t even begun yet!

I think that’s the scariest for me is if I am this upset and sad now, what am I going to be like in a year when we are in the middle of the rape, still years ahead to be attacked… every which way we try to get away, to fight our attacker, he strong-arms us and continues the assault.

Not Giving Up

I saw this photo:

tumblr_n9u6fw83dw1szx5wso1_500

I cannot let anyone die alone.

No LGBTQIA+ youth who is outed because of new laws will not be alone. We will do everything in our power to save you from the evils of “conversion therapy”… torture.

No woman who has to have an illegal abortion because abortion has been outlawed will not be alone. Those who can will learn to do abortions safely, despite the laws, risking jail, but finding the risk is far less than a woman attempting self-abortion.

No Muslim who has to “Register” to be in this country will not register alone. Women who have their hijabs mocked or pulled off will be defended so she is able to practice her religion in this country that still allows religious freedom (so far).

No woman who is attacked… grabbed “by the pussy”… will not mourn and heal alone.

No Black man, woman or child will endure the escalating hate and murder alone.

No immigrant, here legally or “illegally,” will fight to live here alone.

No Native American will have to wrest their rightful land back from the lying White people alone.

No disabled person will be left to live or suffer alone. We will find the tools they (WE!) need for anyone who still has needs. We will not let the world become completely able-ist, forgetting/not caring for those who have challenges.

No writer, photographer or artist will be censored. We will find ways to get the words and images out to the world.

No child who is hungry and has lost their free breakfasts, lunches or dinners will starve alone. We will find food for you precious babies of ours.

And then there are the promises I cannot keep:

We will not know the impact slashing Social Security will have on our elder Americans. Will they die alone freezing and starving while those in charge have billions of dollars to spare?

What are we going to do for our mentally ill (myself included)? What if our free care is removed? What if we are not allowed our medications, therapy, our psychiatrists?

We know a only fraction of our brothers, sisters and others who have killed themselves because of their despair of who is coming into the White House. What of all the others who are misgendered, hidden, reported as dying of “natural” or “accidental” causes when they really overdosed on purpose. So many suffering without our knowing they are there.

I need to go house by house looking for those in pain. Like the Christians in Germany who saved the Jews, taking chances, risking death even… all to save even one soul.

flower-tree-growing-concrete-pavement-19

Reaching Out

I might cry again. No, I will cry again.

But I cannot give up. I cannot let someone die reaching out for another hand. I know mine is not the only one searching. Maybe, just maybe, if we all keep holding our arms out, joining hands, we might be able to save more than just one person.

I cannot give up.

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.

trigger

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.

weep

 

Fat Girl Stories: The Fucking Pap

rant-on
Warning: Lots of fucks to come.

NOTE: I am a retired midwife. That alone makes many, many people nod and say, “I can see what’s coming now,” because care providers are the worst patients ever. I lived up to that expectation. In spades.

download-3

I had to have my Pap yesterday morning. It took until this morning for me to be able to relive the experience for a post.

It Unfolds This Way

I am ushered behind The Door by the Nurse-Practitioner’s assistant (LPN? I don’t know) and right there is the fucking scale. Knowing my weight, I told the girl and she said I had to get on the scale, she cannot take my word for it. I looked at her and said, “I am not getting on the scale.” She says, pretty snotty-like, “Patient refuses weight” and jots it on my chart.

I rolled my eyes.

She takes me into the exam room and there, laying out is the baby-sized paper top and a teeny sheet to cover yourself with. I wore a shift with no undies, no bra, expecting to just lift everything up. Easy peasy. I also spied the plastic speculum in the wrapping: medium.

The assistant took my blood pressure (incorrectly) on my forearm and I had to show her where to put the bladder tubing over my artery on my lower arm. She wasn’t happy I changed her rhythm. Tough shit.

Went over meds, any current problems, past STDs (HSV & HPV) how many sexual partners this year. I laughed. How many in a lifetime? I said hundreds. She turned and said, “Are you serious?” (which I thought was rude as fuck); I said I was. I imagine she then typed into the computer: DO HIV TEST.

When she was done with the computer question & answer part of the fun, she proceeded to tell me to take off my bra and underwear and put the teeny covering over my top, opening in the front for breast exam and to cover myself with the miniscule paper drape. Even the Chux on the table was infant-sized. Then she left.

examtable

Decisions Decisions

The table was lower than the one above, so I sat on it… on the Chux and drape, with zero intention of taking my stretchy dress off.

Then my mind started going:

She (the wonderful Nurse-Practitioner) isn’t going to be able to see your cervix with that medium spec. You need a large at least, if not x-tra large. I already know my walls fall inward ( a common multip and/or fat issue, of which I have both). What if I need the specialized ones where the spec has the blades on the side, too? What if I need to go see a GYN? Are they going to fat-shame me because I need a special speculum? I hate Hate HATE putting my legs in the stirrups. (I can feel the tears welling in my eyes just writing this out.) What if she tries with the medium and cannot see my cervix? Then I will have to see someone else and do this all over again. Maybe I will just skip it altogether and just talk about my Dexa Scan and the Hematologist I need to see for my chronic anemia.

shrinking

Where did all this anxiety come from?! Fuck, I have had at least 30 or 40 pelvic exams before, including student midwives so they could learn what a fat body feels like. This was so different, though.

Maybe I will just skip it altogether.

The Visit Begins

In came the NP and the assistant who was already gloved (a no-no). I didn’t say anything because I was too anxious about my body.

I love this NP. We share an obsession with Disney stuff and talk about it all the time when I see her. I told her how good it was to see her and I relaxed a little.

She had the HIV test in her hand (we used to do the oral ones when I was a midwife, too) and I said, “I guess you want to do the HIV test now?” and opened my mouth. She did the swabby thing over my cheeks and gums and then put it in the solution for the 20-min wait.

I shared my latest labs. My HgbA1c was down from 7.7 to 7.2 in 3 months. Yay! She was going to give me a referral to the Hematologist because my anemia had now turned chronic (Hgb of 9.9-10.1 over 9 months) and to the Endo again for the osteoporosis I now have (both the anemia and the osteoporosis from the Gastric Bypass in 2001) to get shots.

I then point to the speculum on the side table and tell her it ain’t gonna fit, do they have a large one? Ayup. They do. The assistant chick got it out from under the cupboard.

I say I do not want a bimanual exam because she won’t feel anything anyway and they always hurt because the provider tries so hard to find my tubes and ovaries and my liver already hurts. She said no problem. Just the Pap. (The fucking Pap.)

She asked if I had had my mammogram this year. Nope. Do you want a breast exam? Nope. Just the mammogram; I examine my own breasts, thanks. She said, “No problem.

The Fucking Pap

Then it was time when I had to lay back and put my feet in the stirrups. I whined about how fucking flimsy they were and she said she thought they were better than the leg supports and I said that, for fat people, the leg supports are far superior because it is difficult to keep our legs under control in the lithotomy position.

gyno-feature
Add about 200 pounds on her.

She put her gloves on then began touching my labia and I felt the fucking speculum. I know they aren’t supposed to hurt and for fuck’s sake I have done 100s of spec exams on women myself so know how it goes for many… it isn’t comfortable. Or pleasant. For me, they fucking hurt.

speculum

Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow until she was in and swerved the spec around upright, then the pain stopped. Opening it was fine. She said, “I see your cervix right there!” I was so happy I could have screamed. When she took the specimen, it didn’t hurt. Coming out was fine. That going in… sheesh. Sex sure doesn’t hurt like that. (Lube, lube and more lube, that is why. No lube is used on the specs lest they contaminate the specimen.)

And she was done. I wanted to cry with relief because she found my cervix so easily, didn’t have to take it out and retry again and again or send me to someone else. Goddess forbid something be wrong and I need to have dozens of them. Ugh.

(And in case you are wondering, yes I am a Survivor of Sexual Abuse & Rape and am sure that has an enormous hand in my discomfort issues.)

And my HIV test was negative. Yay! Good for 6 more months.

hivtestnneg
C=Control= Negative

Fuck am I glad that fucking thing is over with for a year.

Bipolar Diary: Utter Disbelief

I confessed to my love 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.

help

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.

kbteewb

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 my love, 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

streak

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.

Anxiety: Agoraphobia & GAD

I was going to see President Obama on Friday, October 28, 2016. Strategic obstacles left me out of the crowd (another post), but lots of feelings of anxiety crept up that I needed to write about.

I was extremely excited, but I was also terrified. I was scared there would being a bombing, an assassination, a mass shooting, a stampede… you name it, my mind could create a scenario for its occurring during in any public function and in any space where people congregate.

Agoraphobia

agoraphobia-box

I had agoraphobia (the fear of the marketplace aka the fear of leaving the house), a form of an anxiety and panic disorder, for an 18-month period about 4-5 years ago. I only left home when I could go with my then-partner Zack; he was my talisman against freaking out. I was even able to go to Costco (the most open marketplace ever invented!) with Zack in attendance. Alone, I could not even get to the car in the driveway without a panic attack.

Only in the distant retrospect am I able to see the agoraphobia was in response to 1) being ostracized from my midwifery community and 2) Zack’s coming out transgender. The stress of the two kicked my anxiety level into overdrive.

My least favorite memory was when I laid on the floor of Target, after the registers, before the doors (in front of god and everybody) and EMS tried to talk me into getting up and sitting on the Starbuck’s couch. I was so immobilized it took many minutes for me to even hear the requests/commands to move already. It was after that I didn’t leave the house alone for over a year.

Panic & Generalized Anxiety Disorders

anxiety

So, GAD isn’t a label I wear, but have worn for a short time in my psych history. It came right after the agoraphobia, before the depression, during my opiate addiction. The Panic Disorder came with the agoraphobia.

Despite being on Norco and Percocet, along with a (literal) handful of other psych meds taken 3x a day, I was prescribed Benzos -anti-anxiety pills. Benzodiazepines are highly addictive. I took a few of the pills over the next few days, but they put me in a stupor (not surprising at all considering what else I was on) and decided they were not for me. However, I knew I would turn to them when/if I ran out of my opiates, so had Zack lock them up from me. I do not recall ever wanting them again. Over the years, I have met so many benzo addicts I am so glad I never got into them.

Mindfulness Meditation

mind-full-or-mindful

I have written about Mindfulness Mediation before in relation to getting clean from opiates. It was also responsible for my climbing out of agoraphobia eventually. I went to a class at UCSD on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)… it taking extraordinary effort to get there each time… but the new skills helped tremendously and I was able to gradually let go of the anxiety and resume a life of going to the store without Zack again.

Anxiety in My Life Today

lottiegeliot
artist, Lottie Geliot

The state of the world makes me very nervous when my family and friends go out to festivals, restaurants, concerts, etc. I am able to stay safe for the most part, being disabled, but the fear of violence (which does not have a “phobia” name that I can find) nearly paralyzes me at times. I think twice, three, four times before heading out to even the store. I have to breathe, remind myself: It is on the news, that’s how rare it is.

But Pulse was a few miles from my home. And that made the news. Those 49 Doves gone in a matter of hours. It could happen again, right? And, to be honest, we all know it will happen again one day. Worse even.

So when things tangled into such a mess that I could not go see the President, I was able to exhale and sit in a small out-of-the-way restaurant with my mama instead.

I don’t know if I will ever be totally free of anxiety… it seems not… but I just keep breathing.