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: Incremental Shift

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Loving Nudge

After my Bipolar Diary: Depression Deepens post, I had several people tell me to call my psychiatrist immediately. I thought I could white knuckle it for another week, but others saw what I couldn’t. I trust those closest to me and picked up the phone, getting pushed into a non-existent spot in his schedule the next day. Wednesday, August 2, 2017.

Office Visit

The crying had been keeping me from functioning and did not abate while in his office.

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I told him about the suicidal ideation increasing… then added the obligatory, “But I have no plans to hurt myself, am not stockpiling meds and promise to call 911 if I do find myself getting too close.” He replied, “I understand how frightening they (the thoughts) can be, even when you aren’t consciously creating them.” I breathed a sigh of relief that he seemed to understand.

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artist: Soren Dreier

I’ve had at least 8 different psychiatrists in 30 years and this one is one of the top 2. He listens to me, takes my preferences seriously like refusing the Risperdal increase and is infinitely patient with my continued distress.

I really am so blessed to have such a kind (and gifted) doctor. I know that is rare and how privileged I am to be able to receive quality medical and psychiatric care.

I OWE MY AWESOME CARE TO THE ACA/OBAMACARE INSURANCE I HAVE.

I would not be alive without it.

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Medication Change… Again

I continued crying while he pondered, looking at his computer, typing some, then thinking again.

He found a medication I had not tried before… Latuda… which I’ve since read is used specifically for bipolar depression. Yes, yes… it does come with a laundry list of side effects, but I’m ignoring them, listening to my body instead.

I know it takes at least 2 weeks (in my body) to 6 weeks to feel the full effect of psych meds, but when I got home from the appointment, I took my first pill. Then the next morning, I took the second. (It is taken once a day.)

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Whether placebo or really working that fast, I did not cry until late evening the next day. I didn’t cry the next night, either. And the ideation has slowed, the thoughts feeling more “transparent,” fewer hard imaginings. The images had been like mosquito bites, begging to be scratched. (Not sure I explained that clearly… I’m having a terrible time writing this, pardon spelling and grammar errors, please.)

August 6, 2017

I’m feeling better still. The doc told me that if I was feeling too sedated, to drop the Risperdal, which I did on day 3 after starting the Latuda. I’ve been on Risperdal since 1995, so it is a major thought process to not take it before bed. I do feel less sedated (I described it like someone spiked my drink), but there’s a lot more room for not dropping into a slumber at any given moment.

Let me get this out so those who are following along know how I am doing. Thanks for you care and attention, my dear friends. Thank you for your love.

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artist: Zenos Frudakis

Bipolar Diary: Zero Gravity Hallucinations

I’d thought I’d come to a place of balance. I was still having hallucinations, mostly visual, some auditory and tactile, but those not so often. Even though the hallucinations have continued, I told the Psychiatrist I did not want to take more Risperdal to try and make them go away. The short time I was on the increased amount (double what I am on now), I gained 30 (fucking) pounds in 6 weeks. As soon as we halved it, I stopped eating like an insatiable animal, and have now lost 10 of those 30 pounds. I told him I’d just suck up dealing with the hallucinations.

However, there does come a tipping point between what I can live with and seeing much of my room floating around as if I was in space.

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Balance – dance troupe, Pilobolus

What’s Going On?

I cannot pinpoint why they are getting bigger, more bizarre and more aggressive. My sleep is weird, but I am sleeping. I’m in an inordinate amount of pain, but that isn’t too new… I had my gallbladder removed on February 2 and have had a series of infection complications since. I’ve got other pain, but can usually meditate to work through it. (I have Trazadone if I need help sleeping, but have only taken that a couple of time.)

Visual

A crazy hallucination I had the other day was seeing my pillow breathing. Yes, I know… ridiculous, but I stared at it as it inhaled and exhaled for the entire 5-minutes I watched. I blinked, shook my head, told myself there was no way in hell that was real, yet the pillow kept inflating and deflating, slowly, as if it was breathing. I glance over a lot to see if it’s going for a repeat performance. Nothing so far.

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I have the usual roaches and now some flying bats, but those are pretty yawn-inspiring since they’ve been around so long now. It’s the floating toilet paper roll, the pens, my Blistex lip balm… things that are here in my room, in my real life, just appearing, mid-air… there… and then fleetingly gone again. My food shifts next to me. I “see” music coming out of the speaker. The movements around the room are near-constant. (The book next to me is shuffling the pages as I write this.)

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I try to drive infrequently and only for less than a mile or two because it is frightening to not know if that box flying through the air is an illusion or really fell off that truck up there. I am terrified when I pass bus stops because people are so close to the edge, they slide over into the road sometimes, sliding back just as I get ready to veer away from hitting them. I do everything in my power to never drive during school drop-off or pick-up, the amount of busy-ness in the roads confuse me terribly. Don’t even get me started on mailboxes.

Tactile

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I am tapped periodically. No one is here to tap me. It’s nothing. I feel things crawling on me a lot. My room is clean! There are no bugs to crawl on me. No fleas, no gnats. Nothing. Yet I could swear there was a spider crawling up my leg or on my arm. Even when I am looking right at my skin, seeing with my eyes that it isn’t there, it is there… I just cannot see it is all. (Talk about a mind fuck!)

Auditory

I have these the least at the moment. Just some occasional whispers. Nothing telling me to do anything, I don’t get those kinds. I just get ominous whispers, just out of hearing range… my name whispered a lot.

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Resolution

Klimt
artist, Gustav Klimt

Writing all that down, I see I really might need to just up the Risperdal to curb some of this extraneous activity in my brain. I am crying writing this, fearful of gaining more weight. (I gained 80 pounds in 3 months when I started the Risperdal 13 years ago.) I know there are other meds I can try, but I get Tardive Dyskinesia so easily… and have it already from the Wellbutrin… I am so wary of changing from meds I know work.

Fuck, this is confusing sometimes.

Thanks for listening.

Who Is “45”?

“45” is what I call POTUS, the 45th president of the United States, that horrid man who squats in the White House tweeting (LYING) about random topics to divert our attention from the fucked up bullshit he does that will, PLEASE GODDESS, get him impeached.

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Bipolar Diary: Visions

So, I still have hallucinations, minor visual ones, not scary. But for a couple of weeks now, I have been having visions… premonitions are what they feel like.

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I meditate and have vivid images cross my mind. They are different than the fleeting, wandering thoughts that float around inside my head during meditation. These are more solid than vapor-y… and so, so, so real. They come with emotions, sometimes intense. So far, all good, but I am a tad nervous about seeing scary things; trying not to focus on them, though.

They do not only come when I meditate, but they seem to come easier at that time. Sometimes I am in that half-asleep place, going to sleep or waking, and they appear, too.

“Seeing”

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I saw a dear single friend of mine sitting in a library and a woman came to sit by him. She was dressed modestly, something that is important to my friend and struck him immediately. I saw them meeting, marrying and having a family together. All within moments. It was so real I almost reached out to touch them.

I’ve seen my grand-babies, growing through their lives… specific activities that I’ll leave a mystery for now.

I’ve sat in a meadow touching a rainbow.

Confused

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Google-ing visions with bipolar disorder, one gets “schizophrenia.” Eek! Really? I see the Psychiatrist in a couple of weeks and will ask him what might be going on.

Until then, I’ll take what I see, write the visions down and not worry too much about this new phenomenon in my mental illness.

Bipolar Diary: Manic Spending

I’m pretty upset as I write this. I’ve known I spent money during the Mania… enough that I am in quite a hole I cannot seem to climb out of… but I did not know how much.

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I could have gone and looked at my bank statement when I realized the money was gone so I knew where it went, but I was sticking my head in the sand, ashamed of what I had done… too embarrassed to even disclose it to myself.

But I found a pile of Blu-Ray DVDs 3 days ago; all 6 seasons of Northern Exposure and Season 1 of St. Elsewhere. I’m enjoying Northern Exposure (am on Season 5 now), it being one of my fave shows of all time, but I cannot help wishing I had the $400 back instead.

Today, I decided to be brave… and humble… and go look at the accounting of my spending during the Mania. It isn’t pretty. I didn’t have lots of new things in my small space, so was baffled what I could have spent the money on.

Apparently, I was benevolent.

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Not needing to share the organizations I picked… I’ll just say I chose ones who were either in Syria or were attending to Syrian Refugees. 3 different ones.

1  of them twice.

Trying to put the pieces together, I looked here in the blog and, as the Mania was ascending, I had written about my utter horror and distress about the Middle East. Clearly, it affected me deeply considering the amount of money I donated very soon after writing those posts. There is no way I could say, “I wish I had the money back,” but I still wince seeing how much I sent out.

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I’ve been trying to figure out a way to not have that happen again. As far as I know, I didn’t tell a soul I had done it. If I had, maybe someone could have questioned me? I have zero recollection of spending anything during that time. I don’t have a real life lover or anyone to watch over my finances (which Zack used to do). I don’t have credit cards, but spent everything I had plus more I had in the bank, so can’t even cut up cards to try and save myself from me.

I’m lost. Maybe someone will have some good ideas for not having that happen again?

Bipolar Diary: Coming Back to Life

Holy crap! I am finally awake more than 2 hours a day. I worked right about 500 minutes last pay period (I usually average over 1000)… and yesterday alone, I got almost 300 minutes!

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Med Changes

So upping the Wellbutrin to 400mg a day and the Risperdal down to 1mg a night seems to be the ticket. At least for now. How many times do I have to do this readjustment? Over and over again. Very frustrating.

However, I took no nap yesterday, so that was good. I laid down this morning, but not sleeping, just dozing.

I am cranky. (Oh, well. I have good reasons.)

I do hope I keep feeling better.