Hell’s Waiting Room

I’m a little all over the place today.

I started my day at the Erie County Medical Center, a horrible place full of sick people and chaos. I have been here once before and it was a harrowing experience. Fortunately, they have since moved their Behavioral Health clinic to the building next door, and it was a much more pleasant experience, despite the fact that I’ve been waiting two hours for a five-minute appointment.
I recently left Horizons Health Services, my mental health provider for the past ten years. It was a long time coming, our breakup. For about a year or so I was being ignored when I tried to give input on my treatment plan. I was used to Horizons and I loved my counselors, but I could not stay there as they refused to listen to my concerns. I went from being an individual to being a statistic, and they made that very clear. So screw ‘em
This resulted in me making an appointment at ECMC’s MAPP clinic, a facet of their behavioral health program. They bridge the gap when you run out of meds, which I did a few days back. I have been surprisingly good, though, not even suffering from the usual off-your-pills side effects. Typically, these include fatigue, angry outbursts, and brain zaps, a truly weird feeling in the head, as though your brain is shaking. Not fun. Alas, I have had none of these.
I was anxious about going to the MAPP clinic after the last time I was there.  I remember watching folks crying and shaking in the waiting room, and being shoved in the hallways by the throngs of people. This time was a lot easier, even though one needs to arrive an hour before their appointment. I sat and sipped my coffee and waited in peace, not like last time when I was two weeks without meds. I remember clutching my bag in fear in the corner of a crowded waiting room. I remember watching people that even I, a mental health survivor who knows better than to use such language, would still classify as “batshit crazy.” I remember being scared, nervous, and out of place. Fortunately, things have changed, and now the MAPP clinic resembles any other waiting room full of unmedicated people who have been waiting for 2 hours.
Ok, so it’s still a little chaotic.
I wonder how many of these people are in-between therapists, like me. I wonder how many come here monthly to get their pills. I wonder how many are clutching their bags in fear right now, a nervousness you can’t notice until you look closely. I wonder how many of us are really struggling today.
I have seen folks demand to be seen. I have seen people throw fits because they didn’t make the list (only 8 appointments a day, after that it’s walk-ins.)  I saw a man ask five times when he would be seen. I saw one lady flip out because she thought this was Spectrum Health Services and was mad that she was in the wrong place. No one in this waiting room is completely chill. Everyone is waiting on something they need to function.

I hate sitting here, working on hour number three of waiting, typing my blog via phone and worrying that I’ll be here all afternoon. Still, here I sit, not throwing a hissy-fit like some people in this room, because my illness is not an excuse for me to behave badly. If I behaved how some of these people do, I would fully expect to get kicked out on my butt. Instead, I see folks demanding that which they are privileged to receive. We are the lucky ones! We have meds! We have services! How many people out there need what we have, and still people act like it’s not a gift that you have health insurance, that you can afford your copays, that you’ve found the meds that work for you?

I guess in the end sitting in this waiting room had just given me a perspective that I can’t ignore. Mental illness is a serious problem in our society, one that is never discussed enough, or even properly when it is. Example: I was expressly told not to say that I was looking to harm myself or others. I’m not, but if I were, I would be immediately committed. We are constantly told to talk about suicidal thoughts, but the reality is that when you talk about it with a professional, they commit you. I can’t even speak abstractly about suicide without this fear. I would never tell a medical professional if I was suicidal even if I was, because of this result.  I have had to choose my words carefully when speaking to a professional about suicide, and one should not have to choose words carefully with one’s therapist. In the end, they are silencing those that need help the most by not letting them talk about it. Mental health, all mental health, not just suicidal ideation, needs to be discussed.

Like I said, I’m a little all over the place.  There are many thoughts and opinions that I have about mental health, and most of them are complaints, if I’m honest. Sometimes the day-to-day of living with mental illness is exhausting. Sometimes it’s annoying, like right now. Some beautiful blessed days it’s even bearable. But overall, I would say that it is a challenge, but not an insurmountable one. Everyday can get a little better. Every moment could be a little easier.

In every waiting room, someone eventually calls your name.

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