Okay, maybe she’s not leaving me. But she’s going to a new job in a residential treatment facility where she won’t be able to treat me anymore because she can’t see outside patients.
I understand her wanting to do something new (which I think she’s going to be great at and have a huge impact on those that she works with), but I can’t help but feel like she’s abandoning me. I know that probably sounds juvenile and selfish, but that’s how I feel.
I started seeing her about 5 years ago. I was on death’s door, physically and mentally. I was ready to leave this world behind, but she helped to pull me out of that place.
She gave me the correct diagnoses that I had been lacking for most of my life and was able to treat me accordingly. Prior to that I had only been treated by a psychiatrist once, when I attempted suicide in high school and was hospitalized for a short time for depression. Otherwise, I was treated by my primary care doctor and a nurse practitioner because I was told that all I had was depression and didn’t need to see a psychiatrist. And even if I had understood when I was younger that I needed more care, there was a huge shortage of psychiatrists where I lived and they were rarely able to take on new patients.
My partner found my psychiatrist though when he was in a place of desperation and was willing to try anything and go anywhere to help me. He found her an hour away and immediately scheduled an appointment.
It took nearly two hours to get there because I was terrified to leave home and we kept having to stop because I was having panic attacks and vomiting. And that first appointment was full of panic attacks and tears, but she was welcoming and calm and listened to my whole story without judgment or rushing me.
She didn’t hurry to diagnose me and put me on a bunch of drugs either, she recognized that the immediate need was to stop the panic attacks so that I could start eating, sleeping and holding food down again (at the time I was having 10+ panic attacks a day, wasn’t sleeping more than 2-3 hours, had no appetite, couldn’t keep food down and was slowly starving to death). She gave me two medications to calm my mind and help me to sleep and had me schedule a follow-up appointment in just a few days as opposed to weeks. She also gave my partner her personal cell phone number in case things started going south again. That gesture alone meant the world to me because instead of plying me with drugs and pushing me out the door like my other doctors and even the hospital had done multiple times, I finally felt like someone cared and actually wanted to help me. She acknowledged that there was something very wrong, it wasn’t just in my head as I had been told by other doctors and it wasn’t my fault. I no longer felt alone.
Things didn’t change right away, but I slowly started improving. I began sleeping 4-5 hours a night. Instead of vomiting multiple times a day, it slowed down to once or twice and then stopped altogether. My appetite came back and I started to gain back some of the 30 pounds that I had lost during the first month. The panic attacks did slow as well, but they continued, as did the depression, so then we started working on other treatments.
I was her first patient to try a couple of them. One major one helped a little, but not enough for me to continue it. The second one helped tremendously though, it completely changed my life.
It took four years, so many medications and multiple treatments, but eventually we found the right combination of medications and the right treatment regimen and while I’m not my idea of perfect, I now rarely ever have panic attacks, flashbacks that wake me from or keep me from sleeping, the depression is a million times better and I haven’t had a bipolar episode in over a year.
And during this entire time and everything that happened and I went through, my psychiatrist remained calm, supportive and fully invested in getting me better. She allowed my partner and I to make payment arrangements for treatments that weren’t covered by insurance. She allowed my partner to contact her in emergency situations when he needed some back-up to get me through what I was going through and keep me out of the hospital. She was there for me while I was working through some really traumatic things. She was part of my team the entire time and I knew that I could always count on her.
I know it wasn’t just her, my partner and my therapist were a big part of it too. And I know that (as all three of them consistently point out to me) they didn’t do it all, I had to work really hard to not give up, to save myself. But regardless, I really don’t think that I would be alive today if it wasn’t for her.
And because I had such a great relationship with her, I followed her when she had some practice changes throughout the pandemic. But this time, I don’t get to follow her and I’m more than a little afraid of doing this whole living with severe mental illnesses thing without her.
I have been getting a lot better over the past few years, especially this last year. My treatment regimens are working well. I’m so much better than I used to be. I know all of that to be true. But for the past five years, she has had my back if something went wrong, and it often did. And now I just keep imagining all the things that could go wrong without having her on my team. There’s a possibility that one of my treatments, one that has been doing the most for me, I may not be able to continue without her. I’m scared that I’ll start regressing without it and I don’t want to go back to that place. I’m also worried about who will advocate for me and make sure I get the right treatment if have a bad episode and have to be hospitalized. It hasn’t happened since I was suicidal as a teen, but I know the possibility is there and I can’t imagine going through that without her.
There aren’t a lot of psychiatrists (or any doctors) like her that put so much into their patient’s well-being. She wasn’t just there to give me drugs. She took time with me and helped me in ways that no other doctor ever has. It wasn’t just medication management; she was really there for me and I trusted her.
It’s hard to feel optimistic when you feel alone and isolated. And it’s hard to step outside of your bubble and find new support systems and ways to feel not so alone. I’m not sure how I’m going to be able to do that and continue my progress without her. But…
I have grown. A lot. I have healed. A lot. I’ve done things over the past year that I never thought I would be able to do again. I can find a new psychiatrist, even though I know I’ll probably never find another one like her and it will might take multiple attempts to find the right one. But I can trust in myself and in my own judgement. I can do more than I think. I can do this without her. Because she gave me the right tools to keep moving forward on my own.
And Dr. G, if you’re reading this, please know how grateful I am for all that you’ve done for me and all that you’ve given me. You never lost your patience with me, you never gave up on me, and I wouldn’t be here without you. Thank you.
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Hi Vickee, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I went to medical school to help people, but with the current health system, it is not always easy or possible. I am grateful that I actually was able to serve this purpose for you. And you are absolutely right that you can do this, because the main source of your growth is you. Take care. Dr. G.
Hi Vickee. I love that you received the care you needed and the care you deserved from Dr. G. It’s so heartening to read that you have benefited so much from working with her. All my best wishes in finding a new psychiatrist who continues on the path Dr. G established.