I made it five days after NaNoWriMo before I had to open my computer and write something else unrelated to work. It looks like once you get that habit of writing 1,667 words per day for 30 straight days, you can’t help but write after that.
NaNoWriMo is quite the challenge. I always thought I was a writer. But nothing makes you come to terms with what that means like sitting down at a computer for an hour or more every night and hammering out the worst sentences you’ve ever written just to get them on the page – after working at that computer for eight hours already. I wrote 50,665 words in 30 days, and I am very proud of myself for that.
Five days later, though, I’m proud of myself for putting my contacts in in the morning and making it to work around 9 a.m. Over this past weekend, I had a slight panic attack/mental breakdown. After righting myself from that breakdown, I realized there were several things contributing to it:
- The stress and excitement of finishing NaNoWriMo
- A lot of being “on” during social time with NaNo and Terry’s birthday
- Travel and family time
- General workload
I could feel my typical depression symptoms creeping back in right after Thanksgiving: trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, and trouble waking up the next morning; general irritability; and, my favorite, a vague but unshakable sense of helplessness and hopelessness.
So after crying in my husband’s arms and recognizing that I was suffering from some serious Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), I decided to do something about it. My doctor and I just increased my anti-depressant dosage a couple months ago, so I didn’t want to go that route just yet. Instead, I called my therapist’s office to make an appointment. It’s been a couple years since I was there, but that’s what you shoot for, right, to not need them weekly or monthly?
Yeah, I guess not at this place. They closed my chart.
And here we reach the rant I’ve been building toward for the past several paragraphs:
It is too damn hard to get mental health services in this country. I’m a middle class millennial with good health insurance through my job. I can get in to see my general practitioner or my OBGYN with just a couple days’ notice if I’m sick. I generally know I will find something in the near future that works with my schedule if it’s not an emergency.
Why can’t I do that with mental health therapy?
My GP referred me to this mental health practice. Even with that referral, it took me well over a month to schedule my first onboarding appointment. Every subsequent appointment was scheduled for about a month out because that’s what they had available. And appointments were only 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Because that is practical for people with day jobs. I made it work, and I think they helped. But after a while, especially once I started taking medication for my depression, I really didn’t need the appointments anymore.
But just as my anti-depressant dosage has steadily increased over the past several years, so, too, has the need for some mental health therapy as well. I would love to talk to a professional about some work stresses I have, family things that have happened over the past several months, and ways to combat SAD without increasing my anti-depressant dosage again.
But my chart is closed, and I would have to go through the onboarding process alllll over again if I wanted to go back to that therapist.
Again, I’m lucky to have good health insurance that I learned provides mental health services. Even still, I have to email our HR rep, figure out what the process is, call to find a provider, and then start the onboarding process elsewhere. And this is with employer-provided healthcare. I can’t even imagine what this would be like if the only place I had to start was Google. And what if I didn’t have insurance or my insurance didn’t cover mental health? Or if I didn’t have anti-depressants covered by an insurer in this gap when I’m trying to find additional services?
It’s hard to talk about this stuff. It’s hard to say, “I had a mental breakdown because it got dark outside too early,” and not feel like an incompetent moron. But the reality is that it doesn’t even have to be dark out to trigger depression and anxiety. It could just be Tuesday.
I could rant about mental health services and universal healthcare for hours. We need to do more to break the stigma and provide care. Until that happens, though, be there for your friends with depression and anxiety. “Hey, you got this,” goes a long way.