Staying in touch with your treatment team can be hard under the best of circumstances when you’re living with bipolar disorder. With the need for physical distancing, it can be downright difficult. Here’s how I navigated my appointments.
Mental Health Is “Essential”—Even More So Now
It can be
stressful to go to the doctor and sometimes it feels like there are too many
appointments vying for our time. Staying in touch with your treatment team can
be hard under the best of conditions when you are fighting bipolar disorder,
but it can be downright difficult when the country is undergoing a health crisis
requiring physical-distancing practices.
At the very start of when life started to change for us on a wider scale, in early to mid-March, I had just canceled my “nonessential” medical appointments (a trip to the dentist and a checkup with my primary care physician). This was in accordance with widespread recommendations that we avoid visiting doctor’s offices unless we were symptomatic—and, even then, we were encouraged to call ahead to make sure of the correct protocols and even that there would be available space for another patient. But what to do about my upcoming therapist appointment? Surely my mental health, especially under these stressful and worrisome conditions, would be considered essential. I called my therapist next.
doing the extra sanitizing and cleaning up the whole building, so we’re open
for business,” she said. “Come on in.”
New Protocols for Health Safety
Then, the Sunday afternoon before my appointment, I received
a call. Once I heard my therapist’s voice, I had a sinking feeling that she was
having to cancel. But she was calling to tell me the new protocol: I was to
wait in my car until she came out to get me at my appointment time; she would
open the clinic door using a disinfecting wipe, and I would walk in without
And that’s exactly what happened.
We sat in her office and stared at each other.
“Well,” she said. “Everything certainly is different, isn’t
I agreed, and we went on with the session. She said she was giving patients the option of telehealth services if they didn’t want or need to leave their home, but I have continued to see her in person for my visits.
state-run local mental health centers have also upped their sanitizing game and
transferred as many patients to telehealth appointments as needed, meaning that
they would see their doctors either over video-chat platforms or via standard
before my appointment with my psychiatrist, I received a recorded call telling
me that my psychiatrist was moving completely to telehealth, either over the
phone or through FaceTime. I was to call the office ten minutes before my
appointment time, let them know which option I wanted, and they would call me
So, Thursday morning came, and I called at the appointed time. The receptionist and I worked out the details of how I would be contacted directly by my psychiatrist. Then I asked how long it would be before I received his call.
fifteen minutes,” she said.
minutes stretched to thirty, then forty. I knew better than to try to call back
to hurry my doctor. He stayed behind for in-person appointments, too, so the
extra waiting time was no surprise.
called me back, and we had our session. He agreed that I needed a change in my
antidepressant medication, and I needed a prescription for a new medication
that, until that point, I had been getting directly from him in sample form. He
said I sounded okay considering everything and that he would send me my
He hung up
before I could tell him not to do that.
over Prescription Mix-ups & Mail Delivery
back and told the receptionist that I wanted to come in person to pick up my
prescriptions because my post office was operating with a skeleton staff and
was very unreliable in normal conditions.
I assured her I would wear a mask and everything. Her response was surprising: “No need for that. They’ll screen you at the front door for temperature and give you a mask there.”
So that is
exactly what happened. A nurse checked my temperature and gave me a mask and
gloves to wear in the building and in my psychiatrist’s office. Although it was
a bit strange, I was able to access my prescription slips this way.
Protocols & Filling Prescriptions—Curbside
I went to
fill my prescriptions at my neighborhood pharmacy and already knew the new
rules it was operating under—they had curbside service only. A masked and
gloved runner came out to my car, I told them what I needed. They filled my
prescriptions and collected payment, all without me ever leaving my car.
still had a supply of the sample medication at home. It took five days (until
the following Tuesday) for my new medication to be approved by the insurance
company. On top of that, as I write this, it has been eight days since I first
tried to fill my prescription, and my pharmacy still hasn’t been able to provide
Right now, I
am very lucky that I still have enough samples to get by for a few more days.
And my pharmacy is reaching out to my insurance company to see what the
Roadblocks, and Patience
Everyone on my treatment team is simply doing the best they can to cope with the guidelines we are currently living under as a society. It’s hard to fault anybody under these conditions, and yet it can still be frustrating to try to navigate access to necessary providers and prescriptions.
matters for me, personally, is that my treatment comes in different forms from
different members. But I am still advocating for myself and staying on top of
my mental health care.
understandable that you might feel frustrated, ignored, or even angry when
faced with these challenges. Try to work through those feelings rather than letting
the emotions surrounding this difficult time in our history keep you from
getting the help you or a loved one might need.
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