The Crazy Meds Doc is how I refer to my psychiatrist, but not to his face or anything. Let me start by saying that I don’t actually think that you or I or anybody else who takes antidepressants is actually crazy. Crazy isn’t even a clinical term. I just call my psychiatrist the Crazy Meds Doc because I believe that it’s important to have a sense of humor about difficult topics. Also, I feel more comfortable telling my friends that I’m going to the Crazy Meds Doc than to “my psychiatrist,” you know if I need to tell my friends I can’t go to lunch or something because I have to go to the Crazy Meds Doc. (I’m a big believer in being specific whenever possible about the reason for going to the doctor. Otherwise people assume you are pregnant. Should something medically embarrassing that necessitates a doctor’s visit come up, I just say I’m going to the dentist. Nobody’s ashamed of having teeth.)
Also, I think people should probably know that the state of mental health care today—for those of us lucky enough to receive it—consists of 15 minutes or less with a medical doctor, and any more talking that you want to do better be with somebody who has a Master’s Degree, because your insurance isn’t going to pay for all that MD time.
So a few days ago it was time for my twice-annual visit to the Crazy Meds Doc. I should mention that I always feel proud when I get on a twice-a-year basis with CMD. When you’re really down and out he says he wants to see you in six weeks. Then you graduate to three months. Every six months is the best you can do there because after that the doctor gets afraid he’ll be cited by the DEA for writing prescriptions without properly monitoring patients.
Despite the fact that the Crazy Meds Doc is the least invasive of my routine medical visits, I dread it just as much as the dentist or the gynecologist.
Some of the dread just comes from the logistics of it all. CMD moved offices recently, and now it takes me about half an hour each way to get there. The waiting room is always packed, and I think everybody there has the exact same appointment time as you do. So, an hour of driving, 45 minutes in the waiting room, and 5 minutes with the actual doctor … and you’re out two hours of your day.
But the driving and the waiting aren’t really what I hate about the Crazy Meds Doc.
What I really hate is that going there reminds me that I am broken. And not just “grab a prescription for antidepressants from your internal medicine doctor” broken. “You need to see a specialist” broken.
I will tell you this. CMD’s new office is located in a big medical building, one where you have to park in a certain place so you can be in any kind of proximity to the entrance nearest his office. In a layout overly fraught with symbolism, you step through the glass doors and immediately face a large and imposing sign indicating the entrance to the Cancer Center. It’s only by making an immediate right that you find yourself in the corridor that leads to the Crazy Meds Doc.
And every time I go in there, I say a silent prayer of thanks that I get to make the immediate right and not go straight into that Cancer Center.
But I’ll also tell you it wasn’t always like that. When I was at my worst, I wished I could have cancer instead of depression. Obviously I was not at my most logical then, but hear me out. With cancer everyone rallies around you. They set up fundraisers and Meal Trains. You’re forgiven for missing work.
With depression you suffer in silence and only tell people when it’s absolutely necessary.
Thankfully, these days cancer has regained its spot in my long list of catastrophic anxieties, one that pops up every time anybody in my family or I have any kind of weird symptom.
Anxieties like these are why I need medication. And that’s why I have to go to the Crazy Meds Doc.
I hate it there. I hate seeing all the other people who struggle. I hate hearing the receptionist tell somebody on the phone that the next appointment the doctor has is in three months, and if you’re really struggling you need to go to the Intensive Outpatient Program. (I did that program too. I called it Crazy Camp.)
The appointment itself is always really quick and simple. I’m fine. Everything’s the same. I’ll take a refill. Bye.
And yet I can barely make it out to my car, past the Cancer Center entrance whose lesson of gratitude is now lost on me, before I start crying. The tears are a release of all the emotion of the whole experience.
I wish I didn’t have to go there.
I’m thankful for antidepressants. I’m thankful that, although they are certainly not perfect, today’s antidepressants are a lot better than what was available a generation ago. And yes, I know taking an antidepressant to boost the serotonin in your brain is no different from a diabetic taking insulin.
I know. I know I know I know.
But going to that place … it reminds me that I’m broken. And that the only thing that stands between me and total dysfunction is a few tiny pills.
I don’t want you to tell me I’m not broken. I know that. I don’t want you to think you’re broken. You’re not.
I want you to know that if you feel broken, you aren’t alone. And that together, we will cobble together our broken selves, band together, and survive.