So I'm having a wee anxiety attack, and talking to the staff at Kaiser didn't help me any. This is my experience with the Kaiser Permanente Psych Crisis Hotline.
I'm not sure if talking to them helped or just made it worse, and I'm unsure if writing it out will bring it all back or help process, but here it is anyway.
I'm greeted my the cheery automated system. First off, I hate fake cheeriness, but what I hate even more are automated phone systems. It takes what seems like forever (time moves very slowly when you're anxious) to explain to me that if I'm having a medical emergency, that I should probably seek emergency medical services, or call 911--No shit?
There is no goddamned way I am going to a hospital. Let me tell you now, so you know that I'm not being ridiculous, and I'll explain why later. Staying in my room, with a nice IPA, my computer, my headphones, and a nice fake fireplace is a far better place for me to be than in a hospital waiting room right now. I have no idea why that's so hard to understand.
I enter my medical ID number on the keypad, but they can't find it. I'm in Oregon, but I'm covered under Northern California Kaiser, so it's not the same. I press 0 for the operator. While I'm waiting to be connected, I decide to try to use KP's mobile app, which is usually great.
Unfortunately it doesn't recognize my fingerprint; although it usually does. I try all three of my common passwords, but none of them take. I click on "Reset my Password" and am prompted to enter my last name and medical record number. I do so, but am informed that there's no record associated with my name. Well, I'm staring at a card with my name and that number on it, so I guess there's something wrong with the system. I give up and light another cigarette.
Yes, I know I need to quit. I'm trying. It's hard. I have a vape pen, and I have patches at home that I swear I'll start when I get back. I need to quit; it's terrible for my asthma. Did you know nicotine is even more addictive than opiods and methamphetamine?
After about ten minutes of "feel-good" and "calming" waiting line music (I fucking hate waiting line music, by the way; could you tell?) I'm finally connected with an operator. I inform her of my travels--I'm in Oregon to visit some folks. I can feel anxiety attack coming on. I had a minor manic episode where I drove around Oregon for six hours trying to find a party. My medication is being weaned off. My doctor doesn't think I'm bipolar. She's about to prescribe me some anti-anxiety medication, but I don't know what kind; I can't remember. I think I might have ADD too, but I don't tell her this. I could really use some medicine to calm me down. The nearest urgent care is a three hour drive; it's Easter Sunday, after all. I can't go to a hospital because the last time I was in a hospital, I was placed on a 5150 hold and spent four days in a psych ward, so hospitals are a trigger for my anxiety.*
"Well we can't prescribe medication over the phone."
"Is there anyone I can talk to that can help me--an advice nurse? I know it's Easter Sunday, so I doubt any doctors are available.
A pause. "So can you transfer me to someone?"
"I'm looking for a doctor for you," she explains. We talk about getting my medical files transferred over. Apparently I have to have a guest account for Oregon. Why isn't this all integrated? I don't ask.
"Well I really need to speak to someone immediately."
"I'm looking for a phone call appointment for you."
"Oh, sorry. I didn't understand."
"I have to enter your information, and it takes a little while." She clarifies more of this for me slowly, so that I can understand (hashtag condescending AF).
"I see." Please get the fuck on with it, already.
"I'm going to transfer you over to our account services department to create a guest chart for you."
"Wonderful." Get on with it, please.
"But first I need to ask you a few questions--it's standard procedure," she explains.
I know, and I've already answered these same questions dozens of times, so let's just get to it shall we. "Sure; I understand: go ahead."
"Have you had any thoughts of harming yourself or others in the past three days?"
Other than now? No. "Not at all."
"Okay, well I'm going to get them online. I'll have to put you on hold for about five minutes."
"Okay, let me explain something quickly. I really hate the hold music. Is there any way you can turn it off, or can I give you my number and you can have them call me? I know it's supposed to be relaxing, but it's not relaxing for me." (Kaiser, please just turn the hold music off, or make it an option to have it off. It's really grating to have a shitty song playing through the shitty speakerphone audio connection that you're forced to listen to so that you can know when the person you're trying to talk to is ready to talk to you.)
"Oh, yeah I know. It's kind of... weird."
"Yeah, well unfortunately I can't turn it off. And I can't have them call you. I'm sorry."
"Okay, well go ahead and get them online."
"Okay, yeah, I'm really sorry."
"It's alright." OH MY GOD CAN I JUST TALK TO SOMEONE COMPETENT WHO CAN PRESCRIBE ME SOMETHING--PLEASE!
I get put on hold again. I hang up the phone. It'll be easier to just try calling my Kaiser Office in Scotts Valley, I think. But first I need a Diet Coke (I'm trying to get off the sugar... but it's not really happening with this beer, because it's basically sugar).
While I'm in the kitchen, trying to get a Diet Coke, and trying to briefly explain to my extended family (cousins in New Zealand) that I'm on the line with health insurance and it's taking forever, I'm sorry but I hope to see you guys again soon! They understand. Everyone understands.
As I'm trying to pour my beverage, I receive a phone call from a number I don't have saved. It's an 800 number.
I swipe right. "Hello?"
"Hi Zach, it's Whatshername calling you back from Kaiser."
"Oh, hey." So you can call me, huh.
"I've got someone from medical records on the other line. I'm going to connect us. But I'll just put you on a brief hold--"
"Please don't put me on hold again!" The line cuts out before she can hear this. I can tell because the music is playing.
I'm now receiving a second call, so I put the first call on hold (counter-hold, AHA!) and answer the second.
"Hi this is Soandso from Kaiser."
"Oh I have you on the other line, too." Me thinking that Soandso is Whatshername, but unfortunately they sound identical.
"Oh you have her on the other line, great!"
"Okay I'm gonna try to merge the calls." I bring my phone down from the side of my head, into viewing position, and wake it up from blackness. I confidently press the merge calls button, and I'm hearing "...merge the calls..." repeating--feedback.
I pull the phone back down from my ear, in the supine, mouth-closest to speaker and earpiece extended away, yelling position: "I think someone needs to put some headphones in. Call me back when you put headphones in."
I never received a call back. But I waited for two minutes before deciding to try my Kaiser office back in Scotts Valley, CA. Of course, I'm on hold again. At least the horrible music is interrupted occasionally by the cheery operator whom I've already chatted with: "All representatives are assisting other members. Your call is very important to us. Someone will be on the line with you as soon as they're able."
Thanks. Yeah, that's about the twentieth time you've told me that, so I'm pretty well aware of it at this point.
I gotta go out for a smoke before I write the next part. Be right back.
Okay, I'm back.
I finally am connected with a representative. I explain everything above* and he informs me that he has to ask me a few questions. I can guess which ones."
"Have you had any thoughts of harming yourself or others--"
"No, I haven't. Can I please talk to someone that can help me."
"Well I have to ask these routine questions, it's procedure. There's no wait to speak to the nurse."
"I know, can we get on with then questions please, then?"
The line is ringing now.
"Hi Zach, I hear you're having a bit of trouble. I'm going to try to help you out."
I explain everything* to her once again.
"Well we can't prescribe anything over the phone. But I'm going to get you to a doctor so we can get you some help."
"I really need help tonight--like immediately. If I can get a prescription--Walmart's still open, it's only 22 miles away. I'm not driving to urgent care. It's three hours away, and I don't think I can drive that far right now. If I can just get a prescription filled at Walmart that would be perfect." Turns out the Walmart Pharmacy isn't even open on Easter Sunday... do people just never have emergencies or what? Well, I guess that's what the ER is for... but I can't go there again.
"Unfortunately I can't prescribe you anything--"
"Well is there anything you can do? Can you leave a message for my psychiatrist? I think I really need to talk to her. Can you connect me with someone who can prescribe me something? My doctor works at your office, her name's CENSORED."
"Well, we can't prescribe anything over the phone. I think you should really be taking your medication, and then get a prescription from your doctor in hand, you know?"
She's playing over the speakers in my rental car now. I have to go back to my hotel to get my medication. She wanted to make sure that I was alright to drive, so she wanted me to wait to talk to her before pulling out of the driveway.
"Yeah, I get it. I have to go now. I need to go back to the hotel for my pills. Thanks for your help. I'm hanging up now."
I hang up. I can't talk to her anymore.
Now I'm back in my hotel room. It's cozy. I'm writing. I'm processing. I'm drinking an IPA I got at the market next door. Thank the Lord it's open.
Listening to Sunday by Earl Sweatshirt. It's my jam. The lyrics really speak to me, so I'll close out with those:
"I know it don't seem difficult to hit you up
But you not passionate
About half the shit that you into
And I ain't havin' it
And we both know that I don't mean to offend you
I'm just focused today
And I don't know why it's difficult
To admit that I miss you
And I don't know why we argue
And I just hope that you listen
And if I hurt you I'm sorry
The music makes me dismissive
When I'm awake I'm just driftin'
I'm not complainin'
It's just to say that I stay pretty busy, lately
And I could be misbehaving
I just hang with my niggas
I'm fuckin' famous if you forgot, I'm faithful
Despite all what's in my face and my pocket
And this is painfully honest
And when I say it I vomit
On cloudy days when I'm salty
I play the hate to the laundry
State to state for the profit
it ain't a stain on me, nigga
My momma raised me a prophet
I play for dollar incentive
And where I'm walking, it's studded
and half-retarded I stumble
To where she park when she visit
I grab the bottle and chug it
I see the car in the distance
I know the dark isn't coming
For the moment, if I could hold it"