Monday, July 11, 2016

Crisis: An Essay on Minnesota's Mental Health System

Take me to Regions??

The following is a true story. To protect professional identity, ALL names have been changed.

My name is Susan Marie Andersen

I have Bipolar Type I Disorder (diagnosed at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in 2004).

Even with a serious, diagnosed Mental Health Condition, I have worked tirelessly to be a productive, happy, healthy adult.

I was a productive, happy, healthy, adult.

Until I fell BACK in to the system.

The Mental Health System.


Right now, right this second, I am trying to get up the energy to drive back to Regions Hospital. I am trying to make my way to a place called "Medical Records." I need to go to Medical records to sign a piece of paper. I need to sign this piece of paper so that their Psychiatrist can allow my Psychiatrist to help me. I need help. Why do I need help? Because I spent five days locked in a psych ward. And now I am on meds that are not good for me.

What is wrong with this picture?

Plenty of things. But, first and foremost, it starts with Stigma. Stigma is alive and well in the Mental Health World. Alive and thriving, in fact. If one of my Regions nurses or doctors or anyone for that matter read this post, she / he might be saying a loud,:

"Hmm. Susan sounds Manic."

Yep. I get it. Mania has symptoms that match up with things that people do sometimes - like spend too much money. Like cheat on their wives. Like run away to Canada. Like Move to New York.

I will go ahead and be a broken record here, and it is completely fine if you do not believe me, Dr. Kangaroo. I - Am - Not - Manic.

I am Mad. I am Mad as hell.

Why am I mad?

I am mad and now, as I breathe (square breathing technique...calm...calm), I am actually Sad. I am not sad for me. No, I will be fine. I will drive my nice car to St. Paul and sign the cryptic HIPPA paper so that my own psychiatrist can treat me.

I am sad because how many people you think have the privileges I have to get myself out of this mess?

How many people are white / pretty / privileged / HAVE FAMILY / have a bed and food and clothes... How many people out there have Bipolar Type I, somehow (kill someone, try to kill themselves, you name it) end up on the 8th floor, just like I did and then they get put on


Medication is great. Medication is fantastic. If you have Bipolar YOU HAVE TO TAKE YOUR MEDICATION - ALWAYS. 

I was taking my medication. I was. And then, a small oversight, I stopped for a few days (less than 8) and was getting back on them (I take 400mg of Lamictal). But, guess what sucks about meds? 

What sucks about Medication is there are RULES.

And with my particular med, the second you go off it, a psychiatrist can only slowly put you back on it because otherwise you can get a severe life-threatening rash. SO!

I sound Manic, right? I think I probably do, too. But I am not Manic. I am Mad but mostly sad...

SO, Dr. Kangaroo and team put me on a mood stabilizer of my choice. That mood stabilizer is Lithium because it is a pick-your-poison scenario for me at this point. I choose Lithium. Some people love it. I hate it.

I follow all the rules. I stay in the psych ward. I take the drugs. I try not to speak because speaking makes you sound Manic. So I write. I write it all down. I ask nurses to photocopy it and put it in my file. I finally get discharged. I follow the instructions. I take the 25mg Lamictal (titrating up) and I take the 600mg Lithium. I do the steps. I call my therapist. I call my psychiatrist.

I call my psychiatrist. My amazing, brilliant doctor (I am so lucky).

But! Guess what! My psychiatrist & team cannot help me - they literally cannot get the information from Regions to Park Nicollet without my fricking signature. Isn't that kind of weird? When a patient is calling - desperately needing her own psychiatrist to kick in now - and Park Nicollet is doing everything they can - and - WAIT

Wait, just one second. Park Nicollet??

Yes, that's what I said, Park Nicollet. 

Aren't they aligned with Health Partners?


And...Isn't Health Partners - I mean, Isn't Regions Hospital a Health Partners hospital??

YES. YES, true! <<< /// true /// >...

Ok, great! Then they should be able to just make a phone call, right!? Aren't they all one unit!?

NOPE. I was told by Deena IN MEDICAL RECORDS that I have to literally drive myself back to Regions to sign a paper to get medical help from my own psychiatrist today.

Punch Line Questions:

  1.  Do you think it is wise to have a mentally unstable person driving to a hospital to sign papers just to get help from her psychiatrist?
  2. Do you think this situation is conducive to health? Like, for my BRAIN?
  3. Do you think I even want to keep writing about Mental Health at all, or even tell another soul that I have Bipolar Type I??

Susan Marie Andersen
aka Susan B. Agony
July 11, 2016

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