Over the First Hurdle

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Tonight was my first college class.

I was scheduled to have a morning class today but it was cancelled by the delayed opening due to Harvey, so the evening class was my introduction.

I left the house at 5:00 for a 6:00 class, and even taking the back roads and avoiding the gridlock that is Interstate 35 during rush hour I still took most of that time.

Tonight was basic introductory stuff. We went over the syllabus and got a few pointers on how to study. The instructor seems to be fairly easy going but is very no-nonsense.

In other words, precisely the kind of person that triggers my anxiety.

I sat in the back of class tonight and raised my hand when appropriate, took basic notes, found out that the book that the course catalog gave for this course was not the one that was being used (and so it will need to go back to the bookstore for a refund to Texas Workforce Commission, who paid for it – we will instead be using a free-online book from Rice University that I’ve already downloaded), and basically tried to look like I was paying attention to stuff that was already covered on the syllabus that I’d read front to back before coming to class.

After class, I went to the front and presented my instructor with my accommodation letter and note sharing authorization. He asked me what this was, I told him, and he responded with “Okay, I don’t need to keep this. So summarize what you need from me.”

And I almost froze like a deer in headlights.

I could feel the panic welling up inside me as I tried to give him the information that he requested. My mouth went dry, my mind started to race, I started stumbling over my words.

And then I stopped for a brief second, closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and continued.

This time I was clearer, more calm, able to focus on what it was I wanted to tell him instead of rushing words out to fill empty air. I got my message across to him, and he responded with what he could do. Quizzes would be a logistical problem, so I told him that I would do my best to take them in class, but that I might need to go to the testing center for my midterm and final exams. I also told him that while these accommodations were established for me, I’m going to do my best not to need them. He wished me luck but said that if there’s anything that I need from him to let him know.

I stopped at the restroom on the way out and by the time I’d finished up he was waiting for the elevator, so we went down together. While on the ride down, I asked him about his policy about bringing bottled water to class, and told him that I’m on a few medications that cause dry mouth. This is an accommodation that was specifically requested for my algebra class but somehow didn’t make it over to the accommodation letter for biology. He said that the campus “doesn’t want seven course meals beside computers,” but that a bottle of water was fine. He went on to state that I shouldn’t bring curry into class, because “it would distract [him] and [his] Cajun sensibilities.” I had a laugh and we went our separate ways in the parking lot.

The second interaction with the man was just fine. No panic, no fear. I’d managed to successfully fight it down.

So that was tonight’s introduction to college life. I’ll get a taste for what a typical class day will look like on Wednesday with both classes in session, and then I get to take a day off for Labor Day next week before really getting into the groove of the semester.

I’m not proud of the momentary panic attack tonight, but I am proud of how I handled it.

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Stuff Gets Real

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Tonight I had my first bit of panic since starting this process of going back to school. I got an email from my biology instructor detailing where class notes can be found, as well as the syllabus. It’s the first communication that I’ve received that was class-specific and it took me aback for a few minutes while it finally sunk into my thick skull that classes start in less than 48 hours.

Somehow it all felt unreal up to this point – the meetings I’ve attended, the hoops I’ve jumped through to get registered, all of it. I don’t know why it was the letter from my biology instructor that finally drove it home. It’s not a bad thing, mind. It was nervous excitement that I felt more than fear, although there was a good chunk of fear in there.

I really hope I know what I’m getting myself into.

Laundry Day Progress

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My wife is back in town, and we celebrated by … catching up on laundry.

It’s been hanging over our heads for some time now, but between travel out of state and sore backs and general malaise, we’ve let it pile up. (Again.) Apparently events while visiting her dad made laundry a necessity pretty much immediately. On a related note, my wife changed her first diapers in over 20 years while on this trip.

Because the trip was so rough on her, I wanted to alleviate as much of the stress of doing laundry as I could, so we deviated from our usual system this time. Normally, when there’s this much laundry (don’t laugh, you put laundry off too) I take one basket down to the car and she takes the other, then she drives to the laundry facility on site to start the wash, drives back to the apartment, drives to go trade the washers for the dryers, drives back to the apartment, then drives to go pick up the clean and dry laundry so we can both take it upstairs and both work to put it away, me working on folding clothes and her working with the hangers in the closet. This time I went with her to the facility and helped load the washers, went with her to help move the clothes from the washers to the dryers, then went along to empty the dryers and take the clothes back for us both to put them away.

This is an important step for me in that I’ve somehow worked myself into a panic about laundry. I’m willing to help by carrying a basket down to the car and bringing one back up and putting away the clean clothes, but I’d gotten it worked up into this horrific thing in my head about actually going to the laundry facility. While I was there loading the washers, I had to fight down a panic attack, and the whole experience was just overwhelming to me throughout. I made it through, however, and I didn’t die, nor did anything bad happen the whole time.

It seems silly to make such a big deal out of something as simple as laundry, but then again, I’ve managed to put a lot of everyday activities into that category of “too scared to do.” I still don’t drive unless I have to, and even then it’s almost always back home from dropping my wife off at work, then to my therapist’s office and back home, then from home back to my wife’s office to pick her up. Almost all of that driving is on surface roads, except for a stretch of feeder road from one exit to the next between home and my therapist’s office. Getting back and forth to the airport for my wife’s trip was an exceptionally difficult thing for me to do and I was fighting down panic the whole time.

So today, a little progress, and a little celebration. It was a nerve-wracking day, but I survived.

 

A Few Hours of Panic

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Some time ago, we got a notification that my psychiatric medication manager was going to be changing practices and that we would need to sign a release in order for my records to follow her to the new practice. Since I’m self-pay under a special arrangement – $75 per visit – we tried to contact the new office to determine whether they would accept my insurance and whether they would match the self-pay arrangement I had in place. And we waited, and waited, and waited.

While I was in Phoenix, I got a call saying that my May 2nd appointment with her would have to be rescheduled. I told them I was out of town and that I’d call them when I got back in to make arrangements. I sent them an email asking why they’re rescheduling an appointment and whether she was in fact moving practices, as that was scheduled to happen April 1st. They said she was still with them and they could reschedule, and gave me options. I chose to postpone it a week, and that’s when they said that she would be at the new practice at that time and have I managed to get my records sent over to the new place?

This prompted another call to the new practice asking about insurance and self-pay options. No, they don’t take my insurance. Self-pay patients will pay $150 per appointment – double my current arrangement.

So I sent another email to the original practice asking if they would honor that $75 agreement with any other medication manager in the practice, and they said no, that the rate would be $125.

So I started looking for a new medication manager.

My insurance company listed 115 providers within 25 miles of my ZIP code. One phone call eliminated all but 39 of those providers, as they were at a practice that does not accept patients from my county. They transferred me to their Travis County counterpart. They don’t take my insurance either, but they have a financial need process to go through in order to determine self-pay rates. I kept moving through the list.

The next call eliminated three more providers by saying they weren’t accepting new patients. And I went through the rest of that list getting some version of why they can’t take me as a patient. One practice only did clinical trials, another only accepted workers’ comp cases, one number was to an architectural firm. Four were eliminated because they only serve children. One practice said to call back on the first day of the month at 9:00 am and talk with a live person to set an appointment for a new patient, but be prompt, since the new patient appointments for the month were usually gone by noon. (Turns out this is the practice my wife uses, and a call to back channels confirmed they weren’t accepting new patients at this time.) I left a smattering of messages, but wasn’t holding out hope that they’d be the one.

Until one of them called back.

He confirmed that he was in-network for my plan, he confirmed that he was taking new patients, and before long I had an appointment in hand and the intake forms already filled out. The appointment is in less than a month, so I won’t be waiting long, and I’m pretty sure that I won’t be running out of any of my medications in the meantime.

I’m looking forward to this new chapter in my psychiatric care, though I will miss my former medication manager – she was the best I’d ever had, and she’s leaving big shoes to fill.