I've definitely had my fair share of bad experiences with psychiatrists. I have even discussed it before on this blog. So, it is very frustrating to me that a new psychiatrist has just let me down.
It's important to realize that at this point, I am like the dream patient for a psychiatrist. I know that I have an OCD and anxiety diagnosis, I know what pills work, I am stable, and I just show up twice a year and basically confirm that everything is still going relatively smoothly.
Well, I started with a new woman last summer and maybe I should have known from the beginning it was going to be trouble. She didn't accept like any insurance plans. But fine, whatever, I'm on autopilot... how hard could this be?
We met and she seemed nice. I met her again in January, confirmed things were good, and asked if I could just have some Xanax for emergencies. I had them in the past, but didn't have them anymore. She looked at me like I might be a drug addict. She looked me up in her computer system, saw that I wasn't a pill shopper, and agreed to give me a prescription for 10 pills, but lectured that this wasn't the standard of care anymore and told me she would never give me a refill. (Please note that since she prescribed them in January, I have taken a total of one. I seriously only use them for extreme panic attacks.)
So I was kind of off put by that situation, but okay. I see this woman twice a year. She doesn't need to trust me. Whatever.
That brings us to last week. I get a bill in the mail for $125. Underneath the date and total info was handwritten only, "missed appointment." I didn't even recognize the name at the top of the invoice at first. What even was this?
I was angry, but remembered that I had made an appointment with my psychiatrist back in January for July. It was 6 months ago that I made that appointment, so I had just forgotten the day. I've never had a doctor before who didn't do some kind of confirmation. Email, text, call... even my manicurist confirms her appointments!
I called in to figure out what to do and her receptionist basically said all she could do was take the money I owed, but if I wanted to make another appointment I'd have to leave the doctor a voicemail. I paid and let the receptionist know I wouldn't be returning.
This whole situation had me fuming. Regardless of the fact that this woman has no confirmation system, what I think the real tragedy is here is that this woman is a psychiatrist who had a patient not show up, who she has had no contact with for six months, and her only response was a bill with the handwritten note "missed appointment."
Luckily, I am stable. But what if I wasn't? Apparently she sees no need to confirm and remind patients of their appointments and believes they can remember them on their own. Well, in that case, the fact that I missed the appointment should be even more disturbing. What if I hadn't shown up to my appointment because I was in crisis? A lot of these pills that are supposed to help mental health can sometimes lead to negative effects. She's supposed to be a mental health professional... shouldn't she at least check in?
I talked to my friend about it who agreed it was ridiculous. She said her therapist calls her if she's even 15 minutes late for an appointment just to make sure she isn't dead.
I know most doctors don't check-in when you miss an appointment. But, as a mental health professional I would hope psychiatrists would understand the importance of showing care and empathy to their patients. Even if you tell me this woman has no time to send emails or make phone calls, if she had expanded her handwritten note to read, "Missed appointment. Hope all is well, please check in," that would have been enough.
Maybe that's a good lesson for all of us: Take the little extra step to show people you care. It can mean a lot.