Where’s My Doctor

I expect certain things from “my” psychiatrist. When I write “my” psychiatrist, I refer to the fact that I have paid for the services of a psychiatrist in private practice, and feel that I have purchased certain aspects of what is hopefully high quality health care. One of the most important aspects of this care is the ability for me to be able to reach my psychiatrist on short notice. If I were to become manic or suicidal, I hope I would have the sense to make a call for help as I have in the past. If I were to make this call, I should be able to leave a message for my psychiatrist and expect that I will receive a return phone call the same day or the following day at the latest. This is basic common sense, and a necessary part of the patient-doctor relationship. If I have a problem, I tell my doctor and he listens, or at least he should. But something different has happened recently for me.

It all started when I went to a different doctor to get a D.O.T. (Department of Transportation) physical exam required by law in order to drive a large truck at my job with a gardening company. When I filled out the patient history paperwork to get my D.O.T. driver’s card, I thought about lying and not reporting my bipolar disorder and not disclosing my medications. But I can’t lie about these things and expect other people to see that change is necessary in terms of how mental illness is viewed. The whole point of why I wrote my memoir and why I speak in public about bipolar disorder is to help people feel like they can be open about similar issues in their own lives. So, I disclosed my psychiatric disorder and my list of medications. The D.O.T. exam doctor said he would pass me on the exam if he could just get a simple letter from my psychiatrist stating that I was not experiencing any potentially hazardous side effects, particularly drowsiness, from my meds. That seemed to be simple enough. That D.O.T. exam was on September 1st.

I called my psychiatrist on September 1st and left a voice mail about my need for a letter concerning my medications to be sent to the D.O.T. examiner. I did not hear back from him that day or the next. I recall thinking that it was just before the long Labor Day weekend, and perhaps he was on vacation, and maybe not even getting his voice mails. But then the weekend passed, and I left more voicemails. During the next week, I realized that I would also need to make another appointment with my psychiatrist because I was running low on a medication and would need more refills, and I had some concerns that I wanted to address in an appointment, not just by phone. So I left messages about wanting to make a new appointment. Most of these messages were left on my psychiatrist’s cell phone. I also left a message at his day job clinic. The phone number for his private practice was out of service. Another message was left on his wife’s private practice voice mail, but there still has been no response. So what happened to my psychiatrist?

I have left the answer to that question drift away from me, even though he still has not returned any of my calls and it is now the middle of October…only six weeks since my first voicemail that I left for him. Fortunately, I was able to get in for an appointment in the first week of October with another psychiatrist who I saw for about four years. He is the doctor who helped me initially when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2005 and over the years we have build a trusting relationship. I plan on continuing with him and do not plan to even call the psychiatrist who I could not get in contact with.

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