Dear Customer Care,
My name is Richard Furstein (patient No. YHQ3HZN58338870), and I am writing you to share my experiences seeking psychiatric help through your website and phone services. I didn’t find any. Not that I didn’t find any doctors listed; on the contrary, you maintain a long and impressive list of physicians who no longer accept my plan. I’ve had civil conversations with receptionists, self-identified “customer care specialists,” and even a security guard to understand why I am just not allowed to see a doctor from any of Philadelphia’s numerous area hospital systems. It’s not that my insurance is unacceptable, but simply that the psychiatry departments no longer accept it.
That makes perfect sense, in the same way that my brake specialist no longer accepts my auto insurance even though the engine specialist does. I’ll just drive my car somewhere else to get new brakes, except that driving without brakes really isn’t that safe, is it? I don’t mean to sound condescending; I’m just having a bit of trouble wrapping my head around how the $7,000 I pay every year can’t buy me 45 minutes with a trained professional to figure out what’s wrong with me.
But I suppose that’s the reason I’m having such trouble, isn’t it? Is it my clean appearance? My ability to form complete sentences and speak politely to the doctors’ receptionists? Or is it because I haven’t picked up my mother’s gun, shot her in her sleep and stolen her car yet? While trying to schedule an appointment recently, I was asked about my symptoms and patient priority status. Do I feel like killing myself? Do I have violent impulses toward others? Am I having trouble with day-to-day activities? Have I tried other treatments?
Who do you think you are, and what makes you think that you have the right to any of that information? I didn’t realize that MBAs and actuary science degrees are the new Doctor of Medicine degree, or that it’s now the responsibility of suits in an office in Newark to decide if I should get medical care in Philadelphia. I didn’t realize that there’s a shortage of mental health services in this country and that we’re rationing them for the crazies. Is it because I’m still capable of getting out of bed in the morning and going to work that I’m not ready for help yet? When? When do I become your priority? When I’m too scared to leave my room because I don’t want to get hurt? When I’m wearing a tinfoil hat and a winter coat in July, hobbling down Market Street looking for a cigarette? Or when I drown my son in the bathtub because I just can’t take it anymore?
And who am I to expect such priority treatment? I am the man sleeping with prostitutes because he’s too ashamed to tell his wife he lost his job. I’m the new mother who hates herself because she doesn’t understand why she suddenly feels depressed. I’m the gay teenager in Kentucky who’s going to shoot himself in the head because he knows his parents will never love him. And I am perfectly normal. I am a product of a society that’s more worried about how much it will cost to stop polluting the earth than it is about polluting the Earth, where it’s easier to buy a shotgun than an antipsychotic, and where children are taught that being normal is not something they are born into but something they can become. It’s my job to deal with this on a daily basis, and it’s yours to help me through it. I am a human being, and I deserve to be treated like one.
You know why I need a psychiatrist? Because sometimes I’m afraid that I’m too annoying, or that I can’t succeed, or will never be in a stable romantic relationship again. And I don’t want to live in fear anymore. I am not going to sit down and let these problems rot me away. I need help, and with or without your assistance, I’m going to find it.
Richard Furstein is the distribution manager at The Triangle. He can be contacted at [email protected]