Week 7. Journal Entry. To the Parents…I See You.

The last two weeks my practice has been taking upwards of ten referrals a day. We can’t take everyone. There aren’t enough of us and I’m the only person who is full time.

I try and get back to every one. I’m not sure I’m always successful. Between the e-mails and phone calls and seeing patient’s at least nine hours a day, often more, and dealing with insurance companies…yeah it’s a lot. Aetna screwed up my reimbursement and they only let you give them three claims at a time that need to be corrected when I call provider services.

It’s their error but I’m the one who had to call three times to have them re-process nine claims. I emailed my rep and blasted them. Then sent the remaining ten via email to her to process in bulk.

Anthem. I can’t even comment on Anthem. At the end of this I will be dropping them.

Meanwhile I still have two four year olds screaming in the background of all my sessions.

My clients are all anxious. They all can’t sleep. They are Mom’s feeling like failures because they’ve yelled at their kids more in the last six weeks than ever before. They are teenagers stuck inside missing out on their senior year- senior prom, graduations, it’s all passing them by. They are Queer or abandoned young adults who had found refuge on college campuses; now finding themselves homeless; couch surfing or taken in by a generous friend’s family. They are front lines worker’s fearing for their own safety and the safety of their families.

They are front lines worker’s who have already tested positive. They are family member’s of people who have died from COVID.

For the people protesting this lockdown and calling it all a hoax. Sit in my chair for one day. Then take yourself back home. People are dying.

It’s a heavy time for mental health professionals. We are carrying the loads of everyone impacted by COVID. Because I haven’t talked to one person who hasn’t been affected by it.

There is a general feeling of exhaustion among parents. We are tired. We want a break from our kids. At least I do. And many of my friends and clients agree. I don’t miss the daycare bill. But I miss the reprieve. My kids do too. Even my Jackson. He’s finally started asking to go back to school. Only took him seven weeks to miss it.

I keep trying to be grateful for having a job. For having an income (no thanks to Anthem). I’m grateful for my health. I’m grateful for…yeah then I fall flat. Because I desperately and acutely want life to go back to normal. I feel like I go through the stages of grief. All five of them- rapidly- daily. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. Except I think I mostly skip the acceptance part. Maybe that’s when I’m trying to be grateful. Definitely lasts a minute. Maybe less.

I deny that this will permanently change my life. I’m angry that our whole life was turned upside down. I try and think in my head the different ways I can fix this. Then I get sad because I know I can’t. I see some clients. That may or may not make me more sad. Then I accept. Then I start over again.

It’s twisted.

We try and make things seem normal. But they aren’t normal. The first two weeks were like adventure camp. The next two were like an outward bound likely abusive wilderness camp. The last three weeks were a blur. So busy with work and clients. Aching for warm weather. Making follow-ups into July and saying, “Maybe we will be face to face by then…”

I’m meeting people’s pets. They are meeting mine. Both cats make frequent appearances on camera.

During a rare hour of me working with my wife out…me doing an intake; I wiped one of my son’s butts while on facetime. The things I never thought I’d do. Wipe poop during an appointment. The struggle is real. The client actually had no clue and was relaying a rather distressing part of their history.

I tried to maintain a neutral expression as I slowly moved down the stairs and into the bathroom, (in response to him screaming “MAMA! I POOPED!! CLEAN MY BUTT”) then wiped with one hand while carefully keeping the phone held up and in the opposite direction. My whole body was contorted and it was one of those times I wish we were filmed. Because that would have been reality tv gold.

My friends in mental health agree. We are all beat. We all feel the brunt of this pandemic on our clients. We all also feel the brunt in terms of the broken healthcare system. Clients can’t pay their premiums or their deductibles. Then they get mad at us for billing them. I do payment plans, and reduced fees, but I need to get paid also. It’s a reflection of our broken healthcare system but it gets taken out on healthcare workers who are business owners.

Seven weeks. I crave normal more than I can possibly put into words. I crave time away from my kids. I crave normal volume of referrals. Not ten a day. Not desperate pleas for help. I crave work that is separate from my home. Because the blending of the two makes it harder to create boundaries for my personal life.

Our coffee maker broke this morning. I had an epic meltdown. We have a new one now. I’ve said this to my clients and feel that it resonates with me…I’m filled up. Too much stress. I can’t handle extra stress. Broken coffeemaker…that went into the extra stress category and I couldn’t deal. I made one of my sons eat his muffin on the deck. I was sick of vacuuming the crumbs. It’s not warm out- not freezing- but not warm. Within about thirty seconds I felt like maybe I should let him back in. But my wife didn’t say anything. So he finished his muffin on the deck. Then he cried. I cried. In the midst of the meltdowns and muffins his brother stated “He will get eaten by coyotes!” And my wife and I shrugged and said maybe.

That’s where we are at. His brother opened the door and announced he would save him from the coyotes because obviously both his Moms have lost it. But legit, the amount of crumbs is not just a little bit. It’s like half the muffin on the floor.

If I have to tell them to leave the cats alone one more time it might break me.

I’ve already warned my co-workers who work inpatient to just drug me up and let me sleep if I make it in there. Honestly it would be a relief. Bed. Drugs. No kids. You know it’s bad when you’re dreaming of a psychiatric admission.

This is the essence of COVID stay at home orders. Feeling filled up and still having to make room for more.

Seven weeks. Hang in there. Parents of kids…we are all heroes after this for making it through alive, sane, and with our kids intact.

P.S. #45 still sucks. No surprise there. North Korea’s leader may be dead. Weird. And New Zealand’s leader is killing it. But female leaders all are too emotional and irrational to lead…and the e-mails.