Moms and the Mental Health Merry-Go-Round

Being a mom is hard stuff. Many working moms feel stressed about deadlines and work/life balance. Moms who stay home with littles may feel isolated. Moms with older children in school sometimes feel pressure to prove their worth through volunteerism and perfection.

And through all of that, there’s little time left over to manage our own health. How many moms feel like the local urgent care provider is their stand-in for a dedicated primary care physician? Trips to address our own illnesses are relegated to after hours and off times.

We fight like hell for our kids when they need an advocate and we applaud others who reach out for help, but many times, when it comes to our own needs, they are put off – sometimes indefinitely.

It has taken me years to finally admit that I may need help managing anxiety. I’ve chalked it up to personality (I’m Type A all the way) and situational stress (as soon as I finish this big project, I’ll feel calmer) only to find that I’ve reached a point where I truly can’t envision a future where I’m not feeling completely overwhelmed.

I finally reached out to my primary care physician who said I’d need an evaluation by a specialist. She shared the names of the physicians in the group and I promptly submitted a new patient appointment request online (yay for technology that doesn’t require me to speak with another human!). After not hearing back several days after the promised 24 hour response time, I threw in the towel and called the office.

Receptionist: I need your name and date of birth.

Me: Okay, but I’m a new patient.

Receptionist: I need your name and date of birth.

Me: (gives name and date of birth)

Receptionist: Do you have a referral from another physician?

Me: Well, my primary care physician gave me this physician’s name and said to make an appointment. My insurance doesn’t require a referral to see a specialist.

Receptionist: Well, you need a referral.

Me: Okay…. Is there some specific paperwork I need my PCP to fill out and send over?

Receptionist: You just need a referral.

Me: So you’ve said. I’m just trying to get specifics on what I need so that I can successfully make an appointment on my third attempt.

Receptionist: You need a referral.

So here I sit, no appointment, waiting on a “referral” so I can be evaluated. So many of us wait and wait and wait until we are past the point of overwhelmed to even address our mental health concerns. We convince ourselves that we can trudge through. We tell ourselves we can work it out on our own. We try things like meditations and yoga and exercise and herbal tea. And when none of that works and we can’t take anymore we reach out for help only to be met with roadblocks at every juncture. And when we are lucky enough to get resolution in the form of pharmaceuticals, many take 6-8 weeks to start working.

When I sit back and think of these speed bumps, I can’t help but think of other moms and the hurdles they may be facing. What if their insurance doesn’t have mental health benefits? What if they don’t have a robust support system at home? What if they don’t have access to care at all?

So to all you moms out there who may be struggling, my advice is this: don’t give up. Reach out for help. Take that time to take care of yourself. And try not to lose your cool if you encounter a rude receptionist.


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