On December 12th 2016,
I went to a walk-in clinic near my apartment.
I don’t have a family doctor, a trip to the hospital is generally an 8+ hour commitment, I’d been on two different waiting lists for counselling services since July and both estimated wait times were 12+ months, but I needed help.
Or at least I needed to know how to make it until Christmas.
So, I went.
And my doctor was pretty nice. She was kind, compassionate, and understanding. She only got visibly uncomfortable once I started telling her about the way I contemplate jumping off the bridge I drive across on my way to work every day.
And the way I flinch when cars pass closely by on my walk home, not because I’m afraid of one hitting me, but because of the constant reminder they bring that just one step is all it would take. Just one little step.
As I explained the relief that thought brought me, the comfort that came with the idea that it could all be over just like that, with one step off the bridge or in front of the next passing car, she looked at me and I looked at her and we both knew that she couldn’t help me.
I somewhat expected this.
After 3 years of trying to wiggle my way into the confusing, disjointed mess that is the Canadian mental healthcare system, this was the norm. Finally getting an appointment, finally meeting with a doctor, finally getting one step closer to enjoying or at least tolerating life again…. and then there’s that look. The look the doctor gave me on December 12th, the one I’ve seen dozens of times before, that says, “I care, and I want you to get better…. I just don’t think I can help you.”
So, I left the clinic with a prescription for a small dosage of an allergy medication, and the promise of a referral for a psychologist.
Yeah, an allergy medication. No correlation to depression, suicidal thoughts, or any of my other symptoms… but, it knocks you out, so the doctor advised me to take it if I feel “out of control.”
It’s March 29th now.
I came home from work today to a referral letter for a psychologist, for April 26th.
On December 12th, I couldn’t tell you with even an ounce of certainty that I would have come home to see that letter today.
On December 12th, I needed help and I needed it then. If I had been told then that help would potentially arrive in the form of an appointment with a psychologist a whopping 136 days later, I wouldn’t have gone.
In fact, I very well might have finally mustered up the strength to take that one little step off the bridge or in front of a car.
I’m grateful that I didn’t, and I thank God every single day that I’m alive to see each new day as it comes. And I thank God that I will make it to April 26th, alive and still pretty messed up, but alive nonetheless.
Why is it so difficult to get much-needed help?
I’ll save you the comparative essay exploring what would have happened had I arrived at the walk-in clinic with a broken foot or another more visible physical impairment.
I don’t have any innovative or revolutionary ideas to propose fixing the healthcare system with.
I don’t have any suggestions for improving wait times or ensuring that people in need of help can access the help they need in a timely and manageable way.
I’m just frustrated. As much as this referral letter is a reminder that I’m still miraculously here, it’s also a reminder that there is much work to be done, and many people like myself who are in desperate need of care, facing a system that simply was not built to help or support them.
Something has to change.
P.S. If you’re in the process of trying to find help for yourself or someone you love, please send me a message. It can be grueling and complicated, but if there’s any advice I can offer or personal experiences I can share, I’d be more than happy to. Direct message me or email me— there is help, and it can be hard to find, but it’s out there. You don’t have to do this alone.