It’s been nearly two years since my mom and I moved to central Florida, and for the most part it’s been a smooth transition. We were able to take care of most of the changes in the first month, with the assistance of Betty, my mom’s childhood friend. We obviously didn’t know our way around town initially, so Betty took us to the license branch to get Florida driver’s licenses and to the library to get library cards. She also drove us to the utility office so we could have the electricity and water set up, and all of the other little things that have to be done when you move to a new state. She referred us to her family physician, and I was referred to a psychiatrist. It didn’t take long for us to learn our way around the area, and many things are located close by our home, like the doctor, my bank, grocery store, etc.
The logistics of moving were much less stressful for me than I expected, probably because of Betty’s help. It was more stressful for my mom, since she was the one buying the home, with all that buying property involves. In spite of it being a major change and the fact that change freaks me out, I managed the move relatively easily. It actually surprised me how well I was able to handle the stress. I think initially it didn’t feel real. Since I didn’t have to work, it felt like we were on a lengthy vacation. I didn’t look for a job for the first couple of months, since I wanted to get used to my new surroundings before I took on the stress of job hunting.
I began by looking for work online. Mostly I applied at retail places, even though I’m not keen on retail work. I applied at a nearby fabric and craft store, only because it was five minutes from home. I was hired as a stocker during my interview, and began working the following week. My job responsibilities included putting merchandise on shelves, unloading delivery trucks, and setting up displays. Had this been the extent of my job tasks, I might have been able to manage it. However, I had to be cross-trained as a cashier and fabric cutter. This proved to be too much for me, as too much contact with people stresses me, and I didn’t feel comfortable cutting fabric while multiple customers were waiting. I only lasted two weeks at the job. I probably shouldn’t have even applied there, since I know nothing about fabric or crafts. I was unfamiliar with the store and was not very efficient at cutting fabric. Their way of stocking and back-stocking merchandise was totally different from how we did it when I worked at Target. I felt overwhelmed, and eventually quit.
It was back to job hunting, unfortunately. It took a while for me to find another job, which was really stressful. I can only work part-time, and I am limited in how much money I can earn each month (because I’m on Social Security Disability Income). As a result, the job pool is pretty much limited to retail and food service for me, and I don’t want to work in food service. It seems like every job I applied for, a hundred others applied for too, and my job history has been spotty for the past fifteen years. Let’s face it, I’m not an ideal candidate even if I don’t tell them I have a disability.
Being unemployed created major stress, financially and emotionally. I was unable to contribute money toward living expenses and didn’t have funds to do fun things without borrowing from my mom, which led to guilty feelings. I began to get increasingly depressed about the situation as time went on. Pretty much all I did was lay in the sun daily. My sleep began to be less dependable and I was watching depressing music videos on YouTube at night while I waited to fall asleep. It became clear that I was beginning to destabilize again.
Fortunately, I was seeing my new psychiatrist, and he prescribed Seroquel after I explained that it’s always worked in the past to alleviate the onset of my bipolar symptoms. I stabilized fairly quickly, but with Sharon’s encouragement I decided to look for a therapist so I would have a relationship with someone who I could rely in during future periods of increased stress. I called my insurance company and got names of several therapists in my area who were covered by my insurance.
I chose a female therapist and made an appointment. I didn’t click with her at all and decided not to continue with her. For one thing, she questioned my diagnoses and suggested that I get off some of my meds. This is not an idea I wanted to pursue, as I have had bad results just trying to decrease dosages in the past. Someday I may be willing to try eliminating a drug, but I’ve done well for fifteen years on my current drug regimen and I’m afraid to mess with it.
Aside from this issue, I just didn’t feel like I would be comfortable working with this therapist. The fact that she was questioning my diagnoses in the first session was very unsettling. Frankly, I’ve been out of therapy long enough now, that it’s hard to start over again. I have a long and complicated history that is hard to relay to someone new. And, now that I’ve been mostly stable and easily re-stabilized for a number of years, I’m not sure I even need a therapist. The Seroquel quickly addressed my symptoms again this time, and I am back to being okay. I may look for a new therapist who I can be comfortable with at some point in the future, but it is not a top priority right now.
At the same time that I was looking into therapy options I was considering changing psychiatrists. I liked my psychiatrist and his office was only five minutes from home. However, I changed from regular Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan. When I just had Medicare, I paid $60 for my fifteen minute appointments. My psychiatrist insists on meeting with me every three months, which I don’t feel like I need since I’m stable. I was doing it anyway, because I liked him and he was close by. However, when I switched to a new insurance plan, they began charging me $100 for the fifteen minute sessions. This is the self-pay amount because they don’t accept my insurance plan. This seemed like a lot of money to pay every three months, especially since I don’t even see him for fifteen minutes. He asks how I’m doing, we talk briefly, and then he refills my prescriptions.
Although these kinds of issues are the kinds of things that usually cause stress for me (any change in my routine), I didn’t want to be spending more money than I needed to. I called my insurance and got the names of psychiatrists who are on my new plan. I chose one that is close by and made an appointment. However, as it got closer to the appointment date I decided to stay with my current psychiatrist (due to convenience and a desire to minimize stress). I’d already been with this doctor over a year by this point, and didn’t feel like starting over again with someone new. I sucked it up and paid the $100, just to get refills. This still irritates me every three months when I see him, as it seems like a lot of money for access to my meds. I still need to find out why I have to see him every three months. It wouldn’t bother me as much if I could go every six months as I was doing prior to moving from Indiana.
So, my mental illness continues to cause the symptoms of anxiety and obsessive-compulsive tanning. But, the medications I take, including Seroquel as needed, have kept me out of the hospital since 2008. While I was not sure what would happen when I changed my whole life and moved to Florida, I am happy to say I now feel settled and content again. I did finally manage to find myself a new job that works for me.
(Continued in Part Two).