BY DISTANT LIGHT

updated 4/23/2022

Well, what can I tell you…

Though I write about healthcare, I thought I would indulge myself, and explain my story to all who have wondered about my recent absence. It is a narrative I carried alone, trapped in my own world, blinded to the chaos that was slowly tearing me apart. I succumbed, badly, to the an illness that has haunted me all of my life, the mental illness of depression, the parasite that lies below the deepest level of consciousness, feeding you lies, repeating your defeats, feeding off your despair, until you either collapse from exhaustion or end your pain.

I had been pushing myself, exceedingly, for the last 2 and half years. I felt the parasite awakening, yet I attempted to do the impossible; ignore its subtle screaming, the terror it inflicts when you are alone with your thoughts. For alone I found myself, isolated by choice or design, tackling problem after problem, ignoring the parasite, smashing through problems without processing the damage they were doing, until my system collapsed.

It’s all one system, one’s emotions and one’s body. If depression, and its children: anxiety, hatred, isolation, fear, insecurity and self-loathing are not addressed, the body will find other ways to express the darkness. Be it an ulcer, a bad back, fatigue, headaches, or a general malaise and inability to enjoy life, the parasite will do its damage.

Pushing myself, to the limit. Imagine it this way: You’re Mad Max (or Furiosa) driving the War Rig, pedal to the floor, both V8 engines screaming in protest. You smash through smaller vehicles, bashing them off to the side. But the obstacles add up, and the War Rig takes damage. Engine one starts to overheat. Armor shreds from your frame. A tire blows. Yet the pedal is still to the floor. You empty the tank of nitrous oxide into the engines, blowing one, the remaining engine howling in protest. You reach an incline. Ignoring the clutch, you shift from 5th to 3rd, pedal still to the floor. The War Rig begins to rattle and shake, parts flying off. Eventually, the remaining engine explodes, and the War Rig falls to pieces, a wreck of burning metal. Max is thrown from the vehicle, smashing into the unforgiving sand of the cruel desert, critically wounded.

To put in medical terms, I was pushing myself, as the War Rig, for far too long. I had goals, achievements to tend to. Yet the universe kept throwing me deep curve balls, as it will do. When my mind was stuck in overdrive, my amygdala, the part of your brain that senses danger, had put my system in constant fight or flight mode for far too long. I was not resting myself properly, as my body was continually flooded with cortisol and norepinephrine. One can only run this way for so long. I had run this way for over 2 years. Eventually, my system was shut down by a final, dark act. I collapsed.

To recap succinctly, in 2019, I left a relationship of 13 years after I confessed to an opioid addiction. In 2020, I started school to study healthcare, and become a Medical Assistant. I pushed myself very hard, as I had not exactly excelled as a student in my early 20’s. It paid off with good grades, yet it was a difficult ride, much more than I thought it would be. In early 2021, as I waited 4 months for my license to come through from the Department of Health, I continued to push myself. I self-studied and achieved 4 more front-line healthcare certifications. I continued to study.

This was not without its difficulties. In January of 2021, I was so blinded by my trust of a psychiatrist who had helped for nearly 30 years, that I ignored the obvious fact that this physician had collapsed himself. I found him prescribing me painkillers or benzodiazepines. I would give him the drugs in exchange for cash. At one point, I was doing a drug deal with my psychiatrist in front of my apartment, in his nice car. Looking back, this is absurd, yet somehow I still trusted this man. The parasite was already blinding me, and I did not think the logical response through.

In February of 2013, I lost my father at the age of 92, weeks shy of his 93rd birthday. When a parent dies, there is a long list of logistics that needs attention: the estate, bank accounts, retirement and pension notifications, cremation, writing obituaries, and much more. My mother and I called it the ‘Dad List.’ My beloved mother, who still luckily is with me, was in rough shape, so I tackled the Dad List myself, practically alone, even yet as I continued to push myself with studying, learning, writing a new book. I had no time to grieve.

I had been tending to my older Niece, a young woman I love dearly. She had been suffering a similar ailment, and I was in constant communication with her. I watched as she herself collapsed, yet I refused to let this happen.

In early March, I was contacted by the mother of Brown Eyes, a post I had written earlier (you can find it further down). These were not easy conversations. Yet I refused to acknowledge the emotions.

I started having seizures, inexplicably. I chalked them up to bad panic attacks, though they were quite different. This was the pain I carried trying to find a way out.

In April, my wayward and dysfunctional psychiatrist suddenly announced he could no longer practice. He gave me no referral to another physician. This is the civil crime of abandonment, to say nothing of his felony of prescription fraud. My anxiety started to flare up. I suddenly had no access to the medications he had prescribed me.

At this time, my practitioner license was approved, and I began work at a community clinic in Seattle. It was a bad fit from the beginning. The clinic tried its best, but it was poorly run, with the small budget they had. There were constant violations of the CDC’s Standard Precautions. When I brought this up to the Lead MA, for the third time, she informed that it was not a priority for her. I was assigned with a provider, an MD who, despite a caring heart, did not exactly have her head in the game. She was constantly late, and expressing her personal problems. She never had a kind thing to say about me, but instead complained about my rooming speed. I squared that away quickly. She would still be with her first patient, and I had already roomed her next two, and I would find myself in the lobby telling her 4th patient that she was running late, if they’d like to reschedule. Once, I politely and professionally explained to this MD, as she treated a patient, that another treatment option may be a better idea for a particular type of wound. She agreed. Afterwards, in our small station, she turned to me and said: “You know things.” Yes. Yes I do. I over-studied. I paid attention. I had intended to make healthcare my life.

Eventually, this job did not work out. The Lead MA and I had a heated discussion, and I resigned. She did not take this well.

During this time, though I had no psychiatrist, I was able to get my medications squared away by general practitioners at Harborview.

It was not long before I found a second job. I joined the big leagues, UW Medicine. My first few weeks there were fantastic. I was doing, successfully, procedures I had never been trained on, only after a few words of instruction from an RN. I took to it easily and comfortably. When the Lead MA returned from PTO, she immediately did not like me. She bullied, harassed me, and was inappropriate, since the Monday she returned. By that Thursday, I had heard enough. I calmly called her out on her behavior. She became emotional, borderline irrational. Later that day, she was observing me room a patient. I apparently did something wrong, even though by that time I had roomed countless patients. The Lead MA shouted at me, and proceeded to strike me. Hit me. Commit 4th degree assault.

I spoke to her immediately afterwards, telling her that it was never okay to strike another employee. She became hysterical, spouting histrionics that I could not understand. The event left me shaken. Two horrible MA jobs in a row. I was able to secure a few days off, after I wrote to HR to lodge a complaint. Before I left, the Clinic Administrator informed me that the Lead MA would be keeping her job and her position. I did not understand how this was possible. In any line of work, no matter what your station, there is only one repercussion for striking an employee.

When I returned from my leave, I met immediately in a conference room with the Clinic Manager and some freeloader from HR. For 20 minutes, they berated me for all the mistakes I had been making. I was shocked. I was never made aware, by anyone, of any errors I had made. In fact, the only feedback I had received from the Clinic Administrator was an email I received from her in the first week, telling me she had heard great things about me. That’s it. But these two women continued to harass me, 2 on 1. Had I known this was going to happen, I would have asked for representation, be it an attorney, a union representative, or the Terminator. I asked for specifics about my mistakes. I received none. The Clinic Administrator said that mistakes in our industry could cost lives. I took this to mean that I was making deadly errors, that I did not care, yet still no specifics. How insulting. The freeloader from HR informed that these are mistakes that no one should be making, when I finally spoke up in protest. I have no idea what her response meant. The Clinic Administrator informed me that in the coming days, she would explain the specifics of my grievous errors. She never did.

Eventually, they brought the Lead MA into the room, the woman who had committed a crime against me, yet was protected from losing her job by the nepotism, the priority of image and prestige over humanity of the institution, and favoritism of the Clinic Administrator. The Lead MA began to cry, mumbled things I could not hear, and would not look nor speak to me. Inexplicably, the freeloader from HR handed us both pamphlets about respecting other cultures and proper body language. I was beyond confused. It is lamentable that I did not keep that pamphlet, as I was running low on toilet paper.

I returned to work upstairs at the clinic. It was hellish, walking on eggshells. The Lead MA would not talk to me, despite my attempts to work things out with her. The Clinic Administrator would not talk to me. It was a disastrously uncomfortable environment. A per diem MA took over my training, yet I found it insulting, as I had already accomplished, successfully, the basics of being an MA at that clinic. The parasite of depression awoke abruptly. My body, which I had pushed so hard, began to shut down.

On the morning of September 24th, I awoke at 2AM to a horrible panic attack. I was not thinking clearly. To put it bluntly: I attempted suicide. I began to overdose on my medications. While I was doing so, Mia, my lovely cat, walked into my room. She and I have bonded, human and animal. I could see the look on her face: What are you doing? I immediately remembered the lesson of Brown Eyes, and thought of the people I would hurt. The first person I thought of was my younger niece, who had just left for college in Nebraska. I stopped. I called 911.

Two days after I was released from the hospital, I found out that my younger Niece was in a psychiatric unit herself, for similar reasons.

The best thing that came out of my stint in the hospital was a social worker securing me care with a regular psychiatrist and therapist. This slightly heartened me. When I got home form the hospital, the Clinic Administrator almost immediately called me. She said she called to ask how I was doing, and to explain the call-out procedure. She did not ask how I was doing. Instead, she berated me for not correctly calling out. Hard to do when you’re suicidal. This contemptible woman could not be pried form her precious regulations with a crowbar. I resigned, my second failed MA job.

My collapse was abrupt. I began having the seizures more regularly. I learned these were called psychogenic seizures; not epilepsy, but the brain’s way of expressing inner pain and trauma. I could not sleep. My fatigue was overpowering.

My new psychiatrist, and my new therapist, helped me a great deal, and continue to do so. The psychiatrist reported my old psychiatrist for malpractice, abandonment, and prescription fraud. She began to unravel the medications the previous doctor had piled on me. She is a skilled provider.

Yet, initially, my recovery was slow. Stops and starts. I felt empty inside. A burned out, empty shell of a desolate man. Wandering the wasteland, alone.

Only it turns out I was not alone.

Several people contacted me. I am forever in their gratitude. To suffer alone is like an injury that has become infected, refusing to heal.

It was worth noting that my problems were not taking place in a vacuum. As I fell, the world fell around me, and continues to fall. The Old World is gone. We have all suffered the effects of this terrible virus, on one way or another, and our society has not handled it as well as it could, to put it lightly. Sadly, the ineptitude, and the countless deaths, continue.

It is also worth noting, strongly, that my suffering is by no means unique. My pain does not make me special. I am seeking not pity; I am merely explaining myself.

When I engaged, finally, with other people, it was shocking to hear their own tales of damage. Wounds that haunt them still. Each of us in our own way is broken.

One of the strongest pieces of advice I heard was from an old classmate. She did not ask me the details of my experiences outlined here. She simply said that life will damage us all, and we one day took a walk, enjoying the present, the here and now, as winter in Seattle closed in.

Another former classmate said that she would keep me in her prayers, and that she would always be available if I needed to talk. She suggested a helpful Bible verse. I am agnostic, but to know that someone cares enough to share something that is deeply helpful to her, and to include me in her petitions to her God, was profoundly uplifting.

I reconnected with a great old friend, and old manager of mine at Chase Bank. She told me her stories. They, understandably, damage her still. Yet she is such a beautiful, compassionate and caring person. It moved me when I heard how badly she had been mistreated by life.

Perhaps the greatest connection I made was a completely random one. Someone, a stranger I did not yet know, reached out to me. It was odd and unexpected at first. But we grew quite familiar with each other very quickly. Her story of life ruthlessly damaging and tormenting her was so much worse than mine. Yet she and I had the same outlook, the same determination to live. And this wonderful person was my Mirror, so similar were our stories. We connected quite strongly, and to have her in my life was a gift, as my recovery grew stronger.

We were so comfortable together, as if we’d known each other before our world began. And to be with her, next to her, was my isolated little Paradise. I had the best Valentine’s Day ever!

She was truly my Sunshine. My heart beat strong for her. And yet, the logistics of our world can be cruel and unforgiving. When she needed me most, I could not be there for her. It crushed me to see the one I loved so much, the one I wanted to grow old with, suffer and crash. But I could not help her, could not save her. I was shattered when our communion was broken. There is a Sunshine-shaped hole in my heart.

I also recently lost a dear friend, not to death but to her decision: my Furiosa herself, a story for another time. I don’t blame her, but this one stings as much as any loss of death. Sometimes I wonder if it’s me or not. It is hard to know who is actually crazy. Me, or everyone else. And so I exist in this wasteland known as my recovery, hunted by my own fate, haunted by those I have lost. I am the one who runs from both the living and the dead.

Yes, my heart still beats. I breathe in air. I am still here, for a purpose or not, I do not know. I do not know what my future holds. I have lost my love of healthcare and medicine, something I invested so much of time and life to. I am day to day. I question myself, everyday: will my story shine light a light, or end in the dark?

I am not hopeless, somewhere under all this is a dormant strength yet to be summoned, yet to be called into action. But hope is a mistake… if you can’t fix what’s broken, you’ll go insane. And these days, I intend to. Writing is one way, an expression of pain that conversely be helpful, so bear with me. I am still here. I am one of the living.

This is my story, self-pitying and self-indulgent as some may see it. Fine, read something else. But it is my perception. And the events are real. But my fate, even still, could be far worse:

So many in our world are suffering, far worse than me. It is up to me, and all of us, to help when we can. Love and compassion, their day is coming. Each of us must do our place. Do not ignore the suffering of others, or your own. Now more than ever, our world needs this.

This we all know; the years travel by quickly. But my tale is not my own tale, it is the tale of us all, in one way or another. And we must listen, and remember, so that this dark age we live in, and the mistakes we have made; we must tell the young ones of tomorrow. It is hurtful, as the Old World is now gone. Yet time counts, and keeps on counting. Getting back what has been and has been lost is no easy road. But this is our fate, and we must travel it, and no one knows where it’s going to lead. The light at the end of the tunnel must stay lit, for all of them that are still out there, suffering alone. Because if I intend to do it, anyone can seize the distant light, and come home.

Thank you.

Andrick Schall

RIP: RKS, JI, DC, HH

GB: AP, HF, CP, CS

SUICIDE IS SERIOUS (but my cat is immortalized)

Well, I haven’t written anything in a while. I’ve been busy repairing myself, and working on another writing project. It was just published in the Seattle Times today!

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/mental-health/i-felt-disillusioned-abandoned-and-alone-a-medical-worker-on-why-mental-health-care-is-needed-in-the-field/

My mental health has greatly improved. And my cat is a life-saver.

I’ll write a post again soon. Take care of yourselves!

Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255

Andrick

TY: HF, AP, PS, TS, CS, CP, Dr. LE, LMHC CL-K, Mia the Cat

THE FAILURE OF MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT: THE DIVORCE OF PSYCHIATRY AND PSYCHOTHERAPY

There is a massive problem with the practice of psychiatry in today’s modern healthcare industry. There are several reasons for this, which I will address in a moment, but first, let’s get a few things out of the way.

Many people have a very reactionary, negative opinion of the field of psychiatry. They feel that it does more harm than good. In today’s healthcare environment, they may have a point, but I am speaking in general terms. Psychiatry, to many, is a dangerous science that can damage your brain. Of course; many medical procedures can damage you if administered improperly. That’s why I went to school. Many people feel that psychiatrists have very little clue as to what they are doing. While it is true that the study of the brain, which has remained a difficult and emerging science for a very long time, and will continue to be so, there are millions of Americans who have benefited from what psychiatry does know, and what treatments it can provide. And still others feel as though psychiatry, and indeed, any treatment of the mind or emotions, should be out of the realm of medicine, and kept in either the family or church. While it is very true, and studies have confirmed this, that those of faith, or at least some level of healthy optimism about life, tend to heal much quicker from whatever affliction they may have, that does not mean that medical intervention is sometimes required. Nor does it mean that atheists do not heal.

Plenty of people have a negative opinion of healthcare in general. That is unfortunate. Many millions of people have benefited from the proper treatment of an affliction, and go on to live healthy and productive lives, despite an illness that would have been a death sentence one hundred years ago. The human body is a machine, an amazing construction, the triumph of life on Earth (although the debate about that is for another time). Whether by evolution or design, you and I, and everyone else on Earth, are amazing creatures, composed of practically countless processes, organs, chemical and electrical reactions, and things still yet to be discovered. However, just like any other form of life, like any artificial machine, like any magnificent creation of geology, things can, quite simply put, break down. Sooner or later, it happens to all of us. Have you ever thrown your back out? Well, so have 65 million other Americans. We are wondrous creations, but not entirely perfect. Healthcare plays a role in our repair, and improving our quality of life.

But back to psychiatry. The negative connotations I mentioned above are not entirely unfounded. The history of psychiatry is replete with practices that today seem barbaric, and would never be considered as an option for treatment. What is worse, in modern history, authoritarian regimes have tortured and killed untold numbers under the guise of psychiatry: Nazi Germany, The Soviet Union; even the CIA is guilty of using psychiatry for nefarious purposes.

However, like all healthcare, psychiatry is an evolving field. Healthcare, in essence, is an applied science. That is, it is a scientific endeavor, used for practical means. Many constructive gains have been made. However, the application of these discoveries, when applied to the practice of modern American healthcare, has been severely misappropriated.

I can’t get into the tired debate of whether or not mental illness exists. Believe what you will. Many people, intelligent people, will claim that there is no definitive diagnostic test to prove whether or not a mental illness exists. It is true that nearly all mental illnesses, particularly the behavioral ones, are diagnosed by interview and observation, or that form you occasionally fill out at your annual exam where you check the corresponding box as to whether you are happy or sad. However, you can get out the fancy medical equipment and see it for yourself. In people with anxiety, a part of the brain called the amygdala is overactive. In cases of depression, insufficient monoamines are developed in the neurons of the brain. One could utilize these ludicrously expensive machines if you want to see the proof, but good luck getting insurance to pay for this.

Mental illness exists. I was once speaking to a friend of mine, who had a negative opinion of psychiatry, and said to just get that person with depression some dancing lessons, a cat, and an exercise program. Okay, Tom Cruise. You tell the guy with the gashes in his wrists who’s hanging from a noose to get some dancing lessons, B-vitamins, and some duct tape, and I’m sure he’ll be fine. Sheesh. But I needn’t be snide. Annually, roughly 49,000 Americans take their lives each year. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States; however, it is the second leading cause of death for those between the ages of 15 to 34. There are, on average, 132 suicides per day. Perhaps worst of all, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 20 veterans die from suicide every day.

To be fair, engaging in activities that one enjoys that are healthy, socializing with others, becoming involved in a community art or political program; these are great ways to alleviate the symptoms of depression. So too with the natural remedies; regular exercise, a healthy lifestyle, artistic expression, prayer and faith, whatever you might like. But many people are too depressed to even get out of bed.

Besides depression, anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric disorder in the United States. They affect 40 million people. Untreated, this illness will damage those around the afflicted, cost industry labor, and overburden the healthcare industry. People having panic attacks often end up in the emergency room. The number of those with anxiety disorders is no doubt growing, considering the trauma of the last year and a half.

And we’re not even talking about schizophrenia, ADHD, PTSD, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, and a host of others. Intelligent people with fancy degrees will argue that the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders, is cluttered with debatable mental disorders. It contains nearly 300 diagnostic entries. It should be noted that the ICD, the International Classification of Diseases, contains about 80,000 entries.

But I am severely digressing. The main point I am getting at with this article is the unfortunate practice of psychiatry that one will often encounter when they visit their regular clinic or provider.

Somewhere along the way, a great disservice was done to the field of mental health. Psychiatry and psychology were divorced. This is profoundly wrong, and does not do nearly enough to heal the mentally and emotionally afflicted.

These two sciences, psychiatry and behavioral psychology, go hand in hand. They are deeply intertwined. You cannot simply address psychiatric needs while at the same time giving little consideration, or even downright ignoring, the psychology that goes along with psychiatric suffering. It is analogous to a physician simply giving a person with diabetes insulin, and telling them to monitor their blood sugar at home, while not counseling them on their dietary habits. So with psychiatry. You cannot simply throw pills at them, without addressing the psychology, usually damaged, that accompanies it. This makes no sense.

Unfortunately, that is the solution of much of modern healthcare: throw a pill at it. Also, due to the profit motive, patients are generally allotted 15 to 20 minutes for a visit with a healthcare provider. That is not enough time. The psychiatrist, or MD with a specialty in psychiatry, may ask them how they’re feeling, how’s the job, etc, but that is insufficient time to dig deep enough to treat the illness.

Psychotherapists exist, of course. However, they are harder to find, as insurance will still balk at their treatment, or they are booked far in advance due to the dire need, owing to the stressful times we live in.

Some clinics will not even have a dedicated psychiatrist. Your primary care physician will treat you. I’m sure that person cares about their patients, and has studied, at whatever length, both psychiatry and psychology, but they are much more likely to just throw pills at you, tell you to keep a journal or do some art or something, and come back and see them in a month.

I was diagnosed with a mental illness in my early 20’s. It should be noted that there is no ‘cure’ per se, but there are treatments to alleviate the symptoms, mental exercises to retrain your thinking, so to go on and live a healthy and happy life. I was able to do so. Despite a crippling depression, in a way, I was very fortunate. I was first treated by a seasoned psychiatrist, whom I called Dr. Dispensapill, who knew that psychiatry and psychology cannot be separated. He would see me for an hour. We would talk briefly about medications. Then we spend the bulk of the visit speaking about psychological challenges I might be facing. Then we would wrap it up with any medication or lifestyle changes to consider.

His is a disappearing style. You can still find psychiatrists like him, but they are rarely covered by insurance, and they are frequently booked far out.

Dr. Dispensapill, north of 80 years old, recently ceased being able to practice. It was difficult to find help for my mental health afterwards, but I have found a combination that works. I see, for 15 minutes at a time every few weeks, Dr. Deer In The Headlights, who knows little of psychotherapy, it seems, but knows all about the different medications and how they work. She got a 4.0 in advanced chemistry, I guess. I have also been able to find a very skilled psychotherapist, Dr. How Many PhD’s Does One Actually Need. She has been fantastic.

More than one of the providers that I work with have complained to their superiors that there is a woefully insufficient staff of human resources to refer psychiatric and deeply troubled psychological patients to. They will help the best they can, but they are there to treat skin rashes and broken bones.

This is a great problem in American healthcare. We have made a damaging mistake. The mentally ill are not getting the proper treatment that they so often need. The separation of psychiatry and psychology is, in my low-level practitioner opinion, the biggest systemic mistake modern American healthcare has made. You can’t treat one without treating the other, and vice versa.

Until we fix this problem, and there are other, massive problems with American healthcare, the treatment of the mentally ill will remain insufficient. Many more will take their lives. Millions will continue to be crippled with anxiety, living tortuous lives. And the dangerously mentally ill, with no options for treatment, will continue to commit violence.

I’m not sure why this happened. It shouldn’t have. Just my opinion.

Be good to each other.

National suicide hot-line: 800-273-8255

Sometimes It’s Good to Wait

“Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.”- Anonymous

Well, I THOUGHT I was in the final stretch of my preparation for employment as a Medical Assistant, but there is one more hurdle to jump through, one that I did not adequately see coming.

I have completed all of my academic requirements, with pretty darned good grades. I successfully completed my externship. I passed the National Healthcareer Association’s federal exam. I have been granted the certification of Certified Clinical Medical Assistant.

However, the merciless machine of political bureaucracy, that impacts us all on some level, is the last flaming hoop I have to jump through. And it’s being mighty obstinate.

Every healthcare practitioner in Washington State, from CNA up to MD, needs to be granted a license to practice medicine from the Department of Health, after they have completed their training. Fair enough. I suppose it’s a good thing that the government checks you out before you start treating people. However, Olympia does like to license things. I think we need a license to flush our toilets now. But I digress…

I finished all of my academic requirements, and was granted my credential, in the last week of December, 2020. I filled out the application and sent it off, with a money order for a paltry $145, on December 2nd. I paid for the application to arrive in Olympia on January 4th. My instructor had advised me to send it certified mail. Now, I hate to knock an agency that’s trying it’s best, and has been under political attack for some time now, but I’m not entirely certain that the USPS has their heart in it. I don’t know, maybe book a Tony Robbins seminar with the New York Jets or something.

My application arrived on January 6th. Good golly, Miss Molly. Olympia is about an hour drive from Seattle. If I had known that this was going to be the case, I would have just driven the application down myself. Scenic drive, too, once you get to the Nisqually Delta.

I called the Department of Health later that week, to see if they had gotten the application. They couldn’t find it. Well, alright! Things are going great!

Well, the wheels spun for a little bit, and I called Olympia on January 22nd. Bear in mind, I knew that the licensing was going to be a requirement, but I had figured about a week, at most. Wha-wha! Anyway, the courteous representative I spoke with said that they indeed had received my application, but had only started work on it 2 days earlier.

The representative told me that they were running very far behind, and that it will take some time. I asked him if it would take longer than 2 or 3 weeks. He did not hesitate when he said: Definitely.

I call the DOH every now and then, just to make sure everything is still going okay. The assure me that it is, but it will still be awhile. Every representative I’ve talked to has been extremely courteous and friendly. I guess you can afford to be when hold the power. The big smile says: “You have to wait, jackass! Anything else I can help you with? My pleasure!”

I know the Department of Health is busy. I know they are behind. Covid, you know. That virus, I tell you… Handy excuse for delays. Can’t put a man on Mars yet? Covid.

I suppose, also, that because of the need for healthcare workers (Covid), that there may be quite a few former healthcare veterans who are reentering the field. But really, you would think that the DOH might expedite things a bit for people getting healthcare licenses. Because, you know, Covid.

The DOH, of course, needs to do a criminal background check. That makes sense. But I can’t possibly imagine what else they are investigating about me. My grooming habits? My shoe size? Whether or not I remember cursive and how to hook up a dial-up modem? (Yes on both.) Whether or not I remember to put my pants on everyday? (Most, days, yes.) Are they going to call my Mom or something?

So I sit and wait. The school did warn us that this would happen, but I wish there had been some way to engineer things a little more expeditiously. I had assumed I would be working by about mid-January. That hope collapsed like a Seahaws offensive line, and Russell Wilson is lying dead on the ground.

Even though there is a high demand right now, it’s tough for a new Medical Assistant to find work. Naturally, clinics and facilities prefer experienced people. I’ve had a few interviews, and things went well, but they always ask when I think I’ll get my license. It’s not like they can put a position on hold while they wait for the DOH to press the right buttons. Healthcare needs help now.

But, everything happens for a reason. So they say. I’m not sure I believe that, but, as it turns out, this might not be entirely bad timing.

As it turns out, I could use the time off right now.

It’s no secret, and I’m not ashamed to say it: I have an anxiety disorder. Anatomy and physiology fascinated me in school, and I’ll write a post soon on what goes on in an anxious person’s head.

Over the last month or so, I’ve had several stressors develop. One is being unemployed, and living on my dwindling savings. Another is the licensing process itself. An anxious mind tends to do what’s called catastrophising, playing out, repeatedly, the worst case scenario. I got anxious with the DOH and their delay. What if they find something? What if I filled something out wrong? What if they tell me that I belong in healthcare as much as that loony lady from Georgia belongs in Congress? What if I can’t perform as an MA once I do get a job? My externship was fascinating, but not without its problems. That’s for another post, as well.

The main stressor is my father. He is 92, and has had several strokes recently. My family found out recently that he has weeks, 2 months at most, left to live.

I tell you, there’s a lot of work that needs to be put in when someone is checking out. Calling extended family members, contacting various agencies, that sort of thing. In the meantime, you still have to find a way to experience grief.

I could feel the spiral happening again, and for the first time in a long time, I experienced a panic attack. It’s a horrible sensation. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. The brain is like any other organ in the human body; sometimes things can go wrong with it.

But, I have a very skilled psychiatrist, Dr. Dispensapill. With a small tweak of my medications, the anxiety has largely abated. It will still be present, along with periods of depression. These are normal as you watch your father die. But there is a difference between situational anxiety and depression and clinical anxiety and depression. With some good therapy, the anxiety has lowered dramatically, and I have had no further panic attacks.

And so, life goes on. It’s really not such a bad thing that I have this time off.

I’ve been going over the healthcare basics again. It’s surprising what I’ve committed to memory, what now comes naturally without having to think about it.

I bought one of those dummy arms so that I could practice my phlebotomy. My brother Pedro says he’s willing to be my human test arm. Er……

I’ve done a ton of writing and research, and will have plenty more posts coming.

And I’ve done that usual trick people do when facing the loss of a loved one: I have cleaned the HELL out of this apartment!

My head is getting screwed back on, and I’m feeling better. But I have grief to come. It’s good then, to have a little time off.

Make every moment count. Don’t be afraid to tell someone you love them. Wash your hands!