As a general rule for me there's a criteria for selecting a doctor, dentist or any other service that requires recurring appointments. One is that they be in the vicinity of my work or home so I don't have to drive for miles and miles. I prefer someone who has a good command of the English language. Communication is extremely important especially when therapy or meds are involved. Another, of course, is they accept my insurance. I'm fortunate to have a health plan. It's not great but it's something. Lastly, that they can accommodate a late afternoon or evening appointment to least impact my work schedule.
More often than not I have NOT sought help for depression. I'll do what I can to muster the energy to get through the day without doctors, treatments or therapy. I've gone years at a time without therapy. Some medications that were prescribed to me by a psych I'd just have my general practitioner refill for me. I took Zoloft for 12 years in this fashion. It really never lifted my depression. It just numbed me. Every so often I'll descend back into a dark valley that will require seeking help once again. I've really never responded positively to therapies or drugs. That's not meant as a slam to the individuals involved or the industry itself although it's far from perfect. I mostly blame myself for not putting out a concerted effort into "homework" assignments or implement the tools these folks give me to improve my situation. However, there was one doctor I encountered that reinforced my disdain for the psychiatric community. He'll be known here as Dr. H.
I found Dr. H. on my health plan's website. He fit all the criteria. My insurance covered his services, close to home, took late afternoon appointments, etc. I called and naturally got a voicemail message. My call was returned a couple of days later. It took a few weeks but I managed to land an appointment right after work.
As with many doctors in my area his office was a large, converted old house shared with several other doctors. A white, two level "double gallery" structure with a second floor balcony reminiscent of homes in New Orleans circa 1800s though it wasn't that old. Its architecture didn't match the neighboring houses but it was slightly hidden by large trees and brush so it blended in.
The arrival and check-in was scarcely memorable. Approached the window. Spoke to the girl behind the counter. Filled in all the mundane paperwork. Sat and waited. I was the only one in the waiting room on this day. It wasn't too long a wait before the doctor emerged from a door and summoned me in.
Dr. H. was an older male. Tall, grey, glasses, shirt and tie. A professional appearance at first sight. I sat on a small sofa gathering my thoughts and preparing my delivery of the same tale I've told countless times. Instead of sitting in a chair, Dr. H. straddled the corner of his desk which was positioned perpendicular to the sofa on the opposite wall. His arms were folded and he towered over me in part because of his height, because he was half standing/half sitting on a desk, and because I was sunken into a mushy couch. His office was in a bit of disarray. Books and papers scattered about. The desk unorganized. I take note but it doesn't bother me.
Instead of enquiring about me or the reason I was there, Dr. H. launched into his own biography. He has been in the business for 30 plus years or some such number. He has an excellent success rate with his patients. He threw out some percentage — 80 or 90%. He boasted about his uncanny ability to prescribe just the right med at just the right dosage. At this early stage in the session I'm trying to be a patient patient and allow him to ramble on about how terrific he is.
Finally we got down to the business of me. He reached for a notepad and sat in a chair opposite me. He asked the typical questions and I replied with typical answers. I explained all the past therapy and drug failures and spoke of my desperation to find help.
We discussed the drugs that I have experimented with in the past and then he caught me off guard with an odd question. He wanted to know if I had any leftover meds lying around that I didn't have any intention of taking anymore. I replied that I believed I did. Why? As with most M.D.s he gave out samples to patients. Only thing was, many of the samples he would give out were leftover prescriptions from other patients. He touted how this was a way of helping less fortunate patients who couldn't afford medications. Now all I can see is red flags. This guy actually dispenses prescribed meds to other people without a prescription. Noble but highly illegal, not to mention stupid. I had a fleeting thought of entrapment. What if I agreed to bring in my unused pills? Was this a test? Would I be arrested? This stunk. Is he for real?
Just when it seemed we were achieving a rhythm Dr. H.'s cell phone rang. He reached down to his belt clip and answered it not even excusing himself. It was a lady who was calling about another patient of his who was currently having a rough time. I had no choice but to eavesdrop seeing as he had no qualms about talking about another patient in my presence. The call went on for maybe ten minutes. I was irritated but tried to be understanding. After all, he was helping a patient in need and that could some day be me on the other end.
Though the pace of the session was disrupted, he hung up and droned on and on about who that person was and why she was calling. We then continued the consultation with hopes of coming to some conclusions and a plan of action. A few minutes later the phone rings again. Same lady. Now I'm getting irritated. Why does this guy even have his cell turned on during a session...especially an initial consultation? I'm subjected to listening to this call for a couple of minutes and then the good doctor proceeds to stand up, walk across the room, and disappear into an adjacent office. What has begun as confusion is now disbelief. I can still hear the conversation through the wall. The call goes on for another ten to fifteen minutes as I stare at the carpeting. The appointment is now running long and I have to get home soon. Ironically I always feel psychiatrists spend way too little time with their patients but in this case we have to wrap things up soon. I can't sit here all evening and listen in on one side of a phone conversation.
Without apology he strides back into the room as if it's business as usual. I'm not even sure where we left off this time and I'm getting very disgruntled with this character. We continued further, though I can't even remember what we discussed at this point. A few more minutes pass and yes, the phone rings once again. This time it's the troubled patient himself calling. Dr. H. thinks nothing of getting up to leave the room again. Now I'm livid. Does this guy have any professional common sense? Taking cell phone calls during consultations? Are you kidding me? I'm sitting there dazed and distraught. My mind starts to wander. I fantasize about scrawling a big F-U letter on his chair. Or even bursting into the other room and smashing his damned phone against the wall. Maybe I should just quietly trash his office and slip out unnoticed.
I'm feeling anxiety now. I glance at my own cell phone to see the time and it's now gone on way too long. I've had it. I deserve better. It's all unacceptable. I resisted all the retaliatory fantasies and quietly scooped up my jacket and walked out the door — past the receptionist and into evening air as he continued to devote my session time to another patient in another room. I'm rattled. Humiliated. My time was wasted and my hopes shot down yet again. How is it a pompous, arrogant jerk like that can actually be a long-time, established psychiatrist? If he treated me like that during my first appointment then how has he treated others? I was completely baffled by the ignorance of this so-called professional. Luckily the receptionist hadn't asked for copay before the session so he got nothing out of my pocket.
When I arrived home — late for dinner — my wife could see the rage in my face. I told her I had just done something I'd never done before...walk out of a doctor's office. After dinner the phone rang but I intentionally let the machine answer suspecting the doctor would be calling. It was his receptionist wondering if I was "okay" and wondering why I abruptly left. I waited a while afterwards to collect my thoughts and call the doctor's office knowing they would be done for the day so I could leave a few select words of my own on his machine. I don't remember exactly what I said but I do remember mentioning how he had unprofessionally spent a goodly amount of MY time on his cell and that he won't receive a dime from me nor will he be paid by the insurance company after I contact them.
The next day the doctor himself left a message apologizing and offering to find another doctor to meet my needs if I chose not to return to him. Needless to say he never heard from me again. I was so enraged I left scathing feedback on a few doctor review websites and even noticed a couple other complaints from other patients regarding this clown.
Fred writes: "This doctor confuses his lack of boundaries as a sign of care for his patients. He is very demanding and invades other people's space."
Bonnie says: "He is an impatient, rude, insensitive man, the last thing a person seeking mental health would require. My last visit, as usual, I waited to see the doctor for over an hour, when i finally did see the doctor, i thought i was on punked or some sort of candid camera show. he proceeded to accuse me of withholding information, he became extremly irritated with my lack of knowlege about the six or so drugs he had perscribed, he did calm down a bit when I checked him and informed him 'I am not a pharmacist.' what a joke i left out of there frustrated and feeling abused. stay away from Dr. H."
I wished I had seen these comments beforehand. Incidentally there were no positive reviews to be found.
In hindsight, I should have reported this imbecile to some authority for at least the illegal drug dispensing part but I have little energy as it is and it would be better spent searching for someone else. I did manage to contact my insurance company to tell them what happened and to suggest they refuse to pay him. Now I had to go back to square one and find another "professional" to help me pick up the pieces. Episodes such as this only add to the problem. I left his office worse then when I had arrived. The process repeats itself over and over as each time I try to improve my situation it somehow backfires and it's two steps back. I can't seem to get off this hellish psychiatric/drug prescribing merry-go-round.