“Hello, it’s Midge here from It Costs A Fortune Health Insurance, is that Prue?”
Her voice soft and motherly. I imagined her to be in her mid to late fifties, greying hair, the kind of woman who wears bell sleeves and skirts with velvet embellishments in garish colours.
“Yes, this is Prue…sorry, I’ve been meaning to call you back…Sorry” I excused myself.
I’d had a voicemail from her a few days ago, but in the haze of increasing my anti-depressants and starting an anti-psychotic, returning her call had slipped my mind. Well, that’s not entirely true. I did have a note with her name and number stuck to my computer monitor to remind me, but I’d felt so tired and washed out that it just hadn’t been a priority. I knew she’d want to have a long winded, ‘How Did You End Up Like This?’ conversation, and I just didn’t have the stamina to endure it. I didn’t today either, if I’m honest, but I’d been foolish enough to answer an unknown number and now here I was about to articulate all the shameful, embarrassing admissions a conversation like this would stir.
Midge was calling to run through my history, and assess whether I’d be suitable for a Mental Health Initiative my health insurance fund had commenced recently. She explained that it would essentially be an extra support to me in my recovery. A phone call every six weeks to check in, see where I’m at brain wise, by a clinician with experience in the mental health field. They also offer a 24/7 telephone help line. Not a crisis line, she impressed, but someone I could call and speak to about my symptoms should they increase or about medications, that sort of thing. I assured her I had Lifeline’s number in my phone already, should it come to that. I could hear her nodding approval down the line.
She noted my diagnoses. Anxiety. Depression. Panic Disorder with some Agoraphobia. OCD.
She laughed gingerly. “You really hit the jackpot, hey?”
Not an unkind laugh, I know how that sounds, but rather with me than at me. I heard her tapping on her keyboard as I chortled awkwardly in agreement.
We ran through my medications. “Oh, yeah…that’s a great one,” she mused as I listed them off. I wondered momentarily if she said that about every medication she’s told about.
“Now I need to ask you some more personal questions, is that alright?” she enquired, kindly.
I braced myself.
“Sure, go ahead..”
How long had I been sick? Had I ever been admitted to Hospital? How many admissions had I had in the last 12 months?
18 years. Yes. And three.
Two actual attempts. She wanted the details. I felt a sudden embarrassment at my inability to get the job done, not once but twice. It’s odd that I should feel more humiliation at the lack of completion than the actual attempt, but that’s mental illness for you.
She needed the basic gist of my OCD. God, where would I start? I narrowed it down to Contamination themes, sparing her the more intimate details of the lesser spoken about, more shameful aspects of OCD. I hoped in that moment she wouldn’t press for more details. Midge must have sensed the hesitation in my voice because she didn’t press the issue further or probe for more information.
After forty minutes of what felt like intense Q and A, she cheerfully declared that I was a suitable candidate for their program and that she’d be popping a letter to confirm my enrollment in the mail this week, along with a book of techniques for managing that she was ‘sure I’d be familiar with’. She assured me she’d call again in 3 weeks time, where we’d talk about some issues we’d raised during the phone call…sleep hygiene & stopping the ciggies to start with. I thanked her for taking the time to call me and ended the conversation with a sigh of relief.
Relief that the questions were over. Relief that I am fortunate enough to be in the position where I have adequate and accessible health insurance. And the overwhelming relief that I could retreat back into my hidey hole of isolation again, now that the phone call was over.