Sierra Tucson: Copper Sky

Copper Sky is a newer building at Sierra Tucson. Each room has two beds, two desks, and a bathroom for two people. While there I was able to have mindfulness hour at night. For me, that meant a craniosacral massage at night plus some time in a zero gravity chair. I had never had a massage before and it relaxed myself as well as others inside.

The food was like it was made at home. We had fresh fruit everyday. There was lasagna, macaroni and cheese, steak, steamed fresh vegetables, cookies, and even dishes for vegetarians. Everyday there was something new on the menu.

Around 9-10 am we went for a walk on the nearby track. I saw so many butterflies, gray deer, and even a bay rattlesnake that was relocated to a location that was more remote. DBT and CBT groups were held as well. On the weekends we were able to watch TV. While in Copper Sky there were only 5 patients assigned to each nurse.

The staff were amazing and supportive. Even in triage the doctors were individualized for what our individual treatment plans were. For me trauma and eating recovery were my tracts while I was there. Thanks to the treatment team, my stay there was helpful and was a great way to become acclimated to Sierra Tucson.

Wow!! What an Experience

Sierra Tucson was always out of my financial reach. I first saw Sierra Tucson on an episode of Intervention. When they showed the update, the individual looked healthier and were glowing. Seven years later, I received the opportunity to experience this treatment center for myself. For the next few posts or more I will be letting everyone know about my journey and my hope for the future so that anyone who has been through a mental illness and is struggling can have an opportunity.

When I arrived at the gates the first day there was a sign: “Expect a Miracle.” At the time I was skeptical, yet this treatment center was supposed to be different. After getting into triage I was given a gift bag and a water bottle. The gift bag included some wonderful self care products. All of the nurses and staff immediately put me at ease. They let me know exactly what they were doing and allowed me time to answer questions and talk about why I was there.

After getting a wristband, I was taken back into a unit called Copper Sky. It had twenty patient rooms with their own bathroom. In the past I had shared two showers with 20 people. Juice, enhanced water, coffee, tea, milk, and milk substitutes were available throughout the day. At mealtimes, the dining staff brought out what tasted to me like homemade meals. Lasagna, steak, chicken, fresh vegetables, fruit, smoothies. I had never seen anywhere like this before. The start of my journey at Sierra Tucson gave me the hope for a different and challenging experience that I never had.

Treating Self Harm Like an Addiction **MAY TRIGGER

Recently, I had a procedure to reduce the size of one of my scars from self-harm. After, I began to think about my reasons for harming myself. I began to realize that those included getting rid of a panic attack, being able to relax, and being able to feel anything except for numb. Those were the top three.

Then, I began to think about an addiction. Many people that I have spoken with over the years use substances to forget what is going on around them, be able to relax and go to sleep, and to take away emotional pain. Those are not very different from my own reasons.

Then I began to look up treatment for substance abuse and realized that most programs include a trauma component because the research has show that many people who abuse substances also have a history of abuse. That led me to thinking that maybe self-harm should be treated like an addiction. To this day, I have a tough time controlling and regulating my emotions. My self-harm has affected those around me due to lengthy stays in the hospital and the worry that they will do something worse or go to far.

What if we had anonymous groups with sponsors who were ready to assist someone else with fighting their battle with self-harm. That letter could come from a professional. What if there were meetings a couple times a week where we could go an get support from our peers. Learn what has worked for those around us struggling with the same impulses.

Maybe, treating self-harm as an addiction would not be so far fetched. Could it possibly work??

6 Months and a Final Decision

For 6 months I have advocated for proper treatment for my complex PTSD, dissociative disorder, and other mental illnesses. The insurance company has dragged their feet. Every month it was something else that they needed. Diagnostic codes, physicians names, and tax id numbers for my doctor.

This week, they finally made a decision. I was excited until I was informed that they would only back date my treatment to August 19th. That was not what I had been talking to them for months to reimburse my care provider. I admit I flipped out in anger and told them that maybe I needed an attorney.

After 5 separate phone calls today, I finally had the approval for treatment backdated until June 3rd. Now , I will just wait for the paperwork to come. Most likely I will need to follow up. For those who are fighting for care please do not give up no matter how many no’s you get. Make sure that the proper level of care and the knowledge of the provider to treat your condition well is met.

A 4 Hour Insurance Conversation

4 hours on the phone with my insurance. Sometimes it is to much. Yesterday, I had to get off of the phone because my anxiety was triggered so badly.

First, I am supposed to have two case workers. If that is the case, why are the representatives not working with them. Supposedly the case workers know my history and my diagnoses.

Second, I had to review my diagnoses and my treatment team that I see with them again. I am not sure how many times I spelled my therapists name. It took over an hour for her to understand the names of my illnesses.

Third, why are there not representatives specifically assigned to mental health? There should be people to talk to that at least understand the diagnoses. Those who I have spoken with have all needed to be educated.

Now, for the best part. My therapist does not take insurance. Part of why I am dealing with them is that not one provider exists in my area that is familiar with Dissociative Identity Disorder. To me, that is a lack of services on their part. I feel like I am being punished because my diagnosis is different and can be difficult to treat.

I just want a provider. At this point, after months of dealing with them, I am thinking that they may not ever find anyone. I told the representative yesterday they will pay a $40,000 hospital bill, yet they will not cover a $150 hour of therapy a week. It does not make any sense.

Some Secrets of Insurance Companies

I have been diagnosed with my mental illnesses since 2004. Insurance has dictated which meds they will pay for, how long my hospital stays are, as well as the providers that I can see. For me, I am on a limited income and cannot afford to pay out of pocket.

This past year, I have finally not taken no for an answer. Every time I am told no by one representative, I will call back for another. The representatives are the first line of defense against treatment. If they deem the claim/issue unworthy, one is wished well and the call is ended.

What I have learned is that many representatives just do not want to take the time, for whatever reason to assist costumers. This seems to be true amongst all insurance providers.

Then there are the few that want to help. They will call everyone that they can to try and get the issue solved for the consumer. Insurance is all about money. One little tip, find out how much a hospital and provider cost based on your diagnosis.

Another tip, know your diagnoses and make sure the representative knows all of them as well as the phone numbers of your providers. I find that the less they have to look up, the more time that they will spend assisting.

Next, look up the diagnostic codes for the illness in the DSM V. This, for those who do not know is the psychiatric tool for illnesses and symptoms. The insurance companies use it to approve treatment and reimburse providers.

So, where am I after a year. I have been approved for an out of network therapist. They have NO ONE that treats my illness as part of the list of providers. Yesterday, there was another breakthrough. The company admitted and acknowledged that there are not any psychiatrists who treat my illness that are covered in my area. My case is actually with the highest level of the company and I have been assigned an individual nurse and social worker.

I realize that when symptoms are at their worst it is difficult to get and out bed and function, let alone sit on the phone with person after person just to hit another wall. Please, do not give up. If you have a friend or family member who can help, reach out. Please contact me if you have any questions on anything that I may have not written.

A Perfect Storm

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) and narcissistic personality disorder NPD) together is like throwing gasoline on a fire. Each personality disorder has unique, yet similar symptoms that only a psychiatrist can actually diagnose.

I see so many people on social media calling a friend or a spouse a narcissist, yet as I read the post I am not sure that is what they are. Narcissistic people tend to put a high value on themselves. They often feel superior to others and believe that they are somehow special.

Those with BPD have trouble attaching and having genuine relationships. They become easily angered and often have issues with suicide and self harm. Those issues do not show up in a narcissistic individual.

So, what happens if in a relationship one person has NPD and one has BPD. In my experience, the blame game starts. The accusations of not understanding, not having empathy, not being there for the other person, and overreacting. This seems to be a recipe for a toxic relationship whether as friends or spouses.

It seems like each party comes away from the interaction hurt in their own way. That one blames the other and the other may blame themselves.

As I am going through the inevitable ending of my marriage and have taken to the support groups, I find people using the terms loosely. To be labeled either is stigmatizing and once labeled, difficult to undo.

I wish that those who post about their spouses or ex’s just described their behavior without any psychiatric key word. The behavior no matter what is the issue at hand. That is what the problem is about. Putting a name to that behavior does not lesson or change it. In fact it could be inaccurate.

For me, I feel that both exist in my house at this time. I am not a doctor and do not know who has which or maybe both. What I do know is that there always seems to be a spark just below the surface that is in danger of being triggered. I can only pay attention to what I do and say to try to keep the situation from erupting.

Simone Biles: Everyone has a Breaking Point

Four years ago. Simone Biles stunned the world with her technique and artistry at the Olympics. Even those who did not know her name realized how special and unique she was to have the amount of talent that she had.

After a medal filled Olympics, she was pushed into the public eye with interviews that she consented to as well as becoming an individual who was no longer able to go about her daily life. Four years later, she is back in the National and World spotlight.

This Olympics has thrust her into the spotlight. Everywhere she turns she most likely hears her name. Even the camera is hyper focused on her and the commentators seem almost harder on her than the other gymnasts.

Everyone has a breaking point. Unfortunately, when an individual is in the public eye, they are under a microscope. Part of me feels that she came out with the wrap on her ankle to buy time. What to say? I have so much respect that she has come out and stated that she is to stressed. That it to much to have the “weight of the world” on her shoulders.

I am sure that she has the support of her teammates and coaches. That her family is helping her and supporting her through this. Mental illness affects everyone and she needs time to heal.

Mental Illness: The COVID Effect

For me, my struggle with mental illness began 30 years ago. At that time, those with mental illness were thought to be weak because they could not “just get over it”. I lost friends and family either from not understanding or just because I had spoken up about family secrets.

About 15 years ago, the word trauma entered my like. Events that at the time I thought were normal were explained to be a mode of abuse. Words like racing thoughts, hyper vigilante, DBT, and flashbacks were introduced to me. At least, I now had a name for my symptoms.

Trying to find a treatment provider who knows about severe trauma is difficult and time consuming. I spend months attempting to try to explain why I needed a trauma therapist and psychiatrist. How this illness can be misdiagnosed or misunderstood by someone who does not have experience.

Fast forward to last night. My phone alerted me. I was surprised to see the headline that companies are going to begin to expand mental health treatment due to COVID. I was so upset. Not leaving the house and not being able to see people for 18 months is now a mental health crisis. Why, it is a socially acceptable problem? Even suicides related to COVID are deemed worthy of attention.

Where were these companies over the past decades during which so many others that have a mental health diagnosis were struggling to keep their proverbial head above water? Why weren’t all of the people that were de institutionalized given proper care and access to medications?Instead many of them became homeless. The mentally ill became societies secret.

I have been told I should be empathetic toward people who have been affected by the quarantine. I just cannot find that in me when the same people called me crazy and a waste of space. Even the names of the illnesses have been changed to a socially acceptable label.

I feel like those of us who have been struggling for years have been cast aside. We still are going to fall through the cracks because our illnesses are not COVID related. What am I and others like me to do?

Lack of Treatment Providers

Trying to find a quality psychiatrist for trauma is almost impossible. Regular psychiatrists have been so overwhelmed by my diagnoses that many have turned me away before even seeing me.

Trauma is not just prescribing a pill to take everyday. There are no medications that specifically treat complex PTSD. Instead, the doctor has to know what background diagnoses and symptoms there are as well as know the patient.

During COVID, telehealth became a popular option and has continued even though people are going out and seeing friends again. The issue with telehealth is that the provider does not really “see” the entire person.

It is hard to see symptoms. Providers sometimes miss appointments and some do not remember who I even am. How is this adequate care?? How can someone hear me talk about impulses and then not even acknowledge them?? Why am I a write off?? The only treatment I am provided are pills that are not effective.

I am tired of hearing how hard it is to treat me and how there are not enough providers. Maybe it is time to begin to find solutions so that everyone regardless of insurance or distance can find quality care from a provider that gets to know and become familiar with their patients.