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Next month I’ll be celebrating my fifth anniversary as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, and if my time spent in the field has taught me anything, it’s this: healthcare is not easy. I’ve seen and engaged with the system from both sides, and know the behind-the-scenes struggles of being both a healthcare provider and a person with chronic illness who has frequent medical appointments.

Doctors are overloaded with patient visits (a pediatrician is allotted ten minutes per patient, while primary care receives fifteen and psychiatry twenty), patients are frustrated by the long wait times, and resources are constantly cut to save money, which can translate to less-than-satisfactory care. …


Photo by Kat Love on Unsplash

Lately, I’ve been wondering what to do about my face.

I took a new job last year, one that relocated me from a clinic in Uptown, Chicago to a community health center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I’ve noticed that women at my current job wear much more makeup than women at my last job, although ‘wear’ isn’t the precise word for the relationship between these women and their beauty products — it’s more like they disappear into their makeup.

Every morning, Monday through Friday, my colleagues are waking up at five am to begin the arduous transformation process. Pale lashes are obfuscated under black extensions, thinning lips are inflated by the peaks and valleys drawn on with cranberry-colored lipliner, blotchy cheeks are slathered with layers of primer and concealer cover-up and highlighter. …


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Tabea Damm / Unsplash

In 2010 I quit a job in a dramatic way, having reached the threshold of how much bullshit I could accept from the tedious, entry-level positions that a bachelor’s degree in psychology afforded. It was one of many case management positions I held in New York that sent me to dangerous neighborhoods to engage with high-risk clients, yet paid me so little I was often making the choice between toilet paper or groceries.

I began researching graduate school as a way out of the employment plateau, and though no universities in New York offered the program I was interested in, I found three outside of the city that did: Washington State, The University of Illinois at Chicago, or Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio. …


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Annette Batista Day for Unsplash

Like a rodent in the sand, I am deaf to her approaching appetite. The fork of tongue rouses me at three; blurry-eyed and breathless, I am indefensible.

Can you milk me, Greg? Can you milk me?Martinlawrencemartinlawrencemartinlawrence.

Corral doors open and this demon takes to the race.

How about arranging all the plants on the table top? Small to large? In a straight line? Cleaning up the dirt as it falls? Throwing out all your clothes and starting from scratch?

Taking a trip to the British Virgin Islands?


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Pam Menegakis for Unsplash

“White rice and water,” my doctor clarified, after I asked what, exactly, he meant by elimination diet, “nothing else. For three days.”

My reason for seeing Dr. Schwartz that day was the same as it had been the past three visits: constipation and abdominal bloating that left me feeling (and sometimes looking) as if I was in my second trimester of pregnancy. I had long identified with the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (which I had Googled no less than two hundred times), but Dr. Schwartz insisted on ruling out other gastrointestinal disorders before corroborating my diagnosis.

If the symptoms persisted while I followed the elimination diet, he would refer me to a specialist; if not, and I began to feel better, we would slowly begin adding food groups back to find out how much of each I could tolerate. …


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Hannah, admiring the Ortigia courtyard.

I am overweight. I’ve been this way since I was a little girl and my father called me Teletubby and my mother threatened to lock the refrigerator. Throughout my thirty-three year-old life, the size of my body has vacillated between too-big and scary-thin, but in the end always seems to settle around just-overweight- enough-to-be-ignored-by-men-at-bars.

I have spent years in pursuit of experiences that will either numb me to the point of dissociation, or give me the power to transcend my body altogether. …


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Wavebreakmedia/Onepixel

“I am embarrassed to be here.”

“I really didn’t want to come today.”

“I’m worried you’ll tell me I’m crazy.”

“I should have done this years ago.”

These are some of the most common things patients tell me at the beginning of their first psychiatric visit with me, because, let’s face it: the idea of unpacking your mental health concerns with someone who is, at that very moment, a complete stranger, can be intimidating.

If you’re thinking of visiting a psychiatric provider, but have been dreading making the phone call, or filled with anxiety each time you attempt to fill in the contact form, let me put your mind at ease by going step-by-step through a typical mental health evaluation, of which I complete five or six every day. (Note: Not all psychiatric providers will conduct their evaluations exactly the way I do, but the information gathering process will usually be similar to what I describe here.) …


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Moodboard for Unsplash

Have you heard the one about the shy college student who stayed on campus for the holidays and was befriended by the beautiful girl down the hall? How each day they spent together, with each playful slap and private joke exchanged, he fell deeper in love with her?

Can you imagine how the hope swelled in his chest each time she told him he was sweet, the smile that lit up his face each time she knocked on his door in pajamas and requested “a snuggle sesh?” Can you feel the crush of heartbreak when her on-again-off-again boyfriend returned from New Jersey and she stopped responding to text messages? …


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Image credit: Onepixel/Syda Productions

The Fantasy Woman is better than me in every way. She excels in the very areas in which I am deficient, and will always best me — even when I am well-practiced and she is a very beginner — when others are watching. She is everyone’s sweetheart, accommodating to the needs of others, and, above all, she is always, always happy. She is the woman my exes have all found and married within one year of our separation — the one I regard with boiling resentment and furious, urgent jealousy.

The Fantasy Woman is always delighted by, never critical of, the bad behavior exhibited by my exes. She is pleased as punch to to lay next to Emmett in bed for weeks or months until he decides he is “ready” for touch, to offer Jay the painful anal sex he demanded from me (the only type of intercourse he would allow during the eighteen months we dated), and to let Chris piss on her in the shower and laugh until he coughs. …


My father’s incarceration didn’t provide the redemption I expected—or the relief I still crave

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Illustration: muratseyit/iStock/Getty Images Plus

I wasn’t surprised when I got the call that my father had been arrested on drug charges—honestly, I couldn’t believe it took as long as it did. Instead, I felt let down, disappointed that the experience of him getting caught wasn’t as redemptive as I had imagined it would be.

My father came to the U.S. in 1974, passing through Ellis Island with only the clothes on his back—clothes he had stolen along the way in order to make his debut appearance in New York City. …

About

Rachel Inberg

Rachel writes from the unique perspective of a healthcare professional who treats mental illness and also experiences it herself. Read more at rachelinberg.com

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