The Bipolar Parent’s Saturday Morning Mental Health Check in: Lightbox Edition

How are you? I genuinely want to know. My week has been busy.

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Hello, hello! Welcome to the Bipolar Parent’s Saturday Morning Mental Health Check in: Lightbox Edition!

How are you? Have you been getting some sun this week? How’s the weather holding up for you? How’s your mood been this week? What are you struggling with recently? What challenges have you been facing in parenting? Please let me know in the comments; I genuinely want to know.

The Bipolar Parent's Saturday Morning Mental Heatlh Check in: Lightbox Edition - CassandraStout.com

My Week

My week has been busy.

On Tuesday, I had an appointment with my primary care physician, who ordered blood tests to see if there are physical causes to my depression. I wasn’t fasting (I’d eaten snack at toddler group with my kiddo before the appointment), so I couldn’t take the blood tests until Wednesday, which I did.

On Thursday, I saw my psychiatrist. He boosted my dose of antidepressant (Wellbutrin), prescribed an anti-anxiety med (which starts with a B, but I can’t recall the name), and told me to get a lightbox, as I probably have seasonal affective disorder. He said the lightbox will probably cost $150-500 and may be reimbursed by insurance.

I told my husband about the lightbox, and his immediate response was, “Okay, I’ve ordered one on Amazon. It should be here tomorrow.” He told me that the one I needed (with 10,000 lux, or units of light) was on sale for $30. A second lightbox was on sale for $25, so he bought that one, too. So now I have two, one for my bedroom and one for my desk. I adore my husband.

On Friday, I walked to the store, pushing Toddler in the stroller, to pick up my prescriptions. Apparently the pharmacy only received orders for the antidepressant. I called my psych doc and left a message asking the office to re-fax the prescription order. I always play phone tag with them, which is extremely frustrating.

Taking care of my mental health is so difficult and expensive. There are multiple doctors involved, and our insurance has a high deductible which just reset this January. The antidepressant prescription was $51. So, with the addition of the lightboxes, that’s over $100 spent just this week, not to mention the cost of the doctor’s appointments.

I’ve also eaten out for lunch every day this week. Not because I couldn’t plan ahead and pack sandwiches, but because I’m depressed, and one of the ways I find myself trying to feel better is going to restaurants. It works in the moment, but afterwards I feel buyer’s remorse as each fast food meal is forgettable, unhealthy, and expensive.

Spending this much on myself makes me weak in the knees. My husband would say that I am worth the cost, and “it’s just money.” Having grown up below the poverty line, I am struggling with prioritizing my own wellbeing.

But I need to, if not for me, then at least for my kids. They deserve a mother who is sound in mind and body. I need to prioritize my own contentment. And stop going out to eat unless it’s a special treat, like our family Sunday brunch.

Wish me luck.

The Bipolar Parent's Saturday Morning Mental Heatlh Check in: Lightbox Edition - CassandraStout.com

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The Price of Mental Health

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Credit to flickr.com user 401(K) 2012. Used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

The price of mental health is steep. According to a 2013 report by Health Affairs, Americans spent in excess of $201 billion on mental disorders, outspending diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. The National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that mental illness cost a loss of earnings of $193.2 billion in 2002, and the number is only growing with time. In 2006, mental disorders¬†were 6.2% of the nation’s spending on healthcare.

However, despite costing the American public so much, mental disorders don’t receive much in comparative funding for research. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimated that the organization would spend $396 million on mental illnesses in 2016, compared to $1 billion for diabetes research.

To make matters worse, a whopping 50% of Americans with mental disorders can’t afford to be treated.¬† Only a paltry 38.2 percent of the estimated 45.6 million people with mental illnesses were treated for them in 2011. Half of those not accessing mental health services cited that the costs were too high as their reason for avoiding treatment. That number, roughly 14 million Americans, includes both the insured and uninsured.

Periodic blood draws, psychiatrist visits, medications, therapy–the costs of mental health care add up fast. I know of someone who had to stop taking lithium because she couldn’t afford the blood draws to monitor it, putting her at risk for lithium toxicity.

But there are ways to receive mental health services at a lower price. Ask your therapist or psychiatrist about sliding-scale fees. Try out support groups, many of which are free and can be found in your local library. If you’re near a university, call their psychology program to see if there are any therapists in training willing to take you on. You are worth exploring these options.

How much do you spend on mental health?

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