I thought I'd be writing this blog in a month or two from now, but between the last time I wrote an update and this very day my appointment had been bumped up and I've been there done that, seeing my first psychiatrist. She was lovely, a student finishing her clinical hours or whatever she technically said. To me, student counsellors and clinicians are the best. They are chalk full of brand new knowledge and recent studies to share with you. They aren't jaded from the job and have a vested interest in seeing you through. They seem to resonate a lot more with me, could be an age thing, could not be. And finally, if their services aren't already free you can usually get a student counsellor for extremely low fee and they're typically being supervised by a registered counsellor. It's kind of like a win-win ..
After nearly a year trying different antidepressants with my doctor, she humbly accepted support and referred me to Interior Health's 1PAC Program (which I only found out it was called that when they would call and leave a message and I would be so confused because I was waiting for a psychiatrist appointment not whatever program they kept saying). After some googling, I've discovered it stands for The One Time Psychiatric Assessment Clinic “1PAC” which started as a pilot project almost a decade ago to increase access to psychiatric services in the central Okanagan, BC. The first time they called I got booked for an appointment in December which would've been more than three months away at the time. But when I was on my way home from (Canadian) Thanksgiving I got a call that another psychiatrist was coming on board to help with the workload and I could get into see her within the month. The catch - an 11AM appointment. Which for me, is a hard time of the day, but I didn't even hesitate saying Yes. I'm very solution focused so any chance I get to move forward in this process right now I'm all for. I was sent a Zoom invite and in a blink of an eye, my appointment was here.
The psychiatrist, Dr. Claire Docherty, was very understanding, patient and respectful. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the appointment - besides the fact that I had intense anxiety leading up to it. Ohhhhhh the irony. There's nothing she said that surprised me, nothing she asked that confused me. I by no means think I'm a professional in any sense of the word or even the slightest bit as educated in that realm, but a lifetime of personal experience and working in this mental health community has made me very aware to more of the jargon and technical terms so it almost felt hard to answer her questions. Essentially what it feels like she's trying to accomplish in this one session is a diagnoses to be able to give you a solution, medicinally or otherwise. So while she's asking me questions about my sleep patterns, I know she's thinking about Bipolar. Or while she's asking me about my counting and checking behaviors, I know she's trying to distinguish an OCD diagnosis. Which strangely enough made it harder to answer the questions. Because I'm trying to over process, and start thinking about the disorder instead of listening to the question on its own. This was also more of a psych assessment than psychiatry appointment which could've made it feel so, by the book, so to speak. I have zilch to compare this to, besides other people's stories and experiences. So I think, it was a pretty standard psych assessment/ evaluation. Note, this did not resemble a typical counselling, talk-therapy session. The goals in this assessment, at least for me, seemed far different than what I'm used to in a counselling appointment. Two verrryyyyyy different things and tools to help you on your mental health journey.
All in all, it was an uneventful appointment. I don't feel like I missed sharing anything important with her, but there's always that feeling like oh maybe I should've shared this, or that would've been a good example to share. But that's when I have to relinquish control - she asked me the line of questioning she did for a reason. She knows what she's doing. And, if anything comes up she's more than happy to meet again. That's the thing though - this was a one time psych assessment, not a long term psychiatrist to work with. So she goes and makes notes, consults with her team and supervisor, they get transcribed, my doctor gets them two weeks later, and I meet with my doctor to discuss how best to move forward based on the recommendations. She shared her notes with me at the end of the session anyways, so I know what I'm going in for with my doctor. And that was, it.
Another tool utilised and another resource accessed. At the end of the day I'm extremely grateful to have had this experience, at no cost, and not during a crisis. I'm grateful for the kindness and support Dr. Claire Docherty offered me during the session and in the follow up work she's doing. I encourage you to explore the avenues in your mental health journey and don't hesitate to invest in what works best for you.