It came to me when I was mucking out the barn. For a year now I’ve been going back and forth between my doctor’s billing office and my health Insurance company trying to resolve a bill for Therapy I received last summer.
It was frustrating, getting different answers every time I called and promises that the charges were incorrect. But it went deeper than that. Every time I made a phone call to try and resolve it or got a bill in the mail, I’d fall into a depression.
It took a toll on me. Emotionally something else was going on with me that I wasn’t getting. It wasn’t until last week when I let Jon help that I began to understand that the year-long incident was a psychological trigger.
A trigger for just the thing I had gotten therapy for, to begin with.
For a year the pattern was that I’d call my doctors billing department with information from my Health Insurance Provider. I’d be told they would process the information I gave them, which meant the therapy would be completely covered by my Insurance. I wouldn’t hear anything more until a month or two later when I’d get another bill.
Each time this happened I’d feel worse and eventually after each phone call or bill received, I’d sink into a depression. I began to blame myself and not trust myself as if I had done something wrong.
When Jon got involved by calling the President of the hospital responsible for the billing, I was put in contact with a woman who saw there was a problem and addressed it quickly and directly. She responded to my email within minutes and I was assured, just by her response, that I wasn’t at fault.
Yesterday after a wonderful day of making art in my studio with my friend Emily, I got another phone call which completely deflated me. I sunk into a place where I couldn’t even remember how uplifting my day had been.
In my mind, I went over and over the conversations I’d been having with different people for the past year. I reeled with the injustice of it all, getting more upset the more I thought about it.
And although Jon had said it to do me before, it was as if I was hearing it for the first time. It wasn’t the outcome of the billing situation that was bothering me, it was that I wasn’t being heard by the people I was talking to. I could repeat the same thing for a whole year and it made no difference.
Once I got off the phone the same results would occur only to be repeated again and again.
This pattern mimicked the dynamic between my mother and me. It was the experience I had growing up in my family.
If I tried to talk about something that was important to me it might be tolerated, but was quickly forgotten and things would go back to the way they were as if I had never said anything at all.
It was this feeling of being ignored and even if I shouted or repeated myself, again and again, no one would hear me.
As a child, I felt ignored and dismissed by the people who were supposed to know me and take care of me. The people who were supposed to keep me safe. This is the trauma that still lives inside my body. This is exactly what I thought the hospital was doing to me.
And when it’s triggered it feels like the end of the world to me.
As I carried a shovel full of manure to the pile outside the barn, I knew what I needed to do to deal with the billing issue was the same thing my therapist Devon had taught me to do when dealing with the panic attacks that rose when confronted with the idea of visiting my mother.
I needed to see things truthfully. I needed to tell myself the facts.
Obsessing on the conversations I’d had over the past year and the injustice I was feeling was not the reason I was getting depressed. And doing it wouldn’t help me to feel better.
I needed to change my thinking.
I needed to be aware that I was being triggered by the phone calls and bills and tell myself that I wasn’t in danger. I could pay the bill if I had to and no one was intentionally ignoring me. I was caught up in the inadequacies of a bureaucracy. It wasn’t personal.
Once I could see clearly what was happening, I thought that if I believed in God I would think that this was all a plan. I asked for help in seeking out a therapist. Two months into my therapy she disappeared with any acknowledgment on the day of one of my appointments. But in a way, the therapy continued outside of our sessions.
It’s as if the Universe handed me this situation so I could learn further about this particular trauma in my life and how to heal it.
I have a feeling the billing issue will be resolved soon. But I’m not invested in the outcome the way I had been.
It helps that I’m talking to people who can make a difference and are paying attention to what I have to say, that they want to know the details. They want to change the things I experienced that were wrong.
But ultimately, it’s about my trauma, not the billing. And the trauma does still live inside of me. So I will continue to do the work of changing my thinking. Of keeping my mind focused on what the real issue is for me. And work on healing it.
And maybe the next time I get triggered, I’ll be aware of what is happening and hopefully be able to get to a better place more quickly.