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      My first encounter with Suncoast was a nightmare. My appointment was scheduled for 11:00a.m. on a Monday morning . I was told it was an intake and would last about three hours. That unnerved me already. I arrived there at 10:55a.m. and stood behind someone at the counter. Not sure if I was in the right place, I leaned over to another window and asked if I was in the correct line. I received an abrupt response to go stand in line. Looking around, I finally saw a sign that said line forms here, obediently walked over, and took my place behind the two women that walked in after me. Those two ladies had absolutely no intentions of letting me get in front of them even though I was there first. While standing in line, I realized I’d forgotten the paperwork they required. My anxiety level was beginning to rise.
      The waiting room was like a combination of One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest and a scene from some 70’s Blaxploitation movie. An elderly man was staring into an empty space only he could see, while holding a bag full of pill bottles against a repetitively shaking knee. He’s the one that most stood out for me at that point.
      I still waited in line, hoping I wouldn’t get the scrunchy faced, angry-looking, middle aged lady who clearly hated being there. The two women ahead of me had since been called to her window as the other window was occupied by a large man, I’m guessing in his forties, who was explaining to the young lady that he NEEDED his psych meds. She repeatedly responded to him saying October 16th was the soonest available appointment. He shook his head and stated matter of factly, “but I REALLY NEED my psych meds.” She sent him away with a condescing smile and as he walked by me, I could see the confusion in his eyes. I prayed I wouldn’t run into him somewhere when the absence of psych meds might push him over some unseen edge.
      Fortune was with me as I was called up to the window by the young lady with the big smile on her face. I told her my dilemma about forgetting my paperwork and she proceeded to tell me I didn’t need the paperwork every time. I explained it was my first time there, only to see her smile disappear as I got a curt, “well, you need your paperwork to get PROCESSED.” I told her I lived close by and could run home and get it. My question was whether I’d missed my window of opportunity as I would now be late for my appointment. She told me that wouldn’t be a problem and to check in with her upon my return.
      By this time, my nerves were on edge, I felt uncomfortable and very ill at ease. I began to question my decision about whether or not I should just walk out and not return or take it all like a trooper and forge ahead. After exiting the building and getting back into my car, I sat there for a few minutes, the AC drying the persiration on my face and felt a deep sense of fear slip into my chest. I really felt like I needed to proceed, as I had been fighting a sense of despondency for several weeks. I put my car in drive and rushed home feeling like hell the whole way. I didn’t feel safe or comfortable in that environment and I didn’t really want to go back.
      Upon arriving home, I grabbed the paperwork and sat on my couch questioning my better judgment not to return. I was hesitant, unsure, but I really felt I needed the help.
      I followed that momentary fight or flight response and decided to go back. It had to get better, right?

To be continued.

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