If you've been following me here, thank you.
I'm going to pick up where I left off. .. last year.
November 3, 2021.
I cried almost nonstop the whole day.
I cannot remember the last time I cried on my birthday and ironically it had nothing to do with my actual day.
Far from it.
That morning I scheduled my daughter at the orthodontist. The appointment was made a month prior and truly was supposed to be an exciting addition to my birthday. Her braces were due to be removed. She was excited, I was excited. It was going to be the icing on the cake.
We arrived on time and per the norm, she went in and I waited in the car. I had a book, texts and phone calls to reply to. A fresh cup of coffee in my travel mug. There was no shortage of things to occupy me.
I watched her walk into the office and I settled in. As I was taking a sip and dialing to return a phone message my daughter beeped in on the call waiting. I ended my outgoing call and accepted hers. "What's up?"
She blurted out how they were refusing to remove her braces because we had a balance due of $1400. She went on to explain that she told them that we dealt with this last month and it should have been taken care of. I asked who was there with her and to put them on the phone.
The man who got on the phone introduced himself as the Office Manager. This is a person I have never met and didn't exist last month. He admitted to only have started two weeks prior.
The biggest challenge I've faced over the last two years is the constant turn over of staff.
Much to my dismay, after our contract was signed and the braces put on my child's teeth, I slowly found bit by bit, month by month, just how poorly run this office is.
So new Mr. Office Manager (OM) says to me that my child's braces will not be removed until our bill is paid in full. As calmly as I could muster I explained that this account was paid in full last July. I have a receipt, an email sent to me from the practice.
I showed this paid in full letter to the desk clerk last month, who, by the way, is no longer employed there. We wouldn't have been able to make this appointment without it.
You see this was an issue last month. An issue that should have been resolved. And frankly, if it wasn't resolved why was I not called? Where was a letter, due bill or phone call to make sure it was settled before my child was standing there in front of you today?
OM didn't have much to say expect to repeat that until this account was settled my daughter's braces would stay put. I asked for his manager and when he tried to tell me "He" was the Office Manager I kindly reminded him that there is someone above him who deals with billing as well as the doctor of the practice herself.
Oh yah, them.
I told him to send my daughter out to the car.
I did a quick search through the email on my phone and found the paid in full letter and walked into the practice. I recognized no one at the front desk. The OM pointed to an office off to the side that belonged to the billing manager.
We stood there and waited. When Ms. Billing came out she was blunt. Her voice and tone accused me of being a deadbeat who doesn't pay my bills. "Your account is not fully paid". I tried to show her the "Paid in Full" receipt but she stated that wasn't good enough. She wanted me to show her every receipt of payment.
I said " So if I go home and get all of our receipts, bring them back and prove that you have all of the money we were responsible for per our contract, you'll have my daughters braces taken off?" She said yes.
On the drive home I called my husband and told him to pull all of the receipts.
At home I made a mad dash through the files, printing payments, arranging them and driving back to the Orthodontist office only to be met with yet more resistance and insults.
Ms. Billing proceeded to accuse me now of not paying my credit card bill that was used to pay the bill for the last year and a half. "Your credit card statement doesn't say Paid In Full. How do I know that your card didn't refuse a payment to us or that it's still outstanding?"
"Because it has a zero balance, which clearly shows no money is due."
She refused to sit down with me to look over my receipts and insisted that I could sit in the lobby while she looked over my paperwork. Privately. Without me.
That was it. I lost it.
My voice began to raise. With each word it increased a decibel. So much that she threatened to have me removed. "This is a medical office."
"Yes, with a poor customer service"
I was then instructed to make an appointment for the following week at one of their other offices to go over my "billing issues" Nothing was going to be done today.
I have lost count how many times I have told them to call me or send me a letter regarding any kind of communication. This is literally the only medical office I have dealt with that has:
1) No voicemail, text or email appointment reminder service
2)Has no mail or email monthly billing or receipt service
3)Has no problem speaking to a 14 year old child regarding payments and billing yet refuses to contact the parent to resolve any issue.
4) Doesn't return phones calls
As a side note. I shouldn't have been surprised that their billing was completely fucked up. Truly. When we began in 2020 I walked in and paid every month in person and got a receipt. They offered autopay, so I filled out the paperwork, but for months it never took hold. After a few more staff changes they offered it again and I filled out the same paperwork. The second attempt seem to take - Yay! But guess what? Fast forward to July 2021 when my husband was looking over the bills and noticed the autopay hadn't taken a payment (checks notes)...since February. He picked up the phone and called them. The excuse was "Oops, we migrated to a new system and you must have been dropped off."
"Ok, but don't you want your money?"
"Oh no problem, we can just put the balance on the back side of the agreement and it will just take a little longer to complete it."
My husband doesn't work that way. He's a planner, a budgeter and he was over their hiccups in business. "What's the balance due on the contract? I'll pay it off today."
Back to the tears that started and wouldn't stop.
Stress is a funny thing.
You never know when you're going to break.
Hit your max.
Crumble into a teary eyed mess.
Ms. Billing had no idea that it was my birthday. She didn't know that I had been burdened with ongoing medical issues for the last 3 years and she certainly didn't know that inside of me was the weight of the world because my husband was having surgery to remove cancer the very next day.
Not many people knew but there was pressure building up inside of me.
As we prepared for his surgery and recovery I told myself "Everything will be fine". And while I whole heartly believed it I continued to exert far more energy than I had stored up. I was constantly forcing myself to function with negative spoons. I kept telling myself that all I had to do was get him home safe and sound and then I would rest. That's when I will slow down and recover.
One more task, One more thing checked off the to-do list, One more appointment....until the orthodontist office simply pushed me off the ledge I was barely hanging onto by a thread.
My daughter was concerned as I began to weep. She brought me tissues and assured me that it was ok to have her braces on a little longer. No big deal mom.
She probably thought I was overreacting just a bit since she herself wasn't wearing her disappointment for all to see. But being who I am, I pride myself on logic and understanding human behavior, so I launched into a discussion about mental health. In between tears and blowing my nose I talked about knowing your limits, balance of responsibilities, prioritizing and all of the emotional baggage that comes with being human. Adulting brings many challenges and responsibilities but mental stability in the face of high stress or adversity presents another layer.
I had hit my limit. I was fully aware that with each tear that fell that I was shedding a droplet of the stress I had been carrying around for months. The diagnosis. The follow up tests. The consultations. The impending surgery.
Reliving my diagnosis, my experience.
Trying to be strong for my husband and children.
It would be unrealistic for me to cry over a billing issue. I knew that the billing snafu would be resolved.. and it was, to the fault of the Orthodontist who's previous biller fat fingered two claims to the insurance company leaving them unpaid.
It is not unrealistic to overreact to something seemingly small when you have no room left in your cup.
There is so much talk about mental health and we all deal, balance, cope differently. Some days better than others. Some rests better, longer than the ones before.
We are never empty. Our thoughts and emotions always have something brewing, processing the incoming tasks and information.
Sometimes we get plowed over.
You are not alone. You are just human.
Plowed. by Sponge.
In a world of human wreckage
Where I'm lost and I'm found and I can't touch the ground
I'm plowed into the sound.
Say a prayer for me.
PS: My husband came through with flying colors. He is on the mend and will not require chemo or radiation. We are beyond grateful.