So far my friends here at Altered Focus have been addressing the solutions to the health care reform issue. Personally, I don’t feel I have the knowledge or expertise to speak to the solution. I’m confused by health care reform even with a few small efforts to educate myself, and I’m not exactly sure what’s possible or what’s right. But I do know what I want, and what I need. I can speak to the problem.
Permit me to be blatantly honest here. I’m 26 years old. I have a permanent injury to my wrist, an impacted wisdom tooth, post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, anemia, only a portion of my pancreas and consistently malfunctioning female reproductive bits and the need for constant cervical cancer screening (yes, I know, evolution obviously selected for beauty and brains rather than function, here). What I don’t have, is health insurance.
And woe is me.
I’ve been unemployed since July, in the middle of a divorce since October, underemployed since the new year, and without insurance since the end of January. I’m supposed to be taking five different pills on a daily basis, with another on hand at all times for panic attack purposes; altogether $92 a month in prescriptions and vitamins at Wal-Mart. I’m also supposed to be seeing a physician monthly to monitor me on some of those meds and and a therapist at least weekly to help make sure I don’t off myself due to taking or not taking said meds, which would be about $550 a month. I’m working, I’m doing what I can and I’m getting towards being able to put my own roof over my head and my own food in my mouth. But insurance? Well, there’s just no way. I’ll have to choose. Food? My own living space? Health insurance? It would take an amazing shift in my luck, seeing as how it took me six months just to find part-time employment.
Needless to say, I’m not seeing a doctor nor a therapist. Currently all I’m taking is my iron and vitamin D, but only on alternating days. The birth control was the first to go. We’ll leave that one at that, just suffice it to say that I suffer and for a few days so does everyone around me. Then, when it became clear that steady money might be a long ways off, I spent a month gradually and sickeningly weening off my two anti-depressants. I also did my best to let anxiety and panic attacks just take their course. All in all this lead to much vomiting and angst and whisky, only to find myself in horrible, almost non-functional shape for my efforts after only a week of being psychoactive drug free.
Clearly I need to suck it up and find room in my budget to prioritize these things. It’s silly in retrospect to put an extra $30 a month ahead of ending up suicidal, or curled up in a fetal position under the covers wishing I was. However, when there’s hardly any money coming in you try everything in your power to cut corners and try to still have a life of some sort. But just in case you ever wondered, accepting that you are truly clinically depressed is in itself truly depressing. Because nothing makes you feel strong, worthwhile, and self-sufficient like needing pills just to not want to drive off a cliff on a daily basis and having to wash your father’s car for $20 in order to get them.
All in all, I’m scared. I’m already over-stressed, falling apart, struggling, and this just wrecks me when I make the mistake of thinking about it. I know for a fact that I need more help and medical attention than I have access to. And I’m in great shape compared to an awful lot of folks with life-threatening and painful conditions, trying to support families, and going without coverage. I know that even with my prescriptions I’m still teetering on the edge of needing an emergency room or taking more Klonopin at one time than my doctor ever intended here and there when things are just too much. While I firmly believe I’d never act on suicidal thoughts, I do know I have the capacity to be unfortunately self-destructive and that has to stay under control. I can hear the amazing Harvard-educated gynecologist I used to go to when I had insurance, still echoing in my brain, about how lucky I was to have gotten a second opinion and caught things when I did, and how much he insisted I stay on this specific birth control pill because of studies on cancer risk. And I spend a lot of time wondering what’s causing my anemia to persist. If only I could afford to go to a doctor to find out …
In light of all this, the health care reform debate hits me where it hurts, and I’m between a rock and a hard place. I wanted that public option. I needed that public option. Of course, it was the first thing to go. Thanks, you goodly Christian right-wing folks in Congress. Thank you for protecting the insurance system from burdens like me who will end up dead in a ditch from preventable and treatable conditions. What happened to love thy neighbor and do unto others? Wasn’t Jesus a bit of a socialist when it came to the poor and the sick? I’m sure Jesus is pleased that you can still afford your lattes and your government-administrated gold plated health care.
Give me health insurance or give me death.
Because that is, essentially, what the choice is. And behind all the partisan rhetoric, the patriotic posturing, the Glen Beck alligator tears, you’re really, purposefully, choosing the latter.
Oh no, I’m not bitter.
I didn’t take an internship that could have gotten me into my industry of choice. I didn’t take the time to look for a rewarding job. I never left my job to pursue other options, further my education, or to simply take a break and re-group. I took the first soul-sucking desk jockey position I was offered that had full benefits and clung to it for dear life, because I knew I was only one test result away from yet another surgery and I was scared.
There’s one thing about this position I’m in that makes me truly grateful. Not because things aren’t worse, although they could be and I know it. This is the worst things have ever been for me, and really you can only reference your own existence and experience. No, I’m grateful because prior to this mess I spent nearly four years of my life chained to a desk almost entirely because of my need for and fear of going without health care. That’s something hardly anyone talks about in this debate. We have a medical insurance system in this country that punishes the entrepreneur, stifles artists and the arts, and we all suffer for it. I’m not calling myself an artist per se, nor am I saying that the world would suffer without my freedom to pursue my craft instead of income. But in other cases, that’s more than true, and how much more would we gain as a society if spending time without a full-time job didn’t necessarily mean also going without affordable health care and insurance?
I took that first job I got out of college specifically because I had just experienced and was still dealing with some serious female reproductive health issues and knew full well that without health insurance I could be on the fast track to infertility, and bankruptcy, or worse. I also knew what happened when I didn’t have anti-anxiety medication on hand. I knew that my pancreas could flare up at any time Then I got hit by a car while riding my bicycle home from the gym, and learned how expensive serious injury can be even with health insurance. So I didn’t take an internship that could have gotten me into my industry of choice. I didn’t take the time to look for a rewarding job. I never left my job to pursue other options, further my education, or to simply take a break and re-group. I took the first soul-sucking desk jockey position I was offered that had full benefits and clung to it for dear life, because I knew I was only one test result away from yet another surgery and I was scared.
This time around, I’ve decided that at least for the moment I’m more scared of spending my life behind another desk. The lesser of two evils is hard to choose, but, every choice involves risk. I’ll just keep hoping that a part-time job with benefits comes my way before my next major illness or injury. Or, you know, the public option comes back from the dead.