Arn't I A Woman?: Navigating OBAMACare



Feb 3, 2014

Navigating OBAMACare

I’m going to be really honest in this blog, because I am at the precipice of a very raw moment in my life and there are things (surprisingly) that I really do hold inside even though I tend to be very open with my life struggles and opinions, often to the chagrin of others.  But I have finally reached a place in my life where I really don’t care what other people think about what I say, because the people who are trying to silence me are the ones upholding detrimental cultural mores about mental health.
Research suggests that the best treatment for poor mental health is a combination of regular active therapy and the right prescriptive medications to combat these truly insidious disorders/ diseases/ variants/CALL THEM WHATEVER YOU WANT, I DON’T FUCKING CARE WHAT YOU CALL ME I JUST WANT SOME GODDAMN HELP WITH MY MOTHER FUCKING HEALTH BILLS!!!! Fuck, you can call me crazy- don’t care. Call me whatever you like; just don’t withhold access to adequate resources and reasonable, proportional insurance options because of it. This country is so goddamn backwards. Withhold resources from the people that need them the most.

And I even GREW UP PRIVILEGED. If I did not grow up within the economic background I did, I would probably be in a mental institution or dead. No joke. My dad has had to pay my health bills out of pocket since I got kicked off their insurance three years ago, as I can’t afford it with what I make. As a woman, I have less opportunity to financially be independent. I’m not going to feel guilty anymore for stating facts. The jobs that most woman are socially reared for and that I have usually inhabited (retail, beauty industry, food industry) historically provide less financial opportunity for upward mobility, plus the whole I’m still making 70 cents thing. The innate skills I was born with would make me a great CEO- if I were a man. As a woman I am loud and make people uncomfortable. Coupled with my health struggles that honestly have only been exacerbated at the precise time in my life I should be establishing financial freedom, and I just plain don’t have a lot of options to be financially independent right now.

Working full time is tough for me. When I get too stressed and overwhelmed (which is usually at the drop of a hat) I have anxiety attacks at work.  When it isn’t my anxiety, I might be having a depressive episode. Those usually last me anywhere from 2 weeks- 4 weeks, and I often have suicidal ideation during them and have trouble getting out of bed, and settle into a semi-catatonic state. (THAT'S NOT DARK that's just me describing actual symptoms of illness. There's a difference and we need to understand it if we really want to "de-stigmatize" mental health.)This past winter has been particularly hard for me, after a month of holiday retail in a new position at my job, and working with my family at a fireworks tent proved to be explosively (hehe) overwhelming for me and I had an emotional breakdown.

On top of those, there have been the regular life issues (dating, friendships, etc.) that have thrown me curveballs amidst this other nonsense. 

Do you know what it’s like to be so crippled that you can’t financially support yourself? It has tied me to my father in a very unhealthy way, attached to his purse strings like a puppet. I am at his mercy to be assured I can receive the proper care I need.

Not including expenses like eye care, dentistry, general practitioners, my health expenses for just medicine and therapy are almost $300 A MONTH. 

I go to an individual and group therapy session every week. Similar to how an alcoholic goes to an AA meeting, I need to go to a therapist- I just have to pay for it. Individual therapy is $40 per session while group therapy is $15 per session. I take two medications monthly, one at $45 and one at $12, plus I refill an additional prescription taken as needed every 2 months at around $6.  That means in a month for 8 sessions of therapy I pay $220 plus around $60 for meds. That’s $280 a month in medical expenses. This is also after extensively researching the cheapest possible ways to receive the services and medicine I literally need to LIVE.

Medicine prices are always changing though, so often your medicine can go up with no real warning. It is incredibly dangerous to not take psychiatric medicine as prescribed, especially skipping dosages. Last year there were a couple days where I couldn’t get my medicine, and the withdrawal was the worst experience of my entire life. I literally lied on the floor of my work bathroom for an hour sobbing; I barely made it home, stripped my clothes off and lay on the ground immobile, spit slowly flowing from my mouth; it literally felt like I was dying.

That’s pretty disgusting, right? I’m a young woman, why the hell would I tell a story like that on a public forum? Because these stories need to be told however embarrassing they are. That was from ONE DAY of not being able to be on my medicine. Imagine if you live paycheck to paycheck, there are so many variables that can happen to render you unable to afford medicine at the exact time you need it. 

I applied for Obamacare five months ago.  When it first started the site was nearly impossible to navigate. I kept trying and finally got an application in only to be told I had to upload more paperwork from my job about coverage, oh no, you can’t upload this you have to mail it in and got this red tape type run around for months. You can get locked out of the website very easily too, and no one really seems to know what they are talking about. It has been one of the most frustrating experiences of my life quite frankly.  Finally today, I got my account unlocked and right before we hung up, the woman said-after realizing my original application was 5 months old and I still had no coverage- “if you have ten minutes I can re do your application on the phone with you.” Ten minutes later, she was reading me off coverage that I was eligible for. According to her, and from what I understand she said- I think I can actually afford health insurance. I was covered for up to $157 a month with a cost share reduction and should never have to pay more than 6% of my monthly healthcare costs.

I have to wait a day to be able to log back in again so I don’t know for sure but if this is all true it will be the first time I can basically financially support myself, and the burden of being financially reliant on another person might finally be lifted. That would mean so much to me.

The woman on the phone was really happy for me, too. It felt great to finally benefit from a system that has thrown those who suffer from similar ailments as I a lot of hassle. It has severely impaired the relationship I have with my father. I feel guilty very often; I think my dad maybe could have retired if he didn’t have to financially support my health costs.

Everyone is talking about de-stigmatizing mental health, and that’s great, but we have to show it through our systems and not just through our mouths. We have to actively fight to de-stigmatize things, because awareness and discourse is only a jumping off point and will not take you where you need to go for change.

Despite it all, I want to reinforce how very grateful I am to have a family that does support me not just financially but emotionally as well. Without my family I wouldn’t be here. Expressing my difficulties within the healthcare system is meant to be contrasting against someone else who doesn’t have the privileges I had (and have) growing up as white woman within the upper middle-class.

Despite it all, I am so blessed in my life. Despite all the anxiety and depression, all the scary thoughts, I have fought through it, I am fighting through it.  I am blessed for the people at my job who have shown me such compassion and kindness that I never knew existed in the workplace or from a company. Further, I have some of the greatest friends ever, and they accept me for who I am, and they help me cultivate strength and inner self worth.

Despite it all, I found a true love for writing, I’ve found meaning in advocating for mental health. The very thing that hurts me is what I use to make myself strong. I am even allowing myself to pursue my life long dream of making music and singing- just for me. I have found Buddhism and I have found so many things that I truly love and feel passionate about.  Finding love in a hopeless place. 

Despite it all, I am cultivating myself into the woman I want to be, and I’m really, fucking excited.

Despite it all, I still laugh all the time and there is so much more to me than just depression and anxiety. I’m finally discovering that girl, and she’s not afraid of what people think anymore because this is me, whether someone else likes it or not.

Despite it all, I'm still alive. My birthday is this week, and you better believe I'll be celebrating my life. I’m just another speck on this pale blue dot, after all-here and gone in almost the same moment- so better celebrate this mortal coil while I'm still here.

(Just an example of the weird rules on the Obamacare site. I mean, what the fuck dude?)

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Sojourner Truth

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.

Sojourner Truth

Delivered 1851 at the Women's Convention

Akron, Ohio