[Alright, this is a bit long, but do me the favor of reading it through, okay?]
There’s a bottle of pills sitting on my bookcase. Every night, I swallow one.
I asked once at the pharmacy how much it would cost me to fill the script. Their response was eighty dollars for a month’s supply. It could be worse. The last time I asked the same question, the particular script didn’t have a generic, and the answer was somewhere slightly north of two hundred dollars.
I suppose I’m a lucky duck in the sense that I’ve got some form of health insurance, as much as that health insurance is Medicaid (although that’s a frakking joke here in the State of California, let me tell you). And the reason I qualify for Medicaid? Well, because my income is low enough that I’m on disability. And why am I on disability? That’s what the bottle of pills is supposed to address.
You see, some of you know this, but a lot of you don’t. I’m bipolar. (Not to mention the other chronic medical conditions I have, but those complicate the situation, so let’s stay right here.) I’m lucky, if one can call it lucky to have a mental illness, that I’ve got the slightly less serious form, which doesn’t involve the complete detachment from the world that a full-blown manic state can cause.
Of course, the sudden chasms are all the much worse for it. I’m prone, especially when I’m not being good about taking my medications, of falling into a deep and horrible chasm from which there is no escape. The whole world goes dark and grey, like a fog so thick that I begin to think that I’m the only person in the world. I seriously contemplate ending it all, to stop being a worthless sack of meat that nobody particularly cares about. I can barely get out of bed, let alone do all the things the world requires of me. I start shying away from people, because if they knew, it might contaminate them and I couldn’t live with that. If I had to interact with the world, I’d put on a brave face, keep my head down, and try my best to act normal as much as every word is difficult and every step is agonizing and I’m doing my best not to break down and start crying or screaming. And all this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Did I mention I fell into this hole in the last semester of both my undergraduate and graduate programs, and it was only sheer luck that saved my hide in both cases?
It’s an awful place to be, and something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. And it took us forever to find a pill that would keep me from falling into that dark place. The one I’m on now seems to be doing okay, although it doesn’t take away the intrusive thoughts that everybody’s looking at me and either rooting for me to fail or doesn’t care if I did. I deal with that the best that I can, and there are days that are better than the others.
Enough so that I’ve gotten a job. It’s only part-time. And in this country, being part-time (or being a contractor) means that the company doesn’t have to give you health benefits. Well, okay, that’s fine at the moment, my income is not high enough for me to move completely off SSI. So I still qualify for the little bit of help this country grudgingly gives to its poor.
And the amount of money I make is, quite frankly, unsustainable. The car payment doesn’t help, of course, but I needed a reliable car. And, you know, while my parents are great and awesome and wonderful people, I need to get out of here. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit that I’m nearly thirty-one and still living with my parents.
So I’m looking for a full-time job, which is difficult at the best of times, because I have to find a job that provides health care. Which means stringing together a couple part-time jobs or doing contract work is out of the question. Also, being at my job, if they raise the money I make an hour while keeping me part-time, at some point I’ll cross the income threshold for SSI.
And when that happens, that eighty dollar bottle of pills that’s my link to sanity, let alone the doctor to prescribe it, ends up being too much to afford. And then bang, I fall back into that hole that I’ve worked so goddamned hard to climb out of, get to the point where I can’t keep the job, and et voila, I end up back on SSI and I get to start over. That is, if I even qualify for it on the second fall.
So here I am, trapped. I’d like to do contract work. It’s more suited to my skill set and it means that I can keep my own hours, which is a good thing because I’m a night owl and run naturally on a noon to 3 AM clock. But I can’t do that, because I can’t afford to take a job that doesn’t come with benefits. Which leaves me caught nicely in a catch-22, where any attempt to make my situation better ends up, in all probability, making it worse. (Not to mention that this just feeds that little anxious voice in the back of my head: “See, they’re all rooting for you to fail!”)
Which makes me see red when I see the rhetoric that ‘all people on welfare are lazy.’ Are they lazy, or are they just trapped?
And this is just in relation to the bipolar. I’m not even bringing in the other medical conditions I’ve got, that’ll probably end up killing me. I know nobody makes it out alive, but, if you want the honest truth, most days I don’t think I’m going to make it to fifty.
…and this came out a hell of a lot rawer than I expected it to be, so be gentle.