Healthcare in My Country: A Monologue in Three Parts

Image result for stock photo doctorPart One: Physical Health

What is wrong with my foot? Is my toe purple? Why does it hurt so bad? Hmm. Quick Google search annnnd ingrown toenail. Great. Home remedy ingrown toenail. Okay, I need to soak it, put cotton under it, and if it doesn’t get better in a week…Hah! You think the answer is to go to the doctor, but that’s not an option here, bucko. We’re gonna just hope and pray it gets better in a week or I’m gonna die from a bitchy toenail. Awesome. I wonder how bad mine is. Should I look at the pictures? No. Remember how bad you freaked out the last time you looked at pictures? You couldn’t stop picking at your sunburn for a week. Okay. HOLY MOTHER OF CRAP WHY DOES THIS HURT SO BAD? Google: Home remedy ingrown toenail quick. Hmmm I don’t think it’s infected. Apparently that would be icing on this crap cake. Wait. No. Shit. Maybe it’s cause I’m picking at it. Ugh. If I put alcohol on it, I’m going to scream. But there’s no other way. Fuck.

I should have gone to the eye doctor like a year and a half ago. I know you’re supposed to go like once a year, but I don’t have two hundred dollars to drop on an exam and frames. But it’s probably not that bad. I mean, I think I need to stop staring at screens so much. I have these little flashes of light in my periphery. I think I’ll do a quick Google search. Okay, so I have eye cancer, I’m going blind or I’m overexerting my eyes. And I need to go get them checked out. Yea, okay. I’m just gonna shake my money tree and hope enough dollars are ripe for an eye exam. That’s cute. It’s probably not that bad. I’ll just read books or something. Try to stay off the screens. Annnnnd now it’s in my other eye. Well, I should probably learn how to read braille. I’m going to hate being blind. Maybe I could just find out what’s wrong and then I can say no to getting new glasses. That’s still like a hundred dollars. Or I could try Walmart. That’s what I did last time. I don’t have the time right now. Maybe if I work a couple extra hours I can afford it. But I also need an interview outfit for school. I can go to Goodwill and hope they have something in my size. Sigh. I’ll just try to hold out until I have more money.

My teeth hurt so bad. This is more frustrating than a migraine. What even is going on in there? I brush, I take care of my teeth. Sort of. I should probably floss more. Okay. I don’t see any black spots. So no big cavities. That’s a relief. Nothing seems super red. No inflammation. So why is it…oh no. Please don’t be wisdom teeth. Crap crap crap. I was supposed to have those out but they never came in. Is this karma for loving Dr. Pepper? Is that it? I’ve heard about people who keep theirs because they have a big enough gap in the back. Maybe I’ll be lucky. Of course, if they grow in crooked, I’m still screwed. How much is tooth surgery? HOLY BALLS I can’t afford that. I’ll run down to the store and pick up some Orajel. If I can’t get the pain to go away, I’ll figure out what to do then. But until that point, I’ll just keep brushing and I’ll floss. You hear that, little teeth. If you behave, and don’t make me go to the dentist, I will floss and buy some mouthwash and we’ll have a grand old time. Do I even have a dentist? My dental insurance is nonexistent so probably not. I mean, I’m sure there are clinics who do sliding scale. Or maybe I can go to the university and they’ll have students who do it for discounts. They do that at hair schools. Ugh this pain is too much. Maybe I can pull it out myself, like I did with baby teeth. That may have to happen if I can’t find someone to do it for reduced prices. I didn’t want to max out my credit card, but I can’t afford it any other way. I sure hope nothing else bad happens or I’m screwed.

Image result for stock photo mental healthPart Two: Mental Health

Oh no. I think I’m depressed. Should I see someone? No. If I do that, I can’t afford groceries. Or car maintenance. And the sensor’s been on for a while. Am I really that depressed? I am pretty suicidal. Is that a good enough reason to go? Would I act on it? Probably not. I mean, I never have before. I should probably just stay away from anything I could use then. Guess I won’t shave this week. Or take any Excedrin for my stress migraine. Ugh. This is why I’m suicidal, isn’t it? Maybe I *should* see someone. But who would even take me with no insurance? And what are they going to tell me? I need to be on medicine? Sure thing doc, just tell me where I can get free Prozac and I’m all ears. What’s that? I need insurance? Yea, I know. But I can’t afford to eat and go to school and work and pay rent and utilities AND pay for the right to live healthily. Life’s not fair, doc. And it doesn’t get better just cause I need to go talk to somebody.

Do you think normal people see bugs coming out of their ramen? I mean, that has to be stress right? I can just ignore stress. I do that all the time. Jeezus. This mushroom looks like a slug. I can’t eat this. Guess I’ll just starve again today. First it was roaches and then it was spiders and now it’s slugs in my cheap ramen. Where does this stop? Do you think if I died, I’d wake up in a bug universe? God, I wish I could talk to someone. Maybe then I wouldn’t feel like such a freak. But that’s just not in the budget right now. Or, ever, honestly. Would life be better if I got some cheap insurance through school? Would I use it? Probably not. I mean, I hate finding a new therapist. I always feel so judged. They never want to listen to me. They just want to push meds and tell me that I’m overreacting because I’m on my period. I can do that myself, standing in front of the mirror, listing off all the things I’m a failure at while I cry like a baby.

I should probably stay away from social media and my phone in general. It’s only going to make things worse. I’ll start comparing my life to everyone else’s and then I’ll be even more depressed. But I just want to stop feeling alone. Maybe a little won’t hurt. Nope. Everyone seems so put together. I’m such a fraud and a failure. They’re probably friends with me out of pity. They wouldn’t have to pity me if I was gone.

Oh no. I really am depressed. Maybe I should go see someone. I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna call the clinic that’s been in my search history for like a month. I heard they do sliding scale. That could be good. I know it’s probably not going to be anything more than just student workers and an overseer, but it has to be better than nothing. Right? Sigh. I shouldn’t waste resources just because I can’t get my shit together. I’ll call if I can’t make this go away in a few days. Until then, just isolate and stay away from all sharp things and all medicines. Great.

Image result for stock photo obgynPart Three: Reproductive Health

I read an article once about women who pursue graduate degrees experience stress in weird ways. One of them was that their cycle becomes less regular and may stop showing up altogether. Maybe that’s what’s happening to me. I’d go get it checked, but an OB/GYN is a specialist and I’m not prepared to pay that out of pocket. I could go to Planned Parenthood, but the nearest one is one whole state over. I’d have to take a whole two days off of work and school to go. Plus the cost of a hotel to stay the night. Unless I got up super early and then just stayed awake. But even so, that’s a lot of wear and tear on the car. If I broke down, I couldn’t make it back. Plus, I’m sure it’s totally fine. Who needs cramps every month anyway?

Of course, if it’s something serious like cervical cancer or something, I am completely screwed. Am I in pain? No. And I’ve saved a ton on not needing to worry about white pants and I don’t even need to buy supplies. Which has been a great grocery bill saver. When was the last time I had one? Like a year ago? Yea, that sounds right. So, even if I had been pregnant, I would’ve found out by now. Awesome.

Oof. It hurts now. Where’s the Advil? Shoot. I’m out. Way to go, me. Should’ve been prepared. I guess I’ll just grab some cold water and the heating pad. Good old heating pad. I hope this pain goes away soon. It’s like my ovaries are being ripped off. What even is that? I’m gonna say nothing serious. If I just stay hydrated, nothing can hurt me. I haven’t been drinking enough water. Shame on me. I know better. I wonder what it must be like to just be able to go to the doctor when something comes up. Do those people even recognize how privileged they are? Oh I’ll put it on one setting higher. Maybe the heat will melt my soul.

I hate that I could be dying of any number of things and I will have to suffer through all of them because I can’t afford insurance. And back when I was on my parent’s insurance, I was given the death sentence of “Pre-Existing Health Condition” so it’s pretty realistic that I may never have insurance again. Awesome. I don’t make enough to save for emergencies, and even when I do, I’m required to pay for car insurance and car repairs and I doubt I could ever save more than a couple hundred dollars. Not even enough for antibiotics or screenings or stuff like that. Poverty is my disease and it’s terminal. Guess I’ll just rely on these home remedies until I’m backed into a corner.

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I would like to thank you for reading. Before I explain, I would like to say that I am okay. I am not suicidal, I am not in need of immediate treatment for anything and I have had plenty of water and caffeine today.

I come from a place of privilege. I am a pretty melanin-lacking individual. I married hetero and I’m a cis-presenting individual. (Read: White, married woman). And those are the pertinent aspects of this background. From this platform, I belong to a group of people who collectively seem to have forgotten about the rest of the world (Read: minorities). And that means I need to use my platform to speak out.

These experiences above are true. I kept them honest for the purpose of illuminating. I’m a graduate student. And that means I am part of the faceless poor. The people you don’t think of when you think “food bank” or “government assistance”. But I belong to a subset of poverty that is directly linked to healthcare. I don’t have insurance-I aged out of my parent’s and if something goes wrong, I-like millions of Americans-are left to chance. This is a harsh reality for much of the American public. I’m hoping by using my white privilege, maybe someone will understand that this is a real issue that needs a quick, successful solution.

This does not even begin to address the issues facing trans individuals, pregnant people, people with physical chronic illnesses, people of color, addiction or a plethora of other issues. I encourage you to consider these and others, as they make up additional pieces of the story I have presented.

And a quick shout-out to these stock photos. 10/10.
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Spirit Bands

This took place over a decade ago, but I feel like it’s pertinent. I’m doing my best to report it with integrity.

When I was in 6th grade, the administration of the school came up with the idea of spirit bands. They were little bracelets in our school colors that could be used for what was considered special rewards: going first in lunch lines, bathroom privileges and things like that. We were told that if we did not have bands, we could not buy juices or carbonated drinks at lunch, we would sit at a table designated for non-wearers and would have to wait for everyone else to get lunch before we could. You could lose your band if you were in trouble-which meant that any trip to the office took away your right to go to the restroom until you earned your band back (a process which took an indeterminable amount of time). They said it was to encourage us to be good students.

Image result for spirit bands

Now, in sixth grade, we were about 12. None of us had had really solid world history, and we were mostly innocent children. And then one day, we asked-well, what about people with diabetes? If they don’t have bands, they can’t get lunch. And if they can’t get lunch, their blood sugar could be at risk. The response was a very hesitant “they should have bands”. And that, my good readers, is when the revolution began.

Someone, I’m assuming someone with an older sibling, began to talk about how this was just like Nazi Germany-people being segregated based on an arbitrary division, handed down by those in power. A systematic oppression. We sent round a petition. We stopped wearing the bands. We did as much as 11 and 12 year olds could, to stop a system we believed to be unjust.

And we were met with some pretty furious administrators. I’m sure they were not happy about the spending of thousands of dollars on things they thought would be useful. I’m sure they were not happy that a bunch of 6th graders compared them to Nazis. I’m sure that was uncomfortable. But we won. None of us had to wear those bands anymore.

So why am I telling you this?

Because if, as a child of 11 or 12, we knew that something was unfair and we were able to change the tides, think of what we can do now, as adults? When there are actual Nazis to fight, deep injustices to rebel against.

I get it-being angry about this administration is hard. It’s been a long battle so far and we’re still going. It’s exhausting. It’s humiliating. It’s degrading. But resisting it is what is right. And what is right may not always be what is easy-but it is always what is right.

Think about all the terrible things that have happened since the 2016 election was revealed. Think about all the people you’ve had to leave in the past because they were accepting of a man who can destroy human rights with a sweep of his hand. Think about how many marches and letters to your representatives and how scared and angry you are.

And then think of all the millions of people who were marching with you. Who sent their letters too. Who stood up and said “Me too.” Who stopped thinking of just themselves and started working for the greater good. Think of the justice workers, the resistance, the handmaids, the people who are fighting with all they have. Because for each atrocity that the current dictator engages in, there are those who refuse to remain silent about it. Who whistle blow. And think about how you are not alone.

I know it’s hard-especially when you get onto social media and you see trolls and bots repeating the same terrible lies you grit your teeth at. Trust me. I know it’s infuriating to be gaslit. But keep going.

If not for yourself, for the thousands of children who are now at the mercy of people in Washington. For the thousands of children in foster care and abusive homes. For the thousands of women who do not have access to reproductive health care. For the thousands of LGBTQ people who are afraid they will face conversion therapy. For the thousands of people of color who are judged harshly for nothing more than the melanin of their beautiful skin. For the thousands of religious minorities who are afraid to practice their beliefs in public. For the thousands of immigrants who face the tyranny of America because they face death in their own home. For the thousands who do not have a voice of their own.

Keep going.

Keep fighting.

One Eye Open

If the America of my youth could be said to be the “melting pot”, my adolsecence found Columbus to be the snow globe version of the whole. I was surrounded by differing opinions, religions, ideas and lifestyles-and found merits in almost all of them. Some of my favorite moments were when I could engage a stranger in a conversation that brought my faith in humanity up. I remember working at Subway one day and being able to understand the Latina woman before her son translated and then wished her well in her own language. She started laughing and the son and I spoke of how wild it is that I would take the time to treat his mother as an equal (well, formal equal). I remember interacting with a Muslim woman who became overjoyed that I would understand her not eating pork, and that I knew it was her holiday. If Columbus was my own personal melting pot, I became delighted to explore the rest.

I’ve had a lot of eye opening experiences-and not all of them for the better. When I was assaulted, I saw the depravity of human nature. I saw the victim-blaming and felt the humiliation that came from not being able to cope. When I moved to Kansas, I was confronted with the fact that people didn’t accept my belief system, and that the names of the LGBT club members were not released because of fear of violence and possibly death against them. I was a blue dot living in an overwhelmingly red state. I came to understand why it was such an issue to blend in when you were born to stick out. I was rebuffed for my naïveté-that I should not have been surprised that the things that made me (and millions of other people) different, were suddenly the things that made it dangerous.

And then I understood.

You see, I had always been on the other side. I was the ally that showed others that not all (insert category here) people were bad. I was the person who worked hard to be the best ally I could be-without ever really understanding the gravity of what I was allying for. And now, being on the flip side-they’re even more important. I’ve met friends who accept me for who I am, and that’s wildly important. Because how many times have we all needed someone to make the darkness stay away? 

But I now understand why speaking Spanish to a woman in a predominantly white neighborhood was a novel thing. I now understand why being kind and considerate to a Muslim woman was considered something out of the norm. It isn’t because they expect every single person to be vehemently against who they are- it’s that too many people are against who they are. They, much the same as I, were looking for a beacon, a person to tell them that it is okay to keep being absolutely just yourself. That there is a place for all the differences, no matter how alone you might feel.

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” -Dr. Seuss

Independence Day

Two hundred forty one years ago, “we the people” were in the process of committing the greatest act of treason in our almost-country life. We were rebelling against the British for unfair taxation, oppression and “intolerable acts”. The United States of America was founded in relative secret, under pain of certain death if the war was lost. A few men in a room took a chance and hoped that tolerance might be the foundation for this new life.

We all know the founding fathers had issues-slaves, mistresses and more. But we choose to look beyond that because of the legacy they left. That legacy is contained in just a couple parchments from almost two and a half centuries ago.

We live in a country today, still founded on those ideas of liberty and justice for all. But we just aren’t getting it. Immigrants are subject to being pulled from their homes or forbidden altogether. People with illnesses are denied the right to live. People who do not assume the cisgendered, heterosexual standard are harassed. Women are not given equal measure in power. People of color are not given equal opportunities. Members of the First Nations are subjected to poverty and oppression, the illegal use of their land.

In 241 years, we have gone from a whisper of a nation to a powerhouse. And this year, we find ourselves facing yet another tyrant, a megalomaniac with power the rest of us can only look at in wonder. And I feel (in my humble opinion) that we are rapidly approaching 1776 the sequel. Not because we are fighting for our rights from distant power, but from a power who has distanced himself from reality.

It’s easy to feel like there’s nothing to celebrate this year. We’re facing a threat on our very lives-not from terrorists but tyrants. Not from combat but from congress. And I don’t mean that to sound insensitive to the people in the Middle East whose very lives are under siege each and every day. I mean it in a “we’re seeing the revolution come up again and we need to take part”.

I know you’re tired. We’ve been fighting this regime for 6 months. And it’s not finished yet. But when King George III was brutalizing the colonists, it took them SEVEN YEARS to win. They fought, and I’m sure there were times many of them wanted to give in. There were families who were torn apart by picking sides. There were doubts and frustrations and I’m sure, moments when even those leading the effort grew tired.

But we have something that they didn’t.

We have women. We have millennials. We have people of color. We have LGBTQ+ communities. We have celebrities. We have ALL the First Nations. We have people with disabilities. We have poor people. We have a world waiting to help us. We have social media. We have immigrants.

All the things that the right believes to be a hindrance is actually where our strength lies as a country. Each and every human being who has been slighted by this tyrant is just another person who is there to help further the cause. The US Census Bureau estimates that 2.5 million people lived in America in 1776. Well over half of those people weren’t even counted as full citizens (women and slaves and First Nations). Today, we have 325.3 million people.

If 3 million people could hold off-and WIN- for 7 years, think of the power that can be harnessed from 100 times that many people.

We must resist.

We must persist.

That is the American way.

That is the true meaning of Independence Day.

Safety of the State

I went searching for the state of 2016 thus far. As many of you know, and the rest of you are about to find out, my true passion in both writing and in life is to get the word out about sexual assault and rape not only in America, but in the world. I focus on America a lot:

idiots.jpg

According to the FBI crime statistics, the most sexual violence incidents happen in Alaska followed closely by South Dakota. Alaska’s reported rape is THREE times as high as the national average. Now, I am of the opinion that the need to have ANY reports is too much. I mean that in a “There shouldn’t be rape” way NOT “there shouldn’t be people reporting it” way.

To put some perspective on this:

Alaska: 80 cases per 100K

South Dakota: 70 cases per 100K

New Jersey (the lowest): 11.7 cases per 100K

For the full link and accompanying article, click here: Rape Numbers by State

Now why is this concerning? Because the majority of rapes aren’t reported. Let me repeat that for the people in the back.

The majority of people who are assaulted do not report it, making these numbers only the ones who have bravely come forward seeking justice. That means these numbers are exceptionally skewed in a bad way.

Now I’ll save ya’ll some math and just say that I understand these numbers translate to fractions of percentages of total populations but they all represent people. People I one day hope to bring justice to.

It’s Not Enough

I woke up this morning expecting the news of the day to be pretty standard: celebrity gossip, political drama and some updates about some orders I placed. What I did not expect to see was violence and death. It breaks my heart each time someone has let anger twist their thoughts and hearts to the point of lashing out against someone else. Here in the states there have been muggings, violent deaths (caused by Islamaphobia) and more awful things within the last month or so. 

People have been murdered for being different and suddenly I don’t see where assumption stops and reality begins. It’s so easy to disassociate from other countries which are not your own simply for the fact that they seem so distant. We come to associate certain countries with generalizations like “good” and “bad”, “peaceful” and “hateful”. We come to see places as desolate war-torn wastelands instead of places where people are suffering at the hands of a few tyrannical radicals. It’s easy to brush aside the dangers of war, the tragedies across the sea with a simple “Wow, that’s really sad. I hope that doesn’t happen anywhere else.” 

  

But what you’re really saying is: I hope that doesn’t happen to me. To my loved ones. To my commute home, my vacation plans, my place of work. What you’re really saying is that you aren’t part of the problem, so you can’t really be part of the solution. You’re a good person, you say. You care about others.

But that isn’t enough.

                                            

If one person is loud enough, with their anger, their hatred, then their actions need to be met with one thousand times the response in love. If one person can take away lives in the blink of an eye, then one hundred times more people must save a life. 

In the news today, there was much talk of Belgium and Brussels. Bombings. Pain and death. But where was the same coverage, the same source of mourning globally for Turkey, who just a few days prior had a bombing as well? We become so convinced that there are bad countries filled with bad people that we forget that they are just the same as you and I: countries full of people who suffer, who mourn, who are unfairly generalized and stereotyped because of a few people who don’t even represent the majority.

It’s important to feel outraged. To feel angry at the actions of someone who felt the need to puncture a hole in the lives of millions.

But that isn’t enough.

                                                                

If one person is forceful enough to take an entire country by storm, forcing them into masses of fear and xenophobia, millions more must open their arms and deny their biases. If one person is able to take their own lives in such a manner that innocent bystanders have no choice but to also end, then everyone who is left behind must find it in themselves to stand up for the future, to fight hatred with hope, to battle fear with peace. Hitting the “like” button, the “retweet” button or even the “reblog” button isn’t enough. Those things were never meant to replace the caring, face-to-face actions of things like donating blood, donating food, working in a food pantry, volunteering to teach English as a second language, offering to share your culture with others and have them share back. Technology was supposed to bring people together.

But that isn’t enough.

                                                                  

A Letter

Dear Senator Sanders,

         You do not know me, but I am a young Democratic voter from a very small town in Ohio. You’ve probably never heard of it, but it was named after a Polish officer who fought in our revolution. In that tiny little spot, there are no stop lights, and plenty of dirt roads. It is a place where children can play freely, cut off from the rest of the word, or so it can seem. I grew up there, and it will always be home to me, full of the love and support that I am thankful to have had.

         I’ve been privileged to have had some wonderful friends, all of whom helped me grow into the outspoken, passionate woman I am today. And part of that stems from having a deep love of people who are different from myself. I deeply enjoy looking into other cultures, ensuring that I have the best, most thorough information available, so that I can make that small town proud of the ways in which I impact my world. As an anthropology student, research into cultures and attitudes are kind of a requirement. So I took the time to do a little research on you, Mr. Sanders, and here is what I found out.

         You are a man of many skills: carpentry, film and legislation among them. You are devoted to your family, and all that you see morally astute. But do you know what I did not see, or at least, not on your website? I did not see a medical degree. And so it troubles me deeply that you went out of your way to say the following at the debate in Flint, Michigan:

“We are, if elected president, going to invest a lot of money into mental health. And when you watch these Republican debates, you know why we need to address the mental health.”

         You see, the media may have found that sound bite worthy of a chuckle, Secretary Clinton did as well, but for someone who works so hard at promoting equality amongst peoples, you have let down a very large, very important community. You may have made an offhanded comment about the opposing party, but you neglected to consider that the members of the mentally ill community may not have appreciated you including the Republican candidates into that group simply because some of the outrageous things which have come out of their mouths.

         I have been a proud advocate of mental health awareness, of mental illness equality and of breaking down stigmas associated with mental illnesses. But more than that, I am a member of that community that you so brazenly mocked. Some of the phrases you used last night were “lunatic”, “crazy person” and of course, the quote which I have mentioned above. You see, while it may be easy to openly criticize actions such as those of Mr. Trump mocking a physically disabled person, it is not as socially acceptable to openly discuss ways in which mental illnesses need to be treated with the same respect. 

         So here I am, Senator Sanders, a young woman from Ohio, asking you to consider the fact that while the words you speak may be coming from a well-intended place, you are furthering the stigmas and stereotypes which have plagued a branch of health and wellness for far too long. Instead of using the actions of the opposing party to get a few laughs, why don’t you focus on ways in which you will help the mental health community facilitate our own well-being in the face of misunderstanding and under-education. Perhaps then, you would be able to see why making jokes about mental health isn’t funny-it’s just plain rude.

         Thank you for your time.

Best,

Michelle Brewer-Bunnell

A Concerned Citizen