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.

A little TL(S)C

When law school began, I will admit, I thought I had everything figured out. I had a coping mechanism toolkit for when things were rough, I drank loads more water than my entry into undergrad (a lesson I will never forget) and I was overall in a very good place. I came to a new state to start over. A complete redo, free from the baggage of the past. And that was a wildly freeing concept.

All of that was also incredibly naive and somewhat short-sighted.

Turns out, law school is where the gaps in my self-care capabilities became glaringly obvious. And for that, I am ever thankful. Because it’s given me an opportunity to fix them. So as I’m sitting here, nursing a stress-migraine, I wanted to reflect on all the really cool things that have changed.

Related image

First, I became a vegan. It’s been something like 6 years since I decided I wanted to be a vegetarian. It’s been a bit of a struggle to wrap my head around it all the time (especially when iron levels are low) but I went about it all wrong. I didn’t focus on complete nutrition, I just focused on not eating meat. And there were days when I *did* eat meat (typically chicken or fish) and yet I still kept going. Because instead of listening to the reasons I couldn’t be a vegetarian, I was the best vegetarian I knew how to be. And that wasn’t good enough. I can’t ignore the crappy way I feel when I eat meat-or to my very wild surprise-the stinky-like-feet smell of dairy. So I’m leaving it behind. It’s a process I started in March, and I’m very nearly at the fully integrated stage. My grocery list contains only plant and plant-based foods, but it’s been fully researched and there are plenty of nutritional changes going on in it as well. I’m looking at plant-based things like mozzarella (because I adore pizza) and vegan sour cream (because baked potatoes).

And in more dietary news, I’m leaving behind heavy carbs. I’ve spent a long part of my life associating heavy carbs with happiness. So soda is going (and soon to be gone) and so are things like pasta, bleached breads and the like. That’s not to say I will be abstaining from all grains-in fact, I will be eating oats, rice, and ethically sourced quinoa, as well as whole grain breads on occasion. But I’m removing them from my grocery list in a big way-so that I can find happiness outside of carbs. And that’s a change I’ve needed to make for ages. I got myself a blender with a to-go attachment, and I will be using it to make all manner of smoothies to stop the unnecessary sugar cravings from that soda.

Image result for self care clip art freeRegular exercise! This one is something I did a lot in high school, but then got to undergrad and lost my sense of self. This summer, in addition to the wild amounts of sun I will be getting (because Topeka apparently never gets rain), I will be devoting each morning to yoga, and most afternoons to swimming. I’ve been at the gym more this semester than I’ve ever been, and I’m rather excited to add some variety.

I’ll also be meditating every day. As a way to spiritually and mentally ground myself, I have been working towards finding a balance in how I feel and how I am (I know, that sounds a little weird). However, I’m really excited to add this in to my yoga time and really begin to heal from the inside out. To that end, I will also be investing in hobbies this summer. Painting, writing and reading are going to take up a lot of my afternoons, because I’ve neglected those parts of who I am.

In regards to my spiritual self-care, I will be really exploring the different avenues of beliefs, and digging in to the ones I already have. I’ve been pagan for nearly as long as I’ve been a vegetarian, but I want to see if there are things that align better than others. I’ll be sharpening my tarot skills, praying to the ancestors and doing a lot more in the way of sharpening my spiritual skill set.

I’ve re-designed my Etsy shop, and hope to have it up and running soon. I really want to invest in sharing my love of essential oils. While I’m perusing the internet waiting for orders, I’ll be soliciting agents for my NaNo book! This is something I am not new to, but I have been hard at work trying to make the best draft I can.

Image result for self care clip art free

All this to say, this summer is about fixing my mental-physical-spiritual health before I begin my social work classes in the fall. I’m considering revamping my YouTube channel to kind of showcase the changes and do some reviews of things I’ll be doing. We’ll see!

Anything you think I’m missing? Anything you’d like to see changed in your own life? Have you made changes and they’ve made your life the better? Let me know below!

Cranberry Juice

It’s been a while since my last post, in short because of my health. While usually that means the mental flavor, this time it was physical health. But because it ties in really nicely with a conversation I had recently, I thought I’d pop down some thoughts. This ties into a lot of what I’m about: education, mental health, self-care, and well, let’s just get to the point.

I tell this story more frequently these days, but perhaps it just feels that way because everyone who knew it is several states away. I was a freshman in high school. I was still in the process of being diagnosed (mental health) and the professional assisting me asked:

“What do you do when you think about suicide and self-harm?”

To which I replied,

“I go drink a Dr. Pepper.”

And the advice I received was:

“Then every time you feel depressed, why don’t you go get one and drink it? That will take your mind off of those thoughts long enough to change your mind.”

And that’s where my story begins. What I’m sure was supposed to be a distraction from the thoughts which pervade the angsty teenage years, quickly became a self-medicating venture. Each time I felt sad, down a can would go. That quickly became bottles, which soon became liters. If Dr. Pepper were alcoholic, I would have died of liver failure. But we’re not to that point yet.

Because I drank so much of that delicious goodness (and it’s still my very favorite drink today), I developed a tolerance for caffeine. I was growing more and more tired as the days wore on and soon discovered the mystifying effects of energy drinks. By the time I was a senior in high school, I’d become a connoisseur. I absolutely adored Venom Black Mamba’s, but even those didn’t have enough caffeine. I started undergrad in the fall of 2011 and that was about the time that I’d finally graduated to the Monster BFC’s.

Now, for those who never got into energy drinks, or just simply don’t know, the BFC (Big Fucking Can) contained 32oz or 4 full cans of Monster in one. And I would drink it in one go. This is about the time that organ failure came into play. I didn’t make it through my first semester of undergrad because my kidneys began to fail. I spent a great many days in the hospital because I couldn’t process water. Water. And I learned that I would need to do a great deal of care to rebuild what I had damaged.

My symptoms were fairly simple and were immediately confused with stress induced fainting spells mixed with a cold. But the fever, the fainting and the dehydration were incredibly strong indicators that I wasn’t just stressed. Even so, it took a long time before someone took me seriously. What had begun as a UTI became a bladder infection, became a kidney infection, became almost death. All from the things that were supposed to stop me from thinking about dying. Huh.

I’m not saying that I blame the healthcare professional who told me to drink a Dr. Pepper each time I was in a bad place mentally. What I’m saying is that for a teenager who wasn’t in a good place, vague instructions like that nearly killed me.

So zip to more recently. During my finals, I met the wrong end of a cross-contaminated batch of food and ended up taking a law school final with a fever so high, I was delirious. I drank water and gatorade until I felt like I was going to burst. But not once did I think about how what was going on would affect my kidneys.

This would end up being my mistake. And I’ve spent the past week and a half chugging water and cranberry juice, mixing essential oils and all kinds of medicines. And I remembered what it was like to be that teenager away at college and not understanding what was happening to them. This time, I knew the signs and knew how to fix it. I’m feeling better (finally) and I’m looking forward to the new semester.

You hear a lot about eating disorders being food. And obviously that makes sense. But I wonder how many other people out there are medicating not with chewables, but with soda and energy drinks and the things that simply don’t require a legal age-but are absolutely just as destructive as the things that do. Perhaps we need studies on this.

So folks, I’m not going to say not to drink these things. I’m going to say treat your energy drinks like alcohol: one can + one bottle of water. Your kidneys will thank you!

The Day I Was Honest

I’ve held onto this post, mostly becuase I couldn’t give it all it deserved. I had to be in the right frame of mind. I’m not entirely sure it’s today, but I think I’ve got a good grip on what I want to say and I think it’s a lovely way to open the new calendar year.
Last semester (and thusly last year) I had a lot going on, as we’ve discussed. I had just transferred to the big city, made new friends, was working on establishing myself in the ways of the world. And I began to blog seriously. I watched this video today of an interview with Jada Pinkett Smith, which I absolutely loved and the idea came bubbling up in the back of my head. That’s why I’ve decided to blog on it today.

In the interview, she was talking about how to balance your life. That’s something I really struggle with. I live too much in the future and not enough in the now. I think about how to fix the problems I may encounter and not so much on how to prevent them. So when she said “focus on yourself. Do what makes you happy.”I really felt like we were approaching a revalation. Her argument was that if you do not find a way to keep yourself in balance, to take care of yourself, you will look to others to do so. You will blame them for sacrificing your entire life for them and not getting happiness out of it. And it blew my mind (metaphorically, of course). 

Now that you’ve had some background info, on to the actual point.

Last semester is by far and away not the first time I’ve had to take sick days. I’ve had bronchitis, strep, the stomach flu and a host of colds throughout my life. But I don’t skip irresponsibly. I take pride in my ability to attend school and work with punctuality and integrity. But last semester was the first time I was honest with myself. As I was crafting my email to my professors for the day, I began to reason out what my excuse for missing class was. Was I suffering from a 24 hour bug? Had I awoken with a flat tire or a low battery? Had I merely slept in? And I realized that I needed to stop kidding myself and respect myself as much as I respected the professors.

 

 

Good morning!

I will not be in class today. I need to take a mental health day and will return to class tomorrow. Thank you for your understanding.

Best,

Michelle BB.

For the first time in my entire life, I used that excuse. I’ve always been ashamed to, like it was some sort of cop-out excuse for being lazy. But it isn’t. And in fact, when I returned the next day, my professors went out of their way to make sure I was alright. Two of them even stopped by the office where I work and made it a point to see if I needed anything. They didn’t see me as a lazy, incompetent student. They saw me as an individual who responsibly needed a day to regroup.

  I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at their reactions. Mental health has been quite a large topic lately, and I was taking a bunch of anthropology classes, so they all understand the value of psychobiological health. And as I said, I do not skip irresponsibly. There is always a reason-a real reason. But it got me thinking. How can I stand here (or sit) and tell you all that we need to take steps to mental health help and then be ashamed of the fact that I have to use that reason myself? Why was I ashamed in the first place?

Because it still carries the connotations. I don’t want anyone to see me as weak, unbalanced, incapable. I fight hard for people to see the bright, driven, passionate individual that I am. But I guess I got caught up in being a super heroine, without flaw or needs. And I viewed my own mental health as something along the lines of an excuse to be used as a cover up for the fact that I didn’t have the motivation to do something. That isn’t even the case. But I’m glad I learned that. Because mental health isn’t separate from physical health. It’s a facet of the same diamond. I was scared that my professors would use that against me in the future. But all that happened was me finally letting go of the fear and replacing it with the statement “I have to take care of myself-holistically.” And once I did that, I think I managed to do just that.

  So thank you, Jada Pinkett Smith, for reminding me that I do indeed need to find my balance and stop sacrificing myself away. No one else is responsible for my happiness and health.