Wednesday, December 18, 2013
My computer died. I wish I could say that this is the reason I haven’t been writing, but it’s not. I’ve been busy, true, and preoccupied with other things, yes, but mostly I just haven’t felt like writing. I haven’t felt like sharing, maybe, either – at least not publicly. Some time ago I read the blog of friend whom I’ve followed since I began to write like this who decided to “retire” from blogging. She was simply ready to move on from it. I wonder sometimes if I am as well.
The truth is I don’t really know. I know that the reasons I started blogging are not the reasons I continue to blog. I know that the information I feel comfortable sharing now is vastly different than that which I used to share. But I also know that it has been a comfort to me in so many hard times. It has been my community, where I have met wonderful friends – relationships that have crossed the boundaries of internet lines – and shared momentous occasions with them via this page. And I know that I will have many more occasions to share. So I don’t quit. Not just yet.
But Life continues to happen, even if I don’t write about it here.
The protesters (who, by the end, were just one guy sitting on the roadside in his truck smoking a cigarette) finally gave in. I don’t know if the project at the Cricket Club finished, if he moved to some other area to protest or he finally got lucky and got himself a job, but one day the signs were simply no longer there. As if it had never happened at all, and maybe it really didn’t. No one seemed to flummoxed that they were present to begin with, so why would anyone notice when they left?
The drama with my insurance company was basically a mood swing. I got upset about it and then it worked itself out, as these things usually do. The therapist I was seeing decided to stop taking Aetna and so I decided to stop seeing her. She was lovely but out of my price range. This meant that I could have all the biofeedback sessions I needed until the end of the year. Which turned out to be a godsend when I found out I was pregnant and had to go off my mood stabilizer.
Yes, I’m pregnant. After all the fuss I made about not being sure I wanted children it happened on its own. Not like it was an immaculate conception, I know how babies are made, but we weren’t really planning on it.
For those of you who may be wondering I do not love being pregnant. I’m not a fan of feeling sick (although most of my morning sickness has passed by now) and if you’ve never been preggers before let me just explain to you that your body basically does every gross thing you never thought it could do. Not to mention you are gestating an alien succubus. It’s a miracle, yes, I guess, but it’s weird as hell when it’s happening to you.
One thing I do like is that, somehow, all the extra hormones raging through my body right now completely leveled off my moods. It’s the best mood stabilizer I’ve ever had – to the point where it’s almost hard to cry. (Although I did tear up at the Christmas iPhone commercial last night. That one’s a doozy.) I feel so balanced and happy. And simultaneously cranky from lack of sleep and nausea, but mostly level. I’m sure the biofeedback is helping as well, but nothing can compare to a pregnant woman’s hormones, I’m sure.
So it’s happening. We’re having a baby. The Evolving Family is evolving. The big ol’ house we never thought we’d be able to fill will soon be just big enough for the three of us. Somehow, this bizarre thing that is growing inside my body is going to come out and become a human. Husband and I will be its parents. And life will continue to move on.
Whether I write about it here, life will go forward. There is no stopping, no waiting for an explanation, no pause until the next episode. Things just happen.
And that is why we must never stop evolving.
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
My route to work, apparently, is very treacherous if you are a raccoon. I see the remains of countless deaths each week, of all ages and sizes. I’ve become desensitized to the mass killings. You’d think the raccoons would just change their route, already.
Have you been on hold with Aetna lately? I have a few questions, first of them being do they want me to kill myself now?
I’ve concluded, after several hours on hold and in “conversations” with various call centers that there is no more stressful experience than trying to get what you need from an insurance company. They begin by playing the first phrases of Fur Elise in obvious repetition until, just before you begin smashing your head against your desk, they cut in to help you. Only literally no one at Aetna is a native English speaker and despite the clarity of the things I say they seem to never understand me. It’s a little like talking to a wall.
But that’s really not the worst part. The worst part is the coverage itself. I have what is considered “good” insurance and for most things it is satisfying. I can go to the doctor for twenty dollars and the specialist for forty. Most of my appointments fall under the specialist category but I consider it better than having to pay full price. However when it comes to what insurance companies call “Behavioral Health” getting the help you need is seriously off the mark.
Recently I’ve returned to therapy. It was a long hiatus, mostly fueled by lack of wanting to jump back into the psychologist “dating pool”. Finding a therapist that I actually liked that took my insurance was not easy. I have been to several since I moved here that were less than stellar and so I just stopped going. I need it though so, reluctantly, I opened up my provider list and started the search anew.
I have been fortunate this time to find not one, but two people who I think will be able to help me. One is a cognitive therapist and the other someone who will help me with relaxation techniques and give me some biofeedback. I am looking forward to working with the both of them to put some new tools in my not-being-crazy-toolbox.
First, though, I have to get past my insurance. As it turns out I am allotted only twenty behavioral health visits per year, of which six have already been used. I did the math: Until the end of the year that leaves me with fourteen visits that I have to split between three therapists (don’t forget I see a psychiatrist as well). Now, if I were coded as having a “serious mental health issue” I would have a whole sixty visits per calendar year, but most therapists hesitate to code you that way because it's harder to get life insurance blah blah blah.
This year I can probably finagle things to maximize my fourteen remaining visits, but what am I supposed to do for next year? Even if I was coded as having a “serious mental health issue” I figured out that sixty visits allots for general therapy every other week and a psychiatrist once a month. You can mix that up a little bit but it still doesn’t amount to much. If a person did, indeed have a serious mental health issue – like bipolar or schizophrenia – they would most likely need therapy once a week, and then hopefully they are only seeing their psychiatrist every three months, and that could work but here’s hoping they don’t have a break down anywhere in that time. Don’t change your meds, don’t have a crisis, don’t need anything more than exactly what you have because then you’ll be screwed. As if having bipolar or schizophrenia isn’t screwed enough.
Then there are those of us lucky enough to be “just” depressed, or borderline something, or going through a terrible time. We get therapy twice a month, max. Hope you’re not medicated! And don’t you let that silly therapist talk you into seeing her every single week because, well, you just can’t afford it!
The whole thing is ridiculous. As if choosing a therapist isn’t hard enough, as if treating a mental illness isn’t stressful and exhausting, now we have to worry that our “good” health insurance isn’t going to cover us.
The icing on the cake, for me, is the growing number of therapists who don’t even take insurance. I GET that insurance companies are a pain in the fucking ass. I DO. See above paragraphs. I really get it. But what, pray tell, am I supposed to do if you don’t take insurance? Oh, right! A sliding scale! One that goes to, at its lowest, sixty dollars. Because that’s affordable? I’m already kind of sick to my stomach thinking of the totals for all this therapy. Husband says “We’ll make it work”, but I do the budget in my head and it’s tight. So sixty dollars a session? No. Or I could pay the out-of-network cost! That’s a great deal. I’ll pay eighty percent of your hundred and ninety dollars per hour. I ask you – WHO THE HELL HAS THAT KIND OF MONEY?
(But they’re doing it for the patients, I hear. They spend less time filling out paperwork with the insurance companies and more time with us. Yeah, sure, whatever.)
There aren’t any other options, though. What you could find in the manner of free therapy – if you’re a student or you’re poor, but not those assholes in the middle class, they make too much! – it’s pretty much a joke. Asking a student of psychology to help a person through a major mental disorder or break down isn’t even fair. I agree they have to get real world skills somewhere but just because your poor doesn’t mean you shouldn't have access to a real professional.
I often think of the time I worked for a disability law firm. Their job was to get people Social Security Disability (another joke of a system but don’t get me started). My job was to do basic intake evaluations to prepare them for their meeting with the lawyer. I would ask questions and they would answer. Some of those people didn’t deserve SSD and some of them did. I wasn’t the final decision maker, I just listened.
There were an astonishing amount of those people who were suffering from depression, bipolar and PTSD so crippling that they couldn’t work. Hang on, take a step back – that happens? I mean, if you properly treat all of those things you can still function in society, right? But most of these people were also terribly poor, and whatever “help” they had gotten hadn’t worked.
One woman began crying on me during her intake.
“I just don’t know what to do anymore,” she said, “I’m never going to be better. Things will never get better.”
“Listen,” I replied quietly so that the rest of the room didn’t hear me try to help her, “Things will get better but you have to take care of yourself. Have you gone to the Poor Peoples Therapist?”
I didn’t call it that, but that’s what it was – an association in town that would help crazy people who didn’t have money.
“I tried. I tried but they won’t see me for another three months.”
“And you told them it was an emergency?”
“Yes, but it doesn’t matter to them.”
“I’m sure it does, honey. It’s just…” I didn’t know what to say. I had tried to go there myself once and knew it was incredibly hard to get in to see a therapist. Rumor has it they weren’t very good anyway.
She began to bawl uncontrollably at this point.
“I’ve been waiting two years for my SSD! I can’t afford no medication. I can't do this anymore! No one wants to help me!”
That, right there, sums up exactly how I feel about our mental health care system coupled with the villainous insurance provider. In the end, crying with her now, I urged the woman to go to the hospital and check herself in as suicidal. I had heard that if you admit yourself in the ER they are required to care for you, give you medication and offer you someone to talk to. The only caveat being that you are in a terrifying mental ward and you have to stay for at least two days.
And these are our options. They go from not-great to horrifying, as far as I’m concerned, and there’s no sign of improvement anytime soon.
It’s things like this that make me wish I was still in France. If I could, I would take my mom, move her there and live healthily ever after. But I’d never find a job that paid me as well and we’d be a fucking long way away from everything we’ve built here. So I take what I can get.
Which I think it the moral of the story.
That and “watch out for raccoons, because they’re idiots.”
Monday, September 16, 2013
The first pot of fall soup is simmering on the stove. The windows of the kitchen are open, airing out the smells of cooking into the neighbor’s yard. A bouquet of kale casually awaits it’s watery death next to the pot.
I am suddenly very hungry.
This weekend I hit the wall. Not literally – I would be very angry with myself if I had to patch up a hole in the plaster. Emotionally. Something stirred loose and I felt it. I desperately needed a place to hide.
I worry that the meds are going to stop working again. I am keenly aware of my brain chemistry these days.
I took today off to attend to personal business. It felt nice to be cooking before 5 p.m., even though we won’t eat so early. I like having a few hours left where I am able to still think clearly, before the muddy slosh of after-work washes over me and all I want to do is watch television. I almost feel like there is enough juice left in me to be creative, like I haven’t been squeezed dry yet.
I don’t know if you noticed but a whole week went by without a post. After my streak of regularity I felt sort of empty for not having written anything. It was a busy week.
Or was it? I don’t remember so many things happening, but somehow all of the hours got filled and none were left for this.
I promised my aunt and uncle a blog about a baby bird I tried to save. I haven’t forgotten.
I wonder if my husband would feel like a widower if I stayed up here in this room, night after night, until I had worked out whatever creative thing is lying just under my surface. I wonder what he would eat.
That’s an exaggeration – Husband does fine without me. But it’s difficult to know how a significant other might react to not being chosen as the center of your attention for long stretches of time. I just wonder.
For now I am sitting in the attic on a steel chair that is much too short for the desk we purchased for my writing space. The desk, consequently, is perfectly sized, yet the room still feels naked.
I’m not sure what it needs to feel less sparse. It’s a work in progress. Like so many important things in my life.
That’s a whole other tangent. I don’t feel like being so tangential this evening.
I feel like making pie. I won’t though, because the sunlight has slipped behind the horizon and soon I will be curling up on the couch with my little family and forgetting about the kitchen. Then I’ll get ready for bed and tomorrow will be another work day.
I’ll throw myself back into the week and try to ignore the very faint hum of anxiety buzzing in my chest for no reason that I can place. I will breathe in three times, and out three times, over and over until I feel better. I’ll drink tea and not dwell on things.
I’ll have a delicious hot soup for lunch.