How the Healthcare Debate Is Affecting Stress Levels of Those With Chronic Illness

The impact of stress on chronic illnesses is no secret. I think about how many times I’ve been told to avoid stress because stress can cause flare-ups and, well, I don’t have enough fingers for that number. But here’s the thing: avoiding stress right now is really difficult! 

For example, I’m sitting here listening to Senate Democrats hold the floor, reading emails and relaying stories from their constituents whose lives have been saved by the Affordable Cart Act (ACA). I switch back and forth between C-SPAN and cable news, only finding talk of what so many of us have to lose. How much care will we be allowed to before lifetime Medicaid limits cut us off? I hear how those struggling with high premiums and copays need help and argue about who intends to address that. It goes on and on, and it makes me anxious.


Every day, for months now, we’ve heard this back and forth: the system is collapsing, millions will lose care. We listen to sound bites fraught with threatening words and fear inspiring statements on both ends of the spectrum. All directed at a population already struggling to fulfill one of their basic needs as human beings – staying alive and staying as healthy as possible. It’s like a tennis match, and we are the tennis balls.

I certainly feel like I’m the ball in a never-ending tennis match and that’s aside from my chronic illnesses. I have reached the point where I hear the word “healthcare” and get anxious, start to worry and can feel it throughout my body. According to this monitor I’m wearing, my heart rate is above average just from sitting and writing this. I am having a visceral reaction to this debate.

So as moments like this started happening to me more regularly, I started thinking, am I alone? How are my fellow chronically ill/disabled folks and their friends and family dealing with this ongoing debate?

I have heard a lot about well-being and access and lives, but I haven’t heard anyone ask us, the community whose lives depend on healthcare access and those who care about us, are we doing OK? Over the last week, I have seen the bulk of this fight being carried by disabled activists. I have heard people share their most heartbreaking stories with the world, some for the first time, in the hopes that their struggle might change a mind. But at what cost to them, to us?

It occurred to me that the best way to find out is to just ask.

So begins a journey I’m hoping you’ll take with me. I’ve created a survey using some of my leftover knowledge from grad school, a little research and some free online tools in order to get a better understanding of the cost of this fight, the impact this debate is having on the stress levels of those with the most at stake. My plan is to share the outcomes and start a discussion about how this moment is affecting us. My hope is that it will shed some light on questions that should be asked and maybe inspire someone with access and influence to gather further information on the topic. Regardless of the outcome, this debate has already had an effect on us and that can’t be forgotten.

So I hope you’ll take the survey (the emotional impact of the health care debate on the chronically and disabled community) and stay tuned for more.

Until then? Hang in there, everyone.

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Thinkstock photo via mj0007.

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