How the Senate's Proposed Health Care Bill Will Affect Me as Someone With Mental Illness
Editor’s note: This story reflects an individual’s experience and is not an endorsement from The Mighty. We believe in sharing a variety of perspectives from our community.
I’ve been told to pray about it. I’ve been told that it could be worse. I’ve been told to think positively. I’ve been told my mental health conditions aren’t real.
I struggle to get out of bed. I haven’t gone a day without crying in months. I’ve left half-full grocery carts with supermarket employees because I hate how people look at me when I have a panic attack in the produce department. I can’t feel my fingers or toes when anxiety hits. I have to wait for manic episodes to try to get any of my chores done because the list seems too long, too impossible and too difficult when I am in a depressive state. I don’t sleep and if I do, I wake up with so much anxiety that my body trembles. I ache to be around people, but when I get around them, I just want to get away from them. I am exhausted from trying to pretend to be OK when my brain is not OK.
The photo shows different medications that have been prescribed to me over the course of six years. I kept a bottle from every single one of them I have tried (I disposed of the bottles from refills). Each bottle held the promise that I would feel whole again. Some are for anxiety. Some are for depression. Some are for insomnia. Some are for everything all wrapped into one. Some have made me gain weight. Some have made me lose weight. Some have made me violently ill. Others gave me a headache I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Some made me a zombie, unable to feel anything. Some put me to sleep but kept me in a fog. A few kept me awake at night to wrestle with the demons. Some of them only cost five dollars and a couple of them cost 40. Some of them made me worse and I was told to quit taking them immediately and some of them made me better — for awhile. They all eventually stopped working.
Mental health conditions are tricky. They can be managed, but they often need a lot of attention. In my experience, they are comparable to a high maintenance haircut that requires touch up after touch up. Mental health treatments need to be reevaluated constantly. Some people can go months between reevaluating, and some can go weeks. Some require medication adjustments, some require additional therapy, but I believe all require additional attention other than the typical routine physical.
All of the medications were prescribed by my primary provider. At the most recent visit, I explained how bad things were getting again and she would like me to be seen by someone who can help me more. I will now be seeing a team of healthcare providers at an outpatient medication/therapy center. I need to be evaluated by a mental health practitioner for anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), insomnia and bipolar disorder. I will also need regular medication checks and therapy sessions.
I have qualified for a temporary leave of absence from work, but still, I go every day. I drag myself there and put a smile on my face and complete work each day so I am able to get a paycheck every two weeks. Most of that money will now be going to my appointments and I’m actually one of the more fortunate ones. I only have to pay 30 dollars each time I have an appointment. Based on the schedule I have been given, I will need 240 dollars for just copays for my appointments. I’m not sure how much my medications will cost yet.
Like I said, I’m one of the lucky ones. Being one of the lucky ones looks like this: My insurance to covers mental health services at a 30 dollar copay. None of these visits will contribute to my deductible (which is already met due to separate medical concerns which apparently are valid enough to go towards my deductible). There is no out of pocket limitation that applies to these visits.
Among all of the turmoil in my head, I now hear the the new healthcare bill will be allowing states to “opt out” of the essential health benefits requirement. The items that states are able to get reduce coverage of or eliminate include: maternity care, opioid addiction and yes, mental health care.
If I am ever unable to work because of my conditions and if my state decides to get rid of mental health coverage, I will go broke trying to fight my brain and others will too. On top of that, the new bill also introduces caps to lifetime maximums that patients would be expected to pay which was previously banned. This was because the caps forced some people struggling with complex medical issues into bankruptcy.
I did not ask for these illnesses. I did not seek them out, but they found me. I did not want them when I was diagnosed, nor do I want them now. I live each day knowing there is no “cure” for how I feel, but that I have an opportunity to manage it. But what if I don’t have that opportunity anymore? What if the millions of people in our country can’t afford to get help?
It’s time to take a stand. It’s time that we show we are strong because we rebuild our hearts and our brains and continue to battle with our demons every day. We are compassionate because we know how it feels to hurt. It has taken years for me to feel good about myself, for me to feel “normal,” for me to feel human. I will not stand by and watch as my basic human rights are stripped from my hands due to an illness I have no control over.
Please call your senators and tell them that we, the mental health community, deserve better.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Photo via contributor.