Since the election, I have worked diligently to keep quiet and listen. I heeded my third-grade teacher’s advice and put my thinking cap on before speaking. ( I usually take it off after a few minutes because DEEP THINKING HURTS MY BRAIN). I know that the divisive rhetoric at work throughout the country shows up strong at family dinner tables, corporate coffee breaks, and on personal facebook pages; to say nothing of twitter - an app I happily deleted when Donald Trump was elected. A girl can only take so much.
To make it clear I was a diplomatic voice willing to hear both sides, not upset anyone in my sphere who may be feeling unsafe to speak up (this goes for both sides depending on their community), I remained quiet. Eventually, this led to my disengagement in politics, not only because I wanted to be a safe and neutral person, but also because I knew I wasn't reading enough and keeping up with the ever-changing news cycle to feel I could confidently weigh in.
I can see that behavior for what it is: Privilege. I know that it’s a privilege to be able to check out of the conversation this way. And while this doesn't sit well with me, I was stuck in a paralyzed fear of saying the wrong thing, being misunderstood, being too progressive for my conservative leaning friends of faith, and too centrist for my staunchly democratic friends- some with faith, some without. ( Painting with a broad brush here, I know. But it typically broke down this way) The best I could do was endorse fictional characters on Instagram.
I am not the 1% who will benefit from some of the new proposed policies, nor I am “the poor” who will surely be screwed. This allows me to continue chugging along, bemoaning my solidly middle-class existence, and the fact that we did not receive federal financial aid for my son to attend college, but can barely afford our rising insurance costs. It is so easy to get stuck in this place. This place of not enough, and yet so much more. It actually disgusts me, but again, I don’t know how to convey this in the right spirit as the risk of being misunderstood runs high.
Something changed last night. As I watched our House of Representatives pass a bill that would exclude dozens of serious pre-existing conditions from insurance coverage, I realized my silence has been hurtful. And it took seeing three conditions that personally impact me and my family to make my blood boil and to feel the full weight of responsibility to champion for the least, the lost and the looked over. Surely many of them will be affected by this bill should it be approved by congress?
I feel regret over not better understanding Obamacare when I had the chance. I know that it wasn’t ideal for us, but I could not tell you why because not matter how many times you explain deductibles to me, I will just never understand. It’s like time zones. What? Why? How?
Here is what I do know about the ACA.
The antidepressant that I need to take is covered but this was not always the case. I avoided medication for a long time, both in resistance to the diagnosis, and the guilt over the "cost" to our family. Currently, after a few years on ( occasionally off) Lexapro, my pharmacy calls me and tells me my thirty-day refill is ready for pick up, I feel thankful, safe, relieved. I used to struggle with taking meds for my depression: it was less about taking the medication and more about admitting to others. I always felt compelled to justify and explain. No longer. Now I am simply grateful for a treatment that works. ( Though this book has me exploring treating my depression naturally in the future, but not yet. That is for another post!)
A few weeks ago I missed the pharmacy by a couple of minutes and I didn’t get my refill. I was out of Lexapro. I figured I could get there first thing in the morning, and that it shouldn’t be too bad skipping one night. I was very wrong.
The floor fell out from underneath me and I found myself having nightmares, waking up only to discover the feeling would continue to follow me all day. I skipped half of my son’s birthday celebration because the idea of a fun family activity was more than I could handle. So as my family “escaped the room” I lay on the sofa wondering if I could get it together enough to join them for dinner. Dark thoughts overshadowed any logic, reason, faith, or belief that I can otherwise access in times of crisis.
Maybe this is the one space where I can identify with the cries of the NRA members. "If they want my guns, they'll have to pry them from my cold, dead, fingers." (except instead of guns, meds)
So as my eyes scan the list of “pre-existing” conditions the bill would exclude, reading the word depression feels like a sucker punch. Asthma and Diabetes are on their too. I have a child who’s allergies trigger his asthma and a niece who was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes as an infant. You don’t know fear until you’ve witnessed your child struggling for breath or being life flighted to a hospital. I will pay anything for his inhaler, take two more jobs ( I already have three) to make sure he has one, but right now, his inhalers are covered by our insurance. I realize not everyone has the ability to increase work hours or consult on freelance projects to increase income. If Medicaid gets cut, my sister and brother in law will be left with the $1200 monthly cost of life-saving medication for my niece.
This list is not full of lifestyle debates or human right issues that we seem unable to agree upon. It is full of diseases, ailments, and conditions that will impact all of us.
I am slowly coming out from my stupor. I am convicted for not advocating for universal health care sooner. I am still learning. I am hopeful that Congress will see this for the unjust and dangerous bill that it is. I am trying to be less afraid to speak up.
Please bear with me as I learn.