Shouldn’t Be

November 7, 2020

Years ago I was watching NBC’s hit show The West Wing, and an episode, or a particular scene from an episode I should say, has stuck with me for years. It was during an episode when the fictional President of the United States was running for re-election, and his staff was out campaigning and talking to “every day people.”

One gentleman was talking to a White House staff member, unaware of who he was, and was talking about the salary he earned and how he had just taken his daughter on a tour of the college she hoped to attend. He was saying he took pride in providing for his family, that he understood that to be his role and was happy to do so. However, he then began talking about how things were never quite within reach even though he had done everything “right.” He didn’t think anything should be handed to him, but that it just shouldn’t be quite so hard.

Yesterday, I went to the ER for the second time in one month. Two “massive” bladder infections with a mass found that is pressing on a ureter, and a lot more. Both times I was given antibiotics and fluids in the hospital, and after the first visit, I took the antibiotics they gave me. Within a few days of finishing, I was back in the hospital. Last night at the ER, I was told to begin taking the prescribed antibiotics this morning. But I am broke. Not just broke. Negative. A negative balance in my checking account.

Not only could we not pay for the antibiotic, I also could not pay for a medication I take for Bipolar. (Not to mention the pain medicine prescribed for me because my lower back is in such distress due to the infection.)

Listen, I began working at 16 years old, 30 hours per week. For years, I worked at an engineering firm, and my work week ranged from 45-55 hour weeks while I was a single mother with a two year old at home. I am not afraid of hard work. I loved it. I miss that job. I did not ask to have a break down landing me with a Bipolar diagnosis, and I was not at all thrilled when my back was fused. I tried for years beyond those two things to work, but simply could not and am on disability benefits. My husband is a minister, and though it is his calling, for most of his professional life it has not paid well. Now, he is a bereavement coordinator for hospice and paid a bit more, but still a fairly low salary. And he works hard and gives much of himself to his line of work and to the people who need him.

I cannot tell you how many times we have had to decide between groceries and medication. And now here we are again. I will be out of the medication for Bipolar until next Wednesday, as well as the antibiotic to help end this bladder infection. Instead, it will continue to get worse and worse.

In this, the United States of America, it shouldn’t be the case. It shouldn’t be the case anywhere.

It just shouldn’t be quite so hard.

Invisible Illness and Stigma

5.12.19 blog entry

So, as we know, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I’ve been thinking about stigma. How to eradicate it. The answer must be imparting knowledge; teaching.

The area where I’ve seen the most ignorance across the board, and have personally experienced, is to do with medication. I hear that psych meds are poison and unnecessary. I have heard the following.

Just go outside.

Just lighten up.

Meditate.

Get in shape.

Granted, all of that helps, but Bipolar Disorder is a chemical imbalance in the brain. It is a direct result from something wrong in your brain. If you have something wrong with an organ in your body, you treat it.

My own family has called me a pill-popper and told me I’m weak. Please. You do this for 20 years, and then talk to me about what is weakness and what is strength.

Invisible illnesses can sometimes be the most difficult to understand or grasp, I suppose. A person has an appendectomy and people bring them food for a week. A person goes through a depressive cycle and people might say stop moping, and they certainly don’t bring meals.

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So, I will just wrap up by saying people with Bipolar, with mental illnesses, with invisible chronic illnesses, are incredibly strong and brave. We’re also empathetic because we know suffering. I assure you, if I could exercise my way right on out of this, if it was that easy, well…I wouldn’t even have a blog because I would be cured.

We are fighters.

We are creative.

We are dreamers.

We are helpers.

We are intelligent.

The emotional reactions – good and bad – that we have are multiplied by ten.

Through it all, we have careers, raise children, help others, and have the foresight to know to give our husbands our medications during a particularly bad week, so that we don’t swallow them all. That’s not weakness. That kind of strength requires a raw vulnerability. It’s not easy.

If you have someone in your life dealing with MI or any other invisible disease, just reach out and speak to them. Ask how they are, and tell them you want to understand more. I bet when they are able, they will help educate you.✌🙏🎗

 

(📸: kgun9)