lapsed

This is what being uninsured for one month looks like.

bill

This doesn’t even count the $1000 I’ve already paid to the various people who worked on me and the lab tests.  This doesn’t count the ~$4000 I’m paying over the next 9 months for the anesthesiologist.

I am actually one of the lucky ones.  I have a full-time job that covers my expenses.  I don’t have children or family to take care of.  I have relatively few bills.  While getting a bill like this absolutely sucks, I’m okay with it.  I can make payments.  I have options.  It means I have to wait with school for a little while.  I can’t buy a car like I wanted.  I’ll probably not be going on international vacations for a couple of years.  I will be making some sacrifices.

When my Mama died, the bills were much worse.  I was prepared.  I knew it would be bad.  So, while–yes–this absolutely makes me wince…it doesn’t send me into complete panic.  I’m happy to pay it because–a) they gave me a 15% discount (could’ve been worse) and b) this is what saved my life.  Had I waited until insurance kicked in, I probably would not be here.  So: small price to pay.  It’s only money.

But I am sharing this because I want people to know what can happen.  And I don’t want it to happen to anyone else.

I am 34 years old.  Before I got sick and had to have emergency surgery, the worst symptom I had was vomiting.  And I’d always get better in a few days.  I knew what was happening to me wasn’t normal, but I also knew I could handle it.  I knew I’d get better.  I knew enough to be dangerous, and OTC medicines do a lot to postpone inevitable things.

I was employed–with insurance–during the times when I had most of these symptoms.  I could’ve gone to the doctor at any time.  Hell, I went to the doctor for other things–but never mentioned this because it just wasn’t big enough of a deal to me.  I would mention it the next time.  But I didn’t go because I didn’t want to miss work.  I didn’t want to pay co-pays.  I didn’t want to go to the doctor–because I hate doctors and didn’t like my new doctor.  Or it took over a month to get in.  So, I didn’t.  For months and then years.  And chances are–had I gone–they wouldn’t have diagnosed me correctly.  Even at the height of my being sick, I was misdiagnosed.  I was lucky enough to find an ER doc who got it.  I was smart enough to know I couldn’t handle anything else.

I thought I knew better–or, at least, enough.  And I didn’t trust the people I needed to trust.  And money absolutely was a factor.  Point blank: I wasn’t worth that exam.  So, when I was changing jobs, I opted not to extend my health coverage because it was just a month-long lapse.  I felt okay–not good…but not really sick.  At least not enough to do something about it.  Nothing more than what I dealt with for all those happily insured months.  I didn’t want to pay $200 for coverage for a month.  I could buy art supplies instead–that would likely sit in my bedroom for months before I had the time to actually use them.

So–I kinda deserve the bill.  If nothing else, it reminds me of how completely idiotic I was.  It reminds me that my need to take care of everyone except myself causes injury and real harm–that it’s an illness.  And every month, I’ll be reminded that the behavior I exhibited back then is not an option.  Absolutely not ever again.

If you feel like shit, and it doesn’t go away–or it keeps coming back–and you’re insured–go to the doctor every chance you get until you feel better and stay better.  Tell people just how shitty you feel and let them influence you.  Spend the money on yourself because this is your life–and who effing cares what’s in your bank account?  You will die if you don’t take care of yourself.  You will anyway, but don’t help it along.

And have some compassion for people who don’t have the money to pay these bills and are too sick to avoid them.  Fight for fair laws so that no one’s life is destroyed because they are human beings.

I pay my fair share.  I’ve paid my fair share since I was 14.  I will pay every penny of this bill–even if I’m retired and still paying it off.  This can happen to absolutely anyone.  And it’s ridiculous that people don’t get the care they need because of these pieces of paper.  It’s ridiculous we still live in a country where being sick can ruin your life.

Paying the bill is the easy part for me.  The hard part? Taking care of myself and not continuing the patterns that landed me here…that’s gonna take some time.  But I’m making changes and plotting things.  Lots and lots of things.  Many of which are surprising.  But the days of me not even making the list are over.

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