Preface: I acknowledge and respect that many populations feel underrepresented and scared right now, but I’m just speaking to what I know, which is living with mental illness. I am the type of person who values respect and word impeccability, and typically speak and most certainly write with careful intention and inclusion of populations that are not my own. This post is “not like me.” But, after 4+ months of isolating, I’m considering my own health for a brief moment. I wrote “For once, I’m gonna be a self-concerned butthead,” thinking I’d be apologetic for being self-centered, and then deleted it. I hope to receive the same respect and consideration I so readily give to people with other health issues. Just because mine are invisible doesn’t make them any less serious. Or lethal. I owe this to myself and people like me.
We’re on the look out for people with physical ailments and the for the immunosuppressed. We’re on the look out for seniors and other physically at-risk populations.
Is anyone on the look out for people with depression?
Most people don’t like being shut in their home indefinitely, and that even includes me, the queen of needing to be alone in my own space to recharge. I’m not going to pretend I know anything about doing the unpaid full time job of parenting and the stress of chasing babies and children around during a pandemic while also maintaining your own sanity. I’m also not going to pretend I know anything about working a full time job from home without childcare. I’m also not going to pretend I know anything about working a full time job. (Ha ha just kidding. Sort of. I’m the professional world’s #1 bachelorette.) Something I do know about, though, is chronically sad people. Those are my people.
I’m struggling to find work because the job market has largely frozen. Even if just temporary, money has dried up. Rent is still due and the buck is stopping at individuals like me, a typical American with a touch of credit card debt and a looming date, August 19th, when Rick and I lose the health insurance we bought through my grad school. Of course, the plan was for me to get a job after graduating in May and, with the cushion of insurance through the summer, we’d be covered through (or at least mostly through) the standard trial period at a new job before being granted benefits.
I’ve mentioned this a handful of times, but my psychiatrist is $400/visit, which is basically the New York City standard. A friend told me about a hospital with excellent psych care that’s covered by insurance(! a true unicorn), and I was thrilled to look into them and switch over to save on a colossal monthly expense for me and Rick. Then, COVID happened. I’ve done the legwork, and an uncertain time is not the time to play roulette with your mental healthcare provider, so any kind of switch got put on ice. Now, my insurance is up in a month, rendering any kind of insurance-based switch financially meaningless, as it’ll be out of pocket anywhere I go August 20th on if the job market stays on course. If that happens, hopefully I will find a psych who uses a sliding scale.
All of this is to say: quality psychiatry is essential healthcare for me. If my mental illness is not monitored, I can die.
I’m frazzled. Rick says he’s relaxed but he’s been driving weird, which makes me even more frazzled. (Rick turns into a weird driver when he’s stressed out, a public health risk in and of itself.) Nobody tell Rick about this paragraph.
I’m trying to figure it out, keeping a detailed Excel spreadsheet of jobs applied to, reaching out to mutual friends of people working somewhere I’d like to, perfecting cover letters, combing the ‘net, seeking advice from anyone potentially helpful, keeping a positive attitude, and trying to figure out the color of m’dang parachute. Because things have gotten more desperate by the day, the end game is now money and health insurance. Good old fashioned purpose and fulfillment would be some kind of rainbow icing on top. Community would be good, too, but I know, I know- I’m getting a lil crazy with all these hopes and dreams. I just want to contribute to the world! I want to make things that help people! I have a lot to give! I work very hard and with integrity, something that’s unfortunately rare! But, I also have mental illness that’s challenging to maintain in the throes of a global pandemic! One where there seems to be no sure light at the end of the tunnel! Only a flickering, creepy, lightbulb-in-a-haunted-house light! I like haunted stuff, but not this!
I feel like I need to course correct what’s become a wiggy digression: with illness, isolation, economic downturn, and job uncertainty, a person with typical mental health could struggle, let alone people with diagnosed mental illnesses. The suicide rate in America increased 35% from 1999 to 2018. The second leading cause of death in people ages 10-35 is suicide, and that’s without factoring in a global pandemic.
You may be thinking, well, what about the ER? What about suicide hotlines?
Do you know what happens if you go to the ER (by either self arrival or ambulance)? You’re humiliated by people blabbing about your ideation as if it’s not extremely sensitive (“Dennis, she said she wants to kill herself. Oh, you can’t hear me? I SAID SHE SAID SHE WANTS TO KILL HERSELF! Yeah. Kill herself.”). They monitor you for a bit, sometimes overnight, and then let you go to free up the bed. Last July I tried to get someone on an emergency hotline, and couldn’t get through. Either way, hotlines are staffed by good-hearted volunteers, not psychiatrists. These things are highly fallible last resorts, not solutions, let alone effective care.
An article on PsychologyToday.com muses on suicide during SARS as it may pertain to COVID: “…most [SARS-related] suicides involved elderly or chronically ill people who were afraid of becoming burdens to their families due to becoming infected, a concern that is already common among many COVID-19 patients.” A lot of people don’t consider the fact that “chronically ill people” includes those with lifelong mental illness issues. The guilt of being a burden is real.
Isolating with no end in sight might be “flattening the curve,” keeping hospitals manageable, and protecting some at-risk populations, but what about my at-risk population? Sometimes, people with mental illness need help to continue living, period. Living with any sort of normalcy/quality of life is just a bonus. Trust me, sometimes I’m tempted to say, “Just let the people with mental illness go. Let Darwinism run its course,” like I’m sure other people secretly think about my population. It’s a dark thought and, some days, I don’t disagree.
Then I remember that depression lies.
I have to fight for my bright moments, reminding myself that the offerings I bring to the world are important enough for me to stick around. But, when you feel undervalued, and that feeling is coming from inside my head and from inaction/lack of a solid public game plan for people like me, it’s hard to maintain that grit.
The world we live in is a real humdinger.
I’ll continue to move through the world sanitized, masked, and appropriately quarantined, I just have no idea how sustainable this all is for people like me.
Thanks for reading,
Wednesday posts cover something that’s top of mind for me that week and are written in a short period of time. This means that editing is not strong. While it’s not my best work, it is my best, unfiltered thought.
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If you or someone you know needs help right now, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.