Wednesday, April 19, 2017

It’s Personal And It’s Political

I’ve been absent from my blog for a while now.  It’s not that I don’t have anything to write about.  I do.  I had surgery in November that I haven’t even talked about.  There are other things that have happened, too.

It’s personal…and…it’s political. 

Personally, I’ve experienced some growing pains in writing for some of the other health sites that I used to write for.  I feel like Johnny in “Dirty Dancing.”  But instead of telling me I can’t do my kind of dancing, someone told me that I can’t write what I want to write.

I’ve been restless.  I’ve felt unfulfilled.  I’ve pulled back on a lot of my advocacy efforts.  Partly, it’s me.  But partly it’s by virtue of the things that I’ve been involved in.  I don’t think I’ve changed that much. 

I don’t mind edits, and criticism.  That’s not the problem.  But when I am told that I can’t write what I want, and then that because I’m not gaining enough readers to merit being a consistent contributor, I can write on a freelance basis, I have to walk away. 

I draw the line at my voice being changed, at the sentiment of the message not being my own. 

Worse than boring is being status quo, and is not standing up for what you believe in.  It means saying no even when that might mean turning down opportunities that you once would have taken without question.  It means remembering why I’m here, where I started and where I’m at now.  And reminding myself that it’s not a popularity contest.    

Because when it becomes more about the voice of the sponsor or the image of the company and less about the patient voice, that is a problem. 

In the end, I don’t represent a company or website, I represent myself.  And if I’m not representing myself and my fellow patients, then what the heck am I doing?

I haven’t worked as hard as I have to be a patient advocate in order to be a voice for the status quo.  I haven’t gained the following I have for writing anything less than the truth, be it ugly or upsetting or otherwise unpopular. 

And I think that this is a representation of the broader political climate, which is currently KILLING me.

I've seen so much infighting lately between chronically ill people that were formerly friends and I believe that’s exactly what this administration wants.  I have friends who post things like “those who have employer-based health insurance aren’t immune.”  It's a privilege that I can and do work, I know that.  But it’s not easy.  My job takes the majority of my time, energy, and attention, which has meant that this kind of advocacy has had to take a backseat.  I’m not complaining, I’m just explaining.

And to be clear, my health insurance status since I got sick has literally spanned the spectrum.  I’ve had amazing faculty-level student health insurance, mediocre student health insurance, insurance through the exchange, Medicaid from two different states (not at the same time obviously), and now employer-based health insurance.

I actually just found out that I’ll be getting new health insurance through my employer soon as a result of the current insurance company raising my company’s rates over 50% as a result of the uncertainty in the market that the current administration has caused.  My company has done a good job, so I’m told, of finding coverage that is comparable to what we currently have.  But the prospect of starting over again in this realm is overwhelming.  While I had the same health insurance for all six years of my PhD program, in the four years since then, I’ve had five, and soon to be six, different insurances.

For someone like me, who sees a doctor more than once a year, the prospect of a new insurance plan is anxiety-provoking.  So for anyone who is under the false impression that a job guarantees you health insurance, it’s rocky and tenuous, even under the best circumstances. 

I’m scared and I’m worried daily, if not hourly.  I’m worried that at some point sooner rather than later, I won’t be able to afford my medication or insurance.  I’m worried that I won’t be able to get the care that I need.  And I’m worried that friends of mine will lose their quality or life, or their lives altogether, because of the very real possibility of the concerns that I just mentioned.  And I’m frustrated that in this time of great uncertainty, I don’t have the time or energy to devote to the fight that is so, so needed right now.  

And in reality, I know I am healthier than many of the people I know that have my same illnesses.  But I too worry about the vicious cycle of not being able to afford my medication or appointments, thereby not allowing me to work, thereby not having insurance.  It’s an everlasting loop of suck, or worse, debility and death.   

So that’s why I haven’t been writing.  I’ve been pondering the past, present, and future.  I’ve thought of how best to express all of this, and I’m not sure I’ve captured it adequately here. 

But I’m here.  I’ve been here for nine years this month.  It’s hard to believe.  And I don’t plan on going anywhere.  So keep reading.  Be patient.  Don’t give up on me.  Because together, we have a lot of fighting to do (and not with each other – that has to stop now). 

We are patients.  We are important.  Our voices need to be heard.  And we need to stick together.  While I don’t think it has ever mattered who is sicker or who has a job and who doesn’t, I think it matters even less now.  Our commonalities have to be stronger than out differences.    

#Iwillnotbesilenced AND #Wewillnotbesilenced