By Anna Rosenblum Palmer of Shelburbia
Standing in the sunshine chatting with a friend while she waters our community garden, our talk turns from carrots and beets (why is it that 40-something women love beets?) to drugs. Despite being in Colorado and standing amongst buds and leaves, we are not talking about the green kind, but the pink oval pills that get me out of bed each day. She works in the pharmaceutical field and confirms what I have been reading and experiencing myself…our system is providing less support for mental illness, exactly at a time when talk about mental health swirls around gun control rather than treatment.
After a year and a half of taking “new” anti-depressants that require special authorization and doctor testimony as to its status as “the only medication this patient hasn’t gained a tolerance for,” my insurance has stopped paying. NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, wrote a paper on funding cuts in mental health treatment subtitled “a national crisis” in 2011. Things have only gotten worse since then.
Walking across the waxed-to-a-gloss floor to the back of the pharmacy for the third week in a row, I thought again about how lucky I am. Not that each WEEK I have to pay 94 dollars for an “emergency” supply as the doctor, pharmacist, and I wait for insurance approval, but that I CAN pay.
While my boys load their arms with candy and chips and put on their most pleading expressions, I wait for MY treats. I have the same conversation at the pick-up window that I have had 18 times over the last four months. In fact, it is the same conversation that I had over the phone with this pharmacy six hours ago. I KNOW I don’t have authorization from my insurance company. I STILL want them to fill the prescription. I WILL pay out of pocket. They respond in disbelief. Do I know how much it costs?
Why, yes, I do. But do they understand the cost of not having it?
No, despite their training and status as medical consultants, they don’t seem to.
They don’t know how looking at the loft that my husband and son built makes me cry. How the excitement and accomplishment that the 10-year old feels is wiped out by a strange swirl of my rage and fear, which leaves me standing mute but shaking my head, “No, no, no, no.” I imagine that wobbly thing collapsing, my son’s head smashed open on the floor. I feel rage, genuine rage, about the visible stamps on the 2 x 4s—why did they use this material? They must have no sense of pride, no aesthetic standards. Who are these people, and how do I live with them?
Heading downstairs, I see a miniature Milky Way wrapper on the kitchen counter. This reminds me of long ago, before my current medication, when each leftover breakfast remnant was a milky little bowl of “fuck you.” What kind of mother buys her kids candy? What kind of kid leaves out the wrappers to taunt her, to remind her of her shortcomings? I mean, other than every kid. But that perspective is gone, irrelevant.
So the loft and the small wrapper slay me. I have no choice but to head to bed. Staying in the mix will not work. It is not an option. I might see something else. Some crumb or drawing that will not meet my impossible standards, that will trigger my rage or sorrow, that will leave me a puddle of self.
Lying on my bed, an important distinction that shows that the half-life of the medication is still in there somewhere, I call the pharmacy. AGAIN. I explain the fact that I WILL have to pay out of pocket. That I NEED the medication. I want to tell him about the loft, about the imminent imaginary death of my child, and the candy-eating aliens that live in my house. I want to tell him about the shrinking walls that make the boundaries of my life.
But I don’t. He won’t understand.
And anyway, I will get another chance to tell him all of this when I visit him at his counter and re-repeat myself while my kids shop for more candy, whose wrappers hopefully will represent only the small plastic of themselves, rather than the impossibility of life outside my bedroom.
This post was originally published on Shelburbia.
About Anna Palmer
Anna Rosenblum Palmer writes on Bi-polar disorder, sex, parenting, money, and cat pee—the major contributors to mental health. She has been featured in Parent.co and Babble. Follow her blog at Shelburbia, and find her on Facebook, and Twitter.