To Your Health

Living with a mental illness and being accident and illness-prone leave you spending long hours in doctor’s offices, in waiting rooms, in line to get your third CT this year or more “routine” labs, at the surgeon’s, at the medical supply company.  And then there’s the routine stuff — the dentist, pdoc appointment, therapy over phone, therapy in person, renew prescription, flu shot, ear infections, the dentist again.

You get the point and I am personally at a point where it feels like all I do is talk to medical and mental health professionals who prescribe tests and medication and specialists.  While all of this does aggravate me (obviously), I am grateful that I have good health insurance.  When I sigh about heading to the next appointment, I think to myself, ‘well at least I can, I have that option.’

I’m not sure what I’d do if I didn’t have any insurance.  I would probably be dead, with two broken feet.  No access to mental health care is unthinkable, unacceptable to me — as someone who has worked on the inside of the system and been a customer on the outside — because it is absolutely vital to many persons, even in a city this size, that meds, therapy, community support saves lives and improves lives and can in many cases make all the difference.

I picture me unmedicated, with my broken foot not in a cam walker, with all the gastro problems of the last year unsolved, no flu shot, no antibiotics for all the ear infections, and so on and so on and, well — I actually can  picture that.  I think you have to live the life of the uninsured or underinsured to really feel the strong pull for healthcare, that desire we all have to be (mostly) well, physically and mentally).

I spent years being underinsured and racking up credit card debt and owing debt to my parents just to pay for my medications.  Then a program was found and it turned out that if QoB laid enough battle down, she could get me on this program.  I’ve been on it for quite a while now, and have since never had to worry about prescription drug cost or what would happen if I broke my foot (again).   And now that I am on SSDI and have two years in, I just started Medicare which will improve my treatment options quite a bit.

What I want to know is — why is it that you must be disabled or elderly before you can get some really good insurance working for you?

Closer to the Edge

Being on Medicaid and all, a side effect of disability (at least until my Medicare kicks in), is not without a bit of pain.  Sure, it covers prescriptions (most) 100% and I don’t have an office visit copay.  I even have dental insurance (that doesn’t actually cover anything) and vision insurance (which gives me one pair of glasses a year).  In a lot of ways, Medicaid is a lot better than private insurance and I am in no way complaining about the system, overall.

With Medicaid, there is a short list of eligible providers.  When I moved up North of town, I ended up getting “lucky” and found a primary care physician in my neck of the woods, connected to the hospital that I use (or would prefer to use, if I needed one).  My doctor has a nice enough office, fairly friendly reception staff, and a good sense of humor.

About three months ago, I had a severe ear infection in both ears.  It was very painful and very obvious.  My doctor prescribed some sort of antibiotic and pain-relieving ear drops.  The pain went away after awhile, but my ears stayed “full.”  I couldn’t pop them and I couldn’t hear a damn thing.  That has become slightly better.

Here recently, I have continued on with having somewhat impaired hearing, and more than recently, have been experiencing severe pain.  DSB convinced me to go see my doctor, who we refer to as a quack.  Because, well, he is.  He writes prescriptions, and he’s pretty good at that, but otherwise, forget about it.  He basically totally missed DSB’s kidney cancer and his official diagnosis when DSB went in for chronic back pain was that DSB must have “wrenched” it.  We just shake our heads.

So, I went to see Dr. Quack today and told him about my problems with ear pain and problems hearing.  He looked, and I have “a lot” of fluid on my left ear, and no fluid on my right.  He said the fluid doesn’t look like it is infected, but that there is a lot of it.  He pressed around my ear and instigated cries of “oweee!” from me, and then leaned back and shook his head.

I know that look.  He has no idea what is going on.  I asked him what I could do to stop the pain and he says, “Stop eating and talking.”  Right, then.  He asked about taking a steroid for a bit and I declined, telling him that steroids aggravate my bipolar, or really, make me batshit crazy.  He started to tell me about his mother-in-law and how she acted on steroids (crazy), and then he said that she was different because I was “closer to the edge” than most people.

Wow.  It has become so hilarious that I don’t even get mad at this guy anymore.  It’s just funny.  Hopefully nothing too serious ever happens and I have to rely on him for a professional diagnosis.

So, bottom line.  Prescription for Naproxen, return in 4-6 weeks if not resolved, and stop eating and talking.  And, hey, watch for the edge, while you’re at it.

Oh, Bother!

I am less than thrilled with the brains behind my insurance company at this point.  I called them to see about getting into Weight Watchers and, contrary to the literature on their website, they only provide the enrollment fee and four weeks of the program.  For those of you who are not familiar, WW is more of a long-term program.  I thought they could at least pay six months or a year.  Talk about disappointment!  So, for almost $40 a month, I could do WW longer-term and have my first month free.  It doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but I just can’t afford it right now.  I can barely afford to put gas in the car and buy a decent amount of groceries.  Frustrating, but I WILL persevere.  Because that’s what we do in our family, we persevere.

For more disappointment in the medical/health arena, DSB saw his primary care physician on Friday.  What a joke!  He dismissed DSB’s problems with anxiety totally, told him that sertraline (Zoloft) does not cause stomach upset or have sexual side effects, and was getting ready to just wrap up the exam without doing anything and then I started to get into it with him.  It ended up that, wow, after actually examining DSB, it is possible that his gallbladder is going bad.  He is scheduled to get some sort of imaging scan done in the next few weeks and we will go from there.  As for the anxiety and the side effects from sertraline, the doctor took him off that and put him on BuSpar.  Hopefully that will help.  Time can only tell!

In even more depressing health/medical news, my follow-up appoinment on my foot is Monday and I get to go get an x-ray and then advice from my PCP, who just so happens to be the same idiot that works with DSB.  I have consulted my physical therapist sister and my Internet-research-queen mother, and will likely be asking to be referred to an orthopaedic specialist, unless it has miraculously healed.  Stay tuned for more updates on that one, because I’m sure I’ll be pissed after the appointment Monday.

The Ritalin continues to treat me well.  My moods have been stable, my energy high, and my focus clear.  I am so annoyed with myself for going off of it, but am very pleased that I was able to make a quick turn-around.  This is not always the case when taking oneself off a medication…I know from experience!

After three days of QoB spearheading the mission, my house is all nice and clean!  I helped where I could, but mostly did a lot of supporting.  I’m still pretty gimp and have zero stamina from all of the time I have had to spend sitting around.  I did fold and hang and generally put away all clean laundry and am still working on the huge pile that awaits to be washed.  I can do laundry for the most part sitting down, so I’m glad I’m not totally helpless with that one.  

Now, I have a lot of laundry, and a lot of reading of blogs I follow to do.  I made it up to be current with my Grey’s Anatomy, so any suggestions of a new show to watch are appreciated!

That’s Just How it Goes

I am pleased to say that I have kept up with the Ritalin and it is working wonders.  With a little help from QoB, the house is starting to look good again and I have really been keeping up with cooking and kitchen mess.  When I went around the house and picked up laundry, I unfortunately found dirty clothes stockpiled everywhere so now I am very behind in that department.  I don’t mind doing laundry, but this pile is massive.  I’m just tackling it methodically and doing the best I can (while watching Grey’s Anatomy episodes between cycles).  Life is so hard!  Hehe.

DSB has a doctor’s appointment today to see why he always feels sick.  I think it’s the sertraline (Zoloft) that he’s on, but he is much less anxious with it.  It really sucks that medications have so many unfortunate side affects but work well on the problem they are meant to solve.  DSB is fed up, however, and is ready to get off Zoloft and try something else.  I support him in whatever he wants to do and just hope we can get him to feeling better, because, although it’s not the biggest concern I have about the medication, its killing our sex life.  Does that seem selfish?

I am still thinking about some longer-term goals I  would like to set for myself.  As I had mentioned in a previous post, Medicaid has changed in our state and is now being managed by three separate companies.  My company offers reimbursement for Weight Watchers and I am seriously considering looking into it.  I have done WW before with great success, and I am at a stage where I am going to start having serious health concerns if I don’t drop a serious amount of weight.  Right now, my labs are all fine and I don’t have many problems related to the excess weight I am carrying, but I feel like I’m a ticking time bomb in that regard.

Once my foot is better, I’d like to start walking again, getting some fresh air daily.  Walking used to be a real joy for me, but now it’s just painful.  I know I will have to start slowly, but it’s something that I know I can do.  I see blogs of beautiful women of all sizes that are running marathons and doing triathalons, and while I’m not ready for something like that nor do ever plan to be, it is inspiring that weight alone does not hold people back from their passion.

At this point, it would be nice if things were just easier by losing weight.  Like, putting socks and shoes on or fitting in a narrow bathroom stall or being able to shop off the rack.  Little things to many people, but serious annoyances to a super-sized gal like myself.  I could really go on and on and about all the minor annoyances that I have come to accept as part of everyday life, but that might get boring.

I really do feel like I am at a point mentally where I can take on that kind  of challenge, and as soon as I hit “publish post,” I’m gonna make that call to the insurance company to see just what the deal is.  Godspeed!

Pluggin’ Away

Wow, it has been forever since I have posted!  I guess I could say that I’ve been swept up in life.  Good thing, right?  Not so much wallowing in the agony or soaring too high above the clouds.  Life has been steady, stable.  I have had purpose, direction.  After a terrible first part of 2012, things evened out around September and have become steadier still since then.

I miss blogging and I’m hoping I can come back to it with a different angle.  Instead of putting the suffering out there, I’m hoping that I can catalogue the joy in the life that I have now.  Probably makes for less interesting reading, but this blog has always been about me, telling it like it is, and hopefully I can continue with that.

Even though 2012 was a rough year, it may well have been the best year of my life in some regards.  I met the love of my life in March and we are still together.  DSB and I have built a real life together in a short time, and I am very pleased to say we will have been together one year on March 27th.  He has stood by me through the worst, never failing, never leaving my side.  He has loved me unconditionally and I can’t ask for anything more than what he has given me, because he has given me hope, life, happiness, everything.  We have a life together that I cherish, even through the mundane…I am just so grateful beyond words for him.

QoB has, of course, been there for yet another year through numerous ups and downs, always standing just behind me, to give me a push back up when I need it.  I truly think that without DSB and QoB, I would not have lasted this past year.  As in, wouldn’t have made it through.  Literally.

While I don’t consider myself an alcoholic by any means of the imagination (and don’t come close to meeting the DSM-IV criteria for substance abuse), there is no doubt that I have done my fair share of self-medicating over the years.  Right around the first of April of 2012, I decided that I was done with alcohol.  Just completely done with it.  It messed with my meds, messed with my head, messed with my body.  It bothered my sleep, and sleep is the one thing that can kill or save you with bipolar disorder.  I started thinking of alcohol as a poison to my body, and that isn’t far from the truth, with the medication I was and am taking.  So, I’ve been done for a little less than a year.  It hasn’t been particularly difficult and I really don’t miss it.  I can appreciate the clear-headedness that I feel today and the knowledge that I have accomplished something difficult.

My state has changed Medicaid so that it is managed privately.  The insurance company that was chosen for me has been, thankfully, very compatible with my needs.  Just today I began making arrangements for dental care, which I haven’t had access to for over a year. The thought of getting my teeth cleaned and getting those good ol’ xrays in makes me happy.  I even feel a little giddy and a lot blessed that I am fortunate enough to live in a country where I do have decent access to medical care, even though I am on state insurance.  I know this is not the case everywhere, and it also makes you think about people who work that do not have insurance or are underinsured.  It sure seems unfair.  I do not know much about “Obamacare,” but maybe it would be a good thing?  I mean, the basic premise that every person in the US have decent access and good coverage for medical care makes sense to me.  Can someone actually say that doesn’t make sense?