I’m sitting in the back of a bar sobbing my eyes out after having called a few friends, telling each of them that I want to die. It’s the reality that I’ve been living since December 17, 2016, a day when I decided my anti-depressants weren’t helping anymore, and so, I went off them. After over a month of trying to keep it together while knowing that it wouldn’t get better, I’d begun to unravel, writing several versions of suicide notes, sending texts and making phone calls sobbing my eyes out while hoping that someone would just let me die or kill me.
I’d tried in the few weeks prior to find a new therapist and psychiatrist, even going into Urgent Care to get help, but no one could help me. The doctor that I saw set me up with a new therapist and primary care doctor. However, after receiving a bill from the doctor’s office, I realized that my insurance wasn’t covering my visits; everything had to come out of pocket. I walked into my former school, where I received psychiatric care before for free (not free, but I just paid segregated school fees that covered it), and I told them I wanted to kill myself and needed to see someone. They couldn’t let me see anyone because I was no longer a student.
So, I called my insurance to see why they weren’t covering my medical visits; they revealed to me that I’d have to pay $2000 out of pocket before they even covered 80 percent of my doctor’s bills… leaving me with the other 20 percent to pay myself. Having no job and no steady income, I knew that I couldn’t afford it; I called the doctor and therapist and cancelled my appointments. I felt defeated.
But I’m back at that bar sobbing my eyes out a few days later. My friend met with me, and I sat crying on his shoulder, arm, chest, etc., and he looked at me and told me that he wanted me to go to inpatient therapy because he thought I needed it. He told me that he would help me apply for Medicaid and Badgercare (both used to help with low income individuals) to help me find care that would be affordable. And for once, I finally felt like there was a light and the end of a metaphorically cliché tunnel.
Then, Medicaid and Badgercare denied my request. I had no option to get into inpatient care, and I fell into a dark place. I wrote more suicide notes, I lived out of my car for a few days, I cried myself to sleep every night until my mom told me she’d help me pay for the care if I took care of myself. I was happy because I was finally able to find help.
I called my old therapist and asked her if she could help me, and she offered to let me see her once a week for a drastically reduced hourly fee (a third of what she usually charges), and I was able to see her by paying out of pocket. My insurance still wouldn’t cover that, and she said that she didn’t like to work with insurance anymore because they abuse their power and don’t help people. She gave me advice on where she thought I should go for inpatient care, but she also warned me that health insurance providers strip away inpatient care because they lose money when helping to provide it for members.
After meeting with my therapist and talking to her, I felt better, as if maybe I didn’t have to go to inpatient care anymore, butl this morning when I lost it again. I knew I had to go. But I wasn’t sure of where I could go. So, I called my insurance to see where they would cover care. I had the place I wanted to go, but my insurance said it was out of network, and they wouldn’t cover it. The person at the other end told me they only covered two hospitals in the Wisconsin area: one in West Bend that I couldn’t go to, and another one in the general area. After calling that hospital, the person told me that the hospital didn’t do inpatient care. Frustrated, I yelled while crying saying, “Well then tell me what I can do because I’ve been trying to find inpatient care for a month now and you’re telling me that you don’t cover it.”
The person then told me to make an out of network claim with the hospital I want to go to and try to make it work with them, but she also told me that the hospital could still come after me for the money. I asked her what I needed to do, and she gave me a number to call. I called that number three times, and each time, I was hung up on.
I then called back the insurance company, and I yelled/cried, saying that I’d been searching for inpatient care because I was going to kill myself. I said that no one was helping me and I was frustrated because nothing is covered by my bullshit insurance for inpatient care. After ranting about how awful it was, the new person at the end of the line apologized and looked up care for me. She then told me that there were more available hospitals in the area, and in fact, the one I wanted to go to, was in network.
So, I reiterated everything she told me to make sure she was telling me the truth while also comparing what she was saying with what the prior person said to me. She told me that I could go to that inpatient care facility because it was in network. I sighed and cried and was so happy.
This may seem like a happily ever after story, but it’s not. I still have to pay $2000 out of pocket before they cover 80 percent of my bills. I still need my parents’ help pay for the care, and it still took me much longer than it should have to get the care that I needed. I still needed a medical professional to drastically reduce her hourly rate so I could get temporary help (and I’m so thankful that she did). I still have work to do for myself before I am better, and I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to have this care. I hope it helps me understand that life is worth living because right now, I still want to die every day.
This is the travesty of healthcare in America. This is the stigma surrounding mental health. Just because it worked out for me doesn’t mean that it works out for other people. I am fortunate enough to have help. Not everyone is in the position that I am; not everyone can afford to help themselves, especially if healthcare won’t do what it’s fundamentally supposed to do. Open your eyes.