Do I Matter? Thoughts on Intertwining of Health Care and Depression

by | May 4, 2017 |

Today, two things are converging that I did not realize were related until a few hours ago.

  1. I feel like crap. I am depressed. I feel worthless and like my life has no meaning.
  2. The House of Representatives is voting on “reforming” health care.

First, I feel pretty terrible and I have for the last few weeks. This terrible feeling is my depression. My bipolar depression has come on rather strong and really hit me hard. My feelings of worthlessness and not having any meaning are pretty strong. As well, I am having a hard time controlling my suicidal, intrusive thoughts.

Many of these thoughts lie to me and tell me that “I do not matter,” that “no one cares about me,” that “I am not important,” and many similar things. And this is hard, because I want to fight these thoughts. I want to not feel this way or think this way, but I do. And my wife and I just got into a rather significant fight over it – not over me having these feelings, which is what happens when you have bipolar disorder; no, it’s how we relate to each other as I have these feelings and think these thoughts. And, in the midst of the argument, and during my counseling session this morning, I realized something: why would I not feel this way?

Let me explain.

I am currently being debated in the House of Representatives of the United States. Yes, my existence and right to have health care is being debated. My right to be able to afford a doctor, for an insurance company not to kick me off because I’m sick, my right to get medication that I need, in essence, my entire right to exist (since, you know, I die without these things). This has happened to minorities and women for years; now it is happening to those of us who are sick. Yes, the Congress of the United States is now weighing the options for our right to exist. And this causes me great consternation.

How does one sit and listen to senators and representatives and talking heads debate your right to exist and not feel a little, I don’t know, worthless? Meaningless? I mean, what comes out of such a debate is that I do not matter. Yes, I do not matter. If I did matter and if others mattered, there would be no debate. If those of us who are sick and need (emphasize, need) health care are actually pushed aside to ensure that Congresspeople get their healthcare in an affordable manner (and the rich get massive tax breaks), doesn’t that say that we are not important? Doesn’t that say that we are simply an issue to be debated instead of a person, even just a citizen, to be protected? No, we are being sold out so that insurance companies can make more money and give more money to Congresspeople and Senators.

So, here’s what bothers me. The AHCA allows states to opt out of basic provisions of the Affordable Care Act that protected people like me. Similarly, it makes it much more difficult to get health care if you have a pre-existing condition and the pool for money for those with pre-existing conditions is not nearly enough. And, as Senator Chris Murphy has noted, this bill comes nowhere close to meeting the obligations that Congress (House of Representatives and/or the Senate) have made to its constituents. This bill also strips the coverage and protections that the Affordable Care Act had put in place for those of us with mental illness and addictions. But, this all shows that people who fall into these categories are really sub-human. They are not protected. They are seen as an issue, a cause, a problem that needs to be fixed or dealt with, instead of being seen as a human being that has to be given the opportunity to thrive.

And, so, I come back to my feelings of worthlessness and meaninglessness – why in the world, living in the United States, would I see myself as having any value or worth? Why do I matter? I joke that my insurance company is trying to kill me, but it would actually be better for the company if I was dead. Similarly, our society acts as if those of us who have addictions and mental illnesses and other pre-existing conditions are not really people. We are a problem reduced to what we cost. It would be better financially for my family if I was not here and debates like this just reemphasize that fact. Debates like this show that, really, our society would like me to not be here because I am a financial burden.

And, so, I am already fighting an uphill battle. I am fighting against a society that does not see me as having worth or even being worthy of having something simple like health care. I live in a town and a state where the large majority of people literally voted for me to die. And that hurts. It hurts badly.

I like to cling to hope though. I like to cling to the fact that I am more than a financial burden, even when I do not feel like that (like today). I like to cling to the fact that I have not been reduced to a stat sheet. I hope that is the case. I hope I matter. I hope I have worth. And, hell, if at the end of it I still am reduced to a line on a sheet that needs to be eradicated, I love a good fight. It makes me feel alive. And I’ll fight like hell to make sure myself and others in my position are not reduced to what we have been reduced to, but that we will be seen as equals, as human, as people that matter.