Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Physical / Emotional Illness

In recent weeks I have felt severely ill in the physical realm.  I have been coughing for days –and also I am even coughing up phlem. My body has  been severely weakened and my energy level has been extremely low.  Many days I have spent much of the day in bed resting with no capacity to get any work done at all.   My body has burned for hours on end, and I have had a very hard time falling asleep.  In addition my constipation has become extremely painful. 

I knew the illness was emotional more than physical because I never had a fever.  And once I realized that the physical illness was caused by my inability to separate from my family of origin in an emotional sense, at least I knew what the problem was.  Once I identified the problem, then I could begin working on a solution. 

I had a hellish experience seeking assistance from a public health facility in Miami-Dade County on Friday.   The experience left me frightened, aggravated, anxious, and tense.  It made me realize that essentially I cannot receive any medical care at all if I had to depend on the public health system.  I am thinking that I might spend the money for a private female physician in the area so that I can get actual service including medical care.

I arrived there at 8:30 a.m. and first I waited in line to have my number called, only to realize I was in the wrong area.  I was in the primary care area, not the mental health area.  Once I got to the mental health area, I waited an hour before requesting service at 9:30 a.m..  It took me another hour to get service, and then the bureaucratic nightmare began.  On the phone I was told that I could use my tax return as proof of income since I am not currently working.  When I got to the desk, the clerk informed me that since I am not currently working, I cannot use my tax return as proof of income.  She also said that I could not use my credit card statement as proof of address.  

Then I told her I was in a transitional housing program.  She asked me which one I was in, and I told her Heaven on Earth Foundation.  She said the Foundation would have to fax over a letter that would serve as my proof of residence.  Julia did that for me promptly.  Luckily I also brought my bank statement as an additional proof of residence, and instead the clerk reluctantly took my bank statement as proof of income.  She questioned me about  the $5,000 payment that my mother had given me, and I told her that was my last available income.  She also questioned me about the $75 check to HOEF, which she described as “weird.”  I told her it wasn’t weird –that HOEF had recently instituted a new policy that all residents had to pay $75 a month toward utilities. 

Finally the bureaucratic problems were settled, and I began filling out mountains of paperwork.  I filled out a detailed description of my medical conditions and of my psychological issues.  I told the clerk that I had to leave by 2:30 p.m., and asked her if she could please arrange for me to see a psychiatrist before then.  I was waiting….and waiting….and waiting some more.  I was bored out of my wits, and I later joked to Cheryl that if I had the energy, I could have read the whole history of Cuba in Spanish while I waited for an appointment.  I went to the cafeteria, where they served Southern food consisting of catfish, vegetables with spices, and also a potato salad.  The food was unfamiliar to me but good. 

I called Bev and told her it looked like after all my effort I wouldn’t even get to see a doctor.  Finally around 2 p.m. I was ushered in to see the nurse practitioner.  She was the rudest health care professional I have ever encountered.  She berated me for not making an appointment, and I told her I did make an appointment.  But in mid-July I called up and received an appointment…for September 23. Her attitude was extremely nasty and made me feel profoundly uncomfortable.  She treated me like an intruder, not a patient in need of care.  She rushed through everything and made no attempt to connect with me as a human being.  She gave me a diagnosis of depression to get me out of her office as fast as possible, and she shut me down when I tried to tell her I also have anxiety and PTSD.  I am certain that she never bothered to read anything that I wrote down of my physical illnesses and of my psychological condition.

She grew angry and hostile when I asked her to fill out the form for STS.  She told me that she could not fill out the STS form for me today.  She asked me if I could afford to pay for her to fill out the paperwork, and I said yes.  Then she informed me that it would cost me $50 to fill out three pages of paperwork for STS.  She offered to have me make an appointment to return and fill out this paperwork.  But unfortunately I could not do that because Bev would have to drive me to this appointment, and Bev does not know her schedule from day to day.  I have to also come back to meet with the medication assistance program person there so I can have my prescription assistance for Seroquel through AstraZenica transferred to this pharmacy.  And I have to pick up my medicine as well. 

I dread the thought of coming back to this awful place which made me so stressed and tense.  The physical and emotional exhaustion associated with this public health facility was the last straw that pushed me over the edge into a state of physical illness.  I was soon reduced to coughing and a cold and no energy at all.   For me, who was previously accustomed to the comfort and luxury of private medical care, it was very eye-opening to see just how inefficient this public health service was.  I realized that it seemed designed to frustrate and humiliate the consumer and to deter them from returning for additional service.  I realize that the thought of returning here was so emotionally upsetting to me that I inwardly cancelled my previous plans to return here for a gynecological check-up, dental care, and primary care doctor.  I inwardly decided that I would return here for STS – and possibly a gynecologist so I can get my birth control pills renewed.  But I would generally avoid this place like the plague.

I reflected on how this public health facility creates and fosters an atmosphere of dependence and powerlessness among its clients.  You see all these young women coming in with multiple babies to register for services with Women, Infants, and Children.  These women come with their babies and often their mothers to spend all day to wait for service.  And a woman who is forced to waste her whole day seeking medical care for herself and her children does not have the time or energy to look for a job.  Also a woman could lose her job if her child got sick, and she was forced to wait all day to bring her sick child to the doctor.   The atmosphere in this place was thoroughly demoralizing and disempowering.

Meanwhile I continued waiting for my medicine to arrive and grew increasingly anxious that it appeared to be nowhere in sight.  I called up the pharmacy in Delray which had sent it in the mail, and they confirmed that they did indeed send it.  The pharmacy suggested that maybe I should call the local post office and see if they had my package. I tried to make a phone call to seek directory assistance and get the phone number of the local post office.  I was soon informed that I could not dial directory assistance on my phone because my $30 a month 1,500 minutes of text and phone calls doesn’t include directory assistance.  I added another $11 to my phone so I could make this phone call.  I got a national 1-800 number for the post office, and they found the phone number for the local post office.  I called this  number around 4 times, and the post office never answered.  Luckily I later found out that my medicine had arrived at Gisel’s house, and I felt immense relief about this.   

C had previously mentioned to me that she no longer qualified for Medicaid.  Apparently now Medicaid is reserved for pregnant women, families with children under 18, and elderly adults over aged 60.  So by reserving Medicaid only for pregnant women and mothers, the government has now given many frustrated young women an extra incentive to become pregnant.  The young woman is even more likely to view a baby as a meal ticket if pregnancy is her only way to get any kind of medical care.  The government is virtually destroying the incentive for the young woman to stay in school, work, and use her brain by effectively penalizing women who make the responsible choices in life.  Cheryl said to me that many women have babies in order to get Medicaid, food stamps, and also cash assistance.  So the result is the government is encouraging poor women to remain dependent by becoming pregnant rather than trying to better themselves by pursuing a college education and a job.  This policy should be changed immediately so that women know they can still qualify for Medicaid even if they are working or studying. 

It seems that now I am an informal free banker for my fellow residents at HOEF.  Last week I loaned $360 to Bev and Kristin for their car tags and gas and nearly $40 to C for a router.  Today I loaned C $107 so she could buy a computer monitor.  I am really happy to help my fellow residents at HOEF in this way, and actually in Jewish culture we have a service called the Hebrew Free Loan Society that provides interest-free loans to Jews in need.  So it seems I am the free loan service a HOEF, and it is my pleasure to help everyone this way.  My attitude is that if I can afford to help others, I will do it cheerfully and happily.

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