Category Archives: healthcare woes

i sigh angrily at computers all day.

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had a premonition i’d get severely hurt if i rode my bike to work today. so i walked. saw this graffiti as i was walking down penn avenue and even though i was gonna be late i took a picture anyway. what else is there to do. the thought one day this will not hurt so badly is mocking & useless. it does not offer sustenance or any real hope. but it is all i have to give myself and it is all anyone has to give to me. ironically, i am paid to give the exact same threadbare sympathy to people who are in situations far more desperate than i am. and it’s all i have to give. and it’s more than most people give. and it is not even approaching enough.

today on break i was complaining to j. how i have no vices left. jokingly said i need to become a pillhead because i can’t drink or smoke cigarettes and i hate weed. i had two puffs of his cigarette because i was feeling stressed out and sad and a little bit selfdestructive. i actually do have some vices left, but he doesn’t need to know about them and neither do you. immediately upon returning from break, i had a client with severe chronic bronchitis. she claimed it was from second-hand smoke. every so often she would be overcome with coughing that would wrack her whole body. i felt guilty. at the end of my interview with her she gasped, between coughs, pray you don’t ever get sick, honey. i said, i do.

in my mind i’m actually in minneapolis today. it’s summer and a lot of the bad things haven’t happened yet. debbie and i are walking around powderhorn park, barefoot and laughing. her cat is still alive and waiting for us in the zinemobile. the sun is sinking and we’re feeling okay. i don’t know where debbie is now, i think her phone was shut off. i’m in minneapolis, the vibrancy of the streets in cedar-riverside. i’m about to go swimming in the lake, but first i have to figure out the right light rail. that’s where my mind is today, not here. not here. i can’t fucking stand it.

ojos de majicos

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i had to leave work. i was calling a client’s job to verify their end-of-employment date and the payroll clerk got snappy with me and i started crying, in front of the fucking client, how professional of me. “i’m sorry,” i whispered, “i have a concussion,” and then ran out to compose myself. how fucking great. how fucking professional. i got back to my desk and kept working, shakily. “you should go home,” the client said, and i wanted to say, thank you! thank you for the wonderful career advice! but then i realized she was right. and i realized i have sick time. so fuck it. i’m gone.

i’m scared. i know that i just hit my head and it’s a reaction to the trauma. but still. things feel so different. before i decided that i couldn’t make it through the day i was trying to listen to my ipod. every song i love sounds so violent. it’s too much to bear. i need something sweet right now, and even the happy songs are so sad. was it always there? did i just not notice it?

every picture i’ve seen of someone with a black eye, they look SO sad. nobody fake-smiles. mugshots & that picture of my brother i found on his computer & any other time i’ve seen someone. now that i have a black eye i know. i understand. you can’t smile, not really. there’s something holding you back. something blocking it.

i didn’t stop living after my head injury. didn’t rest. i had shit to do all weekend so i got back on my bike and did it. crossed the river at least four times a day. and i rode up and down penn avenue at least 3 times, looking for my u-lock and water bottle. wanting to know where it happened. in this city where trash sits where it’s been thrown for months, my things aren’t there. but i still keep looking for them anyway, every time i’m on that road. maybe a car just parked over them and i didn’t see last time. maybe they’re hidden in a pile of leaves. i still look, even though i know some things are just gone. you don’t get them back. no matter how badly you want them. no matter how hard you try.

a few statements.

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i have decided to pretend that the tree growing outside of my kitchen window is the same tree as in “a tree grows in brooklyn”. lo and behold, it actually is! ailanthus, the tree of heaven. this makes me feel mildly better.

last night liz and i watched “brave little toaster to the rescue”, which i described as “cute things porn” because the plot was clearly terrible but we kept watching because those spunky, personified items are just so. damn. cute. we got excited when we realized that the toaster (aka the main character!) has no discernible gender and laughed hysterically at the most amazing song-and-dance number about the internet, circa 1993 (or the “information superhighway”, as they called it!).

i was recently blocked from reading my own blog on a monitored computer. the reasons given were “adult themes” and “alcohol.” ha!

i also recently read a review of my zine (on the quimby’s web site) that described it as, “all the livid living of being rowdy alive, sobriety sentiments, embracing the good badness and confounding the bad badness.”

we don’t have any real work to do at work so we are scanning for another welfare office that’s fallen behind. it’s heartbreaking. just the little things. a guy writing a list of his health problems under two headings: “can live with it” and “big problem”. under “big problem”: “tuomour  on neck, getting a lot bigger…”

today i learned that i can cry while working and have it not really affect my productivity that much. i wonder if this is a good thing or a bad thing.

today i am wearing three clashing shades of pink to work. i will never be a real grown-up, and what’s more, i don’t care!

i am trying, so hard, to hold on.

here is some unsolicited life advice.

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okay, so, many of these things may seem like common sense. but sometimes you just need someone to tell ya something obvious! also, the two vaginal-health related tips are things i’ve never seen in the many DIY resources on the subject (of which i’ve read plenty).  onward!

*if you menstruate, and get cramps, i’d recommend trying to cut out nightshade vegetables (the most common of those are tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants and peppers of all kinds) during your most severe cramping days, and maybe for a day before if you can. i did this, ordered my lunch-time sandwich with no tomatoes, and felt GREAT. then, that evening, i forgot and had some tomato sauce and within an hour i was feeling totally shitty again. i know nightshades are delicious and healthy, but you can live without them for a few days.

*do you hate your goddamn coworkers? does their incessant, mean-spirited nattering drive you up the wall?! it’s okay to spend $40 on noise-cancelling headphones, even if you’re on a budget! srsly, worth their weight in gold. (i know most noise-cancelling headphones are like $200, but i got mine at CVS for under 40 bucks. and they have made a tremendous diff in my life.)

*yeast infection? try taking a goldenseal bath! draw a steamy hot bath and put 3-4 goldenseal teabags in there with you. it’s a lot easier than a) drinking it (it’s beyond disgusting) or b) making a goldenseal douche, as some herbal handbooks recommend. and it worked really well, for me, anyway. goldenseal’s a pretty strong herb, you shouldn’t use it too regularly, and if you sit in the tub with it too long, it might make your skin a little dry (although it usually makes my skin deliciously soft, yay!)

*someone near and dear to me helped research this story in the NYT about hydrofracking, and how the runoff is extremely toxic & radioactive, and is winding up in our drinking water. fracking is a pretty hot-button issue around here because it’s literally in our backyard, but seems to have been not such a big concern in the rest of the country…until now?! I don’t know, but this shit is scary, my friends. read it & get angry. (well, i won’t tell you how you should feel. but you’ll probably be angry, and scared.)

on a thoroughly unrelated note, look! it’s me (and alicia, stephanie and a whole bunch of other people) ! in the pittsburgh post-gazette!

in case you can’t read my sign, it says, “i don’t care what congress says–our lives matter!”

strange hours

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hello! i am supposed to be on a DC-bound megabus right now. but, fate intervened. my boyf is in maryland right now because he’s under 26 and still cover-able under his parents’ health insurance. he’s been having some painful and upsetting tummy issues so he had to travel 300 miles to go to a doctor cuz his parents’ insurance won’t cover out-of-state doctor visits. (sad that this is one of the better outcomes with regards to healthcare. but as my co-worker adam said, “what are you gonna do about it? smoke a joint and cry, that’s pretty much it”) (ps i don’t smoke joints and don’t cry toooo much)

anyhoo, so he’s there, right near DC, and he was saying that he wanted to go see the gay-themed exhibit at the smithsonian. i said, “oh man! i wanna go too!” and got on the megabus website and bought an $8 ticket to DC! then, a few days later, we actually checked the friggin’ dates and realized that the exhibit ended the weekend before this. d’oh! but i already had my ticket and we were like, what the hell. it’s a long weekend, it’s a major city, we’ll have fun anyway.

so. i awoke at 5:45 this AM, sipped a little coffee, nibbled a little toast and then hopped on my bike, pointing towards the convention center and the waiting bus. the moon was high and bright over my head and the wind was whipping my hair all around. i felt a little crazed, to be honest, and also i felt like my going to DC was somehow against fate. but i kept plugging on.

i was almost there, stewing at a red light in the strip district, when i decided to OCD-ishly check my back pocket to make sure my wallet was still there. and…it wasn’t. i checked again, both my pockets. “FUCK!!!!!” i yelled (sorry, residents of 26th street, if i woke you!) still not there. “FUUUUUUUCK!” (because, you know, that solves all of my problems.) i called my BF, he was surprisingly jovial at that early hour.

it’s weird, because once i turned back, the sun came up and the wind stopped. the city, which had looked so menacing and scary in the dark, became sweet and new, full of possibility. and i found my wallet! it seemed hopeless, walking home scanning the street, but i found it laying in the middle of the road, 39th & butler st, totally fine. i was so happy!!! i joyously went to wendy’s to use the bathroom and then was inspired to get some breakfast potatoes and finish reading my book (dash & lily’s book of dares, by david levithan & rachel cohn–it was great!).

by the way, in case you were wondering, wendy’s at 7am on a saturday morning is full of nothing but really strange people. when i got there a group of men were loudly debating over whether one of their dogs was “a pussy” because it didn’t bark at other dogs! i am not kidding!!!

so. weekend by myself. what to do? i’m exhausted but i’ve had way too much coffee to sleep. sun! fun! library! laundry! friends! etc!

despair.

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so. obama is planning on cutting $2.5 billion dollars from LIHEAP. i work for LIHEAP; about 3 million families in america use the program; about 65,000 in the county i work for/live in. planned parenthood is slated to lose $327 million in federal funding. one of my besties and three of my other friends work there; millions of low-income and uninsured women are served there every year.

what will happen to us five? what will happen to us millions? i guess we’ll figure something else out, make it work somehow, stretch the unstretchable until it snaps. what else can you do? lay down and die? tempting, but that would be letting the fuckers win, the fuckers (oh aren’t i so dignified in my language choice?) with their suits and their suites and their power, who don’t think my life as a living breathing woman is as valuable as that of a fetus i am incubating? oh my god, that link, if you haven’t heard of it already…if you, as a woman, did not already have enough evidence that your life means nothing to the people in power, that link will be all the proof you need.

so, what to do. the previous post made me upset but empowered, the community response around that issue was amazing, so many people willing to do what it takes in such short notice. the first time i saw the powers of facebook used for good and not the mundane. truly inspiring and heartwarming.

but what do you do in the face of bills on the brink of passing that invalidate your humanity, that state that your life has no value? go to law school? write a letter to your congressperson that gets thrown in the recycling immediately? call them and get branded a wingnut? what happens if you are tired of explaining to men who will never get pregnant that choosing whether or not to be pregnant is really, really important, and really, really not their business? what if the air rushes out of your lungs. what if all this arguing with people who don’t care robs your cells of the oxygen they need to live. don’t you need to live?

and what do you do, every day, in the face of that tidal wave of paperwork, all those heating applications, all those sad stories, and your co-workers who’ve had good jobs their whole adult lives, who tell stories of their spouse turning down the thermostat to, gasp, 68 degrees!, say they’re lying, say, they’re just trying to get your sympathy, what do you say in the face of that? especially when they have your empathy, not sympathy, because you know their stories. because you’ve lived them, or witnessed them. you’ve shivered through winters because you couldn’t pay your heating bill and you know these people aren’t lying, or, if they are, they have a damn good reason. but what do you say to those gray cubicles to make them understand?

what do you do. you fight in the small ways. you find ways to stay sane. you write and you hope. you keep living. what else can you do.

ask me about my feelings about tubal ligation! and childbearing! and how i am not a bad person because i don’t want to have babies!

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holy shit. i just got an order from the excellent ak press which included a zine called “ask me about my tubal ligation“. the title caught my eye while i was perusing their catologue, as it’s something that i’ve been pondering for a while. it’s not really a super-pressing issue, as my long-term partner is trans & can’t get me pregnant, & historically i have not been very sexually active with anyone who can get me pregnant. but, i feel that, were i to become serious sweeties with a man who could knock me up, i would definitely be looking into it.

this zine was so good because it provided a step-by-step outline of how she made her decision, how she fought against many a sexist, condescending doctor until she finally found one who was willing to do this procedure. she wrote a little bit about the actual procedure itself & the recovery, and the rest of the zine was devoted to dealing with other peoples’ negative reactions to her new voluntarily infertile status.

reading this zine was SUCH a breath of fresh air for me. like the author, i don’t like children, i don’t want to devote my entire life to the many frustrations, both petty and major, of being a parent. i think that this planet has way too many people on it already, and, if my time at chld protctv svcs has taught me one thing, it’s that there are a TON of kids out there who really, really, really need safe, healthy, stable homes. (and i don’t even want to get into the whole i-had-an-unhappy-abusive-childhood-and-i-am-terrified-that-i-would-become-an-abuser-too bit, but that’s definitely a factor, too.)

but, you know, i’m such a horrible person for thinking that. i don’t like kids because i’m “heartless” and i don’t want them because i’m “selfish.” i care about the planet not having enough resources to support the people who already live on it because i’m “negative”. and if i bring up the dozens of really sad, cute children i used to work with, whose parents have died, whose parents are doing life, whose parents are too busy smoking crack or shooting heroin or just plain old fashioned not giving a fuck to take care of them–well, i’m just “bringing everyone down!”

seriously, people? just because i don’t particularly enjoy listening to the screeching of children all day does not mean i’m an awful human being who is deserving of your judgment and criticism. i would not ever criticize you for having kids; please do not criticize me for wanting to spend my life around adults.

and on the flip side, i don’t particularly like it when someone sees me doing something cute/nice/tender/selfless for someone else and says, “i don’t know why you don’t want children; you’d make such a great parent!” as if my kindness is wasted if i give it to an adult? as if lavishing love on my partner, friends, or even strangers has absolutely no merit, for me or for them?

anyway. the purpose of this blog entry is not to stomp on anyone’s toes. i know that most of the people reading this blog would like to have kids some day; most people do. i am not, in any way, criticizing your choices. i am merely stating that being child-free is also a valid choice and i am tired of dealing with people who don’t respect my choices (which affect absolutely no one besides me and my partner [who, if you’re wondering, does want kids some day, but is also a bit younger than me & wants to wait at least 5 years, so it’s a non-issue for now]). and reading this zine unlocked something within me, made me feel like it’s okay to talk about & gave me some backup. & i feel like part of the reason why i read zines is for emotional backup.

on a semi-related note, i recently learned that, in PA, a woman is eligible for TANF cash assistance if she is pregnant; but if she has an abortion, the money is cut off. because, you know, she totally couldn’t use that princely [$205/month] sum as a childless grownup, with rent and bills to pay. she’s only “deserving” of it if she’s doing her womanly duty of incubating a fetus. if she doesn’t want to do that, she’s shit out of luck. gaaaah! so fucked up! [in case you didn’t know, in PA at least, one can only get cash assistance if one is a) totally destitute (i believe if the household has more than $200 in resources they are ineligible. i don’t know because i work in heating assistance, not cash assistance, so that isn’t really my job, but i do know that the threshold is some ridiculously low # like that) and b) either disabled & with a denied SSI claim or taking care of/having children. things were different before the clinton-era welfare reform act, but for now, if you’re an adult without kids & you’re between jobs, if your unemployment runs out and you can’t find any more work, if you’re in any number of difficult situations and your money simply runs out and you can’t get any more–you are just going to have to deal with it, because the government is not going to help. not like the chump change they dole out is enough to live on, but it’s SOMETHING. ugh. of course, families should get as much financial support as they can, but what about the grown-ups? we need money too! i could rant about this literally all fucking day; about these fucked up policies and how no one cares; but i will stop here.]

slippy busses, pinchy nerves, new perspectives

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so, yesterday my boyfriend was driving home from his new job and was passing through downtown & asked if i wanted a ride home. obviously, i said yes, since riding the bus at rush hour is no fun, especially in the snow (& especially when your bus is full of mean-spirited middle aged women who whisper loudly about your gender & teens who make fun of your cute hat, but whatever).

so. we had a mostly uneventful car ride home, and then we finally got to stanton avenue, which is a steep, curvy road right next to the cemetery. it hadn’t been plowed yet, and as we were crawling up, a bus slid out of control, and for a second it seemed like it was going to slam right into us! it was so strange, how slow it all was. i saw the sign saying “87-FRIENDSHIP” and thought, “hmm, what’s the bus doing over here?” then “holy shit!!!!!!!!” i screamed, and the bus swerved, not hitting us, but nearly hitting the 10-foot high granite wall outside of the cemetery. when we got home, ray & i held each other, with the snow swirling around us, grateful to be alive.

this morning i was getting out of bed, stretching, and i heard something go ‘pop’ in my neck, and it hurt so much that tears came to my eyes. the pain radiated through my neck, back, shoulders and right arm, and as i struggled to put on a shirt i realized that there was no way in hell i could go to work today. so i called off and have spent all day lying around. it’s 12 degrees (fahrenheit) outside & i have a bag of frozen peas on my back. this experience has made me grateful for my health, & even more sympathetic to the 4 people i know who collect disability (3 friends + my dad, who was just approved a month ago after years of being in pain). i just hope that i *do* get better, because i don’t have health insurance, yet make too much money to qualify for much financial assistance at any kind of clinic. if anything is severely wrong….well, i don’t know what i will do.

i hate the amerikan health care system so much! & i hate the people in washington who want to do whatever they can to make life harder for the millions of uninsured people in this country. EVERY SINGLE PERSON i know who is opposed to healthcare reform has health insurance. EVERY SINGLE ONE. if they lost their insurance, if they had to deal with shitty free clinics, welfare offices, the daily fervent prayer that nothing goes wrong with your health because you simply cannot afford to get it fixed–if they had to deal with all of that, they’d change their minds. i bet you anything.

on bleeding, cramps, self-care and the fuckin’ patriarchy.

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so. i am one of those people who very rarely calls in sick. i dragged myself to work throughout a hellish cold last month, because i didn’t want to lose any money or seniority at work.

but today i woke up at 7:15, when the sky was still dark and the world was still cold, bleeding profusely, and i was like, “you know what?! fuck it!” i called in sick to my manager, who seemed mildly horrified that i was honest about having cramps, despite the fact that she is a woman and the mother of several daughters. but whatever. the funny thing is, i wasn’t even feeling crampy. i do get really sick usually, but i didn’t get sick today, because i took care of myself.

sure, i could have gotten out of bed, taken a shitload of pain medication, packed my heating pad, and trudged out into the snow and single-digit windchills. i could have waited for the bus, gone to work, plugged my heating pad in and snuggled it next to my abdomen, hiding it under my desk all day. i am very fortunate to have a physically easy, sit-down desk job. it wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world. i’ve done it dozens and dozens of times.

but today i decided to opt for some self-care, to act like i am a person whose needs and comfort matter, and so i called off, and snuggled with my sweetheart underneath our blankets, and slept for a total of 12 hours, and took a bath, and just didn’t push myself on this day where, month after month, i am completely exhausted.

well, on the lucky days i am completely exhausted and just feel vaguely like shit. on the unlucky days i am on my knees puking violently and crying about all the things that i can handle the rest of the month, just crying hysterically about my friend in solitary confinement and my other friend in the graveyard and all the fucked up things going on in the world, every fucking thing, i can feel it then, i feel it so intensely and it’s so, so awful.

and i also called off (you see, you see how much i need to justify it to myself? crazy i tell you) because i was thinking, if the world were run by women we’d all get an automatic day off every month to deal with this shit, no shame, no questions asked, no docked pay, just a day to curl up and reflect and not push your body past its breaking point. and of course in the world as know it now that wouldn’t be possible, all these men would be making a stink about how “unfair” it is that women get an extra day off, when what’s actually fucking unfair is how half the population has to go to work, or school, or go about their daily routine,  feeling totally horrible and sick, and not only that but we have to hide it, act like everything’s fine, be vague if a crack in our armor shows and people ask what’s wrong and keep smiling! keep smiling! oh, you’d better keep smiling because if you are not smiling through every situation that life throws at you, you have completely failed as a woman. gaah. i don’t even care how much this sounds like a 15-year-old new-to-riot-grrrl rant.

all i am saying is, i am glad that i took that day for myself. nobody gave it to me, i took it. i am glad that i have a job where it isn’t a super big deal if i miss a day (although i don’t have paid sick days and i lost about $80 not going into work, i am also glad to be in a financial place where a day’s pay lost isn’t a disaster), i am glad that i was able to wake up and say “fuck it” and spend the day taking care of myself, and i am in a much better mood in general for having had that experience.

on a much-lighter-but-still-menstruation-related-note, i ordered this poster from iheartguts last month and it makes me so happy! it’s soooo cute!

anxiety & bikes

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so. it’s official. after nine years of rabid urban bicycling i’m too scared to ride my bike.
i don’t know what brought this on. nothing brought it on. everything brought it on. i haven’t ridden for nearly a week, but today i had to, because i’m working in oakland, at my stupid job that i hate that i got a year ago today & was so so happy about. there’s no reliable, convenient public transit from where i live to where i work. there is public transit but it would take roughly an hour to go about three miles. so i said fuck it. because i believe in facing my fears. in not letting fear win. i made it about 6 blocks, to 47th & butler, before a school bus came up from behind me, roaring, tons & tons & tons of indifferent metal. nothing that hasn’t happened thousands of times before.
but this time i wasn’t brave enough. so i pulled over to the side of the road. i knew i wasn’t just going to let it pass and keep on going. i pulled onto the sidewalk & stepped off, shaking. i’m not brave enough anymore.
so i walked here, to the library. up & up the hill, looking to all the pedestrians like some stupid weak girl who couldn’t make it up the hill on a bike, like i have to push it. i know i can do it, physically, but i can’t, mentally. it took every ounce of strength & composure i may have left to not just throw my fucking bike to the floor and weep, right there.
so is this it? do i give myself up to the cruel mistress of public transit? do i give up on the idea that i can get places when i want to go to them, on my schedule. do i ignore the voice inside of me saying “don’t do it, you’ll get killed” and then get killed because i want to do what i want when i want to? is that worth dying for? once i would have said, inarguably, yes. yes it is. now i’m not so certain.
& the worst part is, i don’t know when i’m being intuitive & when i’m just being crazy. when i’m saving my life vs. when i’m ruining it. they look & feel & sound the same.