Friday, July 13, 2012

Health Care or Health Apathy? (Plus, A Suicide Note!) - By Matty Jacobson

Matty Jacobson loves life. He loves to be
happy and make people laugh. He's known
for his sometimes off-kilter sense of humor
and his off-the-cuff wit. So on that note,
please enjoy this totally depressing column!
Matty owns, operates, edits and contributes
to The Skewed Review. The photos included

in this article are courtesy of 
Wikimedia Commons unless otherwise noted.

Looking up the definition of a word can give you a basic understanding of what that word means. But if you really want to gauge the myriad ways in which a word can be interpreted, then I suggest looking past that dusty Merriam-Webster and cracking open the good old thesaurus. 

I was trying to come up with a clever title for this article, and I just couldn't crank out a synonym for "care," so it was off to the onomasticon I went. (Yes, I looked up "thesaurus" in the thesaurus. Eat your heart out, Christopher Nolan.)

So I found it incredibly interesting that for the word "care," as in "health care," the synonymic lexicon (Ha! Did it again!) produced the following equivalent words:

Affliction, aggravation, alarm, anguish, annoyance, anxiety, apprehension, bother, burden, chagrin, consternation, discomposure, dismay, disquiet, distress, disturbance, encumbrance, exasperation, fear, foreboding, fretfulness, handicap, hardship, hindrance, impediment, incubus (seriously, incubus!), misgiving, nuisance, onus, oppression, perplexity, pressure, responsibility, solicitude, sorrow, strain, stress, sweat, tribulation, trouble, uneasiness, unhappiness, vexation, woe and worry. 

Take a nice, long look at that list. I think the friendliest word there is "responsibility." But even then, the word "responsibility" implies that caring is more of a burdensome obligation rather than an act of love. No wonder our nation is split almost down the middle on this whole health care reform issue! 

Now get ready, because I'm about to dump a whole lot of honesty on you. So make sure you've got a box of wet wipes handy.

Poor Pluto. I guess Disney isn't
as lucrative as it used to be.

As promised in the article's title, I am providing a suicide note. No, I'm not going to kill myself, so please, don't call me. I'm not Blondie and I certainly don't want to be colored your color. (If you got that reference, then you are fabulous.) This suicide note is actually one I wrote about six or seven years ago during a deep bout of depression and drug use. Bear with me. This is all going to make sense. Trust me. Since the note is pretty illegible, it's translated below. It'll all be in italics, so if you don't really want to read it, by all means, skip ahead you jerk. 

Photo taken by Matty Jacobson
Photo taken by Matty Jacobson

Dear Family --

Please don't blame any part of this on yourselves. Our gospel teaches us that I can still earn a place in the three kingdoms, even though it will probably be in the lowest, and I would rather be a servant in an eternal paradise than the slave to unhappiness I am now. 

No matter which road of life I choose to walk, I always arrive at the same destination: dismay. This was the truth for my years as an Aaronic Priesthood holder preparing for a mission, my rebellious gothic stage, and ever since after my coming to terms with my sexuality. 

There seems to be no escape and I know, I KNOW there are those whose lives are far worse than mine, and I commend them for their endurance through trial. I, however, am not that strong, and my spirit is very weary and I feel that my time on this earth has run its course.

The constant contradiction of this life has seriously worn my soul down to a jaded shell, and I feel there is nothing left I can do now, nothing I haven't already tried. If I try to live a standard Mormon life, I am lying to myself--to a wife, to children, and to GOD, and I am unhappy.

When I live my current life I am called a FAG daily (among many other things) and shunned by society and can only find relief in illegal substances, and I am unhappy.

Please know that now I am happy. I am happy now! I get to go home now. I can finally know why God created me this way. I can be happy. I am happy now. Don't be sad because I am not. I am happy. We will all meet again someday, and while it may be years from now, the time will pass and we will be together again. This is the glory of Heavenly Father's plan--just like the primary song. 

So this letter isn't to say goodbye--it's just to say I love you, and I will see you later!

Love, MJ

OK, I know what you're thinking: "Oh my God! Doesn't this kid know the definition of a 'run-on sentence'?!" Seriously! 24 years old and so uneducated! Oh, I also fixed all my spelling errors in the translation. Yeah. When I stumbled across this letter in a box of old junk a couple of months ago, I literally cringed at some of my grammatical issues. I sure have come a long way since then.

In case you haven't figured it out yet, I didn't get the chance to do what I was going to do. My sister found the note and tracked me down just before I was about to either slit my wrists or hang myself or whatever the designer way of killing one's self was those days. 

First, let me put that letter into context for you. I'm clinically depressed. Well, duh. At that time I was more into self-medication than seeking out help from professionals. I remember writing this letter. I was literally on the path to nowhere, I was seriously addicted to crystal meth, and I was surrounded by a good Mormon family. I felt like I should have been on "Sesame Street" in one of those "one of these things is not like the others" bits.

Holy crap! That is one big bird!
I wonder what its name is.

But guess what? A quarter bag of meth cost $25 back then (I don't know how much it is now because I've been clean and sober for years). Yup. That's all it took to get rid of depression. Of course, on the downside, the drug eventually wears off, but you're only an Andrew Jackson and a Vampire Hunter away from another dose of happiness.

"Why not go see a psychiatrist?" you ask. "Why not get on a some good anti-depressants?" Well, believe it or not, just going to visit a doctor costs, like, an 8-ball of drugs, and purchasing prescribed medication can cost even more. If you're not savvy on drug cost/measurement terminology, just know that an 8-ball is a substantial amount of money.

Me: Should I buy drugs or go see a doctor?
*shake shake shake*
8 Ball: Yes or No questions only!

Oh, by the way, guess who's uninsurable due to bone marrow issues, retinitis and, yup, clinical depression? That's right. Yours truly. Since my access to health care and medication was extremely limited, when I wasn't able to purchase drugs, I turned to other methods of getting rid of debilitating depression.

And yes, those methods included box cutters. In hindsight, now I know why I was on the No-Fly list after 9/11! ...Too soon?

Photo by Matty Jacobson
Photo by Matty Jacobson

Now those are scars--one on each leg. Well, the most obvious ones on each leg. In all I have between 100 and 150 scars that I can visibly count. If you know me, I'm sure you've always wondered why I look like I've been struck by a lazy Zorro repeatedly. Some people even ask me, "What happened?" I always say something like, "I don't remember." I'm just too lazy to come up with some grandiose story of fighting off 100 sharks with light sabres duct-taped to their fins. But basically, my body resembles a to-do list that's been completely accomplished. It's all been scratched out. 

Listen, this isn't a pity party I'm throwing for myself. Although, I'm not opposed to presents if you feel like you're in the mood to wrap something expensive. I am trying to illustrate a point that health issues and the ability to pay for them are such a rampant problem today--and they aren't just limited to obvious concerns like cancer, bone breaks and random shotgun-related hunting accidents.

Last year I had a serious relapse in depression. I actually had to go to the emergency room in order to stop myself from going too far. Because of my decision to get in the car and go save my own life, my credit score has now dropped and I still owe a collections agency exactly $1,902.01. And yes, I've payed off almost half of the original emergency room bill which was upwards of $2,700. 

Mind you, they totally gave me a $200 discount for not having insurance! Awww! HOW THOUGHTFUL!

All you need to do is pay this much!
Well, this much times 122.

But here's the kicker: Since I received a Pell Grant and a scholarship for being so freaking awesome as a student journalist, I did not qualify for financial aid. This means that if I ever go to that bad, dark, nasty place again (and no, I don't mean Los Angeles--although that place is all of those things and more), I will have to continue paying these through-the-roof prices to save my own life, or else I will have to be unemployed and have absolutely no source of income whatsoever.

So you see the issue here? If I have even an iota of income, then I'm expected to have health insurance. And even if I don't have any source of money, it's pretty damn difficult to get assistance from the state. Back when I was on intravenous chemotherapy for my bone marrow fiasco (this is already too long of an article, so I'll just save that for another day), I felt like I was being treated like a criminal by the state because I needed help paying for the roughly $4,000 in medication PER MONTH because I was a single adult male with no children.

Dammit! If only I'd knocked up a couple of girls along the way!

Come on boy! Dig! You can do it!
Daddy needs a new bottle of Xanax! 

I am trying to educate myself on health care costs and insurance and all that fun stuff. But the bottom line is that I can't afford to live, so I am literally reliant upon social programs to keep me alive. And I also feel as though I'm being forced to stay on the bottom rungs of the ladder of life; as soon as I bring in any amount of income, the programs that currently provide me with anti-depressants (and other live-retaining drugs) will become unavailable to me.

Those programs, by the way, only provide medication for me. If I want psychological help, I have to either pay for it out of my own pocket, go get a girl pregnant, or literally become a woman myself. (By the way, that costs a lot of money, too.)

No, there's no need to check.
Just trust me. I'm a woman. 

Today, as many of you know, I am not constrained by the teachings of the LDS church. I think that in itself has lifted a huge burdon off my shoulders. Do I believe in many of the things taught by the Mormon faith? Yes. But do I believe that a God who would create a person to love another person who may be of the same gender would also punish that love and make that person a sinner? No. I don't believe that for one moment. The mere act of accepting that the teachings of man in the name of God could possibly be flawed has helped me deal with my depression in many, many ways.

But, that still doesn't change the clinical aspect of my depression. And I'm just one story. And according to CNN, about 10 percent of our nation is in the same boat as me. I wonder how many of those people have little or no access to health care?

So what do you think? What's the solution? Is there a solution? Or is it possible that limited access to health care is just nature's way of weeding out the least fit among us? If that's the case, then I'm just one scholarship away from dropping off Darwin's chart of "shit I care about."

Nope. There's nothing in
there that I care about. NEXT!

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    And, well, refreshing.

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