Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 18 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

No pancake breakfasts

I'm hesitant to write this post. I don't want to be a complainer. I don't want people to see me as ungrateful or selfish. But there is a reality out there that's moved to the forefront of my mind recently, and I feel the need to talk about it, to educate. I will speak only from my own experience, but unfortunately, I believe my experience is not unusual.

Within the last six months, a colleague of mine was diagnosed with cancer. She is a full time, fully benefited employee who is now back at work after missing a few months for successful treatment. While she was out one of our coworkers began an online crowdfunding campaign in order to decrease the burden of her medical bills and living expenses. It was a wonderful, compassionate gesture, which was embraced by all.

Forty four thousand, nine hundred two dollars and fifty five cents. That's $44,902.55. I'm fortunate. I pay a lot of money every month, over $600.00 to be exact, for insurance to cover most of my medical bills and prescription costs. So this bill sitting in front of me for $44,902.55, which is just for my hospital stays, it does not address any MD charges or the cost of ECT treatments, will largely be covered by my insurance. I'm grateful and relieved. Unfortunately, my relief is short lived, as I currently have no idea how I will continue to pay for the very insurance premiums which will cover that hospital bill.

I have depression. Because I have depression, I am unable to tolerate working full time. Because I work part time, I am not eligible for benefits like health insurance, paid time off, or health savings accounts. I missed 14 days of work without pay while I was ill. I've worked fewer than 40% of my hours for 10 days since. Since February 13th, I've received just under $300.00 in pay. I have a few dollars in savings, but the stress of spending my savings on a daily basis to cover my mortgage, health insurance premiums, vehicle payment, utility bills and groceries has been overwhelming and frightening.

Despite being open about my illness with friends and coworkers, I don't think the financial burden of this illness has crossed anybody's mind. I'm not asking for money. I'm just pointing out yet another naive and unfortunate difference in how mental illness is perceived. Those around us seem to immediately understand how financially stressful a major illness can be, and they move to help. Perhaps those same people don't realize depression is a major illness, too?

I used to say the difference between mental illness and other illnesses was pancake breakfasts and spaghetti dinners. In my neck of the woods, that's how families, friends and coworkers used to raise funds to assist the sick people in their lives. I guess the difference now is in online crowdfunding campaigns.


Truth Needed 9 said...

How many days in hospital does that bill cover?? That seems like a huge amount. And how much is it per ECT? Does insurance cover that?
I think many people see depression as a character flaw or an attitude problem, not something that can kill you. Interesting to read stories of people who have had both cancer and depression and have expressed how much more terrifying, isolating, and dangerous depression was.

Anonymous said...

Will your family help out financially? Ask.

Anonymous said...

I relate so much. When I told people my Dad had cancer I received an outpouring of support. When I reveal I have depression, it is, by family, ignored or denied. A good friend has had both cancer and depression- she told me she would take the cancer over the depression (not to minimize either, or suggest all cancers are the same). Depression is debilitating. Anyone here want to start a crowdfunding campaign with me?????????? Also, have you considered using adds on your blog? I follow many blogs, notably, "The Hungry Runner Girl", and many of them receive many "hits" each day and thus are eligible for adds that make varying amounts of money for the author. Your blog provides so much hope to all of us, and that might be a way for you to maintain a different source of income. Finances and depression are a doubly- whammy--- when I am very depressed there is no way I could hold a job at McDonalds.... it scares me very much.

etta said...

@ Truth Needed: I was hospitalized for 17 days total. And yes, that is how much it costs to occupy a bed in my local mental health unit. ECT treatments will be charged separately, but I'm hopeful my insurance will cover most of the cost.
@ Anonymous #1: My family is not in a position to help too much, although my mother would loan me whatever funds she could if I asked. I do have a difficult time asking, however.
@ Anonymous #2: Although I write this blog, I am a novice when it comes to most things internet. That being said, I believe I made an attempt at ads early on, but I never made any money from them and so discontinued using them.

I thank all of you for your comments. I was very reluctant to write this post. Your comments validating my experiences of isolation, debility, financial stress, and fear are appreciated.

Camille Howey said...

My heart breaks for you etta. It's really too bad our society doesn't consider physical illness on the same level as mental illness. I have butterflies in my stomach as I move into the working world as a PT with depression, knowing I have a massive amount of debt and unsure if I will be able to work full time. Know you are in my thoughts and prayers daily. You are not alone in this fight! I'm so proud of you and glad you're feeling better

Anonymous said...

Universal healthcare through our taxes where all would be taxed fairly, including the rich would be my best answer.

Not having to be a believer, not hoping for some particular faith/church to save one.

Not having the appropriate heath issue for the biases of a particular religion to be allowable, or stopping beneficial science for unscientific reasons..

Not having to be a popular person/story with a popular enough illness to get enough attention and reward for a gofundme page.

Why people don't want to pay taxes to go for a humane universal healthcare system is beyond my understanding. Everything is political.

Julie Gathman said...

Could we, should we, set up a GoFundMe page? A video is needed (though not required, I believe). Etta, I know you have a video done maybe 2-3 years ago, about your depression (that was how I found this blog!) Perhaps you should do a new one for a GoFundMe page?

I'm not sure if a GoFundMe page counts as a "campaign." There are other types of crowdfunding (I just read).

Anonymous, Paul Lamb, Wendy, Etta, what do you think?