Fear Leads to Anger, Anger Leads to…Tired?

Yesterday was not a good day on the anger scale for me. To be clear, when I say anger scale, I really mean on this scale:

0 – Totally at peace
1 – Mild annoyance
2 – Frustration
3 – Full annoyance
4 – Hostile
5 – Angry
6 – Seething
7 – Furious
8 – Red Rage
9 – Hulk
10 – Murdertron 9000

I imagine most people have a scale like this; they may use different words, but the result is the same. I spend a lot of the time hovering between 0 and 1, but yesterday I spent a good 8-10 hours between 7 and 8, and it was not pleasant.

Some of it was anger as a secondary emotion – that is, anger that people often use as an immediate reaction when they are in fact feeling something else. Like if someone were to say something hurtful to me, my primary feeling would probably be sadness – but I would instinctively react in anger, maybe saying something just as hurtful in response. I was feeling very sad and hurt by some events happening with a friend of mine, and while I didn’t respond to my friend in anger, I definitely felt it. 

Then I had to fight with my insurance company – and everyone who has ever done that knows how much anger that can bring up. It seems that even though I don’t have a thyroid gland anymore, and so have to be on a thyroid replacement medication to mimic the production of thyroid chemicals, my insurance company thinks that it is an expense that is more than they want to cover. So, in order to convince them that it is a necessary medication, I need to get in to see my doctor – who doesn’t have an opening for a couple weeks, leaving me at the very end of my current prescription. I suspect they want me to change to a medication that is less costly, but frankly, I don’t care. 

Third, Houston traffic. This is generally anger-producing even at the best of times, because Houston drivers seem to have never mastered the fine art of, well, driving. That left lane on a highway? The one for passing and going fast? They feel free to just sit there going the bare minimum, regardless of what you do. That line you’re in waiting for a light, because the lane next to you is closed – but the cones don’t start until the light? They will pull out from behind you, go around you, and then swerve back into the open lane just before the other lane is closed. And right now there is a lot of roadway construction in Houston – especially, of course, on my way to work. A drive that normally takes me 15-20 minutes took me an hour yesterday. 

And finally, customers. I work in retail, and I imagine anyone who has worked in retail knows how annoying indifferent or careless customers can be. At the bookstore I work at, many people feel free to grab stacks of books or magazines, flip through them for five minutes, then leave them at their seat – or worse, they try to conceal the stack somewhere. Or people show up, sit in a chair – either in our cafe area or in the store – and proceed to work on their laptop for 6-8+ hours, never buying anything, never even browsing. As I spend most of my shifts closing the store, the messes inconsiderate customers leave behind are something I have to clean up before I can go home. And then there are always the joyous customers who come in, demand a book – sometimes a big new release (that is sold out because they waited too long to get it), but more often something more specialized or small-press that we either don’t get or have to special order – and get insanely angry when you don’t have it. Or customers who assume you’re an illiterate idiot because you don’t happen to know anything about their favorite author.

So I was pretty amped up yesterday when I got to work; my co-workers could tell, and some said they could hear me grinding my teeth. They were very understanding, when I explained what was going on, so there wasn’t any trouble there, at least. Oddly, the anger seemed to keep me very focused, and I think I went through my assigned tasks much faster than the managers were prepared for; they had to find more for me to do, which eventually ended up in just trying to keep the store tidy. And that kept up for much of the shift – thankfully, I wasn’t working at the cash register or the customer service desk for much of that time. But when the anger finally began to fade, I felt myself just become totally exhausted. The anger burned through what energy I had and left me with nothing when it dissipated. And now, a day later, I don’t feel any of it. I can look back and see why I was angry, but there’s none left right now. Of course, I’m now stuck having to deal with the pain and sadness that are the results of my difficulties with my friend, but I was going to have to deal with that anyway; the anger was just a way to hide from it for a while.

I’m not sure if there’s a point here, really – maybe it’s that feeling my anger, instead of suppressing it, allowed me to let it go, or it to let me go, instead of having to deal with it for days or weeks on end. Maybe it’s that anger can be productive int he short term, but long-term it just sucks you dry. I’m not sure. It could be any number of things. But I felt it was worth talking about.

Medical Care

You know, spending a large portion of my time worrying about only my mental health means that I can often forget about my physical well-being. Well, thanks tot he wonders of insurance (or rather, my insurance company being forced to accept me as a client), I got in to see a non-psychiatrist doctor for the first time since last March yesterday. It was interesting having to fill out all the forms, and I know that without my insurance, I wouldn’t have even gotten in to see the doctor – one other gentleman there was told he needed insurance to be seen by any of the doctors in the office.

To go from not being able to see a doctor, to a doctor’s visit that cost me all of $30 – including vaccination for tetanus, and whooping cough – is a pretty big change. And there didn’t seem to be a whole lot wrong with me, thankfully, at least not at a cursory inspection – my blood pressure could have been lower, but it was still within normal limits. Because I have no thyroid, and am on thyroid replacement medication, the doctor did order tests – a whole battery of them – which I could o at the lab down the hall.

I went over to the lab (having, oddly but helpfully, not eaten beforehand), sat down in the waiting room, and 15 minutes later I was having a ridiculous amount of blood drawn. I mean, really, five vials? I don’t even like seeing enough blood to fill one leave my body. But the woman who took the blood said that for a batch of tests that would normally run around $1000, it only cost me $15. How good is insurance, right? Then I tottered off to my apartment and lunch, my left arm hurting from a tetanus shot and my right one feeling worse the wear for blood loss.

It’s kind of amazing how much I took that kind of thing for granted before; while I was a grad student, I got health care automatically, and never really worried about the cost of doctor’s visits. Now I am keenly aware of how much it would normally cost me without insurance – and how much less it costs me with insurance. It may not be an ideal system, but I am certainly glad that I am now allowed to get insurance, and not bankrupt myself for even the smallest medical expense, simply because I have ongoing conditions beyond my control.

It also makes me feel sorry for the many, many sufferers from mental illness who will never get insurance, and never get the right kind of medical care – either because it is too expensive, or because they are afraid of the stigma that such a condition brings. It’s not right that mental illness is treated so poorly, but I don’t know that that stigma will change anytime soon. I hope that my generally well-written postings here go some length to prove that we aren’t people to be afraid of – we’re just people. 

The Wonders of Insurance

So, through some program – I imagine the Affordable Care Act, but knowing Texas, it could be something else – I was able to get insurance. This is a big deal for me; with several pre-existing conditions, I was persona non grata to insurance companies for the last half of last year. This meant my medications – of which I’m on 4, which is a relatively small number compared to some folks I know – cost a lot; with even one non-generic medication, it cost me in the neighborhood of $500 a month. Doctor’s visits were right out.

So, I got insurance at the beginning of this month. I went to go pick up my medications after seeing my psychiatrist on Tuesday, and you know what they ended up costing me? $18. That’s so different it isn’t even funny. Now, granted, my insurance plan is not cheap, but it’s still cheaper than medication costs without insurance. Plus, I get to go see a doctor in a week or so, and it won’t cost me an arm and a leg.

That’s part of the cost of mental illness. It’s an illness that never goes away, and was a reason for insurance companies to deny us treatment. The only reason I had insurance before is because I got it through my school, so I had to be allowed in. It’s a monetary cost, true, but it’s still a cost – I’m lucky to have had the ability to pay for a place like Menninger. There are a lot of people with serious mental issues who can’t afford that kind of treatment – or any treatment, really. People who never get diagnosed, who end up roaming, homeless and scared, because they can’t function mentally. People understand a missing arm or leg, but a missing part of your mind – that’s much hard to conceptualize.

So, even though it isn’t an ideal solution, I am certainly glad the Affordable Care Act was passed. It gave me the chance to finally go see a doctor again, and to even think about possible emergency care without bankruptcy. I get the chance to be able to keep my medication going, without wondering if they will drive my financial future.

Compared to that, some headaches are a pretty small price to pay. Those are just a side effect of regularizing my medication schedule, though. Life is going pretty well right now, so I am glad for insurance, and for what I have.

Postscript: Nobody had anythign to say about the Sad Dog diary? Man, you people are stone cold. The first time I watched that I laughed until I almost puked.