Canada & “Free” Healthcare

Lets talk healthcare.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I completely understand that there are places in the world where they have no access to healthcare of any kind.  I know that some people in America will be in debt until the end of time, due to healthcare.  I am fully aware that were I to live in another country, I would be paralyzed by now, or have died from the flu or a common cold years ago.  I get it.  I really do.  So calm your tits.

However, from someone who is “working class”, “functionally disabled”, and possibly “mentally ill”, let me tell you what a fucking sham our healthcare system is.

Let’s start with my ‘functional’.  I work approximately 40 hours a week.  I have a dog that does not require long walks, she has arthritis and cannot handle temperature extremes so two 20-30 minute walks a day seem to be a good balance for her.  I live alone, making all of the chores mine to do.  These include: Cooking, cleaning the house, washing dishes, all of the shopping, dog care, laundry and other various tasks throughout the year.

Most days by the time I come home and walk the dog, I am sore and exhausted.  I have no energy and my back just wont continue.  I know that I can wash and dry my laundry, but cannot fold it in the same day.  I can vacuum my floors and clean my bathroom, but will have to save mopping for another day.  Dishes need to be kept to a minimum, something about the position over the sink is painful to be in for a long period of time, and if I’m already sore, forget it.  The dishes get saved for another time.

I can’t sit for too long, or lay down for too long, or stand for too long.  There is not comfortable position.  It just doesn’t exist.  I wake up in the morning so stiff it feels like I was beaten with a bat from the base of my skull to my ankles (the part that isn’t just numb, anyhow).  My hands tingle like chilblains all the time, and there are portions of my body from my hips down that feel like they were shot full of Novocain.  Then there are the days where my skin is so sensitive it feels like I got terribly sunburnt the day before and even my clothing hurts, or I have so much back pain it hurts to take a breath, to move, to be alive.

Moving on:

Let’s talk medications.  I have doctors whose every solution is a pill; a new pill, more of a pill, snorting a pill, whatever (okay, that last one is an exaggeration.. but really).  Pills I cannot afford.  Expensive pills.  $200/month in bloody pills.  Every four months or so, the pills stop working as well, the pain all comes back and what happens?  Up your dose, so you blow through these pills even faster, thus making my life even more expensive.  I have no coverage.  Thank you though, government of Canada for covering medications for children and people living off the system (I understand that some of these people actually NEED to be on the system, but I bet the percentage of people just sitting on their ass enjoying all of their free fucking pills is astonishing.)

Moving on.  Physiotherapy.  Honest to (insert deity here), I would be far from functional without it.  It is not covered under OHIP until I am wheelchair bound.  What?  Oh ya, that’s right.  I go to physio (at $65/session) to keep myself working, to remain a contributing member of society, and the government will only cover me when I get to the point where I am wheelchair bound.  Makes sense right?  Why help someone maintain functionality, so they may continue working and paying taxes and making a contribution to society?  Let’s cover them when they are not able to work and are living on government funding?

Mental health.  Life happens.  To some people it happens in loving families, babies, love and laughter.  To others it’s broken dreams, loneliness, tears and a loss of hope.  I have found a therapist.  I love her.  She is truly amazing.  She is also $90 a session.  Needless to say, I do not see her any longer (although I’m sure I need to).  I can give you a glimpse of my OHIP covered therapy experience.  Sitting in tears in an office affiliated with my GP, after telling a perfect stranger my feelings (which you hold back on, because they expect you to trust a woman you have never laid eyes on before with the very core of your little damaged, broken heart) and she says “but you don’t really feel that way”.  Pardon?  I don’t?  Um, ok.  You’re right I guess.  Because that would be messy, and I don’t want to create a mess for anyone.  I guess I lied; all the while I can feel that damaged little piece shrinking even smaller and curling up even further into the darkness to keep itself far from anyone who could ever see it, hurt it, touch it.   Or, after staring at the many massive bottles of pills in your house, through tears that have been falling for so long they hurt now, and you cannot breathe.  You call a number you have been given for a psychiatrist and leave a message asking how to get an appointment, how it’s paid for, asking for a call back “it’s really important”.  You make that call three times, on two different days and leave three messages.  And they never call you back.  “Free healthcare”.

“What does your occupational therapist say?”, “Have you gone to the pain clinic?”, “What about getting onto a drug study with the company?”, “What about Trillium Healthcare?”.  These are some of the dozens of questions I have been asked, to which my response is: “What is that?  I didn’t know it existed”.  But why?  Why did none of the doctors, therapists, or specialists that I see even mention these things?  Because our free healthcare services are so over stretched and under funded that they are tired, there mind is already on the next patient, they assume that someone else will offer help?  There are so many resources that I have never heard of, that I need, that could be so helpful for me, but how do I chase down something that I didn’t even know was out there?  I tell people all the time to advocate for themselves, because in this system the patient needs to be the one who takes their health in their own hands.  We need to request the referrals, we need to seek out the programs and resources, we need to write up the letters and just present them for a signature.  Is that worth it being free?  Is this system really working for the masses?  Or is it only viable for the few who have the time or the money to force it to work for them?

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The Black Dog *trigger warning*

It’s not a popular subject.  Its the elephant in the room, the back dog in the shadows, the looming presence of something unwelcome that you just can’t quite put your finger on.  It’s depression.  It’s permanent.  And if you are easily “offended” (or not in a good place right now) you should stop now.

This is where I get stuck.  Where do I even start?  Either you understand or you don’t.  You can either relate, or you can’t.  You either know what it feels like to think that your best and only option is to end your life, or you think, “just snap out of it, choose to be happy” (fuck those ‘inspiring’ memes, by the way).

I didn’t choose this.  I didn’t want to have thoughts of my dog sitting alone in an apartment, unfed and in her own mess, be the only reason I didn’t swallow every pill in the cabinet.  I didn’t want to think about taking her with me.

I didn’t grow up thinking, I want to be a worthless burden to my family.  I want to be the invisible person my entire life.  The one people don’t want to be around, forget to invite; the 37 year old single girl in a world of families who can’t afford to do anything, including pick up her laundry list of medications most of the time.  I didn’t dream of waking up every day in pain, of having days that my own body fights my every intended move, to feel beaten and exhausted by 3 pm, but still have two hours of work to plow through.  These were not my aspirations, ever.

And yet here I am.

Here I am fighting to survive in a world where I wake up and go to work, just to come home and go to bed by 9pm out of boredom and loneliness.  Where everyday feels like a sick version of groundhog day, reliving the same thing, day in, day out, for what?  Just to do it all over again.  Here I am drowning in 215 facebook friends and when in reality there is less than a handful of people who have any idea who I am or what is going on.

Don’t get me wrong,  I am forever grateful for those handful of people.  For coffee dates, breakfast meetings, video chats and encouraging words from the most surprising sources, telling me that I’m really not as awful and I have been lead to believe.  So grateful for boardgames and laughs so hard you snort and cry.  I, very literally, would not be here without them.

Depression is a vicious beast.  Its an abuser.  It hides the marks behind a smile and some jokes all day until you are alone.  It makes it’s victim ashamed to talk about what is really going on at home.  It carries a stigma with it, and it always seems “silly” that this is how I feel when other people have it, or have had it, so much worse than me.  It’s “no big deal”.

My message to people on the outside.  To the internet trolls, to the great advice giving friends:  Stop.  Shut your mouth.  You have no idea.  Honestly, I’m happy for you.  I am so happy for you that you have never experienced the feeling of hopelessness that comes when you pray to not wake up, and you do any how.  Like the powers that be are forcing your hand to just do it yourself.  I so happy for you that you have never felt that your loved ones would be better off without you here, not just that they would be happier, but that it would be a relief and that they would be able to thrive without you in their lives, dragging everyone and everything down like you always do.  I am jealous that you have never experienced the envy that comes when you hear of a suicide.  Envy that the person had the courage to end the suffering,  envy that it gets to be over for them, envy of their peace.

I know this might seem like a downer of a post.  I hope that none of this hits home, that it’s all foreign to you;  That you have never walked around feeling so hopeless and worthless that you are just hollow and numb.  I hope that you cannot relate.  That you have never been so surrounded by people and so alone, that you have never stayed home because your anxiety of being around people is fed by the knowledge that the group having fun is only going to make you feel like an outsider, and it’s actually less lonely just to be at home alone.

Depression is an illness.  I cannot just snap out of it.  I did not choose to wake up like this, trust me when I say that I would have chosen happy, had I been given the choice.  I don’t want to down under the weight of my own life, but here I am, clinging to a board in the middle of the perfect storm, when everyone around you seems to be at the swim up bar on a pool float working on their tan.

Please don’t tell me how I can get better if I wanted to.  You would never say that to someone with cancer, or any other physical disease.  Please don’t tell me that all I need to do is call a therapist, you have no idea how daunting that call is.  How much I worry that I cannot afford to get help, how I have called for help and cannot get a call back from anyone covered in the health care system (which is even better, when you are so worthless that the therapists won’t even call you back).  Try to refrain from telling me how immature I’m being, just because you don’t understand.  You can choose happy all you want to.  I will choose to try to survive.