I've written about my struggles with depression before. I've also written (and testified at our state capitol) about how private insurers discriminate against mental illness and the need for mental health parity. I've chosen to be open with my struggles, particularly with young people, because I think it's important for them to see that with therapy and medication (and it can take years and a lot of trial and error to find the right combination of medication, because medicating the brain is art as much as it is science) it is possible to lead a productive, fulfilling, purposeful life experiencing a full range of emotions including happiness and joy.
I'm also open with it because adults, who have their own preconceived notions, need to understand that people with mental illness diagnoses are productive, tax paying members of society, who contribute to their communities. For too long, the stigma surrounding mental illness has created a sense of shame for far too many people. I can't tell you how many people have thanked me for being open after I've given a talk, and then whispered to me, tears in their eyes, about their own experiences. Or the number of adult women who have picked up my YA novel PURGE, as if they were going to buy it for teen, and then quietly confessed that they, too, are or were suffering from an eating disorder.
Medication will be a part of my life, forever. I've had well-meaning, but incredibly ignorant people tell me it's "a crutch", that it's "a pharmaceutical conspiracy to keep me enslaved," that I should use exercise, a walk in the woods, music, meditation...... Yeah. Done all of those. In fact, I still exercise, walk in the woods, listen to music, and pray/meditate. But my life as a functional productive human being who has written 14 novels in the last ten years, as well as more political columns than I have time to count right now, raised two kids, dealt with the loss of both my beloved parents, and tried to give back to my community, could not have happened without being on the right cocktail of medication.
For that, I am blessed that I can afford to keep seeing the same psychiatrist out of network for the last 15 years. I made that choice, because she understood me when I got out of the hospital, where they'd put me on lithium, and I said, "I feel like they opened up a door inside me and took away all my creativity." She understood when I told her how when I was in the hospital for the second time in 12/01, I'd watched a documentary about a photo shoot People Magazine did of women who'd been pregnant on 9/11/01 and lost their spouses and since had their babies. She understood that it was the kind of thing that would normally have me bawling and going through half a box of tissues, but I watched it completely dry eyed with the thought, "Wow, that's sad." She knew such lack of affect and emotion wasn't the real me, and she was willing to try something different to help me come back to myself instead of just telling me to "be a good girl and take my meds."
Together, we found the right combination, which has worked for over a decade. Sometimes we have to tinker, depending on external circumstances, but generally it's been a working formula. I've also been blessed with some great therapists over the years who have helped me work through the day to day struggles. None of this could have happened without insurance and being able to afford it.
How many people are like me, but can't afford it the treatment? How many of them end up in prison instead of being able to be productive members of society living in the community, because resources and treatment aren't available, or they can't afford their meds copays?
Think about that when you look at the State Budget. Think about that the next time a politician says they're going to scrap ACA as the first thing they do when they get into office. As a self employed person, I used to have to worry every year that my insurance would be rescinded at renewal. ACA protects me from that. I've asked several of the big mouth politicians who say they want to scrap ACA how they will protect people like me (SELF-EMPLOYED ENTREPRENEURS WHO PAY TAXES, I MIGHT ADD) if they do that and the response I get is *crickets*. They don't have an answer. They just want to destroy without having a better plan. That isn't acceptable. It's reprehensible.
#IAMSTIGMAFREE And I am angry at people who play politics with the things that allow me to remain that way, and who want to cut the programs that could help others achieve the success that I have.
Friday, October 9, 2015
Monday, October 5, 2015
Last night, I received this email from a reader through my author website:
I've written before about why I'm not a fan of programs like Accelerated Reader. But getting this email reminded me once again of how a generation of kids is being restricted from developing a love of reading in a way that I, fortunately, was not. Then we wonder why we have problems with literacy, comprehension, writing and critical thinking and inquiry. In my experience, these things are related.
When I was growing up, I had the good fortune to be a free-range reader. I was not restricted by ridiculous programs like AR. Nor was I restricted by parents censoring my choices. I was blessed with parents who encouraged me to read well above my grade level, and librarians who handed me books to keep my habits sated.
If I found an author I liked, I was free to read EVERY SINGLE BOOK THAT AUTHOR WROTE if I wanted. When the librarians at the Marylebone library handed me Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, I subsequently inhaled Journey to the Centre of the Earth, and Around the World in 80 Days. Or when I got interested in historical fiction and read my first Jean Plaidy novel, I read the rest of them without worrying if they were "in the system." I just read, read read. And while I was reading I was learned history, often looking up things in the encyclopedia to learn more about a certain time period because it fascinated me or because I wanted to see if what was in the novel was the real story.
It enrages me that school systems are spending scare funds on expensive programs like Accelerated Reader which LIMIT kids' reading choices. If we want to encourage a genuine love of reading and creative inquiry, this is the wrong way to go about it.
Fortunately for my correspondent, my book WANT TO GO PRIVATE? is in Accelerated Reader, but when I wrote back, I said they should discuss with their parents first because it's recommended for 9th grade and up. My parents would have let me read it. I would have let my kids read it with discussion before and after. But it's up individual parents to do the parenting. Each kid is at a different level of maturity and can handle content and situations at a different time.
That's the great thing about books, when kids are allowed to read freely. If they aren't ready, they put them down and move on to the next one.
We don't need Accelerated Reader. We should be spending the money we're spending on AR on certified school librarians. Decades of research show they make a difference.