Personally Political by Leigh Lyon

I had an AA sponsor once tell me, “the personal is political.” There are countless incidents in my life that make up a whole quilt of the feminism that evolved from this concept.  Not because I am so strong and powerful, but actually because of the weakness in me. I once felt internalized hatred for being female. But eventually I came to realize feminism, which empowered me to say, NO, I am feminine because I am me. No matter how I express myself I am no more or less of a woman.

I am working right now.  For a while I worked two jobs.  I was a caregiver in my evening job and work at a law firm in the Social Security Disability Department during the day.  With a Master’s Degree in Business I worked 40 hours a week for $12 an hour and then left to provide care for seniors at $11 an hour. I grossed much more than I took home. And though our country’s taxes cover many things it doesn’t cover “the working poor.” Right now I am using GoFundMe just to pay my bills.

In January when the Affordable Care Act became a reality for many American’s, my oldest daughter began having severe pain in her left arm. I insisted we go to the ER.  First we went to Urgent Care and they suggested a hospital a town over. After doing a CAT scan they sent us home telling her to wrap up her arm. That caused more pain so the next night we went back and the CAT scan revealed a blood clot from her neck to her elbow. Within about a year she was diagnosed with Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension and right heart congestive heart failure– a devastating diagnosis.

I now had a disabled daughter. I quit my 9-5 at that time to do care-giving with the idea it would provide me with more flexibility to be around for my daughter. I was running all over town, working all sorts of hours and ended up not being at home. Then my husband lost his job and there we were… Me not making enough, with no guaranteed hours, no sick time, no health care. Then rent went up by about $500 in Colorado where I live. We were screwed.

We tapped out of my husband’s retirement benefits and I found myself working two jobs. Until I couldn’t do it anymore…

We did the roommate scenario. That meant 3 more people in our 5-bedroom rental and their three dogs. We did this, “Illegally”– Translation: they weren’t on the lease. That helped, but still we were drowning. I was too generous and let the renters in below the market rate and their rent included everything, but their food.  We were on and off Medicaid depending on how “rich” or poor we were/are considered by the government. Our utilities were not turned off purely because my daughter needs oxygen 24/7 and both she and I use a CPAP machine. We have tried to get help, but to no avail. My guess is too many other people in Colorado are being beat down by the cost of housing at the same time and funds are in short supply for the working poor. We could possibly get assistance if we were being evicted, but not until then. It always seems that things must get worse before they get better! Of course, when you are late on rent they tack on a late fee. That never made sense to me– you can’t pay so charge you more! Only a capitalist thinks that way…

The healthcare system is out to profit from the insurance companies.  If you get Medicaid you have strict guidelines or you can’t find a doctor at all to care for your condition(s). So, it looked like this for us. Even with me working two jobs I couldn’t make ends meet, but I was considered “too rich” for Medicaid. They cut us off instantly.  If you miss certain dates you can’t apply for insurance in the marketplace until the next month. Being on psych meds (anti-depressant/anti-anxiety) I knew what that meant…No meds…and withdrawal. Withdrawal for psych meds is tough even when you slowly ease-off.   It’s suicide (or homicide) when it’s instantaneous. I got some help via my doctor’s office, but it meant I was shelling out cash for a medication just to keep me from going off the deep-end and the damn co-pay for a discounted plan through the pharmacy (which has been a life-saver) meant there was food we couldn’t buy or less money towards rent or utilities.

My motorcycle, my favorite sport, is up for sale. I alternate between wishing it would sell and being grateful when it doesn’t. I love to ride and it’s one of my main ways to de-stress.  But I can’t afford the upkeep. I need the cash to pay off our utilities, to maybe get my daughter some clothes she needs, and put a bit some aside to travel East when my new grandchild is born.

We tried to hold onto the van. We were making payments of $304 per month and over a $100 in the cost of insurance. It accommodated us four, five when my granddaughter was around, and my grandson’s friend(s). It also helped us carry the oxygen concentrator and/or a wheelchair so my daughter could come do things with us. No one likes to be cooped up all the time. But we finally had to save that $400 a month to put toward bills, so we begrudgingly returned the van…

It is a constant juggling act, really. It reminds me a bit of the time when I was a single mother of 4. Well, 3 ½ really, since I shared custody of my youngest son. I went to work, doing the “responsible” thing. And in doing so the Dept. of Social Services counted my “potential” income, which wasn’t what I really made. Therefore I earned what my rent was at that time. Pay rent? Eat? Pay heat? What a mess! An eviction was on the horizon that time too…  All of those articles about the rotten seed of single mothers, the women living high off the system, mocked me! Maybe if I was thin and beautiful and had a rich boyfriend or could strip or sell myself for a living I could have “done better??”

This is currently my life under the crapitalist system.

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