Saturday evening I went through the week’s mail, finally opening a bill that I assumed must be the $126 my insurance company recently informed me I owed for a routine office visit because “a catheter was inserted by a doctor.” As we’ll discuss later, I am perfectly capable of inserting my own catheters (foreshadowing!), and I was already pissed (*rim shot*) that my doctor’s choice of specimen collection, which had already robbed me of some dignity, also would rob me of an extra $96.

I tore the envelope open, a suitable amount of outrage at the ready to share with my ever-patient spouse, Neal. And then I saw this:

That’s an outrage! If I were you I wouldn’t pay it!

This alarmingly high figure was not unfamiliar. I had seen it before, in January, when my health insurance was mysteriously discontinued for two weeks. My then-employer blamed the insurance company and vice versa. I never got to the bottom of who was to blame and decided not to pursue it, because I had been assured all previously-denied claims would be paid.

I calmly announced, “I’m not going to panic” to no one in particular as I read both sides of the bill. Repeatedly. I grabbed my insurance card so I could call and resolve the matter, but, of course, the office isn’t open on Saturdays. Nor is my doctor’s office. Luckily, I was not panicking. For 36 hours.

Cut to me under a fuzzy brown blanket ugly crying as ever-patient Neal rubs my foot (the only body part visible) and tells me things will be okay.

Look, I’m a smart girl. I know that this is bill is a mistake. The chances of my having to fork over $10k+ are slim to none. Three phone calls will likely resolve this matter. But sweet fancy Moses, do you have any idea how many of those calls I’ve made over the course of my illness? Currently I’m experiencing spasticity in my left calf that is seriously affecting my gait and my energy levels have been at record lows for weeks. Neither of those symptoms have caused me the stress and annoyance that this clerical error has, because the worst thing about chronic illness is the paperwork. I’m sure if I ever experience a bout of paralysis or blindness, I may reconsider this claim, but I’m sticking by it for now.

I firmly believe that allowing oneself to lean into the despair of one’s situation from time-to-time is healthy and a form of self care. Cry, rage, compose angry tweets, drink a little more than is responsible . . . whatever gets you through. I’m a big fan of calling my marvelous mother convinced that I’m not going to cry and then dissolving into a puddle of tears the moment I hear her voice. Once the emotions have been indulged, I recommend engaging in more pleasant self care. After I pulled myself together Saturday, I read some old journals, announced to Neal that I didn’t feel like cooking, and tucked in for take out pizza and a movie. On Sunday I got a massage and enjoyed an amazing dinner with amazing friends (and maybe drank a little more than was responsible).

By the time I called the insurance company last night, I was back to my usual (mostly) rational and (mostly) cheerful self. One call down, two to go . . .

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