She walked in and closed the door. She stood in silence for a moment. What had I done this time? Over the years, I had been called in to Human Resources for some ridiculous reason. Usually some issue that someone said I did something and they went directly to my supervisor who went to Human Resources and called me in. I kind of stopped worrying about it. In fact, I finally let them know I felt it was harassment. Being called in somehow stopped. Let’s go back to my supervisor walking in my office on that sunny day in March. She stared at me then began to talk. “This is hard for me today, we have to eliminate your position.” I could only look at her and think, “what about my health insurance. There was no question in my mind that it was essential to get my medications.” She went on that it was not personal – duh. I am a good worker. I said that it was a business decision. She didn’t like that wording although it was true. She told me how sorry she was; tears came to her eyes. Not mine, I was in shock. Our 30-year relationship did not seem to mean anything to me. Working at the agency for 15 years also seemed meaningless. We are all expendable, pawns. We talked for a while. I told her that I was concerned that no job would offer me the salary I was currently making – I would need to work 2 jobs. I also mentioned the need for insurance to get my medication. She just looked at me saying nothing. I knew she could not do anything, but a compassionate word would have been human. She got up as I did; she hugged me. She walked out and left the door open.
Holy shit. I sat shaking my head. I had to call someone – my girlfriend. “Laurie, I just lost my job. They could not give me a date for my last day but wanted to give me an early heads up so I could start looking for a job.” I then finally burst into tears. She comforted me and promised support as I went through this difficult time. Her words in our conversation gave me the first inkling that things would be ok some day. I needed her more than ever. I called my mother next. She assured me that things would be ok and she would put me on the prayer list at work – I follow Eastern religion. Lisa, my sister and best friend was next. She was a victim of reduction in force also. She told me that it was not necessary to begin submitting resumes immediately; I needed to find whatever relief I could from the initial shock. She loves me so much. I trusted her. After the calls, I closed my door and cried.
When I was told about the loss of my job, the reality of losing my benefits or paying a seriously high premium blasted my mind. I have bipolar that is totally controlled with medication. I do not experience the highs and lows. I have a “good life through chemistry.” With the support systems I have in work, as well as knowing what it is I need, I am a very successful social worker. That aside, the costs of my medication lit up my mind like a neon light. When I had to meet my $1500 deductible for the year, it was met with the cost of ONE medication – $1680.00 for three months – $560 a month. Lamictal is just one of the medications I take daily. There are 8 more, not all for my mental illness
I remember reading an article in the New York Times written by a successful lawyer. She had an office on the top floor of a building that looked down on Central Park. She could see the homeless sleeping and sitting on the benches in the park. She had bipolar and knew that the difference between them and her was that she was working and had insurance. She wrote of her fear of losing her job; it came to her thoughts often. I was like her in this aspect, but never thought it would happen.
I am afraid. I will get a job. I do not know when. I will get my medication. I do not like the idea of working only to pay bills and afford medication I need to keep moving forward with a good life. I have support. I am loved. And still, I am afraid. I will rise from the ashes.