I have a pranic healer. Her name is Michelle. Until three months ago I had never even heard of pranic healing, but by of the virtue of the internet (and the spare money in my bank account that affords such healing), I now not only know what pranic healing is, I am DOING IT. Weekly. Michelle approached me to help me with some stuff I was struggling with (life, the usual) and my one session with her was so legitimately life-altering that I immediately paid her for six more sessions. Six sessions with a pranic healer like Michelle can run anywhere from $600 to $1200.
That sounds really unbelievably pretentious.
That’s because it is. That’s because, at this stage of my life, I have enough disposable income that I can actually pay a skilled person to help me process things that happened to me when I was so small that I can’t even actually consciously recall them. I can pay someone to talk me through pain, abuse, and the process of reparenting my fragile ego. This is something I never could have dreamt of doing 10 years ago.
Recently, I’ve been very busy with our upcoming move. For this reason, I have not had a session with Michelle in almost a month. To facilitate another session with Michelle, I have to block out about half a day (an hour or two for the session and another couple of hours to emotionally recover after the session). Besides deciding where I am going to put my crystals in our new house and what I am making for dinner tonight, this is the most difficult decision I am currently facing. And yet, it’s not really a difficult decision at all.
You know what’s a difficult decision? Whether you’ll take your sick child to the doctor or buy milk and bread to feed the sick child. That’s hard.
It’s difficult to decide whether you’ll pay for your birth control pills (or buy condoms or abstain from sex entirely) or risk getting pregnant, when you can’t even afford a car big enough for another human to fit in nor the food to feed them.
It’s difficult to decide whether you’ll spend a hundred dollars on essential oils that keep claiming to be “insurance” or take your chances, lose at the game of risk, and spend $75 on a doctor visit and another $45 on antibiotics when all three of your kids get sick.
It’s difficult to decide whether you’ll seek psychiatric care when you’ve run up all the credit cards you have during a bout of mania that is clearly a manifestation of the bipolar disorder you’re ignoring, but also know that the SSRI they will prescribe you is going to make you so tired that you can’t get off the couch to take care of your kids, which doesn’t matter because you can’t pay for the meds anyway because you’ve maxed out all the credit cards you have that you’ll be paying the minimum payments on for 47 years.
It’s difficult to decide whether or not you’ll go to your family practitioner when you have postpartum depression so bad that you can’t drag your weeping ass off your bedroom floor long enough to even get to the doctor you can’t afford to see to get diagnosed with a mental illness you can’t afford to treat.
It’s difficult to decide if you’ll have health insurance at all.
The whole “when will I possibly make time to meet with my pranic healer” thing seems pretty pitiful in comparison to all that, doesn’t it?
I have the very real privilege of having been both the person trying to schedule a meeting with my pranic healer and the person trying to decide if my psychiatric condition was severe enough to warrant not buying meat for a month in exchange for paying the doctor to tell me something I already know and give me meds I need but hate taking. For 20 years, I cycled like a tortuous roller coaster between depression and hypomania (and one or two bouts of mania) and four bouts of postpartum depression so severe that I more than once planned to the day and hour my “accidental” drive off a bridge.
When the depression was so bad that people around me were afraid I’d die, I sought treatment. But not without the occasional financial support of my in-laws and not without sacrificing things that weren’t absolutely necessary — popsicles in the summer and cold medicine in the winter, new clothes, new shoes, Pantene hair conditioner.
There are so many barriers to mental health treatment. Finances. Pride. Time. Availability.Emotional bandwidth. Every added barrier makes it that much harder, and ironically probably that much more vital, to secure the psychiatric care you can’t seem to get.
While my financial status hasn’t been much of a factor in my mental health itself, it has certainly made it easier to get care. It’s a lot easier to find a private psychiatrist who gladly accepts your PPO than it is to find someone with a sliding-scale cash pay that you can actually afford or one who takes Medi-Cal and doesn’t have a three-year waiting list. It’s much easier to put your meds on auto-refill and pick them up once every three months in bulk than it is to plan your refill to coincide with payday and even then have to decide which things to cross off the grocery list to be able to afford them.
If this all sounds very grim, that’s because it is.
While depression (or anxiety or bipolar disorder or schizophrenia) doesn’t care if you’ve got $3 in your checking account or $30,000 in savings, your resources are likely to vary greatly depending on those numbers. And while having an apartment on Park Avenue does not necessarily mean you’re less likely to be suicidal, it probably does mean that the treatment options available to you are greater.
And still, with all of that being said, people with wealth and apparent privilege do die by suicide every day. I know this because my current level of wealth did not save me from my wish to die two years ago.
What that wealth and security and relative ease of life did allow was the following:
- The benefit of a having a relatively mentally healthy partner with stable and flexible work and the emotional bandwidth to notice I was not okay and to insist I seek care.
- The benefit of that partner being able to take time off his stable and flexible work to accompany me to the necessary appointments without risk of loss of employment and with the benefit of sick days which meant our income was not impacted.
- The relative financial ease with which I took that non-impacted income and purchased meds, joined a gym, hired someone to help care for my small children during the day so I could rest, bought a new yoga mat and clothing to fit my post-medication larger-sized body, took a break from my work (which was not a financial requirement), got more than one full-body essential oil massage at a spa that is nicely furnished and pipes zen flute music into every room.
- A clean, safe, warm (or cool) nicely furnished home with healthy whole food options and the ability to alter my diet and experiment with how foods might impact my physical or mental health.
- The money to buy a new mattress and costly fan to help improve my very vital sleep.
The common theme here? Wealth — financial, physical, emotional wealth.
And while money cannot buy you literal happiness, it sure does facilitate the potential for happiness, or at the very least more comprehensive management of unhappiness.
I have a sort of perverted gratitude for the years I struggled financially, one that I am only afforded by the resolution of that struggle. I am not glad my mental illness took years to properly treat, nor am I happy about the things I had to sacrifice for its treatment. I am glad that having lived both poor and relatively wealthy allowed me a perspective I might not have otherwise. One that reminds me to be grateful for good healthcare in a culture that often makes it so difficult to obtain. One that reminds me that the stability of my mental health is not in direct proportion to my bank account.
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