31 days of bipolar|days 18.5 & 19

If big pharma was actually listening, what would you say about bipolar meds?

If religion and/or spirituality is a part of your mental health regime: what, how and why?

So I just noticed that there are two 18s for this prompt list. So I shall combine these two into one post.

I (unfortunately) live in the United States. The rest of the world, accurately, sees healthcare in the US as being horrendous and cost-prohibitive. It’s completely true. Drug companies are constantly trying to make a quick buck. Costs of actual care are almost impossible without paying out the ass for insurance. Healthcare is not socialized, like in most other developed countries, and therefore incredibly expensive.

I am very fortunate to be on Medicaid, which is government-subsidized and the closest thing to socialized healthcare the US is currently capable. I truly believe in socialized medicine. Getting care shouldn’t be a choice between living and dying because of cost. Healthcare is a human right, not something that should be reserved for the rich. Medicaid is medical assistance for those of us who are either disAbled or don’t make enough to afford to stay alive. There’s also a program called “MAWD”, which is Medicaid for Workers with disAbilities, that allows someone to work and the monthly cost is capped at a small percentage of take-home pay or $50, whichever is greater. It provides the same access to services that traditional Medicaid allows for, but it’s sadly only available in a few states.

I personally wouldn’t be alive without Medicaid (and MAWD for several years prior, and the ACA/Obamacare previously). Medicaid gives me access to some of the best doctors in the world because I’m lucky enough to live in Philadelphia. Medicaid keeps me medicine and office visit copays to $3 or less, usually without a copay. I get my testosterone and transition-related care at no cost. This isn’t the case in most of the country, but Pennsylvania decided that transition-related care (including hormones) are medically-necessary, and thus covered under government-subsidized programs as of last year. The Commonwealth believes in the equality that Billy Penn believed in, and thus that transgender people are actual Pennsylvanians. Prior to last year, I was paying $50-90/every 3 months for hormones.

So now that I’ve mentioned the basic logistics of getting care… what would I say to big pharma? I’d ask these filthy-rich companies to be proactive and humanitarian. There are one too many homeless folx in my City that live with mental illness with no real access to medication or care because it is cost-prohibitive. The choice is between eating or getting treatment. I’d ask big pharma to not be so damn greedy. Modern medicine is about helping people stay alive. This should not be only for the rich. I’d ask big pharma to help people in need obtain their medications. This is one way to treat people with compassion and dignity that everyone deserves. If medication was accessible and not a choice between food and shelter, more people would have a fighting chance. Mental illness prevents many from working, and many of these folx end up on the streets especially when they cannot afford treatment. It’s a nasty cycle that’s challenging to break. Others turn to heroin and other street drugs and often overdose on fentanyl where I’m at. If big pharma companies were to return to a goal of doing no harm and actually aiming at helping people, that’d be a start. Perhaps leading the way in research and innovative medicine that actually helps.

Anyways…. enough on that. The other part is on religion/spirituality.

I am a staunch atheist. I joke that I’m a recovering Greek Orthodox. I was excommunicated just over 15 years ago, and I’ve now been excommunicated longer than I was forced to be a part of that crazy cult. It’s pretty nice.

I specifically ascribe to a secular humanist philosophy where I believe in the inherent goodness of people. I believe on being good for the sake of being good, and not because of some invisible deity/deities or a system of rewards or punishments. The tagline for this blog is this atheist could’ve used confessional, which is hysterical considering that the songwriter is openly atheist…. That songwriter is Ed Robertson, and I’ve considered him a major influence for most of my life. Another lyric describing his atheism states: When my time comes, I won’t be leaving this Earth. And what I’ve done for people will determine my worth. This is pretty much secular humanism in a nutshell. I don’t believe in an afterlife unless someone can give me proof. Faith does not ask for proof, and I don’t see the point in that. I also don’t believe that some omniscient being(s) exist(s), and if it did? I highly doubt it gives a shit about a speck of dust in the universe. I believe in helping people. I believe in not being an asshole. I don’t believe that I need to do these things for some kind of eternal paradise. And I definitely don’t believe that I will end up in some eternal inferno if I don’t do these things. Being present and passing on what I know is how knowledge gets passed on to those who will succeed me in their lives.

A lot of this contradicts 12-Step fellowships. While I value my sobriety and the people I’ve met in the rooms, I skip out of the whole part about needing to rely on faith alone to keep me sober. I rely on science, modern medicine, and the experiences of others. I adhere to a secular version of the 12 Steps and take a well-rounded approach to my personal recovery. This approach does not include any prayer, meditation, or deities/magical powers. It does include working with my therapist, psychiatrist, and medical professionals towards a treatment that works. It does include the social support of people in 12-Step fellowships. It does include medication, including marijuana and psychiatric medications. It does include service and volunteerism, which has always come naturally to me. It includes utilizing every mode available to me to treat the entire picture, because my addiction and alcohol abuse issues are only  symptoms of underlying mental illness. I self-medicated for years prior to my diagnosis, and afterwards. I simply couldn’t stop putting cocaine and whiskey in my system! Having a network of sober friends is helpful for accountability. But I know I wouldn’t be able to maintain my sobriety without professional help. That’s the nature of living with a serious mental illness. It’s just like my being transgender — I cannot pray it away. Oh, and before I continue: prayer does not work. It’s wishful thinking at best and dangerous at worst. But I suppose if it comforts someone in their rough times, then that’s on them and it makes no impact on me. Do whatever makes ya feel better. But don’t expect prayer to stop a bullet.

And before I get the attacks… I don’t believe that some magical power has failed me, nor am I “angry” at it. I simply don’t believe in anything beyond the physical, tangible, universe. What’s so difficult to understand about this?

Now… I’m cool with sacred music and art. I’d be a hypocrite if I wasn’t. Music and art is beautiful, regardless of the inspiration behind it. If I were against sacred music, it would eliminate a vast majority of the greatest works to ever exist. No Bach. No Mozart. No Handel. No Hildegarde. And that’s bullshit. I enjoy the aesthetic of old churches. Stone and woodwork is stunning! It’s art. I don’t have to believe in the inspiration of any work to appreciate its beauty. Plus, churches pay me half-decently to make music in them. And I like being able to eat sometimes. If that makes me an asshole, then so be it. I live in a capitalist society and I’m cool with churches paying me when they don’t contribute to society via taxes. That’s one way to contribute to the local economy, I guess. I don’t discriminate… this extends to churches that pay me to do what I’m trained to do.

So yea…. Big pharma needs to help people and churches should be taxed.

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