Monday, August 29, 2016

Chronic Illness and the Full Time RV Life - Dealing with Depression On the Road (part 1)

I have had a pretty rough road to ride the last few years living full Time in Our Road Warrior Toy Hauler. But we never lost the vision of what we set out to do, and are glad we didn't give up and quit our lifestyle. Imagine having everything you ever wanted, freedom and the ability to work on the road as needed to take care of yourselves and your bills. And then one day you can't. A crushing blow, by any means, but if we would have lived in a traditional house the result would have been the same. We joined millions of Americans who suddenly found themselves sick, homeless and unable to get insurance. But we never gave up. I hope to chronicle our experience to show others what can be done and that if they are suffering, as we did, that they do not suffer alone. We Full Timers need to stick together and stay free for as long as we can.. to say we are a dying breed is an understatement, and since the collapse of the economic system we are being joined by many who now share our lifestyle by force, and not by choice. I want to reach out to them and say 'Welcome to our world, you are not alone'.

At first my DH, (Dear Husband), was the one to worry about incessantly, he had a terrible aneurysm that almost took his life. Thankfully he was saved in the 11 hour by successful surgery and after 5 years of taking his meds and slowly rebuilding his strength,  he was able to resume his position as head of household.

Almost the day he became able to work again, my health suddenly gave out. Possibly it was a backlash of being a full time caregiver and having to run our small meager business, but mostly it was Kidney Disease, Chron's and having an aging titanium neck implant that finally brought me to my knees. 

Sickness was unknown to me, Of course I had always had stomach trouble starting with ulcers in high school, and the kidney disease I suffered with was something that could be controlled by diet and copious amounts of water. All of these conditions were treatable without the need for active Doctor intervention. I had been gluten free for years because of my digestive issue, also I had suffered from seasonal depression that we call, "Cabin Fever" back where I come from.

I had given birth to three healthy boys in my lifetime and successfully raised them with only the occasional terrible accident to put me in the hospital, including the time I was is a horse training accident and broke my neck, requiring a titanium implant to hold my head on.. so I suffered from chronic pain, but I managed it well with yoga, and just putting up with it.

But this time there was no clear indication of just what my problem was and I had just missed out on the deadline to apply for the newly offered Obamacare. Even if i would have become eligible I never would have been able to afford the premiums.. for Doyle and I it would have been more than $2,000 a month, more than our collective income, both of us having previous medical conditions.

So quickly it became obvious that we were drowning in medical bills. First Doyle's bills that were not covered by medicare and within a 6 month period I had two emergency rooms visits that totaled more than all the debts I had ever acquired in a lifetime.

This was a very odd situation for me. I had always paid my debts. I had always paid my bills. I had never applied for or received and kind of government assistance.

This was the beginning of an eye opening experience of being uninsured, and therefore not sick by medical standards. I would go to see a Doctor in the emergency room and upon hearing I had no insurance, suddenly there was nothing wrong with me. I even had the experience of going to the emergency room to be told by three Doctors that I had a hot gallbladder that needed immediate emergency removal surgery. After consult with accounting I was loaded up on antibiotics, saline and unceremoniously dumped into the streets. they didn't forget to send the bill though..

A friend told me about a Doctor in the Tampa area that offered low cost medical care and as soon as I saw him he got me the surgery I needed within a day with a Doctor who took cash. I paid for my gall bladder surgery out of pocket. I felt better, but now something else was happening that I couldn't quite figure out..
On a Not so good day..LOL Chin Up! 

But now something happened to me that had never happened before. I became depressed.

At first I thought it was because of the medical bills and the injustice of finding out that the uninsured have no medical problems that can't be solved by them pulling themselves up by the bootstraps...

But this was something more. I suddenly became terrified of EVERYTHING. I had cold sweats at the prospect of waking up and facing another day. Every night was sleepless, restless and filled with ruminations of impending disaster.

I couldn't leave my home. Even the prospect of cooking something for myself became a horrible exercise in futility. I couldn't remember how to cook, or what to cook. I would panic at the prospect of going shopping or taking a walk. My guts became shaking jelly, my feet were made of clay. I cried uncontrollably everyday and night. Never had I experienced the like of it, and I had experienced much in my lifetime.

Because of this I started talking to my friends and learning I was not alone in my battle. Advice and support poured in from every area of my life. I was determined to tackle this problem as I had all others and succeed..

I was also more determined than ever to stay living in my RV. I love my 5Th Wheel and I don't have the desire to live anywhere else. My DH and I cleared out the back garage of the Toy Hauler and built what I laughingly called my "Hospice" because live or die, I wasn't going back to the Doctors unless I was on a stretcher and unresponsive.

Over the next few weeks I intend to lay out my path of recovery without Doctors or medical advice. Join me if you will for the next chapter in my life as a medical community outcast and what I did to get me living again.

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