Self-Care For Poor Folks: Accessing Mental Health Care When You're Broke

I officially and publicly thank you for making this series what it is.
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Shannon Barber
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I officially and publicly thank you for making this series what it is.
The state of me right now.

The state of me right now.

Welcome back folks.

Right now I want to talk about how amazing so many of you are.

In the last few months I have seen y’all do some really beautiful things.

I have seen y’all save each other money, share resources on everything from beauty to fitness to buying food in bulk. I’ve seen a lot of folks get personal and vulnerable, and I’ve seen people try to give each other comfort and support and I've seen people asking for help.

I should confess that when I started this series, this little slice of community is something I really hoped would happen. It’s not something I felt I had a right to ask for or demand, because this is not my personal space -- but I did hope.

Now here we are.

A few people have thanked me for creating this space and I can’t take all that credit. The great things happening here are because of you all. This has happened because a lot of you have made the choice to be vulnerable and personal in a space where that is not always easy.

That is brave. I don’t care what anyone else says, it is brave and wonderful and I thank all of you. Yes even those of you who don’t like me being here. I thank you, too.

I officially and publicly thank you for making this series what it is.

Today I want to talk about a big scary thing: accessing mental health care -- and some ways to survive the process -- when you’re poor.

First thing, it is probably going to be difficult. If you are relying on state assistance, at university, or otherwise don’t have insurance, getting mental health care can take time and be super stressful. (Actually, even in if you have those things, it can take time and be super stressful.)  Because that is (unfortunately) how things work, it is super important to hold on to hope.

Start by writing down what your concerns are -- if, for example, you are experiencing a type of anxiety or depression that is new to you or if your baseline has changed to the point where you are concerned. Be prepared for your day with your doctor or new therapist.

For those dealing with social services of any kind: Go to the dollar store and get a folder to keep all of your paperwork in. If you have a lot of paperwork, find yourself a file box of some sort. Set aside a few dollars and get copies of your paperwork. I know that all of the social services I’ve dealt with have given me crap about copies, so I made my own.

Google your county or city, and check into programs you might qualify for. In my own research, I’ve only successfully chased down programs by following link after link -- they're rarely on the main social services websites. And in the meantime, even if I wasn’t getting the help right at a given moment, doing the work of searching felt like I was doing something.

At this point you might be overwhelmed and that’s okay. This is an instance where I strongly suggest teamwork. Grab a friend while you’re both on the Internet and get in a chat of some sort and brainstorm. Get together and find you both some help. I have done this numerous times, generally with my long-distance best friend; we have tackled a lot of things and gotten it done.

Also, don’t be afraid to offer help. If you know a friend is going through it, offer to help them find resources, support groups, whatever.

Remember to take into account the time of year. If you are dealing with social services during the holidays, a lot of people are out of the office or offices are completely closed. If you are able to wait through the holidays in the meantime do what you can. But if you are in crisis or in immediate danger, go to the hospital. Damn the cost and go.

I just did a short Google search and found pages and pages of things like Mandy's post of reasons not to kill yourself. There are talk lines, crisis lines and online help chats. I know some of these are awful, just really shitty -- not all of them but some of them. I don’t want to deter anyone, but keep that in mind when looking for or trying out these types of services. You don't have to love your first result.

Also, I hate to bring this up, too -- but it is a reality for a lot of us and it has happened to me. For whatever reason(s), if you present yourself to a therapist or doctor and are coherent or “too smart” (as the first therapist I ever spoke to in my life said to me) to seem to need help, don’t panic. It is gaslighting and a demonstration that there are a lot of people who can’t do their jobs without their biases screwing it up.

If it happens to you, please remember that it doesn’t mean you don’t need or deserve help. It more likely means that the person in front of you might not be the one to help you. If you can’t deal with this person, or are too triggered or freaked out, it is entirely okay to ask to speak to someone else. Please don’t let this possibility deter you from getting help if you need it. I really feel like it would be irresponsible of me not to mention the possibility of it, but -- seriously -- don’t let that stop you.

Remember, you don’t have to suffer or deal with this stuff in a vacuum. Whether you are seeking treatment or just thinking about it, I’m proud of you.

Right now, the world is terrifying for many of us. We are slogging through trauma, dealing with so much, and it is hard to find a minute or a small bit of safety.

For the good of all of us, I want to ask a little favor. Consider this my holiday wish.

For right now, for anyone who needs it, let's make this post safe. Whatever you’re going through, you can talk about it here. If you are too afraid to sign in with your name, use a guest account. If you need to let some stuff out, let it out. If you just need to be seen and acknowledged, we can do that too.

If you need some comfort or to vent, go ahead. In turn, give someone else a little comfort or acknowledgement. I know the Internet is not always the optimal place for this kind of thing but I want to try it out.

With that, I turn it over to you folks. Take care of yourselves and each other.