It’s Me Time!

When I was in my 20′s, I was on my own with two little kids and I had a job as a waitress. The restaurant I worked for offered health insurance, but if I wanted coverage for all 3 of us, it was going to cost $497 per month. I was barely skimming by just paying for rent, utilities and food for the kids (I waitressed so I could get a free meal every day. Most of the time, it was the only meal I ate that day) so there was no way I could afford that additional expense. I knew the importance of being able to go to a regular doctor, or needing to go to an emergency room, see a dentist, and an optometrist, and I knew I needed insurance to do this. My only option was to get Medi-Cal, which is state funded health insurance.

I am a proud person, so getting “welfare insurance” was pretty embarrassing at the time. But looking back now, boy was I lucky I had that. The kids had falls that required stitches, I had strep throat countless times, Ryan had the worst case of chicken pox his doctor had ever seen, Nolan got German Measles, I had an old filling fall out and needed a root canal and on top of all that? I can’t see distance and needed an optometrist for annual exams and contact lenses. Lucky indeed. I had that insurance for us until the day Wil and I got married, when the 3 of us could be added to his insurance through the union.

Finding doctors that took Medi-Cal was tough (no internet back then to make it easy) but I managed. Along the way, I found organizations that offered screenings and basic care needs that were either free or very low cost if they didn’t take Medi-Cal. I loved that those services were available then, and now that I’m not a struggling single mom on  waitress wages, I donate to them annually so that people like me can use the services the same way I did 20 years ago. During those years, I learned the importance of annual screenings, wellness checkups, and being proactive in maintaining health.

In March of this year, I wrote a blog post called “The Other Side of Depression.” I talked about seeing symptoms in Wil that turned out to be depression, and the steps we took to get him help to treat it. He didn’t have those issues his whole life, it was something that surfaced in his late 20′s, so it wasn’t something he had ever talked about with his doctor. Many people on my blog and on Twitter seemed to appreciate the honesty in the symptoms, how Wil got treatment, but mostly, how I saw this in him and how it affected me and our kids. The health and function of your brain is just as important as any other part of your body, so I’m glad that talking about it helped others in one way or another.

Then in April, I was contacted by someone at http://www.womenshealth.gov,  a website dedicated to all aspects of women’s health and well-being concerns/issues. They asked if I would do an extensive interview with them, which will be featured on their “Spotlight” page; a place where they post one interview a month from a woman on a specific topic. They saw my post about Wil’s depression, and thought it would really help other women who may be dealing with the same thing with their husband. I agreed to do the interview, which will post on their site sometime in the near future.

Every year since Wil and I got married (when I was 30) I designated May as “me month.” As a mother of two young kids and working full-time as a hairdresser, I rarely made time for myself. But I know the importance of staying healthy, so having a month that reminded me to take care of myself by scheduling annual exams became a priority. If I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have known I have nodules on my thyroid, which I now get checked twice a year. Staying proactive about your health is the best thing you can do for yourself and for the people who love you.

I love that this week, May 11-17, has officially become National Women’s Health Week.  I don’t know how long that’s been a thing (maybe it was a thing back when I was 30 and that’s how it got in my head to make May “me month”) but I think it’s awesome. I’ve reminded friends over the years to schedule exams and when I got on Twitter almost 3 years ago, I reminded women there. Last week, I was asked by the people at http://www.womenshealth.gov if I would be willing to be an Ambassador for them in reminding women of the importance of their health. Since I already do it anyway, I was more than happy to!

So, ladies, as your official Ambassador, I am here to remind you to take care of you. Whether you have a doctor and insurance or need to Google a credible place near you that offers the annual screenings you need at either no-cost or low-cost to you, now is the time to schedule. You matter in this world; to your family, your friends, your co-workers and most importantly, to yourself. You get one life so be the healthiest you can be to enjoy it to its fullest!

 

29 thoughts on “It’s Me Time!

  1. Thanks Anne. I needed this. I am a 30 year old woman and have never had a full on check up. I never got one when I was a teenager because I was not sexually active and putting it off has snowballed from there. I get anxious about new things and new experiences and have been putting off going to the women’s clinic for a long time. (right this moment, I can feel my heart racing and my ears burning just thinking about it). If there’s any advice you’d like to share, I’d appreciate it. I will definitely try to get my butt into the doctor asap. Thanks again for being so awesome!!

    1. For YEARS, I would get the same heart racing, ears burning stress about these exams, but I made myself do it anyway. I had to tell myself these doctor do this all the time, so it’s not a big deal. But the other side of the embarrassment factor is the fear that they’ll find something wrong. The fear has calmed a bit over the years because I know I do this every year, so if something comes up on the screening, it’s going to be so new that I can be proactive in taking care of it right away. My only real fear was finding out I had thyroid nodules for who knows how long and having to get biopsies on them. They came back benign but as a precaution, I now see an endocrinologist every six months to keep an eye on them.

      Avoiding screenings only prolongs potential health concerns and makes fear even stronger. Once you go for the first time and make it through, you’ll see it isn’t nearly as bad as your imagination made you think it would be. There’s nothing wrong with bringing a friend for moral support either. Although, the nurse may suggest your friend wait in the lobby during the actual exam like my nurse did the first time I went to the gynecologist. That was a good call. ;-)

      1. Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. I really truly appreciate it. It’s great having an objective voice telling me I need to do this :) thanks for being awesome!

      2. FYI colloid nodules NEVER become cancerous; benign cysts can be treated with PEI procedure

    2. “Watch that first step – it’s a doozy!” is what you’ve been saying to yourself all this time. Anne’s right – take a friend with you for moral support; go to Planned Parenthood if you can’t afford anything else; get the first one out of the way, so you have a “baseline” and then get checked annually, in “Me Month.” It WILL get easier, but not until you take that first step.

      Good luck to you!

  2. Anne, you are an amazing person and I’m glad I’ve gotten a chance to “know” you. Thank you for your honesty and openness about everything. You give me courage.

  3. I love the idea of a Me Month! As a mom of a 2.5 year old and also a 1 year old who has Type 1 diabetes, I don’t get free time very often. Scheduling the time to invest in my health sounds really nice.

    Thank you for your continued honesty about your life experiences and for sharing them. Struggle can feel lonely and endless when we hide it from each other.

  4. When I was in my twenties, I relied on Planned Parenthood for all of my health needs. I had no money and no other options. I will forever support organizations like that, and I feel that we all should. None of us got where we are on our own. None of us.

    Thanks for speaking out on this Anne. Everyone needs the reminder sometimes.

  5. Anne, I work at a non-profit community health center as a grant writer and reading your blog just made my day. We work so hard to raise money and some days it can be so frustrating, especially when the favorite political argument is that people who use social services are lazy; an argument that just isn’t true. Most people are like you, hardworking folks trying to make a good life for themselves and their families, and they just need a little extra help. Everyone deserves healthcare and I’m so glad you were able to access services. Feeling renewed optimism to go to work today! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you for what you do, Michelle. I know it isn’t easy but do know it’s appreciated. I don’t know how I would have survived those years of free and low-cost health care services!

  6. Thanks Anne :) as the person who instigated having you do the Spotlight, it’s great to see you blog about it, and your involvement as an Ambassador for National Women’s Health Week. By the way, this is the 15th annual National Women’s Health Week!

    1. I am more than happy to be part of spreading the word on this. And that totally makes sense that it’s been 15 years because that’s how long I’ve made May me month!

  7. We’re on the same page apparently :). Last month was my eye exam and new prescription. This past Tuesday I took the day off for multiple medical appointments. My youngest (adult) daughter relies heavily on Planned Parenthood and I know they help a lot of women in need.

    Thanks for spreading this message Anne.

  8. I just read your last few posts in a row and I have tears in my eyes. You and Wil are such a beacon of hope. Anyway, I will go schedule my annual cancer-prevention exam for this month, now that my ambassador has reminded me about it!

  9. Now we get to call you Madame Ambassador, right? Do you get diplomatic immunity?

    I actually had signed up with womenshealth.gov a few years back to participate in a survey or something. I get emails from them and it’s always informative.

  10. Anne, I got to your blog via your tweet earlier today, and I’ve now bookmarked it. You’re such an easy, intuitive writer, and really graceful about finding the balance between being open with info and being discreet and respectful of the people you love. Tough work.

    I am WAYYYYYY older than you, but we have a lot of things in common, not the least is former-single-motherhood, and the great gift of a great stepfather for our boys. Plus this: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/23/opinion/sunday/taking-responsibility-on-welfare.html?_r=0

    After publishing a number of celeb and non-celeb book/memoir collaborations (a couple were about struggles with mental health and/or addiction), I’m finally working on telling my own story for my own book. Your blog is now one of the things I’ll read regularly, to hear a “normal” voice speak with an open heart about important things, silly things, and everything we have now that makes our lives so much richer than we could have ever expected. Plus thanks to you and “Me Time,” I just made a too-long-delayed dentist appointment ;-)

    1. Your article is great. My eyes filled with tears at your boy yelling “Yay, Mom!” at graduation. I put myself through school after leaving my ex-husband, but had to stop for a few years because it was way too difficult to do on my own with little kids and no family support. After meeting Wil, he encouraged me to finish, and when I came home on my last day, he and the kids had covered our front door and living room with posters and banners congratulating me. I loved that they knew how much the goal meant to me and how I hard I worked (and struggled) to make it happen.

      Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and best of luck on writing your own book. Sounds like you have a great start!

  11. This is such an important post. As a mom of 2 kids – 1 of whom has a rare disease, as well as an advocate for the rare disease community, I’ve put myself so low on the priority list that there have started to be repercussions – for both my physical and mental health. I’m making changes now but I do have to consistently remind myself that if I don’t look after my own health care then I won’t be around to look after my family’s.

    And congratulations on your ambassadorship and for the work you do in the non-profit sector. :)

  12. What a terrific idea. I get very anxious about making checkups for all of my family members, and tend to procrastinate. I think I’ll run with your idea and use it for my husband and boys, assigning a month for each of them to just get it done!

  13. Reading this reminds me how lucky we are in the UK to have the NHS. There is a lot of controversy about waiting times and various other complaints that you hear about on the news from time to time, but at least we have access to free health care, and in an emergency can find a walk in center to get checked out on the same day.

    If I was living in the US, in the kind of employment I am now, I guess I would also have to have welfare insurance. The costs described here would just be impossible for me to afford!

    I honestly can’t remember a time, when even suffering with just an ear or chest infection, I haven’t been able to see a Doctor within 48 hours for free.

    This post reminds me to be grateful for something I have always taken for granted! Thanks Anne :)

  14. I live in NJ, and though my fiance and I have been together nearly 8 years, his employer does not offer health insurance to anyone who is not a spouse of the employee…unless the employee is in a same-sex domestic partnership. A person married to the employee (whether it’s different-sex or same-sex marriage) can get health insurance. A person who is in a relationship with an employee can get health insurance…if they are the same gender as the employee. Which is fine by me. I want people to have those rights, regardless of sexual orientation. Say the employee is male. His wife can get insurance. His husband can get insurance. His same-sex relationship partner who resides with him can get insurance, even if they aren’t married. But a female relationship partner who resides with him cannot, and yeah, that irks me a little bit.

    At least our kids are able to get insurance through his employer, but I have had to sign up for state insurance, because there is no other way for me to get health coverage, and my income did not meet the Obamacare threshold, so I was unable to purchase from the Marketplace. I even told one of the reps on the phone “Look, I know *my* income doesn’t meet the threshold, but I want to buy a plan. Can we just go over the coverage plans? I can pay for it, I want to pay for it.” Apparently they can’t do that.

    In NJ, the state Medicaid for people my age is NJFamilyCare, and for the most part, it’s pretty good as far as state insurances go. Dental coverage is not offered to adults, it’s only available for children, which I think is a grave oversight, as it’s been shown many times that poor oral health can be directly linked to further health issues. I’m attempting to work on forming a dental charity in NJ, as there really aren’t any. But I’m digressing here. I do that a lot.

    I love that you set aside time for you. The best piece of parenting advice I ever got was this, from my grandmother: Nearly every mom tries to be the best mom they can be, putting their children first in everything. But sometimes, you need to put yourself and your needs first, so that you can feel like your own person, not just “Mommy”. Doing that will lessen any resentments, because you *aren’t* giving up everything for your kids, and making sure you are happy will make your kids happy too.

    I love that. I’ve passed it along to friends and other family members. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “Happy wife, happy life”…I think “Happy mom, happy kids” is equally true. Sure, I’m Mommy. It’s the hat I wear most. But I’m also Merry, who had interests and hobbies for 21 years before putting on the “Mommy” hat, and it’s important to take care of my personhood. Great post!

  15. Preach it. I’m always reminding women in my mom groups that preventative care is typically covered 100% by insurance – just like well-baby appointments! We want well children, and well children need well mothers. I’m the worst example, though I’ve definitely learned my lesson. I put off going to the doctor for over a month when I had back pain, and it ended up being lymphoma (I thought it was kidney stones… go figure). Worst day of my life, but makes me a lot more willing to encourage other mamas to take care of themselves. Little pains are the body trying to tell us something! Listen!

  16. Hi, I translated this to Italian to give it to my mum to read (she’s finally started to do screenings and check-ups, after a lifetime of “what if they actually find something’s wrong?”, I hope this will motivate her further), thank you for being awesome!
    Also, would you mind if I used a paragraph from this post + my translation as a sample of my work (I’m a freelancer translator) on job-related websites?

  17. sometimes I wonder if some causes of depression are dietary in nature. If it was the teenage years, Docs would just say, oh its “growing pains” or hormones, but that doesnt apply later on in life.

Comments are closed.