Yesterday afternoon and evening were black banner hours in my Borderline world.
The Insurance Impetus
I gathered the mail, and found four unpaid medical bills. Some were expected, like the $40 copay I owed the cardiologist because their payment system was down on the day of my appointment. Others were highly unexpected, like the $300 Mitch and I purportedly owed our shared primary care provider.
We always pay our copays at appointments, so I decided to start my inquiry into these mysterious charges with our insurance company. I spent four hours on the phone with them, was transferred five times, and had to argue with one of the customer service represents about my name for more than half an hour. (Apparently, one of my providers had misspelled it on a claim, and she was convinced that I did not know “the first name of the patient.”)
I came to learn that our plan — the best that Mitchell has to choose from as an employee of the State of Arizona — now has a total of $2800 in deductibles in addition to our copays (which do not count towards these deductibles). There is a $400 family deductible for Tier-1 providers (which we have met), a $200 individual deductible (not to exceed $400 for the family) for behavioral health, and a $2000 deductible for Tier-2 (or “in network”) providers. And unbeknownst to Michael and I, our new PCP — who is a fantastic physician — is a Tier 2 provider. We have met less than $700 of that $2000 deductible, which means that we will be paying through the nose to see her: $135 dollars for each of Mitch’s visits, and $80 for mine.
I came off that phone call angry and frustrated. I do not understand how it is that these goddam insurance companies in the United States find it necessary to increase our deductibles by hundreds of dollars every year, even as they increase the amount of money that they take from my husband’s paycheck to insure us, and hike up our copays. (I imagine it’s simply to keep the exorbitant salaries and bonuses flowing to those at the top of the corporate chain, the bastards.)
Thankfully, however, we had just received our federal tax return. So, I called each of the providers we owed money to and paid them in full. However, our PCP’s office informed me that they had not received the insurance payments for our visits in March; and that we still owe on those pending the outcome of the claims. They estimate we will be charged another $215 for those appointments.
Mitch and I literally live paycheck-to-paycheck, and I got off that final phone call in tears.
A Terrible Misunderstanding
I texted Mitch, asking him to call me as soon as he could (he wakes up around three in the afternoon up there on the summit), and he did. His voice thick and groggy with sleep, he asked, “What’s wrong, Honey?”
I explained everything that had happened, and when I mentioned that I had paid everyone with the federal tax return, a sigh of annoyance escaped my husband’s lips.
“Wait. What was that sigh for?” I asked.
“Nothing, don’t worry about it.”
“Mitch, what was that sigh for?”
“I told you that I have to send all of the tax refund money to the court to meet the final terms of the bankruptcy settlement.”
I felt like I’d been slapped with an ice-cold, freezer hardened fish. “No. You told me that they would take what they needed. I assumed the money that made it into our bank account was ours to keep.”
“No, Babe. That is not what I said. You misunderstood me.”
I went blind with rage. “What in the hell are you talking about?! If you have to send all of that money to the courts, then why did you spend the state refund on tires?” (We desperately needed new tires on our Civic.)
“Because I knew we needed them, and I’ve built a cushion for this.”
“How? How have you built a cushion? We barely make enough to pay the goddam bills, and we’ve now spent more than $900 on medical expenses and tires!”
Mitch went silent for what seemed like a year. “Don’t worry about it, okay?”
“Don’t worry about it?! Bullshit. Tell me how you’ve managed to build a cushion!” At this point, I was so confused and irritated that I was yelling at the top of my lungs.
“My mom. My mom helped us out.”
“Your mom?! You took more money from your mom? Jesus Christ, Mitch. You’re keeping secrets from me again. What the fuck?!”
The argument quickly spiraled out of control from there. Mitch was apologizing for doing the same shit he always does — keeping me out of the loop — shit that he has promised time and time again that he will not continue to do. I was yelling about lying, betrayal, and feeling like less than a partner in our marriage.
Not willing to listen for the umpteenth time to empty apologies, I screeched into the phone like a banshee. “If you do not tell me everything, I will not be here when you get back.”
Mitch considered this for a moment, and said, “Fine. I’m okay with that.” And he hung up.
An Awful Borderline Misstep
I sat with my feelings for a while, and the Witch Bitch within whispered, “This is the one person in the world that makes you feel of value, and he doesn’t really value you at all. You are unloved, unworthy, and a silly, stupid woman for believing in him. This will never end. It won’t stop until there is nothing left of you to take. No one values you. Your parents come to town and take the boys out to dinner, and don’t even bother to mention that they are visiting. You are nothing to anyone. But there is a place where you belong: through the veil with Nicky. There is peace there. An end to this suffering.”
The Witch Bitch, it seemed, was right. I pulled out my laptop and began to write letters to my family in a secure (password protected) diary program. I called Mitch and said, “You will need your birthday to access the diary files on my computer.”
“What? Why would I need to access your…?” I cut him off.
“To access the diary files on my computer, you will need to remember that the password is your birthday. Do you understand?”
Silence, and then panic. “Allie, what are you saying? What are you going to do?”
“I love you Mitch. I’ve done all I can do. Goodbye.”
I hung up and turned the phone off. I cried and cried into Tocho’s fur, and readied myself for the task ahead.
It Gets Easier: You Can Begin to Heal
While kissing, hugging, and bawling into my fuzzy companion’s warm lil’ body, I realized that if I did what I was planning to do, there would be no one to care for him for days; and in that moment, my rational self broke through the melancholy Borderline sea of despair. I went from drowning in it, to flailing in the dark waters, gasping for breath. What I had just done to my husband began to sank in, and I recognized those actions as wholly unfair to Mitch. And to my family.
I turned the phone back on, seeing half a dozen missed calls and two text messages from my husband:
“Allie, what are you going to do to yourself?! Please call me!”
“Honey, please call me!”
I dialed his number, and railed and cried and screamed. I was still totally out of control.
“Baby? Baby, I need you to slow down. I need you to breathe. I need you to listen to me.” Mitch’s voice shook and trembled. It was obvious he’d been crying.
So I did. I let Mitch talk me off the ledge. He said, “Allie? Honey, you are my everything. My entire reason for living. I cannot lose you. Not again.”
Still furious with him for his slight, I responded, “I’ll stay, but not for you. I’ll stay for Rig-o and for Bug. I was just shy of six-months sober when Nicky died, and it almost derailed me. I will not derail Rigel.” (My baby brother has only been sober a couple of months.)
“That’s fair. And I understand,” my husband said.
We both apologized, and after a moment of silence, Mitch quietly spoke. “You’re getting worse. Each time I leave, you get worse. I never meant for this cycle to happen again. I never meant to hurt you.”
“No,” I said, “I’m getting better. I never told you what I was thinking before. I took action against my life without a word to you. The rational woman inside was clearly trying to save me. She managed to state my intentions out loud; and in doing so, I was able to hear how absurd a thought it was.”
“You’re right. You are absolutely right. Thank you for calling me back.”
Mitch called every couple of hours for the rest of the night, and I always picked up the line.
Being Alive is Success Enough
Being a Borderline does not make for an easy life. It’s a roller-coaster of irrational mood swings, exaggerated betrayals and abandonment fears… and one must master the treacherous landscape of dark thoughts. It is not easy to find a path back into the light; and I don’t truly wish for death. Suicidal thoughts often whisper that they will bring only peace, and do not lay bare the horrible consequences of acting on them.
(Un)fortunately, I know the consequences intimately. I know the relief I have felt waking up in a hospital room, still alive. I know the heart-wrenching pain that comes from being close to someone who has succeeded in taking their own life — the destruction it causes within a family.
Last night, though it may not look like it to some, was a win. I was able to rise victorious against the Borderline Witch Bitch, and put those I love ahead of her sinister murmurings.
Unfortunately, I may not win the next time (this is an eternal shadow of fear in my husband’s life); but I do possess the tools necessary to slaying the monster. My knowledge of my disease grows stronger, and I with it. My faith and hope blossom in parallel to this strength; and I whole-heartedly believe in my ability to be here when the sun next rises.
I pray to Nicky, and I know he wants me to stay.
If you or a loved one is in crisis, help is always available. Please reach out to the Crisis Text Line (Text TALK to 741741) or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.
Music Interlude: Jessica Mauboy “Little Things”
This is often what it feels like to be a Borderline — little mistakes trigger the darkness within, and BPDs feel abandoned, betrayed, and utterly alone. Please take today to recognize the little things that your loved ones do for you. It may mean more to them then you’d think.