After the “dot com bomb” towards the end of the Clinton years, I lost an excellent job in the tech sector, as did many of us in the Triangle NC region. We all realized that those stock options for which we had worked so hard were never going to materialize. After that, I had to go from contract tech job to contract tech job. In between, I worked retail at a bicycle shop and occasionally took unemployment and lived off savings. Eventually, the money disappeared and with the stress, my health problems began to increase.
As my health problems increased, they required expensive medication and regular doctor and emergency room visits. Being out of a full-time job meant I had no medical insurance. Since these were the days before Obamacare, I had to make it on my own.
My mother was very kind, but she was going through her own issues. Times were bad for everyone, and since she was in sales, people weren’t buying. She sent me a twenty here and a twenty there, and I’ll always be grateful for what she did for me. In fact, I can never put into print how much I appreciated her emotional support. But the time had come. I was past 30 and it was time for me to stop depending on family.
First I needed to find a way to continue seeing a doctor. I went to the local health department, but they turned me away and told me that I could only come back if I were pregnant. Since I was single, getting pregnant was not in my future.
I found out that help was available for those who wanted to work to get back on their feet. With advice, I found a doctor that charged on a sliding scale, based on my income. His salary was paid by a public/private partnership. I had to open my books and bring in all my bills to prove that I needed their help.
Second, I applied for what used to be called food stamps. I dressed up in my most professional looking suit and applied at the Wake County Social Services. I hung my head and explained how ashamed I felt to be there. I’d never pictured myself having to go “on welfare.
The case workers in my county liked me immediately and were nicer to me than anyone else. They later explained how that they liked that I didn’t come in EXPECTING something and that I wanted to get off “public assistance” as quickly as possible. My case was approved, and I could get fresh groceries and cook at home again. Due to the embarrassment, I didn’t go buy groceries in MY neighborhood. I went across town where I was sure NOT to know anyone. I got off food stamps first.
I didn’t want to accept welfare but without it, I didn’t know where my next meals were coming from. My mother explained how I had worked hard for years and I’d been a taxpayer, as opposed to “welfare queens” who would never, ever get off government assistance.
Finally, I needed help purchasing my expensive medication. My regular pharmacy helped me with finding generics and my doctor helped me contact the drug companies directly. I found that the pharmaceutical companies want to work with people in my former situation. They did not wish to work with those who had skated by on welfare for years and years, but with those who really needed medication. I worked out payment plans, directly with each company, bypassing the pharmacy. I promised my pharmacy that I would be back as soon as I could and I thanked them for all they had done for me.
Yes, it was difficult and many nights I spent sweating it out, and crying. Often I thought I would lose my tiny apartment. I had to ask my church for help paying my electric bill one month, and I paid them back before I paid anyone else.
I persevered by working two jobs, and a lot of long, low paying hours. It took a lot of faith and a lot of emotional support from my friends, too. After a few years, things in the economy began to look up and I got a good work-at-home-job in my field, with IBM. I fell in love with the man of my dreams, and got married. I eventually quit technical writing and am now doing what I really love, writing about politics, and staying at home with our five-year-old son.
I now look back on those times and am thankful for the support of so many, especially those I never got to meet. I appreciate the prayers of my friends and church family, and the support, and sometimes annoying advice, of my loving mom. When I went back to work, I had a lot of debt due to those chronic medical issues and it took several years to pay off my bills.
When I met my future husband, he was instrumental in helping me take care of lingering medical bills. For a wedding gift, my late father-in-law paid my remaining debts. I will always be grateful to them both