Wednesday, 28 June 2017

It's Personal: The face of the healthcare debate

I have spent the last week trying to get two prescriptions filled. Prescriptions I need so I can function, at least semi-normally, on a day-to-day basis. New prescriptions, because my current medications aren’t really doing an adequate job of managing my pain. Call me crazy, but having 10 migraines per month (sometimes more, and sometimes for days on end) isn’t what I’d call effective pain management. My neurologist agrees, so he decided we should try some new medication.

But my insurance doesn’t want to cover these new prescriptions. And do you want to know how much they cost without insurance? $500, for one month’s supply. So I have spent the last week ferrying myself back and forth to the pharmacy, calling my insurance, and trying to get hold of my doctor in hopes that he can convince the insurance the medications are a necessity. I have done this on top of working two jobs, and suffering from two separate migraines in that week’s timeframe.

I am sharing this not because I want pity, or even commiseration; I’m sharing because I want to illustrate how difficult it is for people like me— people who work, but are still barely above the poverty line; people who suffer from chronic, debilitating health problems; people who are trying damn hard but still barely keeping their heads above water, either health-wise, finance-wise, or both— to access the care we need. It’s this hard in our *current* system; a system that, in theory, has concessions, programs, and safety nets for people like me.

In the proposed Republican healthcare plan, those programs would be decimated. People like me would be left holding the bill for hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars worth of medical services and prescription costs every month; a bill we have no hope of paying. Our current healthcare system is not perfect; the last week of my life can attest to that. But the proposed plan would not fix any of the problems that plague that system; if anything, it would make them worse.

It’s easy to ignore the issues this new plan would create if you’re not one of the people negatively affected by it. It’s easy to generalize and rationalize and convince yourself that the people who would suffer under this new plan somehow don’t deserve care. So I’m asking you NOT to generalize; I’m asking you to make it personal. The next time you hear or read about the bill and are tempted to think of the people affected as just an anonymous ‘other,’ I would ask you to think of me instead. Do I matter? Do I deserve to have access to the specialists and medications I need to lead a productive, fulfilling life? If you answered yes, then you need to think twice about supporting the healthcare bill in its current form. And if you answered no, then I guess I would ask you-- why? What is it about me as a person, or my situation, that makes me less deserving of care—of quality of life—than anyone else? What makes any one person more deserving of care than another?

There is no doubt that our system is broken. I could write a dozen posts on the myriad of things wrong, and give examples of how other countries are doing it better. But suffice it to say: the proposed health plan, far from fixing anything, would absolutely destroy the few pieces in place that are actually working. We can do better.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Believe Us, Part 2

I have been so overwhelmed—-in a good way—-by the response to my last, very personal, post. So many people—-men, women, close friends and people I hadn’t seen in ages—-voiced their support, compassion, and solidarity that I know sharing my story was the right thing to do. I want to thank each and every person who responded, whether in a comment or a direct message, for their kind words and love. It has made me a better person and bolstered my belief that Love Wins.

I didn’t know just how much I would need to lean on that belief until last night, when I decided that I wanted to discuss my experiences with the person who made the rape comment that triggered all this in the first place. Things hadn’t felt right between us all week, and even though I was hurt and angry, I wanted to open up a dialogue that might allow him to see things from my perspective. I approached him and asked if we could talk, because I knew things had been weird between us since last weekend’s incident. His response shocked me: “Things aren’t weird; I’m just ignoring you. And not talking to you has made this the best week so far, because I haven’t had to listen to you whining about how terrible men are. I know you don’t want to hear it, but it’s the truth. I don’t want to talk to you.”

I wish I could say that the conversation recovered, and we went on to have a meaningful dialogue around personal trauma and compassion; but that’s not how it went. What did happen was that I tried to maintain my composure while dying inside, and get the conversation back on track, while he barreled on, completely ignoring/discounting my experiences, accusing me of “playing the woman card,” and maintaining that not talking to me had made his life so much better.

Needless to say, I left in tears. Again.

My emotions since then have floundered between blind rage, total despair, profound disappointment, and deep hurt. I’ll be honest and say I am really struggling not to add this man to the list of other men (namely, the two mentioned in the previous post) who I trusted to respect and support me, and instead abused my trust and left me reeling. I am struggling not to let this embitter me. I am clinging to the fact that so many other people responded so supportively when I told them my story. I am trying not to let one hateful person deter me from saying what needs to be said, or convince me that my experience is worthless, or make me believe that because I notice injustices and point them out, I am just an angry bitch who hates all men.

But of course I’m angry. I’m angry at the person who triggered all this for belittling my story and saying such hurtful things; and I’m angry in general at the fact that we live in a world where 1 in 4 women experience sexual assault at some point in their lives, and where I have to pay for a taxi home at night instead of walking because I might get followed (again), and where even though I cover my face with a scarf when I cycle to work, I still get catcalled on a regular basis.

We should all be angry. Anger doesn’t mean you hate everyone and everything; it means you recognize that something is wrong with the way things are and you want better—-for yourself, for others, for your children. And don’t we all want that? Don’t we all want to live in a world where we and our children after us—-daughters and sons—-can feel safe, no matter where we choose to walk or how we choose to dress or what we choose to drink? So get angry with me. And let’s turn that anger into something beautiful.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Believe Us

Tonight was hard for me.

I was out with some friends and one of them (a man) joked that having mustard put on his food “was like getting raped in the mouth.”

I didn’t take that well. I pointed out that having a condiment you disliked put on your food and being raped were not comparable. I said that if you hadn’t been raped, you couldn’t joke about it (and those who have been probably don’t want to joke about it). He disagreed and didn’t back down. I fled to the bathroom in tears.

I found myself wondering why I was so upset. “Jocelyn,” I asked myself, “what about what was just said is making you retreat to the corridor of a bar, in tears?” And if I’m being honest, it was because someone tried to do exactly that: “rape me in the mouth,” several years ago, and I had never acknowledged it. Without getting graphic, but being factual and anatomical, someone—-a person I trusted—-decided that since I was drunk, I must want his penis in my mouth. So he tried to put it there. I was drunk, but I did not in fact want his penis in my mouth, or anywhere near me. So I stubbornly kept my mouth shut. He kept trying; I kept resisting. And eventually he retreated home, unsatisfied. I later found out that he had jokingly complained to his friends afterwards, “I kept trying to put it in, but she wouldn’t open her mouth!!”

I wish that was the only time someone tried to do something to me I didn’t want done. But a year or so later, someone decided that either I had had enough alcohol, or they had put enough drugs in my alcohol (I’ll never know which, because both hospitals and police refused to test me without ‘proof of that a crime had been committed’), that they could take me home. Not bring me home; that would imply desire. But physically take me from the restaurant we were at, in a taxi, to their apartment, where I did not want to go, simply because I could not physically resist. I don’t remember going to their apartment; I don’t know how I got there. The only memory that persists, through the drugged/alcohol haze, and through the haze of time, is a vague sense memory of me shoving him away and running, then wandering the streets of an unfamiliar city, alone, disoriented, at 4 in the morning. I was ‘lucky’; I got away, physically unharmed.

I don’t like the term victim. I try to avoid it when talking about the clients and populations I strive to serve. I certainly don’t use it with myself. I like the term survivor. But I’ve never used it with myself because to me, survivor implies that you’ve gotten through some sort of violence, some sort of very real physical threat to your personhood; and I’ve never felt I could claim that.

So I’ve never known what to term myself. And tonight, I realized I don’t need to categorize. What happened to me traumatized me. That much is clear from my visceral emotional reaction to my friend’s flippant statement. I don’t need to categorize myself into victim, or survivor, or any other label. And neither does anyone else. What happened to us happened. It affected us the way it affected us. We persist and we break down and we heal. Labels don’t matter. Stories matter. People matter. What happened to me—-what happens to anyone—-doesn’t define me. But it is a part of my story, and it needs to be told. And people need to be willing to listen; and not just listen, but believe. This is true for everyone, but especially men. When we tell you that it’s not okay to compare a disliked condiment to mouth rape, believe us. When we tell you it isn’t funny to joke about drugging someone’s drink, listen to us. And if you say ‘not all men’ but then do nothing when you hear or see others doing these things, start standing up for us.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Women's March Momentum

I participated in one of the many Women's Marches that took place yesterday around the world, and I am so glad I did. I don't like crowds.; it was crowded. I don't like rain; it was raining. I don't like attending events alone; I couldn't find the friend I was supposed to meet up with and ended up marching by myself (alone, with 40,000 other people).

It's safe to say I was way out of my comfort zone. But I'm so glad I was there. My Lyft driver dropped me off a few blocks away because traffic was at a standstill; I didn't know exactly where I was going, but all I had to do was follow the herds of people heading in the same general direction. And when I rounded a corner and saw thousands upon thousands of people-- women, men, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, gay, straight, young, old-- gathered to support the same ideals, I got a little choked up.

And what ideals were we supporting? Well, I think every person will have a slightly different answer. But at their core, those answers will be the same. Because everyone present was there to support the idea that every human has the same rights, and those rights are precious and must be protected.

I marched because 1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted at some point in their life, and that is unacceptable. What is even more unacceptable is that someone who has perpetrated sexual assault now leads our country. I marched for myself and for every other person who relives their trauma every time they see or read about the man who is now in charge of the US.

I marched because healthcare is a human right, not a privilege. How much money you have in your bank account should not affect whether or not you are able to go to the doctor, or fill your prescriptions, or receive preventive or lifesaving treatment.

I marched because I refuse to accept that this new administration is going to define the direction our country takes. I marched because women are half the population, and we have a voice, and for me, the march was the first line in what I hope will be a long story of using that voice.

Bringing Bloggy Back

I've done some thinking in the past 48 hours (I mean, I've done some thinking other times, too; but the past 48 hours have been more focused), and I've decided it's time for me to bring back the blog. The blog started as a way for me to express my thoughts and experiences as an American living in the UK; sadly, I'm no longer in the UK (one day I'll be back!!) and the blog is taking a new direction. Here is where I'll be posting thoughts on being a liberal, feminist woman under a Trump administration, and hopefully also posting about positive actions that we can take to ensure that Love Wins. I know that a lot of us are scared, discouraged, and angry. I am. So I'm going to be channeling my anger into words and actions that I hope will help bring about safety and unity in a scary world. I hope you'll join me!

I thought about changing the name of the blog-- the title 'The Not-So-Quiet American' was meant to bring attention to my foreign-ness in the UK. But I think it's still relevant. America doesn't belong to Trump, or to his supporters who preach hate and ignorance. I am American. And I will not keep quiet.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

2012 Opening Cere-moan-y

Or, Why I feel Completely and Totally Justified in Dreading/Boycotting the London 2012 Olympics.

Before I go into my (completely justified, research-backed) good old-fashioned bitch-and-moan against the games, I'd like to make one thing clear: I love my city, and I love a good party. I love having excuses to party in my city. Which is why I love my birthday, and Christmas, and New Year's, and Halloween, and even flipping Guy Fawkes night, even though I don't really know what it's celebrating (something about Parliament not getting blown up?)... but you'll notice, all these parties have something in common-- they don't send the entire nation into a debt spiral from which only the rich and powerful can escape unscathed while the rest of us attempt to shove ourselves onto hopelessly overcrowded tube cars with hoards of sweaty tourists who don't know that you're supposed to STAND ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE BLOOMIN ESCALATOR so the commuters who are running for the next train like their job depended on it (because it probably does) can WALK ON THE LEFT!!

I realise that my last 2 blog posts have also been rants of a sort (though, might I point out, also completely justified), and I fear that you, my reader(s??), might think all I do all the time always is rant. I do not. (Though don't get me started on booty shorts.) There are lots of things I *don't* want to rant about because they are functioning perfectly well and are not in need of a good verbal slap upside the head. Maybe my next post will be all about how flipping cute my dog is just to prove that there's more to me than bitching. But for now, the Olympics must be addressed. Because when the hoards arrive and I'm spending my morning commute squashed into some confused Games-goer's sweaty armpit, they're going to be glad I got my ranting out of the way now.

Let's start with the 'Get Ahead of the Games' posters - brought to you by the 'Mayor of London' (as if he has to take public transit anywhere, ever). For you non-Londoners, these posters are stationed handily throughout the city - on bus shelters, on buses, in Tube stations, in Tube cars, basically you can't shake a fucking stick without hitting one - and contain helpful hints to avoid the crushing influx of tourists London is about to experience. My personal favourite encourages commuters to get off a few stops early and walk the rest of the way to work. What a splendid idea! I'll just turn my 45-minute commute into a 2-hour bus-train-stroll combi! Are you freaking kidding me? Make the tourists get off a few stops early and walk-- what better way to see more of the city than schlepping from Heathrow to Highgate on foot??

Now moving on to the Brand Police - basically an army of lawyers and copyright experts (is that a thing?) who will be hitting the streets to make sure that unauthorised businesses (a.k.a., everyone except McDonalds and Coca Cola) aren't utilising any of the 'official' Olympic words. You know, branded words. Words like 'silver,' 'gold,' 'bronze,' 'summer,' '2012,' etc. These same Brand Enforcers have also banned the sale of chips (fries) within the Olympic park by any restaurant except McDonalds. Nothing says 'authentic British chips' like the fries served by a US-based fast-food corporation!

But all that pales in comparison to my personal favourite dick-move made by Olympics officials: Calling British soldiers up from leave to help with policing the games because the security company hired to do the job CAN'T DO THE JOB. I've said it before and I'll say it again: ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME.

Not to mention that I happened upon a comment about how the Olympics 2012 logo looks like Lisa Simpson giving head, and now I can't unsee it.

I asked Florence how she felt about all this, and all she had to say was:

Well-put, Florence. I think that pretty much sums it all up.

UPDATE: So I must say, my daily commute during the Olympics has not been the hideous hellhole of an experience I was afraid it was going to be. It could be because I don't commute during rush hour, or it could be because I'm not anywhere near any of the Olympic sites, or it could just be because God has seen fit to smile upon me and grant me this blessing, but if anything, the Tube has actually been *emptier* on my way in to work the last few mornings! (Honestly I think it's just because everyone in London with a bit of sense in their head and some annual leave still left to take has f***ed off to other countries.) But whatever the reason (his heart or his shoes, the Grinch stood there on Christmas, hating the Whos.... no?), I've managed to get a seat every single day (without having to shove aside any old ladies or pregnant women). WOOP. In regards to my other Olympic complaints, I really have nothing to add except this.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Complaint letter to Virgin Mobile

After the rousing success of my last complaint letter (I got free cinema tickets for me and my friends!), I decided to continue the Consumers Crusade with this little gem, sent off today to Virgin Mobile:

Dear Madam or Sir,

I am writing in relation to my mobile phone bill for the month of July, for which my bank account was debited in the amount of £10.13. However, my 'pay monthly' tariff, for which I signed up in June, is only £7. Upon closer inspection of my bill, I discovered that the extra charge of £3.13 was for a phone call made to the number 08454541111. Imagine my surprise when I discovered this number is none other than VIRGIN MEDIA CUSTOMER CARE! I had rung the Customer Care line from my (Virgin) mobile phone on the 26th of June in relation to an outage of my (Virgin) broadband service. I distinctly recall being asked by the customer care representative to please hold, at which I expressed concern that my mobile would be charged for any extra minutes, and was assured that such calls were free and I would be charged nothing-- not even mobile minutes from my monthly allowance-- for time I spent on the phone with Customer Care. Subsequently finding a charge for £3.13 on my bill several weeks after my internet outage was like icing on the cake, if the cake was made of dirt and the icing was piles of poo.

I find it mildly amusing, utterly appalling, and-- I won't lie-- a little bit genius (so many simultaneous feelings!) that Virgin Media would charge customers for ringing up to complain about Virgin Media services. I find it even MORE appalling that Virgin Media representatives would blatantly lie (or perhaps just be incredibly misinformed) about these charges when directly asked about them.

While I am somewhat impressed by the cunning business model being employed in this instance by Virgin Media (what better way to avoid complaints than by charging customers to complain?!), I'm sure you can understand why my frustration outweighs my admiration. I'm sure you can also understand why I would hope to be reimbursed for the overcharge made to my account, and why I would hope that in future, Virgin reconsiders their policy of charging for Customer Care calls. My contract with Virgin Mobile is no-obligation month-to-month and I've still got a T-Mobile SIM card waiting in the wings, so switching back would be a piece of (non-muddy/poopy) cake!

Yours sincerely,

Jocelyn James

UPDATE: Virgin has now responded (finally) to apologise for the confusion and clarify that there is no charge for calling Customer Care if you dial a specific number (150) from your Virgin mobile. They have also credited my account the £3.12 that was over-charged. Woop!

Verdict: Virgin Media gets a B for customer complaint response. They took their sweet time about getting back to me, and they certainly didn't go over-the-top to keep my patronage (like, maybe a month's free service or something? i <3 free stuff), but they did refund the overcharge and clarify their policy, so that's helpful. It's nice to know I won't have to switch back to T-Mobile PAYG! (YET!) :P