Sep 28, 2007

Health Insurance Plans & Depression

I called up a psychiatrist for an appointment since I didn't trust my general doctor to throw random meds my way just because I told her that I was feeling blue and anxious. Whether I'm really depressed or not, I don't know, but upon my first visit and answering a few questions my psych jotted down a bunch of notes and decided that I've got a case of moderate recurrent depression.

After she bitched for about 15 minutes about how most shrinks really hate medical insurance because of "all of the forms" and that it takes so long to get paid, she decided to give me a free trial of an SSRI antidepressent (Lexipro.) I've tried a few meds in the past -- xanax for my panic attacks and ritalin for my add, but I've never consistently taken anything in the past. I've just gotten to the point where I can't take my anxiety anymore, and it's really getting in the way of functioning. Well, anxiety has gotten in the way of functioning since I was born, it's just it was easier to hide it when I wasn't completely responsible for my well being and time management.

Anyway, I figure the medicine will be rather pricey, even with insurance, but at that point I was ready to try anything to get me out of my slump. (That was about a month ago, btw.) Soon found out that a month's supply of the antidepressant costs $50 (that's after insurance pays their part.) Ouch. Then my doc also decided to prescribe me sleeping pills -- I haven't picked those up yet so I'm not sure how much they cost.

"Lucky" for me, I'm "severely" depressed, so my insurance only makes me pay $15 a visit (instead of 50 percent of the visits costs, which would be something like $75-$100 a visit, I think.) Also, if I wasn't "severely" depressed, I'd be limited to 20 visits per year with a shrink. But because I apparently need lots of help, I can go see a therapist as much as I want for just my co-pay.

I barely go to the doctor for anything else, so I figured I might as well make use of my health insurance to help me be, uh, healthy. I'm quickly slipping some place I don't want to be, and I'm willing to admit I need some outside help.

Well, after the severe depressive disorder went down in my file, I started reading up about future health insurance issues that go along with having pre-existing conditions like depression. My shrink made an aside when she was diagnosing me that she needed to check over time to see if I'm bi-polar, but then she asked for permission to write that down on my charts since apparently that makes it difficult to get insurance later down the road. At the time, I was so out of it and freaked out about the costs of therapy, I figured the worse of a diagnosis I had, the cheaper my costs were going to be.

Now I'm potentially facing a lifetime of overpriced health insurance. My dream is to work as a freelance web designer and marketing copywriter, but being a freelancer I will have to get my own individual health insurance plan. I've read many horror stories about people who were depressed and once on meds getting flat out denied when they applied for individual insurance.

Sure it makes sense for the health insurance agencies to protect themselves, but I'm now terrified (and admittedly even more depressed) knowing that one day I might be SOL when it comes to obtaining affordable health insurance. But it just seems so ridiculous that, while health plans cover mental health conditions, it's all so shady. When I was looking for a psychiatrist in my area, I must have called every single person on my health insurance plan in a 30 mile radius before finding the one psych I'm seeing now. And I'm tired of her bitching about insurance companies and how most psych's she knows don't even take insurance anymore. Ok, I'm sorry I'm not rich enough like everyone else who lives in the area to just pay your fees and deal with my depression. I'm like, a normal person with a fairly normal salary and I need help.


Sep 22, 2007

Facing Eviction from Reality

(aka, pretty soon i'm likely getting the ax at work.)

I prefer not to be a "failure," but this time around I'm not sure I can do anything to avoid such an outcome. My job and I are like oil and vinegar, and I'm certainly the oil, sinking to the bottom.

Instead of allowing myself to get depressed over this situation, I'm doing my best to see it as an opportunity to switch directions and get myself on track for the life I ought to be leading. I know I should have went to art school and studied for a career in design, but when I did that whole "college thing" I had no comprehension of what it would be like to work 40+ hours a week doing just one job. After all, in college you study all these different subjects and every hour of every day is vastly varied. Then you get to the real world and time tends to blur.

But I'd like to think I can somehow land in a design field even if I kind of messed up the whole schooling part of the plan. I've bought a few design and coding books, but really I know I should take a class (or twenty) to get me on track. I don't do well with books, or any sort of reading for that matter. I learn by doing - that's how I taught myself HTML when I was 13 and golly gee, I haven't changed since.

While there are a whole lot of things I really suck at, I know I'm good at understanding what looks good. And that's a valuable skill, isn't it? Computers complicate matters because you can want something to look one way, and not be able to achieve that vision (f'n cross browser compatibility)...

Anyway, life is as it is. I've got a little less than two weeks to prove to the powers that be that I can do this job justice. I'm going to give it my all, but something is telling me this just wasn't meant to be.

Here's reality -- in less than two weeks, I'll be out of a job. Unemployed again after a solid year and three months of remaining in the work force. That's pretty, uh, pathetic. The worst part is that I've only been at this job for about two months now, and my short stint is going to look awful to any potential employers. School is an option, I guess, but the whole process of applying and figuring out just how much debt I'll have to accrue in order to pursue more education - almost - makes me want to get a job at Starbucks.

It's tough, because I really thought I had found the perfect gig - I had all the responsibility in the world, great pay, great flexibility, and - I blew it. I blew it because my learning disabilities and such have got in the way. Or maybe it's just me and my lack of ability to focus for long periods of time, unless I'm trying to make something look good. Either way, I've tried a lot of different things and have yet to find what suits me. I'm "only" 23, so I guess I shouldn't feel that bad about it. I just know how fast time flies, and I really don't want to get to the point where I'm saying I'm "only 34" or something, and still in the same place. Age looses validity as an excuse once on hits about 25. And that's when the real depression starts to sink in. Oh boy. Can't wait.


Sep 18, 2007

Fears of Debt Drown Potential Prosperity

These days, it seems like everyone has tens of thousands of dollars in college debt. Not me. I was one of the lucky ones. Yup, mom and dad foot the bill for my entire college tuition. Given, at the time, I didn’t understand the true value of a college tuition because I didn’t have any sort of grasp on what money is worth.

Today, I’m proudly making it on my own. But my talents are not lining up with my current career, and my boss is starting to notice. I’m trying really hard because I want to do a good job, but I guess there are just some things that come natural to certain people that, well, don’t come naturally to me.

I’ve spent my whole post-adolescent life running away from the thought of a career in design or the arts because that was what my parents expected me to do. Now I’m landing a few weekend freelance design jobs here and there and realizing that this design thing is a rather profitable endeavor. Right now I can fake it – ie, futz with CSS and Photoshop and make a site look purty, but I know I’m not designing within the bounds of modern coding standards. Trying to understand Illustrator is almost as difficult as reading Greek. I can’t do either.

What I’d love more than anything is the opportunity to spend a year or two focused on learning the art and craft of web design. I’m not so sure that’s do-able. First off, the amount of masters and certificate programs available for education in web design and back-end coding make my head spin. They’re all pricy, though pricy has a different definition in each program. Regardless of the program I chose, if I chose one, they’ll all put me into debt. And I know education debt is supposedly good debt, but I am so terrified of having negative money that I can’t really consider doing what my heart knows I ought to do.

Meanwhile, I’m slowly but surely driving my co-workers nutso at my current job. Not sure how to solve that problem since unfortunately succeeding at this job requires certain abilities I do not have. So I’m rather confused regarding what to do at this point. Deadlines for graduate school are rolling in, and I can’t figure out if they’re worth it. I do know that when it comes to web design ultimately what matters is a portfolio and skill – and that can all be created and learned without an expensive education. What to do, what to do?


Sep 6, 2007

Got into the Mint beta!

However, I'm sworn to secrecy about its inner workings. But I will say - extremely vaguely - that I'm very excited to see what the Mint team has done. There's a few kinks that still need to be worked out, of course - that's to be expected in private beta, but I have a feeling Mint will end up winning me over amongst all the PF sites out there (I've also used Wesabe and Geezeo thus far.)

If you want your own invite, go over to and ask for one yourself. :)


Sep 5, 2007

Labor Day Wrap Up

Investments: I’ve been avoiding checking my Vanguard accounts for a few days. My losses, however temporary, were too painful to look at on a daily basis. After checking a few minutes ago, I’m happy to report Wall Street’s latest recovery has brought my losses to an amount I can deal with.

Career: Has its ups and downs. My job is, quite frankly, amazing. I’m still not sure I’m right for it. Then again, I’m not sure if I’ll ever be “right” for anything that could be described as a “career” or a “job,” even. Figured out my biggest problem with my current job is not my inability to fact check properly (although that’s a huge problem that I’m going to fix, hopefully with the help of ADD meds that I might be getting this week), it’s my massive issue with social anxiety. It’s not ideal to be a journalist with social anxiety. Can I overcome my fear of talking to strangers? Can I find confidence in my intellect so I can stop spending my life apologizing for my errors and worrying about future ones, and focus on just doing a good job? Tune in next time…

Love: I’m lucky in love. I think. I’m just stressed out about life, overall, and that’s affecting my relationship. It isn’t fair to my boyfriend. He’s a great guy. I used to think that happiness meant being successful, ie, figuring out some way to lead a life that would make my parents go “wow.” Now that I realize this is impossible and/or unimportant, I’ve almost given up at that dream. Instead, I now understand that happiness in life is about the people who we meet along the way, especially the person (or people) who we love. I need to figure out how to live love. I’ve spent so much of my life finding security in the dramatic, and I’m tired of it. My parents’ relationship is a joke, despite that they’ve been married for more than 25 years. I’ve grown up to believe marriage is a joke as well. I’m not sure I still believe that. It’s odd that I can see myself one day having a husband and a family. It sounds really, really weird to hear myself think that. I’m not sure if my current boyfriend will be the guy I end up with forever, but I wouldn’t want to be able to foresee that clearly now anyway. On my Labor Day vacation, a bunch of strangers kept asking if we were married, or calling us husband and wife. It was weird. I still feel like I’m 16 years old, even though I’m really pushing 24. Geez, 24. You know, I hadn’t even thought about the significance of turning 24 until just now. That’s old. I mean, not old, old. But old enough that I’m no longer a young adult. I’m, well, an adult. Plain and simple. And I need to start living like one.

Sleep: Lacking. I need more sleep. Insomnia is destroying my already limited ability to focus and function properly.

Budget: Spent $125 on six pairs of shoes while on vacation. Yes, six. That includes California tax. Did I need six pairs of shoes? Probably not. But outlet stores plus a need for new shoes and finding shoes that actually fit me (a rarity) equals buying a lot of shoes. I find shoes are a worthwhile investment, especially if they’re good quality footwear sold at a relatively cheap price. At the Nine West outlet store, I actually bought a pair of shoes I already own. They are pretty gross right now and my gut instinct has told me throw them out for months. Finally, I found their replacement. The same exact pair, for $15 on a sale rack on extra sale. There is something orgasmic about walking into a shoe store that has a sale rack where prices are already marked down about 50 percent, and then there’s a giant sign that says “take 50 percent off already reduced prices.” Sometimes I think I could live on the thrill of buying $70-$100 shoes for $20.

Travel: Labor Day weekend in Tahoe was great. I felt bad that I ended up spending so little on the trip. My boyfriend’s father footed the bill for our motel and my bf covered most of the gas, so I ended up spending about $200 on the trip for food and a show. (And then I spent $125 on shoes (see above)). I’ve got a few upcoming trips that will pinch my wallet a bit… a roadtrip to LA coming up in a few weeks, and then I’m off to Miami for my childhood friend’s wedding. Overall I expect travel to cost me another $400-$500 over the next two months. My mother still wants me to take a trip to Vegas to visit my grandmother, but I’m not sure it makes sense to spend even more money on that. And then there’s the possibility of taking a trip home to the east coast for the holidays, though I might just not go home this year. There’s not much left for me there. Being around my parents, in my childhood home, just depresses me. It reminds me of all the things I’ve been trying so hard to get away from (and failing, but trying nonetheless).


Sep 1, 2007

What do you want to be when you grow up?

If you asked me that question 10 years ago, I would have said “a fashion designer.” Ten years before that, my answer would have likely been “an actress.” That was all before I realized that the point of work was to make money.

As a child, I was financially fortunate. My dad worked a job that made it possible for us to live in the “upper middle class” while my mother stayed at home and took care of me and my sister.

Sometimes I wonder if it would’ve been better to have grown up with a mother who had a “real job” for a living. Even though I knew I didn’t want to end up a housewife, it kind of felt like it was an option of last resort. Now I know I never want to stay home and take care of kids, at least not for an extended amount of time. Perhaps I’d take a year off or something, if I ever decide to pop out a baby or two, but I can’t see myself dedicating a chunk of my life just to raising kids.

Right now, I’m working both for money and to put myself in a good spot for my future career. I’m lucky that I have the opportunity to work for more than just money, even though I need the money to afford living on my own and the lifestyle I chose to live. But I believe that every job, even if it’s not perfect for you, always teaches you something about yourself and helps you take a step towards whatever is you’ll end up doing next in life.

While in some cases I’m high strung, when it came to my career, since graduating college I’ve generally followed the river where it took me. Sure, I went through really frustrating times, when I applied for job after job with no responses in my inbox for months. There was a time when a $12 an hour for a job seemed like my best bet, when pushing for $13 an hour seemed like a bit of a risk. I wasn’t sure what I was worth, with just my college education and experience of an internship or two.

I definitely have more experience now, but I’m still not sure what I’m worth. Being as I live in one of the most expensive area’s of the country, it’s hard to compare my salary with that made by my peers who graduated with me, and live in much more affordable areas. Still, sometimes I worry that I’m making too much. I know it’s silly to think that, given I’m working hard and trying to do the best I can. Besides, a salary ultimately ends up to be broken down into monthly earnings, and if you’re not worth your wage, the big boss will let you know before you have a chance to, uh, ask for a demotion.

Really, though, I just to find a job one day (like, a few years down the road) where I don’t even have to think about my work in relationship to my wage. I realize that might to be possible, given that work is always about money, unless you win the lottery or some giant inheritance, which makes it possible to work for fun alone. But I want to find a career path that makes it possible to do something where my ideas are a large chunk of the value I contribute to an organization. I like creating things, being part of a team and developing something – a product, a design, something that goes from zilch to an actual thing that can be used or looked at within a set amount of time. I like closure. It makes it easier for me to focus on a project, because even though the path from A to B isn’t clear, there’s a definitive start and some sort of way to measure the end result of a project.

Journalism is wonderful for so many reasons. In some ways, it allows for this sort of closure on a daily basis. Each story is a “project” in its own right. And then the collection of stories, looking back over the weeks and months of work, becomes a body of work one hopefully can be proud of. Still, sometimes I feel like I’d be better off in a career where the projects allow for a bit more time, and a lot more collaboration. I love brainstorming with other people, as long as my ideas (the good ones) are valued. I think I have pretty good ideas. At least one out of twenty of my ideas is worth listening to. It would be neat to work for a startup from the ground up – as an idea person - and to be part of a team doing that. I tried to get a job that would put me in that type of position out here, although it wasn’t for a just-born startup, but it would have given me the opportunity to be part of developing a product, which sounded cool. That didn’t work out, though.

And that’s fine. I’m really thrilled with how things worked out. My current job is 99% ideal. And the missing 1% has more to do with me and my abilities than anything else…. I just believe that the ideal job for anyone would be one where they can offer their best natural gifts to an organization. For me, I’m a visual person, and an idea person. I can write decently. I’m not the best at the details, though if I’m working with a team I can really focus on editing and fixing details along with a group of people coming up with ideas and making a project.

So what do I want to be when I grow up? I have no idea. I feel like I’m headed in the right direction to figure that out. I’m hoping I’ll have a clearer idea once I’m 25.