Last July my children and I got the HAIR DEMONS (otherwise known as lice). Guess what, you’ll never guess!! I brushed my hair a couple weeks ago, and out came hair demons! I had really missed those guys, and apparently they’d missed me too. But that’s not all! My eldest, Thing One, also had the parasites from Hades, only she forgot to tell me about them, so just went to school that day, treatment free.
That’s okay, though, because you know what? Now many schools no longer check kids routinely for our buggy friends. Not only that, they don’t warn you when there’s a case of them going around, nor do they send your kid home from school, nor do they require that the kid have been treated before coming back. Isn’t that awesome? Their reasoning is that hair demons aren’t gonna kill you that much, so no biggie. Also some higher ups were afraid of hurting a child’s feelings, should another child find out they had the demons.
Yeah, here’s the thing school administrators, who I dearly hope get a case of these “not that bad” parasites. You know what is worse than annoyed parents who have to keep their kids home cause of bugs, or the school nurse who is annoyed having to check for bugs when she could be gossiping in the office (maybe just my nurse?), or a kid being teased for having bugs? Worse is giving the bugs to every single one of their classmates AND their parents, and if you aren’t looking, maybe YOU administrators. I’m planning on sending lots of infected children to your fancy offices and having them give you BIG HUGS with lots of head touching! That’s how much I appreciate your decisions!
Because while lice do not kill you (unless you take a sledgehammer to your own head), they end up costing lots of money AND time AND stomach acid because I’m sorry but they make me want to hurl. Let’s say you get lucky and you buy a kit of over-the-counter demon treatment, or you get creative and try salad dressing or oil from a tree or you put your child’s head inside a sealed bag for what is it – two weeks? And this treatment (usually a fun shampoo with an eu de rotten eggs that you scrub and rinse out) actually kills the buggers! You still aren’t done. Next you have to comb their hair with a very fine toothed comb to get out what you killed. Don’t even think about using the plastic piece of crap they give you in the kits. Get the Lice Terminator comb from Amazon. It will pull out anything, including hair, but not as much as the other combs. Over the eternity that you comb (because if you miss even one it might still hatch and make a new gang of buddies!) you will find stuff Stephen King wishes he could make up.
Then you get to wash the sheets or whatever else you’ve touched lately in HOT AS HADES water to kill ’em all. I recommend doing this six or seven times to make sure. I did need to wash my sheets as it had been . . . I needed to wash my sheets anyway. But still. Then you wait a week, combing each day (you’ll see why later), and shampoo the head one more time just in case and comb and wallah the infestation is gone! Until a few weeks later, when inevitably your kid gets it again from some other kid who has tons of bugs but hey, positive self-esteem.
Believe it or not, that’s the good scenario. The bad one happened to me, which is why I’m writing this slightly psychotic post. Thing One and I treated ourselves (ice cream is better) and a day later I combed on her hair. And . . .
My eldest has beautiful, thick hair that curls on its own and predicts humidity (Is it a white girl fro? Expect rain!). Unfortunately, the bugs like this also because they get a multi-level condominium. Every time I brought the comb back, it was full of friends. Every. Time. It’s okay, I told myself because I was being all grown-up. We’ll handle it! It will be better tomorrow!
I kept finding the creatures, and way too many of them were still alive. Even Thing Two helped me comb, cause that kid has a stomach of steel. After about a week, I snapped. What was going on here? I’d dealt with this before, but this time we were looking at a spot on that show Infested. (Yes, it’s a show, or it was. Even with my fear of bugs, I watched it just in case I got a new bug, so I could get really paranoid it was deadly). So we went to the doctor for the bug nukes and the girls and I received prescriptions. My husband went to the pharmacist and discovered that bug nukes cost 50 dollars a bottle. That’s right! For little 8 oz bottles that would supposedly be enough for two treatments.
But I’m still not finished! For one thing, at the doctor we discovered that Thing One hadn’t had the demons for one week. She’d been tolerating them for a solid month because she didn’t want to add any more stress to a slightly imploding family. Or like, deal with bugs. That explained some things. I think I’ve found the most tolerant kid in existence. Anyway, we now had the good stuff, one bottle of which took care of ONE treatment of the new civilization we’d found in her hair. Thing Two’s hair is lovely too but thinner and finer which at that point made it the best hair in the universe.
A week (and six years) later and the Things and I have been washed and combed again. No bugs spotted – so far. The Things totally didn’t go back and use the same hairbrushes, I’m sure of it. I found shampoo with mint (the smell not the actual mints I think) that lice supposedly don’t like, as well as another that smells like grass that I don’t like any more than the bugs. Also tea tree oil. It better work cause it smells too. I might have warned my beloved Things that if they didn’t listen to Mommy and do their part in preventing future invasions, there would be much wailing and gnashing of teeth as my psyche would completely dissolve. Also: buzzcuts.
When I started my ECT treatments, I was prepared to document my journey. I wanted others to see that it wasn’t barbaric, so that they too could have a chance at putting a lid on their depression, at least for a little while. I thought I would get a dozen treatments or so, and I’d be done. All better. That didn’t quite happen. Oh, I am better, much better than I was, but my new normal is nothing like what I expected it to be. ECT wasn’t bad or good but a little of both, and the aftereffects are even more mixed.
First of all, those 12 treatments turned into 3 months of constant travel to a city six hours away, at times all the way there and back in two days, other times with a week in a hotel room. They gave us a hospital rate, but that hotel wasn’t free. We never unpacked our suitcases. We hardly bought groceries. Our kids got really sick of staying with grandparents. My husband and I both missed work, since I had to have someone with me for the treatments. I was long past any sick or vacation leave, so I got no pay. He got pay, but I worried they would fire him.
They didn’t. Thank goodness. No, they fired me. Or as the university likes to call it, they “terminated” me.
They aren’t specific with that terminology. Anyone who leaves the university is “terminated.” After student workers quit, my coworker would say “Madison has been terrrrrrminated.” in a threatening voice. And these were people who chose to leave. In fact, I do not recall in my seven years at that workplace anyone ever being fired no matter the gross misconduct. Just me.
Technically I was terrrrminated for, as the letter called it, “excessive absenteeism.” Oh, yeah, it was a letter. No in person meeting. No phone call. No warning. After getting two degrees from that place. After working two different jobs at that place. After struggling just to get up in the morning for so many years, after keeping a job when anyone sane would have quit to rest, after using all my energy for said job with hardly any left to spare, after spending so much time worrying about that job that I couldn’t let myself heal, I opened my mailbox to find a letter.
I’ll simplify what it said. “Hello Alice. I realize that after seven years of a family work atmosphere with people you called “friends”, you thought maybe you might survive your latest bout of illness. But this time you went over your FMLA, that stuff that the government amazingly still offers that lets you have twelve weeks of unpaid time off for pesky things like illness. It’s almost like we were just waiting for you to go over that block of time, and throwing down the hatchet right when you did it. Sure we could have warned you, or heck, called you even ONCE while you were out on leave to check on you, but that would acknowledge you had a real illness, not to mention take time from our schedules. Nevermind that your brain has been shocked into seizure over twenty times, you really shouldn’t have abandoned your job. But you did, so give us your keys and your ID card, and clean out your desk.”
I have been through many emotions after losing my job on August 24, well technically the 22nd, as it took two days for the letter to arrive. (For two days I was fired, and didn’t even know it!) Yet the first thing I felt when I read that I no longer worked at that place was relief. For the first time in a very long time I could breathe. When you have a chronic illness, it becomes another job. Add in parent, spouse, maid, cook, etc – each one a job in itself. No one can do that much, so you start dropping jobs. I stopped cooking. I stopped cleaning. Self-care also fell by the wayside. Depression isn’t big on letting you shower anyway, and add in a severe time crunch, and you can forget it. And this was all before I decided to try ECT as a last ditch effort to help me cope with a disease that has plagued me sense I was a teenager.
Yet the relief was short-lived as I now face a very uncertain financial future. I had wanted to quit, but I felt like I could not. We needed the money, especially after months of no pay AND high medical bills that had gathered up on my kitchen counter. We needed the very good insurance to pay for all my medical woes. I spend thousands each year just for daily medications I get from the pharmacy. My mother pointed out that this might be a reason for them wanting me out of there. Insurance companies aren’t happy when they actually have to pay back some of those premiums.
I feel guilt because of the financial losses my family has taken due to my illness. It isn’t my fault, but that really doesn’t make me feel better. I am far from the only one. It’s all over this supposedly great country: families who work hard but live on the brink, one medical disaster away from total bankruptcy. I know so many this has affected. A hairdresser and family friend who was denied insurance because getting Colon Cancer was a “pre-existing condition”. She’d already had Breast Cancer, no fairsies getting it again. I have a friend deep in debt for trying to keep her chronically ill kids alive. I have a friend with Fibromyalgia and Depression. She had to quit her job because constant debilitating pain forced her to do so, pain many doctors don’t even believe is real. A blogger friend just sold her house to help with her massive medical debt. As she said, all because she got sick.
My brother has struggled with Type 1 Diabetes and Bi-Polar disorder since he was a child. My parents have struggled with being his caretakers. Bipolar disorder and Diabetes are a double whammy. Not wanting to take care of yourself is one thing when you don’t need insulin and a healthy diet to survive. He has already lost part of a toe. Yet my parents spend money they worked hard for all their lives to help him survive, because he cannot stay in a job.
I was supposed to be the Golden Child. In spite of 3 degrees, I have failed. Over and over. I was forced to resign from one job, and forced to quit another due to intolerable working conditions. And these were just my “professional” jobs. Those jobs, and the latest one, were all at libraries. Maybe I shouldn’t like to read so much.
I am lucky, because I have had the help and support of so many people. There is no safety net here for most people. They stop or ignore needed medical treatment every day because they can’t afford it. They can’t afford tests that could not only make their treatment less expensive in the long run, but save their lives. It’s all about money here. God forbid anyone raise taxes.
Let them eat cake.
We need a change. Maybe we don’t have the power to stop these diseases ourselves, but we have power to lessen willful ignorance. We have the power to decrease selfishness and cruelty. Do not doubt your ability to help someone feel better with a simple word, a kindness, an embrace, or a novel length blog post.
And don’t forget to vote. Vote for those who would choose kindness and mercy over greed. Who would help people who are too sick to help themselves. Who would pass laws enforcing humanity in workplaces, in insurance companies, in hospitals. Who would let sick people think only of getting well. If we don’t find those candidates, we can create them. Surely the “greatest nation” could do something as simple as take care of its own.