How is your health? What are you doing about it?
One of the more difficult things about making the transition back home is making sure you are staying healthy. Hey, it’s not like the food you were eating in the prison was a healthy organic option, but at least it was somewhat balanced. I had to go to the doctor my second week in jail because I was having real digestive problems. I told the doctor I was having real gas problems (and that’s not cool in closed quarters for you or your cellie) and sharp abdominal pains. The doctor replied that everybody gets sick adjusting to the food (yo, if you know that, why not change it…unless you don’t want to spend money to be sure we eat right…). “Either you get constipated, or you get diarrhea,” he said. “You’ll eventually adjust.” (I never did; I found relief in eating out on work relief, and then upon release finding a doctor who realized I had a gallbladder problem).
Well, at least I had access to some kind of medical care. Though often minimal and inconsistent, there was something. Now you’re on your own. Once you get out, it’s easy to avoid doctors altogether, eat what you feel like, or…worse, stop taking meds.
There’s no one to yell “meds up” after you get home. And if you were on medication when you were gone, you need to see a doctor and check to see if you should continue. This goes for whether the treatment was for physical or mental health issues.
Check and see what benefits you may be entitled to under Medicare and Medicaid. There is a provision for health insurance for formerly incarcerated persons in the Affordable Care Act. The Social Security office can help with that as well.
Find a reentry program that has resources to help you set up regular care, mental health, physical health (and that includes dentistry- a lot of prison dentists just pull teeth rather than provide extensive treatments). Many churches and houses of worship have databases that can help, especially those trained in the Healing Communities Station of Hope model. Prison Fellowship congregations do the same.
But the real person responsible is you. Some of us just don’t want to ask for help, others don’t care. Some of us live in denial…and you know what “DENIAL” stands for: “Don’t Even Know I Am Lying.”
In this column, we often discuss spending our time home making life better for others. But you can’t do that if you’re not healthy, or worse, have a health condition that makes you a further burden on others. You’re worth it. Just ask the folks who love you and waited for you. That’s who sat with me while I recovered from gallbladder surgery.