Stress and the ACA Repeal

When I was first diagnosed with psoriasis, my dermatologist told me to avoid stress. I laughed and blew off her advice. When my rheumatologist diagnosed me with lupus a year later, he also told me to avoid stress. I rolled my eyes and said I’d try. It is great advice for healthy and health-challenged people alike, but I didn’t think it was terribly practical. No one likes stress, but stress is not always avoidable. I wasn’t exactly out there seeking stress, but sometimes stress finds me, anyway.

Over the past couple of years, though, I have learned that “avoid stress” is not unreasonable advice to give. The greater the stress, the harder it is for me to get through a flare. I had to take a hard look at how I handle stress. I am in a situation where I am sometimes not able to choose or decide or plan things; I can only react to whatever is on any given day. Feeling powerless is probably the greatest cause of the stress I feel on a day-to-day basis. The harder I try to control things that are beyond my control, the more stress I feel. And no matter your health status — perfectly healthy or less so — we all know that more stress makes everything worse.

I have not perfected a system for eliminating stress from my life yet. I don’t even know if that’s a reasonable goal. But I am trying to adjust my thinking on the things that cause me stress. First, I ask myself if there is anything I can do about it. If there is, then I decide whether or not I want to do that thing. Once the decision is made and the thing is done or undone, I move on. If there’s nothing I can do, then I do nothing and advance straight to moving on. Pretty simplistic, but it helps to pause and ask myself whether or not I really need to or want to react to something. Most of the time, I don’t. That pause and making the decision whether or not to react helps me feel more in control and diminishes the stress I allow myself to feel.

This is how I am approaching the uproar over the probable repeal of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). Is there anything I can do about it? Well, I can educate myself and vote in every election. Check! I can make sure my government representatives know how I feel about the issue. Check! Beyond that, there’s nothing else I, personally, can or would do. Others may be involved in activism or lobbying and would do additional things, which is great for them. Once we have done what we can do, though, I don’t think there is any point in continuing to stress out about it, whether internally, online, or in our conversations with others. It just makes me feel worse.

Politics is stressful. The political climate today is ugly. It is hard to distinguish truth from fiction sometimes, especially when extremists from every party, belief, or “side” are screaming their version of it at you. People are fearful their pre-existing conditions will no longer be covered once the ACA is repealed. Some of us are anticipating a future where we will not have health insurance that covers our pre-existing conditions and none of us wants to think about having to come up with the cash to pay for the specialists and expensive medications that we require. I watch the news. I hear the dire warnings. I feel the stress.

Somehow, our election of President Trump has translated into the immediate threat of all of us losing our access to healthcare. I just don’t think this will happen. I don’t think that’s a realistic assumption and I have decided that, for me, the potential repeal of the ACA is just not stressworthy. After all, every single Senator and Congressman — even President Trump himself — has a friend or family member with a pre-existing condition that will be impacted by this decision. It’s not an “us versus them” thing. They are us, too. There is no special class of people who don’t get health problems.

I go to my Congressman’s town meetings. I hear what he has to say. I think, on this issue, he has my back. I choose not to react to the anxious hand-wringing of political pundits on TV attempting to scare us with their “what ifs” and worst case scenarios. It’s a shame that our very real health problems are being politicized to sway our opinions one way or another on this issue and it is causing division within this community. I get that this is huge, but I also get that making myself sick over it won’t change anything.