[Bella’s intro: I write primarily for and about people who love their single lives and are not looking to become unsingle, but I also understand that plenty of single people enjoy living single but are open to coupling under the right conditions. Among the problems that activists have been pointing out for years is that sometimes single people feel compelled to marry, even when they don’t want to or haven’t found the right person, because they need the access to health insurance that they can’t get on their own. That’s one of the most insidious forms of singlism. Today I welcome as a guest blogger Nika Beamon, who tells us her personal story of dealing with a chronic illness. I first got to know Nika when she was working on the book, I Didn’t Work This Hard Just to Get Married: Successful Single Black Women Speak Out, and I have been delighted to stay in touch with her ever since.]
The Unique Challenges of Being Single and Chronically Ill
Guest Post by Nika Beamon
From Nika Beamon: I must admit, I considered getting married several times in my life for one major reason: health insurance. As a single person with a chronic autoimmune disease, I couldn’t buy a medical plan on my own because of my pre-existing condition. So, no matter how ill I was or how many drugs I was taking I forced myself to go to a full-time job everyday to maintain coverage. I also needed to earn a paycheck just to continue to pay for prescriptions, doctor’s appointments and procedures. Even so, I feared my illness would bankrupt me, causing me to lose my home and everything I’d toiled so hard to achieve.
I also had the recurring fear that I wouldn’t have someone take care of me when I couldn’t. Certainly, my parents were willing to step up but I always felt they deserved to live out their “golden years” without financially and physically caring for their grown child. However, I wondered, if not them then who would?
Being single and sick is a unique challenge. After all, in the interest of full disclosure, I knew I’d have to tell a potential suitor that I wasn’t like other women — that I had physical limitations. I’d have to explain the details of the financial burden pretty early on too. It was often awkward bearing my private struggle to someone who I was little more than a stranger to me. But, I didn’t think there was an alternative. While I had learned to accept that I am as God made me, I didn’t expect a single man in his twenties or thirties to jump at the opportunity to trade his youth for an uncertain future with someone with a degenerative condition. However, I underestimated the opposite sex and myself. I had little trouble finding mates who were willing to stand by my side as I battled for my health.
I did pretty well taking care of myself, paying my own bills and holding down a steady job so my boyfriend could enjoy a normal, non-dependent relationship with me. However, as the years passed, the instances when I doubted whether I’d be able to continue working increased. At those times, the only solution I could fathom was to take my boyfriend up on his offer to add me to his medical plan and give me access to the tax breaks afforded someone legally wed. Thankfully, I resisted the urge to tie the knot for those reasons.
Obamacare is now law and I am free to purchase insurance on my own. I can continue to care for myself and make the decision to wed or not based on factors like love, compatibility, and prospect of longevity. For twenty years, I battled a mysterious illness that caused me to endure half dozen surgeries, countless procedures and take up to 20 pills a day. I almost didn’t make it to see the new healthcare reform come to fruition. I’m glad I did because I know scores of single people who for years were denied the inalienable right to life because they didn’t have access to medical care. No one should have to choose a mate, die, or suffer because they can’t afford healthcare. Now, none of us have to.
About the Author: Nika C. Beamon is a veteran television journalist working in New York. She is the author of the well-received non-fiction book, I Didn’t Work This Hard Just to Get Married, which explores the challenges and issues affecting single women.
She’s currently awaiting the publication of her memoir: Misdiagnosed: The Search for Dr. House. Written in a conversational and brutally honest fashion, Misdiagnosed is the tale of her 20-year quest to find treatment for a rare autoimmune disorder, IgG4 related systemic disease. You can read more about Nika at her website.
Sick woman image available from Shutterstock.