What I Wished I Knew Growing Up
By Mallory Cyr
Consumer and Young Adult Leader
As a person who grew up with a life threatening illness and "special health care needs," I tend to live in the moment, not spend time focusing on regret. However, when given the time to reflect it can always be interesting to think what I might have done differently if given the opportunity. Here are some lessons learned from my "If I knew then, what I now know" archives!
Mental health is important. My family has always been the epitome of a good support system. My mother has a background in child development and education, and I grew up being asked if I was ok, and being allowed to feel my feelings. Thinking about transition, nobody told me that when you go away to college, you feel things you never felt before. For me, those feelings were loneliness, anger, and a realization that things were harder than they had ever been for me, and much harder than they were for my fellow students without medical complexities. It was one of many times at which I would come to terms with my medical challenges, and just how much I had taken my incredible support system for granted. I know now I would have benefitted from mental health services. I didn't seek counseling because at a very small school it came with intense stigma and I was trying to convince myself it "wasn't that bad." As an adult, I have many ways to manage my stress, including getting help from a professional when appropriate, and I continue to advocate for mental health being incorporated as a part of wellness for all young adults.
Understand your insurance
As an adolescent, I didn't know much about how my health care was paid for. This was a decision my family and I made during my transition. "You have your whole life to worry about health insurance, live your life, be a kid!" My mom's words echo in my head and I appreciate that my adolescence was not spent on the phone advocating for authorizations and writing letters of medical necessity.
However, after taking classes in health policy, and working for a managed care organization, I now realize that while it may be daunting, knowledge is POWER. Understanding your coverage, and how it may change during transition can prevent serious financial burden as an adult. It also guides the questions to ask as you are accessing health care, such as what providers are you able to see, or what services are covered?
There are a lot of resources to help you understand your health care coverage, including:
Take care of you, or you cannot care for others
To conclude, the biggest lesson I have learned, through all of my work in public health, MCH and transition is that, MY health matters. We live in a society where success is often defined by who can work the longest hours, run the most marathons, and go the longest without sleep. As a young professional, it was difficult for me to realize that I cannot adopt that lifestyle. Especially in helping professions, we advocate for our loved ones, and stakeholders to "remember, health is a priority!" while often forgetting it for ourselves. The truth is, at the end of the day, if you're not healthy, you cannot do your best work to improve the system for others, or care for your loved ones. I encourage you to take those small steps – get more sleep, take a wellness day, or make that doctor's appointment you've been putting off. In the end, the only way we can improve the health of children and families is to truly begin with ourselves.