Admitting I needed help after the birth of our fourth child was a yearlong struggle.
I tried vitamin supplements, watched my already healthy diet, exercised, prayed, meditated, worked with a therapist and finally sat on the crinkly white paper of my primary care physician’s office in tears.
From early summer of 2015 through spring of 2019, I was either pregnant with or nursing babies.
My anxiety frequently overtook my sweaty, shaking hands. I would crouch in the corner of my office, afraid to send an email without proofreading it for the 17th time.
Every emergency vehicle siren was most certainly en route to a member of my family.
My postpartum depression and anxiety were compounded by the tragic loss of a family friend, my fast-paced job, a jumble of readjusting hormones and the perfection I demanded of myself as a mom.
When I finally looped my doctor into the cacophony of my distress, he listened attentively. We began a careful journey into antidepressants. After a few tries, we found one that works perfectly for me.
My emotions were still the beautiful spectrum that make me who I am, but I was not paralyzed by fear. I could breathe again!
I did not realize how my stress was impacting every system of my body until I experienced the peace of April 2019.
My courage and sense of adventure is back. I stepped into my dream career, somewhere I can use the passions God built inside me to make a real difference in the world.
However, even the dreamiest of jobs requires a stack of mundane paperwork.
Where do we send your paycheck? “You mean I get paid for this? Yay! I would do it for free, but I have four kids who like to eat.”
What medications do you take? “Albuterol inhaler and an antidepressant, who I nicknamed My Darlin’ Clementine.”
Why do you take medications? “Asthma and postpartum depression.”
Here is the dramatic part of our story where all the faces in the old-fashioned saloon turn their handlebar mustaches my way, the honky-tonk piano ceases playing its plunky tune, and a tumbleweed rolls down the dirt road out front.
At least that’s how I picture the time period my potential short- and long-term disability insurance company, GuideStone, must be operating in as they drafted their letter rejecting my coverage based on postpartum depression.
For those who don’t know, GuideStone was founded in 1918 and serves as the retirement planning and insurance (health and property) organization for many Baptists in the southern United States.
In a world where one in seven women is diagnosed with postpartum depression, and the mortality rate of those suffering has more than doubled from 1991 to 2014, shouldn’t we be working to destigmatize the diagnosis?
Mental health is promoted by kindergartens, law and medical schools and every space between, so surely an insurance company that would deny coverage based on mental health needs was not functioning in 2020.
Yet, the date at the top of my denial letter was Feb. 17, 2020, and the startling line beneath read, “The specific reason(s) for this action is due to your history of post-partum depression as listed on your Evidence of Good Health.”
But wait, didn’t the Affordable Care Act eliminate exclusions based on preexisting conditions?
Yes! However, the rules are a little hazy when it comes to disability insurance.
They’re even more complicated when the company is Christian, like the one from whom I sought coverage.
Faith-based Christian healthcare organizations can exclude anyone with preexisting conditions from healthcare coverage and price gouge the sick and recovering, (ahem, the least of these), with no consequence.
GuideStone’s letter to me began with flowery biblical words and the footer of the letterhead included a verse. It wrote of blessings, but it didn’t insure them.
How many times have you been bamboozled by a faith-based company? They slyly use Jesus jargon to evoke instant reputation among employees and customers, then use their Christian “get out of jail free” card to swindle the most vulnerable.
“Christian companies” routinely underpay and overtly disrespect employees who are lured to employment under the ruse of a healthy, faith-based working environment.
Instead of holding themselves to higher ethical standards than public companies, they menacingly zip up their sheep costumes to cover the true wolves underneath.
We have all driven behind a reckless or rude driver with a Christian fish slapped on the bumper. They give our faith a bad name and make us all pray a little more emphatically for patience as we pass them on the highway.
Christian companies parading as faith-based groups while wrecking lives do even more damage.
Recently, when I was seeking a new therapist for one of our children who was grappling with a life-changing diagnosis, I intentionally filtered out anyone with the word Christian in their Psychology Today profile.
While I’m sure I missed out on some caring and wonderful therapists, my experiences with professionals who tout their faith removed them as an option.
We need to hold these companies accountable for the damage they cause, both in their business practices and to the reputation of a Savior who would have probably flipped their tables over if given the chance.
A parable in Matthew 25 says, “I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
Perhaps these are not the same “financial services guided by Christian values” GuideStone claims to uphold, or maybe they need to rework their mission statement.
For now, if I want insurance, I’ll have to seek coverage from a company sponsored by a duck or a lizard instead of my Lord and Savior.