I'm 46 years old, and I live in Columbia, South Carolina. Living here is killing me. Although I have a master's degree in counseling, I work as a cashier at a health-food store making $8 an hour for 30 hours a week. This does not cover my needs. I don't have benefits, and I live in a red state, so I don't have any access to health care. With great effort I found a free clinic that covers my blood pressure medication, but that's all they can do. I know there's something wrong with my pancreas because an ER doc told me so, but further testing is not available with no insurance. I'm getting older and I can tell that I'm not well. It's been about ten years since I saw a real doctor or had a pap smear, and I haven't had a mammogram yet. Not having access to health care is now definitely shortening my lifespan, and I consider that a very serious problem. Free health care of any kind is scarce.
I have Asperger's syndrome, and also major depression and anxiety disorders. Until this past year, I was able to access mental health services through the Department of Mental Health. The counseling was uneven but at least I had my meds, until about six months ago, when I was denied services. Since then I've been trying to figure out which hoops they want me to jump through, but have made no progress. I'm beginning to think they don't have enough money to treat everyone, so they are not helping me because I'm not sick enough.
I have a master's in counseling, but I'm in default on my student loans. In South Carolina, we have a law that people in default can't work anywhere that receives state funding, which for a counselor includes every possible job. I haven't worked in my field in about eight years. I was an excellent counselor with near-magical talent with teens, but the recession was bad for social services. My last two jobs were lost to budget cuts, then this evil law was passed. Here in South Carolina, I am not able to get a job in my field. In a different state, I still might not be able to get a professional job, but at least there would be a chance. In a different state, even if I was still a cashier making eight bucks an hour, I would have health care. I would live to meet my grandchildren.
I go around and around: if I had a car, maybe I could get a better job, but I can't get a car because I don't have a good job. Maybe I'll get a raise at work (yes, I have asked) but even a two dollar raise would not improve my situation that much. And I want to be using my degree! I wanted to help people. Not doing that hurts. I could look for jobs in other places, but couldn't get to an interview, and even so, most counseling jobs require a car.
At this point it seems like Governor Haley is trying to kill me by forcing me to work for low wages with no health care.
For years I have been working low-wage jobs and trying, trying, trying to improve my situation. Instead, things have gotten worse to the point that I feel I am in crisis. There is no way out. I can't get a better job. I can't get paid more at the job I have. I can't work more hours. I can't get a second job (tried that many times.) I can't go back to school. I can't get health care. I can't get mental health care. I can't afford healthy food, or new glasses, or tampons, or anything that I need. Living here begins to look like masochism.
I've decided to leave, and I've chosen Eugene, Oregon as my new home. Jobs are plentiful, rooms to rent are affordable, I can apply for professional jobs, get out of default, pay back my student loan, and most importantly, have heath care!