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California Writer Makes use of Darkish Humor — And a Bear — To Spotlight Flawed Well being System


Mom-to-be Kathleen Founds made a routine physician’s appointment to debate the dangers of antidepressants in being pregnant. After the go to, Founds, who depends on remedy to quell the manic highs and despondent lows of bipolar dysfunction, realized the doctor was out of community.

She obtained a shock invoice for $650, launching her right into a maze of declare kinds and hours on the cellphone being routed from one workplace to the following to dispute the fees — insurance coverage pink tape that so many Individuals have encountered. A decade later, Founds captured her expertise in a graphic novel, “Bipolar Bear and the Horrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Unhealthy Well being Insurance coverage,” a richly illustrated, darkly humorous fable for adults in regards to the nation’s dysfunctional well being system.

The e-book, revealed in November, follows Theodore, an clever however angst-ridden bear, on his quest for therapy for his personal manic-depressive sickness. However first he should navigate the calls for of the WeCare firm, a shady outfit run by cigar-smoking felines who revenue unfairly from a lopsided economic system and a corrupt justice system, amongst different issues. His fellow outcasts embrace such characters as an overeducated owl drowning in scholar debt and a bomb-sniffing pet affected by PTSD.

America is internationally identified for high-quality care, for individuals who can afford it. A brand new Gallup Ballot exhibits {that a} record-high proportion of Individuals — 38% — postponed medical care due to excessive prices in 2022. Federal and state “no shock” legal guidelines of the previous few years search to guard customers from sudden medical payments. However they don’t forestall bills like excessive deductibles or charges hidden within the high-quality print of their insurance coverage insurance policies.

“Bipolar Bear” joins different current works to shine a light-weight on well being inequities — a part of the rising style of graphic drugs. It contains seminal sickness narratives reminiscent of “Mother’s Most cancers” by Brian Fies and nurse MK Czerwiek’s “Taking Turns: Tales from the HIV/AIDS Care Unit 371” in addition to “Rx,” Rachel Lindsay’s memoirs about taking a job at a pharmaceutical firm to safe insurance coverage to cowl therapy for bipolar dysfunction.

Descended from the underground comics of the Sixties, graphic drugs has grown into a brand new area of scholarship on the medium’s function within the research and supply of well being care, stated Ian Williams, the Welsh doctor who coined the time period again in 2007. “It’s ultimate for exploring topics having to do with one’s life and well-being in an ironic and humorous means,” he stated.

As Founds places it, humor is a strong weapon towards despair.

The 40-year-old mom of two teaches English at a neighborhood faculty in Santa Cruz County on California’s central coast. She has by no means taken an artwork class and didn’t got down to write a graphic novel. The e-book started as a doodle within the margins of her pocket book whereas finding out for a grasp’s diploma in fiction writing at Syracuse College in New York. Her 2014 novel in brief tales, “When Mystical Creatures Assault,” is a few instructor who suffers a nervous breakdown and communicates together with her college students from a psychiatric hospital.

KHN contributing reporter Rachel Scheier spoke to Founds about bringing Theodore to life. The interview has been edited for size and readability.

Q: How did you come to write down a e-book a few bear with bipolar dysfunction?

I’d been making kids’s books for my little brother. They had been all about angst-ridden animals: a lonely big squid, a possum with social nervousness dysfunction who falls asleep each time he’s in a clumsy scenario, a burro who needs to be a unicorn. My objective was to write down a novel. However each time I used to be too depressed to string a sentence collectively, I’d draw bears. Then I noticed that anybody coping with a psychological well being situation on this nation goes to must cope with the labyrinth of medical health insurance. And I assumed it will be enjoyable to depict it as an precise labyrinth with trapdoors and man-eating flowers. As soon as I went in that course, it was not a kids’s e-book.

Q: Was the e-book based mostly by yourself expertise with psychological sickness?

Sure. I had my first main depressive episode on the finish of highschool, however I didn’t hunt down skilled assist. I simply form of muddled by way of it. Then, once I was a sophomore at Stanford, I had my first manic episode. I had a collection of realizations in regards to the nature of the universe, and I didn’t sleep or eat very a lot. Then, in graduate college, I went to a clinic as a result of I used to be going by way of a despair, and the psychiatrist requested me questions like “Was there ever a time while you had lots of vitality and didn’t really feel a must sleep?” And I stated, “Oh, certain, however that was a non secular awakening.” So, I needed to reframe my life story a bit after that.

Q: However faith nonetheless has a task in your life?

I’m a Quaker. It’s one thing I got here to by way of my curiosity in nonviolent social change. When I’m severely depressed, I really feel like life has no goal. So, following a code that claims life does have that means, that we’re all linked by a pressure of affection that undergirds the universe, is one thing that has helped me so much.

Q: Why animals?

Persons are onerous to attract! Cartoon animals are so much simpler. I wasn’t fascinated with artwork at school — really, once I began drawing was throughout that first manic episode. I don’t advocate writing a 200-page graphic novel with no inventive coaching. I imply, it took 13 years, however I did end it.

Q: Why did it take so lengthy?

I labored on it on and off whereas I used to be writing essays and dealing on the beginnings of a number of different novels. After I lastly completed it, I used to be so excited. I used to be able to see it on bookshelves inside a 12 months. I despatched it to my agent, and he or she wrote me a really good e mail which stated, “I really like this. It’s very artistic. However there’s no means I can promote it.” Most graphic novels for grownups are memoir — there wasn’t a transparent style. Then one other agent I reached out to stated, “I can’t take this on, however you must strive Graphic Mundi, which had revealed a number of novels within the area of graphic drugs.”

Q: What made you wish to write about medical health insurance?

Our system is definitely killing folks. We have now a excessive suicide price on this nation, and persons are not capable of entry psychological well being care. After which, once they do get assist, it’s not essentially the psychiatrist who determines the course of care; it’s the insurance coverage firm. In case you go right into a room of 10 Individuals, 5 can let you know a medical health insurance nightmare story.

However I additionally wished to discover what it means to develop a wholesome life-style and develop a powerful neighborhood and undergo all this development and therapeutic that Bipolar Bear goes by way of within the story, solely to have the despair come again once more. What’s the that means of my journey if I discover myself proper again the place I used to be earlier than? Finally, there’s no reply to that query, however there’s a proper factor to do, which is to ask for assist. We’re all saved by one another.

This story was produced by KHN, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially impartial service of the California Well being Care Basis.

KHN (Kaiser Well being Information) is a nationwide newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about well being points. Along with Coverage Evaluation and Polling, KHN is likely one of the three main working packages at KFF (Kaiser Household Basis). KFF is an endowed nonprofit group offering data on well being points to the nation.


This story might be republished free of charge (particulars).




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