When Reina Victoria was laid off last week, she faced a pile of bills for medical treatment without the means to pay them. Her husband, Ari, also recently became unemployed. The two have no financial stability and Reina has a dangerous condition that will force her to take blood thinners for the rest of her life. She describes her situation below. If anyone has ideas or helpful suggestions for Reina, please post them in the comments section. And if anyone else has been laid off and wants to write about it, send your post to me: firstname.lastname@example.org .
I knew it was coming.
Everyone thought I was being ridiculous when I said that I would lose my job. I worked for a national company, and was well-liked for the work I did. But the signs had been there for six weeks. So when the president of my company called me in along with my sales rep, Ann, to see him and the HR person, I knew that it meant one thing: layoffs. My entire department was disappearing.
"This is nothing personal," he said to us. "We just need to reduce the company's overhead." That meant getting rid of the people who had been hired as part of a merger that had taken place 13 months before-four full-timers and three part-time people.
I had already deliberated the possibilities the previous night, after an hour of blissfully distracting yoga. Two weeks beforehand, I had been diagnosed with yet another blood clot. Five-and-a-half years ago, I'd had five blood clots (three of which were in my lungs), and was found to have a genetic factor that made me prone to these clots. After I'd finished treatment, the doctor said to me, "One more clot, and you're done"-meaning I would have to be on blood thinner medication for the rest of my life.
I was able to avoid the hospital this time around, but I had spent hundreds of dollars on my recovery. I went through seven days worth of shots. Although the doctor gave me several samples to use, each shot, which lasted for 12 hours, cost around $90, even with insurance. I had-and still have-to visit the doctor multiple times to make sure my blood levels are normal so I don't clot again or bleed to death. I’m paying for this with money my husband Ari and I don't have: He's been unemployed since December.
The night before I was laid off, Ari thought I was being neurotic. "There's no way they would let you go," he said to me. I loved my company and the people I worked with so much. I wish he'd been right.
After I packed my piles of stuff from my office, cried with former co-workers, and hit the road, I came home to Ari-who, with his money-centric mind, had already started thinking about a budget. It was certainly better than when I first called him, when he'd seemed to hyperventilate.
"It's going to be like when you were out of work the last time," he said. He was referring to two years ago, when I decided, a month before our wedding , to quit working for a horrible boss. We have savings, but when I was unemployed the last time, we went through almost all of them and had to completely rebuild-not an easy task when one person is not making any money.
It seems strange that since we have been married, we have had zero financial stability. Except for two months of our 21-month marriage, either I have been unemployed, he has been unemployed, or we were anticipating his unemployment (before he was laid off, Ari worked for an insurance company).
Now we were both unemployed, sharing the lone computer. Every couple of hours, we would trade use of it for our respective job hunts. We spent time with friends and my parents. Everyone told us things would be fine.
Then Sunday came, and Ari picked up Friday's and Saturday's mail. I saw the big pile of bills. Cable, cell phones, electricity-and the statement from the ultrasound I had on my leg to find the blood clot. The actual bill will come next week. That stack is like something out of a nightmare. Not only are there the normal bills, but we haven’t yet received bills for all the medication I’ve taken.
Later that day at a brunch, I ran into my yoga teacher. He asked what I was doing, and I told him about all the projects I was thinking about taking on in my unemployment-freelance editing projects, some ghostwriting, and getting back to work on a pet project.
"Well, you have a good attitude," he said. "That's what counts."
I smiled as the California sun shone down. Even though we have had financial problems, Ari and I will find a way to survive. You just have to go to the light. Two roads are coming together at this moment-the road to my wellness and the road to our financial stability. I don't know which one will end first for us. But at least we will be together in our journey.
Reina Victoria is a freelance editor and writer in Long Beach, Calif., who is still looking for work.
Photograph of Reina and her husband courtesy of Reina Victoria.