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Mental Health and Disability: 'I Was Depressed Before the Blindness'

Grethen Maune, left, wears a bright purple shirt and smiles into the camera. DeAnna Quietwater Noriega, right, wears a brown knit cardigan and smiles.
Rebecca Smith

DeAnna Quietwater Noriega and Gretchen Maune, who’s a friend of mine, both live in Columbia and are blind.

They recently spoke about some of their health conditions that exist separately from their blindness and about some of the additional barriers they come up against in the health care system as a result of their disability. 

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org

Gretchen Maune: I'm on antidepressants and have been since I was 18, now. So, I need that. 

DeAnna Quietwater Noriega: But it's not because you're blind. 

Gretchen: No. It's funny. People meet me and if I get to know them or if they find out or if I see a new doctor and they find out, they're like "oh. Well, yeah, I can imagine that being bling would cause depression." 

And I'm like, "No. no. I was depressed before the blindness,” but they always want to make these assumptions that if you're blind, you're going to be depressed and anxious, and I'm like "Nope. That happened first.' 

No one ever assumes though that because I was depressed, I went blind. [laughs]

Deanna: Those don't connect that way.

Gretchen: No. But, so yeah, I need that. I have something as needed for anxiety that I can take too. So, what sucks, these days my psychiatrist when I see her for maintenance on pills, we'll talk about like "Well, stuff is pretty good. Not wonderful." 

And she'd suggest - "do you want to try one of these other things that are newer?" 

But I can't because I'm on Medicare and Medicaid, and they don't cover anything - god, it seems like some things have to have been out for ten years. 

One time she suggested this thing that we thought was actually going to be covered, and I can't remember what it was called, but it was a newer antidepressant that she thought was not going to have some of the side effects that mine has and was going to help. 

I had her send... I'm a big researcher, so I like read all about it online. Was finally like, "Yeah. Okay. Let's try it." And she called it into the pharmacy for me, and I went there, and they said "That will be $500." and I laughed at them - like thought they were joking. 

They were not joking. 

And I'm like, "excuse me," and they said," well, your insurance covered half of it." 

And that's how it seems for everything now. So, it's like, basically I can have things that have been out forever like Prozac and stuff like that. Sometimes I wonder - would I be doing like a whole lot better if I could have one of the other things?

Because stuff is hard, but I do feel really glad that when I did get my disability that I was able to get on Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security, that kind of stuff, but what I found out was, at first, I was like, "Oh. This is gonna be great. I will be able to focus on getting my feet back under me and living life again," but it's like... I found out that there were very few doctors who I could see that took my insurance now. 

DeAnna: For me, I really get upset when I go to a doctor and I’m given written instructions. And I've watched you always ask if there was an electronic version of it. So, I ask, but a lot of times, they will just assume because my husband can see that "Oh. He can read this to you" or "He can fill out the form for you." 

And he can, but he's not always around. We're not joined at the hip. 

Gretchen: Yeah, and you should have access to your own information just like everyone else does. 

Rebecca Smith is an award-winning reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth Desk. Born and raised outside of Rolla, Missouri, she has a passion for diving into often overlooked issues that affect the rural populations of her state – especially stories that broaden people’s perception of “rural” life.
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