During our conversations, I discovered that many women tied these feelings of guilt about their job loss to a need to sacrifice their health to protect family members from the tolls of unemployment. Among them, a majority of the unemployed women I met stopped taking their medications, visiting their doctors, or taking care of themselves the ways they had before their job loss. For example, some women saved money by borrowing inhalers from neighbors. One registered nurse, Brandi, explained, “I do have asthma, so as far as my inhaler goes, actually, I’ll be honest with you. A friend of mine let me use theirs. If it gets that bad, I call her.” A year later, when I followed up with another woman I met, Ruth, I learned that she had been hospitalized and left with large medical bills after ignoring a pain in her stomach for months. The ER doctors were able to surgically remove what turned out to be kidney stones, but Ruth learned she may have been able to avoid both the surgery and the hospital if she had had them treated sooner.
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