Cost of Living, by Emily Maloney
Topics: Healthcare, Psychiatry, Neurodiversity, Debt
Memoirs with Melissa shares bimonthly reviews intended to expose readers to diverse authors and life experiences. To see more of what I’ve read and what I’d like to read next, browse my virtual memoir shelf on Goodreads.
Cost of Living is Emily Maloney’s collection of essays on her experiences as both patient and caregiver in the US healthcare system. Memoir in essays is a genre that seems to be having its day in the publishing industry at present. Thought-provoking, intelligent, and witty, Cost of Living is an eye-opening read. It’s bound to motivate readers to stay aware in a system that confers authority to physicians, technology, and a care matrix that too often leaves people bankrupt of finances and health.
The primary narrative thread that piqued my interest was Maloney’s outrageous misadventures in polypharmacy. During her experiences as a patient, she was placed on 26 different psychiatric medications before arriving at an accurate diagnosis: vitamin D deficiency, hypothyroidism, and nonverbal learning disorder, a neurologically based developmental disorder often misdiagnosed as ADHD or autism. Maloney’s treacherous path through the health care system bottomed out in a suicide attempt and thousands of dollars in medical debt at just 19 years old.
At its core, Cost of Living is more than an accounting of what it costs to provide and receive care. Maloney’s essays also shed light on what it costs to survive adolescence, obtain a degree, and earn a living, especially as a person with a disability. Put simply, the world is not good at adapting to people with disabilities, a reality that costs millions not only too much money, but hours of extra effort and labor, which often leads to exclusion.
Maloney goes on to work as an ER technician, and later, a publications manager at a pharmaceutical company. While chipping away at her medical debt, she becomes a keen observer of her work environment. Her literary prowess shines in “Heartbroke,” where the opening line reads “Angie Day is in love with our EKG machine.” With humor and wit, she exposes the limits of technology and humans and explores how their overlap impacts patient care.
In her introduction to these essays, Maloney notes how many people she’s met whose experiences have mirrored her own, how her view of medicine morphed from black and white to a cautionary gray, and how she set out to write her story in hopes of helping others. As a parent living in a neurodivergent family, I couldn’t have found this collection at a better time. I know I’m not the only one who is benefiting from this book being in the world. For an extra treat, spring for the audio version, read by Maloney herself.
Want This Memoir?
Consider purchasing from Femme Fire Books or your local independent bookstore.
Like This Memoir?
Find more from this author on her author website at www.emilymaloney.net.
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