I’m Not All Right. Thanks for Asking.
Navigating a broken healthcare system in a sick, sick world.
All I wanted to do today was eat ice cream and watch TV.
Am I depressed?
I don't know. I'm in pain. All I could manage to do was take the dog out, in my pajamas. Walking the dog down my street, I made the embarrassing decision: I would go into the coffee shop dressed like this. Sweats. Flip flops. Hair unbrushed. No makeup. I didn’t even know what time it was. I’d thrown a baseball hat on and sunglasses. I’d been crying. I didn’t care. I was hungry and exhausted. My sunglasses would stay on my face.
That’s how I’d get through this.
Smile and Lie
My local coffee shop is a block away from me. Everyone knows me in there. It’s a great neighborhood vibe. People bring their dogs in, and the baristas remember your drink order.
They’re usually playing some mix of music you haven’t heard in a decade or more, and all the Gen Z employees have a mellow, friendly, positive energy. I love it.
I work from home but usually put on jeans and brush my hair before I go in. Not today. Today, I was in too much pain to care. My sunglasses stayed on my face, and I managed to smile when they greeted me.
“Alright!” I lied when they asked me how I was.
I ordered my cold brew and hipster toast to go.
I'm Not Okay
After seven months of pain, I’m not all right.
A back injury this spring sent me to bed all summer. Weekly acupuncture and a mediocre doctor’s appointment have brought me to the point of merely sustaining my life.
Last week, I decided I had to find a new doctor. Sports medicine? Perhaps. Someone who can order some X-rays or an MRI and someone who can read it, please. That’s what I need. Then, physical therapy.
So, I sat down at my laptop for an hour, combing through all the doctors in my network. I Googled their names. I checked out their reviews. I settled on one.
When I called on Monday, the number connected me to the main hospital. You can’t call a doctor’s office directly anymore. That would be way too efficient. You call the main hospital, and then you wait on hold.
I was on hold for twenty minutes.
When I finally got a human on the line, she told me that the doctor I chose doesn’t see people for back injuries. “Okay," I said, "I’m dealing with a hip injury too.”
The receptionist said the doctor could see me for that, but if I thought the back and hip injury were related, then I should see a “spine specialist” first.
What do you mean IF they’re related? They’re effing related. All these bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, what-have-you, are all in my body. Together. They all work together. Right? What am I missing?
I calmly said, “Thanks. I’ll look for someone else.”
On to the Next
The next doctor I found was an orthopedic surgeon specializing in bone issues. She had great reviews. Fantastic! I could use a bone specialist, given my particular case, which I will not bore you with right now.
I called that number — another hospital. After ten minutes on hold, a young man explained that this office specialized in oncology — cancer patients.
Too frustrated to question him or inquire further about this orthopedic surgeon, I quickly said, “Thank you for your time,” and hung up.
My heart rate was rising. The dog was staring at me to go outside. But I had one more hour where staff would be in the office, so I pressed on.
Last Ditch Effort
The last number I called was for a sports-medicine juggernaut. The doctor I wanted was unavailable for a month, so I settled for some random guy who could see me next week.
Do I feel good about it? Not really. But I’m desperate.
Welcome to health care in America.
For seven months, I’ve put off trying to navigate this horrible mess because it causes me stress and anxiety. I’ve wished and rested and massaged my way to better, but not good.
Now, constant pain is my shadow. I’ll do whatever I have to do to get help. I’m one of the lucky ones. I have health care.
Healthcare is a Ridiculous Name
Health care. What a stupid thing to call it.
It’s sick care. It’s pain care. It’s where you go when you’ve tried everything else. It’s where you go when the Tylenol doesn’t work, and your THC gummy regimen causes you to blush.
It’s where you go when you consider showering daily a win — a significant triumph. It’s where you end up when walking a block to the coffee shop causes you to sob.
All the Advice
Have you tried heat?
Have you tried ice?
Get more rest.
Use a foam roller.
Stay away from alcohol.
Eat more greens.
Cut out caffeine.
I’ve heard it all. The armchair physicians love to spit their theories all over you, and when you don’t follow their advice down to the last detail, then it’s your fault for why you’re not getting better.
All that stuff I’ve tried. I tried it all. Every one. The truth is, if coffee can bring me the slightest bit of happiness in a twenty-four-hour cycle filled with pain, then I’m drinking it. Every. Day.
Navigating the American Dream
The medical machine is broken in America. It’s off the rails. We knew it, but it gets worse by the hour. It was bad before the pandemic.
Now, it's unbearable.
Nurses in my neighborhood are striking. Doctors don’t listen, and it takes hours to find a care provider in your network and actually get an appointment. You're lucky if your appointment doesn't get canceled at the last minute. You're lucky if there's someone available to operate on you.
I’m not alone.
I see TikTok videos daily of people in tears, trying to navigate the healthcare system in America and getting nowhere. They’re directed to specialist after specialist who doesn’t read their charts, doesn’t listen to them, and then sends them out the door without answers. For every nurse who treats them with dignity and respect, there's two or three who are just too tired and broken to regard them as anything other than a nuisance.
I’ve been here before.
This same place. Sick. Hurt. Without answers. Being my own advocate in an uncaring corporate machine that doesn’t care if I live. They'd rather I die - cheaper for them. All while working, running a household, paying bills, and being emotionally available for a spouse and pets.
We’re all doing our best.
The next time someone is honest with you about their struggles, stop trying to cheer them up. Stop giving them advice you heard from your neighbor who works with a guy who knows someone.
The correct response is:
Based in Southern California, Kit Campoy is a former retail leader turned freelance writer. She covers Retail, Leadership, and Business.
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