“The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.”
Life should be getting longer and better with the increase in intelligence and technologies, right? Unfortunately, for the first time since the 1960s, life expectancy in the U.S. has decreased, three years in a row, and looking as if four is in the making. This isn’t a worldwide phenomenon, because if it were, the life expectancy for the rest of the world wouldn’t be increasing like it currently is. The U.S. is behind in times and we are paying the price.
To add insult to injury, the US is under-performing dramatically when compared to European GDP in the matter of healthcare.
I’m not here to promote any solutions or to throw statistics showcasing any further on how the U.S. is failing miserably in healthcare. I have some close friends who spent years of studying and learning to become great doctors. This isn't an attack on the people who dedicate their lives to others. I am just here to speak my story on how I am constantly fighting a battle to live and survive in a manner so trivial compared to those with less privilege.
This is me reaching out for help, however that may come.
It was in High school when I started getting terrible migraines. For those who haven’t had a migraine, consider your worst headache being only the relief stage after a basic migraine takes you out. It's debilitating.
After numerous hospital visits and hundreds of medication trials later, I resulted in the fact that I would just live the rest of my life with migraines, always ready with an escape plan and my over-the-counter Excedrin Migraine wherever I traveled, in constant fear of a migraine hitting at any moment.
So about four to six times a month, for the next seven years I would be curled up in the fetal position in pain due to migraine attacks. This couldn’t be normal. I guess luckily, I was an introvert, so me sneaking off was routine and never out of character.
Either way, it wasn’t until 2011 when my body finally couldn’t bear it and I was forced into chemotherapy to treat the brain cyst that supposedly caused the episodes. But deep down I always wondered why we had to wait for something extreme to happen just to treat it? What if the extreme happened to be death?
Migraines decreased, but still occurred. Guess I just had to live with that result.
And so, I did… until this summer when an attack led me to spend several nights in the emergency room.
This time, they had a new name for it: a complex migraine. Wow.
If you couldn’t feel the dramatic sarcasm in that “wow”, then make note that I was very annoyed when I was told I had a complex migraine. What I experienced was something similar to having a stroke, spine nerves felt like they are burning, left side completely failed to work, struggled just to take a simple breath, and an enormous headache, left the doctors to conclude that all I had was a complex migraine!
If I had the energy to be furious, I would have made it known, but I didn’t, and still don't.
I was released with a handful of prescriptions that would relieve the pain and possibly, maybe, not certain, prevent the migraine attacks again. That possibly was wrong. I had a few more shortly after, and even a big one right before writing this blog. But not to forget that I woke up with a throbbing headache everyday for six months, and counting.
This led me to my main issue. After having saw three primary care physicians, and four neurologists, it seemed like nobody wanted to do their jobs. Instead, they relied on the job of the first person and left it at that. I even lied to the last two neurologists and said I never visited anyone, but somehow, they found the results and prescribed me more of what the first doctor applied. It seemed like their goal was to get me in and out within 45 minutes.
The thing that really lost my hope was the fact that I put down I was suicidal, and nobody did anything about it.
I’ve never been suicidal before in my life. I’ve never had thoughts of suicide and honestly, never really understood it. I’ve lost a lot of close friends to suicide. I’ve lost my first “romantic” crush to suicide in elementary/primary school. It was known, but unknown territory for me.
The thing I’m finding out is that it’s a territory known by many, but instead hidden behind curtains, because we all know it is more than preventable, and somehow, we didn’t stop it.
Long sleepless nights of pain and loneliness led me to wonder if the reason we have such a rise in mental health issues in the U.S. is because our healthcare is failing us? Is our healthcare the reason for most of our mental illnesses?
Every night, I look over to my nightstand and see three large bottles of pills I am to take, with three other bottles I have to take in reactionary purposes.
I am not myself when I take them. But, am I even myself when I am excruciating pain?
Doctors hate when you diagnose yourself on the internet. Yet, would we have to do that if they were doing their jobs correctly? Are they doing their jobs correctly? Or are they simply making a living, a very large living, off being legal drug-dealers?
I’m looking up alternative methods to treat my pain, so to salvage what I have left in my life, because during this period, I regretfully screwed up a lot of meaningful relationships. What is life without love? Unfortunately, what the doctor orders is what may lead to my death, and I don’t want to be a statistic.
To say that mental illness is for the weak is to negate the fact that we are humans with a powerful organ controlling a lot of our actions. Last I checked, obtaining a master’s degree with distinction, or making two Olympics isn’t for the weak. A marine having served four tours overseas isn’t weak. You could even say serving as the president of the United States isn’t the definition of weak (there's a joke in that one).
Our healthcare system is failing us, and the failure of a healthcare system is death. Doctors are overworked, not because there aren’t enough people willing to fill the job, but because they are limiting the amount of people certified for the job. The incentives to treat and care for people has been changed into how much money one can manipulate. If I go to the doctor’s with life threatening symptoms, only to feel like another number in their daily routine, perhaps I should instead take a number for the mortuary, because that’s where I’m headed instead if nothing changes. I apologize for getting very dark just now, but I just want to see some sort of light in this lonely, painful tunnel of darkness.
Do you have your own story of life you want to share? I want to hear
Jeremy Dodson is a Track & Field Olympian who struggles with the idea of perfection, hoping to break the barrier we place on ourselves so that genuine living can take place for everyone.