One day, on my way to a date, I got hit by a bike. On top of the concussion and the debilitating headaches, I found myself recovering from surgery for a separate condition I had ignored for over a decade. I was forced to confront physical and emotional problems and spiritual questions I had been able to ignore when I was busier and more in control of my body and my life. Eventually I started writing, to deal with the frustration, the physical pain, and the confusion.
As I wrote this book, I was acutely aware of how privileged I was and am. I am in a position that few Americans are in since we live in a country where health care is not guaranteed. Accidents happen, people get sick and are unable to work, and even with health insurance the bills pile up. When there’s no safety net, one freak accident or sudden diagnosis can destroy a person’s life, and they often do.
I was able to afford health care. I was able to pay out-of-pocket for specialists not covered by my insurance. I was able to see multiple doctors when one doctor didn’t help me or didn’t believe me. I was able to take time off from work. I’m white and young in a country where our medical system treats people of color and the elderly exponentially worse. I have no dependents relying on me, and I have a loving family supporting me.
The woman who appears in the book solely as my mother has her own identity in the world as a writer, a speaker, and co-founder of The Huffington Post and now Thrive Global. And having her as my mother is my greatest privilege, not for any of her accomplishments but for her unending love, support, and willingness to listen to me pontificating on The Bachelor.
The irony was that I had all the access in the world to help and yet it’s still been a struggle to find a solution. This book isn’t an indictment on all doctors. Like any profession there are great doctors and there are less than great ones, and I’ve had my share of experiences with both. But the COVID-19 pandemic has put the spotlight on a truth that has always existed: medical professionals go to extraordinary lengths to care for their patients, often putting themselves at enormous risk.
I’m not drawing conclusions for everyone. There are so many important stories from far-less-privileged perspectives than mine, stories that need to be made more visible. This is one woman’s story, my story. My story of how I learned to live with the mystery, the uncertainty, the messiness of life, the unanswered questions—and accept it all: the pain and the joy, the disappointments and the magical moments, and most of all the not knowing what comes next. There’s no final scene, no curtain call, no “and she lived happily ever after.” Just a human being evolving through it all. Everything fell apart and then something new emerged.