Guest Post: I Just Wanted Them to Help Me

By Jacqueline Harris | February 21, 2023
Portrait of Jacqueline Harris

She held my MRI results in her hand and said that my herniated disk wasn't that big of a deal and shouldn't hurt that much. Then she accused me of fraud and reported me to Workers Compensation. All this without her ever physically examining me. 

 An 'Independent' medical review conducted by a friend and colleague of hers determined that, while I was in fact too injured to work, and that I should probably get surgery; due to a technicality, he ruled that my work injury wasn't their problem to fix. 


 Hi, I am Jacqueline Harris. I am a current student at Utah State University. As of Sept 15 2022, I have a whole body impairment that has rendered me mostly bed ridden with limited mobility. Hopefully, this is temporary, but as of today it's been 6 months unable to work.

It's Black History month and I was planning to talk about Anarcha, a young black woman forced to undergo 30 surgeries within 5 years without anesthesia. However, my present difficulties have made me want to speak more personally. 

 Whenever we talk about the past often people will tune it out or emphasize that that's tragic and wrong, but it was in the past and we should move on. I am told that systemic racism doesn't exist, mostly by white men on TV.  Truth be told, compared to my grandma's time or even my father's time it's incomparably better. I am told that I should just be content with that.

But I went to the workmed clinic for an appointment after a injury at work, and I was turned away.

The doctor refused to take my case after seeing me. I could hear him from the door speaking about me and my condition. He didn't want to listen to my explanation. He just refused, and they had to wheel me out in a wheelchair to someone else who would treat me. 

I was later required by my work to return to this doctor two weeks later. By this time, I had already been examined by two other doctors and a nurse practitioner, all of whom informed me that I needed an MRI in two weeks if I was still in pain.  But this Doctor gave me a cursory examination at best and wanted to give me a clean bill of health. 

When I insisted on an MRI, he adamantly refused to give me a referral. I gave the doctor the number for my physical therapist, who had examined me that day and stated I likely had an injured disk. My physical therapist chewed him out over the phone, and the doctor became flushed and embarrassed over all that he had missed in his examination.

And even still he refused to sign off on diagnostic testing, for a patient that was immobile and bedridden with pain for more than two weeks.  Only pressure from above enabled me to get diagnostic testing almost thirty days after my work injury. And that was just the beginning. The saga is still ongoing.

I could go on and on about his and the other medical 'professionals’ discrimination and negligence since my accident but suffice it to say racism is alive and well in medicine. This is especially so if you are a woman. 

Now again I am not going to talk about the US medical system and how bad it is especially to mothers. Instead, I am going to share what I felt facing discrimination while disabled, and what I decided to do about it.

After the incident in the beginning, I started wondering if my pain wasn't that big a deal after all. It was normal to be in agony all the time at age 33. Maybe I was just whining. Maybe I should have dressed up more to go to the hospital, or maybe my natural hair that I had been growing out was a little too wild and crazy. I felt like I must have looked like a hobo in my track suit. Most definitely a drug seeker. A worthless bum who just didn't want to work. Regardless of whether I could stand, or even sit for 30 minutes at a time or not.

For me the hardest thing about being disabled even temporarily, is the feeling that you aren’t worthy of help or assistance.  The depression and the negative thinking brought out every low thought imaginable.

I felt like a failure for being injured. Being immobile required a lot of help and yet at times I felt like I was better off dead rather than asking for help. This is off course is a lie. Irrational thinking can become your whole world at times, and you can't see it ever getting better. If you or someone you know is in that place, then I suggest this number: 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. But the point is, disability and mental health go hand in hand. And yet it takes mental fortitude to advocate for yourself when you have a disability. 

So let me just say that therapy is a life saver.  It's also a place where you can find aid for any number of issues that you might need help with. It may take some time to find the right therapist for you, so don't be afraid to shop around. Another big game changer for me was EMDR [Emotional Deregulation Therapy]. It basically helps you process your memories and emotions that have become stuck on repeat in your brain. I got an online subscription for Virtual EMDR online that's cheaper than most other places. And lastly Ketamine. I have just begun treatment at Cache Ketamine and Mental Health Clinic. 

Ketamine injections are a recent breakthrough in the treatment of persistent depression, PTSD and the like. It increases a person’s neuroplasticity, or the ability of the brain to adapt and change. Unlike other types of medication, the effects are more immediate enabling the brain to form new pathways. 

It's a struggle every day to feel worthy but I am getting there. I won't let other people limit the help I receive. And let me add it takes courage to ask for help. It takes courage to fight for yourself. And if doctors don't listen, seek another opinion. If you are struggling, I encourage you to seek out every resource available to you.



Racial Disparities in Maternal and Infant Health: Current Status and Efforts to Address Them (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2022)

Life Story: Anarcha, Betsy and Lucy (New York Historical Society)

Ketamine for Depression: What to Know (WebMD, 2022)

About the Author

Jacqueline Harris is an Army Veteran and a student at USU studying Psychology and English.

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