When we met you, we didn’t believe your pain. We didn’t believe you when you told us your pain was nine out of ten, because wouldn’t you be screaming if it were? Because you sometimes slept. Because you were addicted.

At home, you treated your pain with heroin, so I carefully gave you opiates, limiting the amount and the frequency. You came for an infection and you brought your pain—you brought it everywhere you went.

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Morning Fibro

I knew I had to get up early the next morning, but I still snuck into his room where we laughed and talked, like we always do, late into the night. I was sorry to be leaving home, but it was time to go back to school.

I love my brother. He encourages and supports me and is everything that a big brother should be. But he is also something that no one should be: sick with no health insurance.

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A Voice for Pain

When they come into the clinic, I sometimes catch a glimpse of them carefully adjusting their countenances, whether to conceal pain or to fashion an expression of it, I can’t yet tell. I’m still a medical student; I’m still learning. 
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Love Handles

I rocked back on the plush bedspread, leaning into the weekend. I was alive. I filled my chest with her lavender air as if I had just stepped outside.

And then suddenly she spoke, from the place where she faced the bathroom mirror. Her voice drifted across the hall: “My love handles are gone.”

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Unconquer This Territory

When I was six, good Uncle Hyman’s shiny nose enticed me for reasons I now find obscure and incomprehensible. I scrubbed and scrubbed at my own nose to make it as polished as his. It stung a little. But I was pleased.

Until my nose scabbed over in one big sheet the next day. “What have you done?” my mom demanded, and laughed until she couldn’t breathe when I told her.

“All I wanted was a shiny nose,” I cried. She had to sit down because her giggles made her wheeze.

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Hidden Wounds

“Growing up in an abusive home completely changed my outlook on life. There’s no love inside the home, only fear. Eventually, the pain and fear became normal. You’re afraid of your parents but you’re also afraid of a world without them because they’re all you know. You’re anxious, depressed, even suicidal. You have no social skills. It’s a lonely world with no way to cope.”
That was the searing testimony of Wyatt, a thirty-year-old military veteran in my developmental psychology class. On the first night of class, he warned me that he might pace in the back of

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The Masks We Wear

Every day we pass by friends, acquaintances, classmates and strangers, and all of us are wearing smiles on our faces. For some, that reflects feelings of bliss, joy or contentment. For others, though, it can be a mask.

I often think about my pain and the smile I wear to mask it. Most days, I am have the ability to express my troubles and fight the uphill battle against chronic depression. I tell myself, “You can do it! Just go and talk it out with your therapist.”

At least I had the ability to express myself and fight the

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Wait and Hope

Today I woke up much like the days before, and this ability to rouse myself from the safety of my bed, I count as my first of small triumphs. I have been waking up like this since I can remember, in a fog of depression, with my first thought always “I’m not sure I can do this again.”

I have never not felt the pain that is depression; I have just had moments of success in hiding it. I fight the callous thoughts all day, every day. Some days I win, some days I fail spectacularly.
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Why Are You Alive?

It was the last evening of July, the summer I turned sixteen. I lay on a hospital bed on my left side, looking across the empty bed beside mine toward the window and the waning sunshine. The window was cranked open as far as its hinge would allow, wide open to the summer city evening–faraway traffic noise an undercurrent to the waves of hot pavement smell and the increasing music of a cooling breeze. I was floating in an ether of fever. Leaves rustled as beech trees shook off the heat of the day. Sparrows chirped. Relief! Respite! Perhaps

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Understanding B’s Pain

B entered the exam room wearing thick-rimmed glasses, tattered pants and a polo shirt. He clutched a duffel bag of clothes in one hand and bags of hot cheetos and ready-to-heat ramen in the other. The physician, an intern, could not speak Mandarin, so a medical translator was used, via phone.

“What brings you here today, B?”

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Not Too Young for Pain

As a kid, whenever I felt bored in church, I passed the time by staring: watching the flashing emerald lights in my vision shimmer. I didn’t find this sight unusual, nor was I surprised by the ever-present ache in my head. Having nothing to compare my experiences to, I figured that heads just hurt and that you could make your vision glitter by staring the right way. The word migraine meant nothing to me.

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A Tribute to Arshi

In 2013 one of my postgraduate students, Arshi, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Constant visits to the hospital, regular chemo sessions, medications, and visits to Tata Memorial in Mumbai. We gathered for poetry readings and meetings for prayers. We celebrated her birthday on 2nd December, 2013 with a new hairdo and an artificial breast that had been arranged by a friend from Mumbai.
Ah, how I wished some miracle would happen and relieve her of her pain.

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