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Hot Water Cures (Almost) Everything

Editor’s Note: This piece was a finalist in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

If, like my parents, you had immigrated across the world to America with only $200 to your name, feeling hesitant to speak whenever you needed something for fear of people doubting your intellect, you might develop a certain degree of wary self-reliance.

My parents have had to fight for everything they’ve achieved here, including voices that would be heeded despite their accents,

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The Day After

you ran a knife across
your wrists, you called
to say you had finally
tried coffee.

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Healing the Little Brain

I was twenty-eight when I first walked into Matthew’s room in the neurosurgery ward at the university medical center. A newly graduated physical therapist, I was working at my first job in the field. I was there to evaluate Matthew for physical therapy, and I had all the right gear–a white lab coat, running shoes, a stethoscope, a clipboard and a goniometer (an instrument that measures joint angles)–and an enthusiastic desire to help this young

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Meatballs and Hot Pink Scrubs

As a third-year medical student, I did a month-long psychiatry rotation in a large urban psychiatric hospital. I’ll never forget my first patients there: Christian Mitchell and Sabrina Smith.

Christian, only in his thirties, looked about sixty. He had the coarse, bushy beard of a mountain recluse, and his hair was similarly overgrown, with bits of unidentifiable debris tangled within.

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On the Grounds of a Former State Mental Hospital

On the Grounds of a Former State Mental Hospital

Through wounds in whitewash, brick edges crumble
To red dust. Weeds pierce the interstices of paths slowly
Giving themselves up to trackless overgrowth
Are all shapes broken that differ from expected forms
Or is this slant just as proper to a cupola as symmetry?
Not if it lets the rain in, I suppose
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Invasive

I never grew Virginia creeper,
this twining shiny vine rapidly
unfurling its five-leafed bouquet,
yet it crept into my garden, stealthily
wrapping its strong tendrils round
stems and bushes and trees
in lusty demanding embrace,
attaching onto the house foundation,
embedding into cement and wood.

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Cracked Up

Carlos Downell ~

They say that to write well, you should write about what you know. I’m a homeless drug addict. This essay is not about me, although I’ll figure in it. It’s about drug abuse among the homeless, a subject I’m very well acquainted with.

I have a dual diagnosis–substance-abuse issues and psychiatric dysfunction. Double trouble. If I can’t get meth, I’ll smoke crack, and if I can’t get crack, I’ll smoke

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Crazy

Ginny Hoyle

I walked through my mother’s madness
in a coat of hungry colors.
Her eyes did not take me in. I was a child.
To win her, I hung by my knees from low branches

of the family tree, voicing nursery rhymes
from the hallowed text of her delusions.
And failed.

When they took her away,
I was older, careful. I hid my heart

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Paprika

The insistent chirp on the phone was a reminder from Fran. “Don’t forget to stop at the compounding pharmacy.” For $58 cash these specialists turned a pill into a cream. GERD made Fran intolerant of most oral medicines.

Tired from the long drive, I thought back on my years of marriage. Back pain was the first problem, I think. Then GERD, then migraines, dizziness, TMJ, panic attacks, fibromyalgia. They were all tough, serious problems.

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A Day in the Life of a Psychiatrically Hospitalized Clinician (Part 2)

Editor’s Note: This is the conclusion of Liat Katz’s remarkable story. Part 1 was published last week.

Lying here on this hard bed on the psych floor, staring at the white walls and ceiling, I think of my clients–and I don’t feel so alone. Their everyday experience is not so different from my short-lived experience here at the hospital. Often, they endure a whole day’s wait in the dirty Social Security and social-services offices,

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A Day in the Life of a Psychiatrically Hospitalized Clinician (Part 1)

Editor’s Note: This week Pulse presents the first installment of Liat Katz’s brave and forthright story. The conclusion will appear next week.

I am a licensed clinical social worker. And, occasionally, a mental patient. Today, in this inpatient psychiatric unit, I am more a patient than a social worker.

It is Monday morning, and I am eating breakfast across from Owen, a muscular, flannel-clad, Paul Bunyan-looking patient. Little pieces of his scrambled eggs keep landing

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Finding a Bed in Bedlam

Jo Marie Reilly

There’s a full moon tonight.

“That’s when crazy things happen,” my superstitious mom always says.

I’m a family physician doing weekend call at my urban community hospital. My pager rings incessantly. As I answer yet another call from the emergency room downstairs, I think, Maybe Mom has a point.

“Got a suicidal patient with nowhere to go,” the ER physician yells into the phone, against the background commotion.

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