It wasn’t until I was six months into my second depressive episode that I discovered depression existed. I didn’t know it was a real disease. I didn’t know that my grandmother got electroconvulsive “shock” therapy in the 1950s. I only knew something was terribly wrong when I sat crying for 20 minutes in front of a pile of laundry one morning because the thought of choosing clothes and going through ...

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A few weeks after I started residency, two of my peers killed themselves in New York City. No one I knew was surprised. Intern year is hell, and everybody knows it from TV shows like "Scrubs" and books like "House of God." Old doctors tell tall tales of working a million hours without sleep before training standards got “soft,” limiting residents’ monthly work hours to 320 and requiring four days off. ...

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As I sat in a crowded inner-city emergency room at 4 a.m. evaluating a poorly kempt woman who told me in one breath that she’d been prostituting herself to multiple men over the last few days on a crack cocaine binge, and in the next that she had a devoted scientist husband — I kept my gaze steady and my expression bland. I didn’t flinch because it seemed so clearly absurd. ...

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I did not want to go to the emergency room. I really didn’t.  Resisting the idea, I lay doubled over with the worst abdominal pain of my life for 12 hours, unable to eat or drink or move, and finally vomiting before I considered it. I was well aware that this sequence of symptoms made me a textbook case of appendicitis, but I still consulted an ER doctor to ask: was ...

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