I remember seeing Steve Hartman from CBS do his thing on Oprah once. Usually he would open a phone book in a random town, randomly pick a random name, and then do a story on that person. And every one had a story. On the Oprah show they threw a dart at a seating chart of the audience. He did a story on the 3 random people they hit. They all had a story. Some were dramatic, some weren’t, but they all had a story. We all do.

Recently I was seeing a young woman in Urgent Care who had a serious skin infection on her thigh.  She was about 21, had a few tattoos, and looked a little worn for her age. The infection had already been drained once in an ER, but had sealed up and needed be opened again.  She was very hesitant about this since it was painful the first time, and now it was worse, despite being on antibiotics.

As I gave local anesthesia as gently as possible, and proceeded to do what needed to be done, I glanced down at her forearm and noticed the healed scars from self-cutting. I asked her non-judgmentally about it, and was she doing ok now. Her story was tough to hear. When she was younger her mother was incarcerated for drug use, and she was cared for by her grandparents for a few years. They beat her. To make her not tell, they would give gifts of treats, or candy. She said she didn’t know what to do, didn’t know who to trust. She was so young at the time. She had no control over her life. Cutting yourself inflicts pain too, but a pain you have control over. When she was older she met her fiancée while she was working selling magazines door-to-door. They already have a child. She has put the “past in the past, and is doing good” she says. “He treats me well, the way you are supposed to be treated. “

I congratulated her. Most people can’t get out of that by themselves. She was on no medications, no antidepressants, no sleeping pills, nothing.

She thanked me for being careful, because it hurt less than she expected. I thanked her for sharing her story.

We all have a story. We just have to remember to be gentle with one another.