“There were probably warning signs that I didn’t interpret correctly. Some that I even ignored.”

My body has betrayed me.

My country has betrayed me.

I lie in bed at night, my leg a white hot flare of pain, unable to get comfortable, unable to relax, unable to stop thinking about a president who believes that some Americans deserve better treatment than other Americans simply because of their race or sexual orientation. A president who will blithely destroy our planet and our treaties and who thinks every woman’s value is based on how attractive he finds her.

I don’t sleep.

My doctor has diagnosed me with sciatic nerve pain, although she’s not sure what the actual root cause is—I’ll need an MRI to figure that out and I haven’t gotten one yet. We’ve been trying some other things first but nothing’s working.

There are some hurts you can’t fix easily or quickly. Sometimes pain clings to you, drags you down, shadows every step you take.

I try to figure out what happened, why my body is giving me this much constant pain. I thought I understood my body. I take decent care of it, walk long distances every day, eat a reasonable ratio of healthy vegetables to decadent treats. And from the outside, my back looks normal; it’s not swollen or painful to the touch.

The injury is somewhere below the surface, somewhere I can’t see. There were probably warning signs that I didn’t interpret correctly. Some that I even ignored.



I might need surgery. That will cause me a lot more pain and misery before I feel at all better.


I should have been more careful. I should have paid more attention. I shouldn’t have assumed that because I was walking around comfortably, that would always be true. I should have probed more deeply, made fewer assumptions, taken better care of every part of my body, not just the parts I could see.

When things go bad, you want to understand why and you want to fix the problem. I want to find where the nerve is being pinched in my back and I want to fix it and I want my pain to go away. But I’m not sure any of those things will happen. I need an MRI to see where the pain is, but even an MRI may not explain everything. Even if we find the area where the nerve is being pinched, it may not be easily fixable.

I might need surgery. That will cause me a lot more pain and misery before I feel at all better.

There is something wrong with my body that I can’t fix and when it keeps me awake at night, I wonder what went wrong with our country and why we haven’t been able to fix it and how much more pain we’ll have to go through before anything gets better.

Am I responsible for the pain? Did I cause it? Or is something like this inevitable? Is there always rot at the core of every living thing? Or does the rot just appear when you get careless and selfish?

I didn’t know how bad the injury was until it caused a lot of pain. It lay hidden until it wasn’t hidden anymore. Now it has blossomed into something I can’t ignore.

Will I ever not be in pain?

Will our country?


Author: Claire LaZebnik

Claire is the author of five novels for adults and four YA novels, including Epic Fail. With Lynn Kern Koegel, PhD, she co-wrote the non-fiction books Overcoming Autism and Growing up on the Spectrum. Her next novel,Things I Should Have Known, will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2017. She has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Self Magazine, among many other publications, and contributed a monologue to the anthology play Motherhood Out Loud. Check out her website at www.clairelazebnik.com View all posts by Claire LaZebnik

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