Old Friend

Old Friend

When we were in grade school, you were the artist and I was the thinker. You make my aprons and my pajamas for work ed and I make your book reports and math equations. You salvage my art works and I catch the volleyball for you when you are too afraid to get hit. I listen and you talk and talk until the bell signals the end of lunch and we walk back to class. With you, I don’t have to say anything. You fill the silence with your endless chatter. That suited me just fine. I’ve always found talking too tiresome. With you, I did not feel the need to say anything. You did the talking. I did the listening ( and sometimes, the punching).

In high school, you got your period first. Mine did not come until a few years later. It was so funny watching you walk with those bulky pads between your legs. You never were lady like, and having your periods did not make you anymore so. Puberty however also made your mood confusing. Your arts became as intense as your feelings. The change made us clash every now and then, but we always make up. There is something about your early puberty that kept you from being who you used to be. You were growing so fast and leaving me behind. That was kinda sad.

We did not get into the same university in college. Your NCEE score did not reach average. I got 99. Maybe because there is no work ed or practical matters included in the test. You had to select a course and a school that does not give weight to that. I started my university life and I was overwhelmed by how big a world I’d be in without you in it. You started your college degree and became your very own version of “the renegade”.

We were eagles taking off with a wing missing. Several years later, it was not surprising to find each other all broken and conquered. Life isn’t like high school, where the bullies only play pranks on you. Life is meaner, nastier. And we faced it alone.

You got married before I did, and had a son. But it was not a happy ever after kind of thing like you thought it would be. The fate of your marriage left you angry, and broken. You attacked life just as you thought it attacked you. You were self destructive, vindictive, and out to cause pain – because you were so wounded you did not know any other way to deal with it. The world had no time to listen. You were left alone in your own misery, while the world continued to live.

I got married after med school. Had two kids. It’s no fairy tale either. Mine was a roller coaster life. I tried my best to hang on but I got thrown every which way. It had always been a bumpy ride – this life. But we get used to it. We learn. We adapt. Eventually, it’s no longer all that bad. I learned to put everything in writing, like how we used to do when we were kids. That way, I put the ambiguous into a perspective I can understand. When I do that, it ceases to be overwhelming.

I know you started painting again. That’s good. The burden of living sometimes make us forget who we really are. We played roles for far too long we’ve forgotten how to live with only our bare skin. You are your paintings. Those vibrant shades that used to represent your excitement is still there deep within your heart, within your soul, untouched by scars and by broken idealism.

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The Wish

I wish I could sleep. The real sleep without needing to swallow all those pills. I wish I could dream real dreams, without the terror of relieving the horrors. I wish I could recreate a world where I no longer have to pretend to smile, while being drenched in my own tears; to belong without the need to play roles, to hide behind characters that is not me.

I wish I am not so tired to crawl in between the crevices of your perfect life; and to get away from the torture that haunts my own. I wish I am not too defeated to stagger into the crackling blaze of your hearth, to touch the fire, while I watch my frozen soul defrost and ignite; to be consumed and be nothing. I’d rather be nothing…than to be so cold…

I wish I could be whole enough, to be able to walk the day, without falling apart; like old paint peeling off me, exposing the scars I’ve tried so very hard to hide. I wish I’m whole enough to dance in your music and to sing your song. But I am all wrong. My parts are all misfitted, like a ragdoll haphazardly sewn back together. I hold my heart into the palm of my dirty right hand, while the other drag along a deflated dying soul. An unwelcomed blackness, in your perfect universe.

I wish I could hear your laughter, but I’ve grown deft. I wish I could make you see me, but there is nothing of me left.

Do You Remember?

It’s been years since I last saw your eyes. Since I last saw the shadows haunting your soul. I can only imagine the sorrows you carry. The demons crowding your head. You once wished you were dead.

But time makes a difference doesn’t it? It may not clear away all the cobwebs, but it sure allowed some flickers of light. It’s still dim but it beats the blackness you once existed in. Time can’t heal all wounds, at least not the kind of wounds we have, but it made you get used to the pain. You learned to dance in the rain.

It’s been years since I watched you sleep. Your nightmares masked by your peaceful face. The throes of terror tamed by sedated slumber. We were both each other’s monsters. Do you remember?

Did the years erase the history of pain in your heart? Was a path created in place of the needle tracks that marked your way? I remember the ugly shadows underneath your eyes. A reminder that ghosts need not be dead.

I stared into your sad eyes, and you peered into the emptiness of mine. We were two souls lost somewhere in between the crumpled pages of a forbidden yesterday. Two monsters, once lovers, now fearing each other.

Do you remember?

Dark Alleys

Dark Alleys

I looked for love in all the wrong places. Searched for significance among drifters. And at some point collected broken dreams by building sand castles and paper boats. Mistakes are valuable teachers. I learned to find my way out of a sad maze by learning to read the hieroglyphics on my skin. Scars are like treasure maps.

It is when we make the mistakes that threaten our being that we begin to value integrity. It is when we are broken that we begin to value wholeness. It’s when the deafening silence erode our sanity that we clamour for even just the subtle whisper of the wind. The world did not betray me. I betrayed myself, by digging deeper and deeper into the cold earth to find a hiding place, only to realize that the only niche down under is a misfitted, dark grave. I betrayed myself by choosing to look for who I am in dark alleys, searching for my imprints on dirty gutters and broken windows. By sharing heat among the lost, and the ghosts of the night. By daring to touch fire and expecting not to get burned.I orchestrated my parade, with flares and confetti made up of the torn pieces of my very own humanity.

My soul still shudders in remembrance. Getting lost inside an untamed forest full of beasts and predators belonged now to a distant past I’d rather forget. The cold betrayals of trust long forgiven. But the memory of horror should be kept within easy reach, to be used just in case, as a blazing fire on a guiding torch.

​Looking out from a porch, a story would just be a slideshow of beautiful things. Superficial like a cover of a book. A fairytale backdraft in a tragic play. Reality is bolder behind closed doors.
No life is picture perfect just as no person is without fault. Sometimes though, we kid ourselves by painting a happy mask to wear for people to look at, so that our darkness wouldn’t have to take center stage. We hide our brokenness because it is intimate, because it represents weakness. Like broken hinges that can’t be mended. No one wants to play the role of a loser, the one who dies first in a low budget motion picture. 
Who we are when no one is looking, behind closed doors when all the lights have been shut off, is reality; With our fears and our sadness, with our scarred skin mapping our journey, with the tears crashing down, and our pieces falling off and scattering around our bare feet, is the story behind the sunshine covers of most of our lives. A clown does not fall asleep a clown. 
We do what we have to do to cope. Some hold on to glitter, to mask the blackness surrounding who they are. Some immerse themselves with beautiful things, to forget the ugliness written somewhere in their storylines. There are some however, who ironically cope by befriending their demons, by remembering the darkness, by revisiting a tragedy. Different strokes for different folks. I write to continue living. I write to survive. And unlike those who try very hard to present an idyllic scene, I write about my darkness. I write about a tainted and imperfect life. By doing so, I am liberated from the distorted images I have of myself inside my head. It is a mirror from which I see who I am, because I am someone I never really got to know very well. 
I play many roles. Some I play well, some quite poorly. Some I am extremely proud of, and some I’d rather forget.  But who I am when roles are stripped off, and I am presented in my barest form devoid of masks and illusions is my unedited story. The stories I journal directly as my thoughts run haywire. It is the story I give directly to you. I am my only story.

Why Do You Fear? 

Why Do You Fear? 

Why do you fear me and not your own madness? Why are you haunted by the shadows I cast when your very own darkness hover within you? Not every outcast are taken over by blackness. Some try very hard to find the faintest flicker of light; Some choose to build dreams upon dreams out of broken pieces, like a stepping stone that would eventually take them across the filthy, infested swamp of depression. We ran like the wind to escape, to cope, or at least to find that part of us untouched by the cruelties of circumstances. Most of us do not run after the world, but rather, we ran away from it. The world is dangerous, and we are already severely wounded. We hide to nurse fresh wounds, and we reach out with scarred hands, still hoping to make that essential communion that makes life worth living. Not all deviants are bad, and not all those who profess normalcy are sane. 
Don’t search the darkness for ghosts. Don’t search my eyes in the hope to see emptiness. Look within your heart. It’s where you’ll find a void not even my madness can compete with. Don’t search the asylum of the insane for coldness. The space that once housed your soul burns colder than ice. I am mad but not cruel. You are supposed to be sane and yet with your every step you harbor a grudge that boils down to hate and paranoia. How tragic it is for such a healthy mind to get crippled by blows no one had cast but his very own hands. 
I find it amusing that people try so hard to find something to fear on every ounce of vagueness conjured, when the worst predator this world had ever created are the so called “normal race”; the cold and calculating face hidden within every sweet smile; the tortured, vengeful heart that knows no end. The most lethal poisons are those served by trusted hands.

The Journey

I like to read. I plan my day carefully so that I will still have time to read my books. Unlike other children, I don’t play much. Television and movies bore me. Books are my sole source of entertainment. The old people do not approve of it. My Grandma once said, “ if you don’t move, mosquitoes will drain all your blood”. That frightened the hell out of me, nevermind if the entire house then was screened. So I tried to learn to read while walking around my room. That kinda gave me some terrible headaches, but I was not going to let the mosquitoes drain my blood. 
My classmates think I am a bit different. I am painfully shy and laid back. I know things they don’t and my ideas are way above the level of graders which made me some sort of an outsider in their eyes at a very early age. I write a lot. I am the youngest contributor in our school paper. Again, my writings screamed “ nuts-o!”. My poetries are darker than dark, and once a concerned school counselor asked me why, I just shrugged and said, “I don’t know. I just write that way”. Of course being eccentric allows you to win a lot of creativity awards, BUT it dismantled any chance I had to have a normal social life. Being darkly creative is fine among artists, but disturbing maybe when the artist is just 7 years old. 
So when I was diagnosed with Major Depression, I wasn’t surprised. I’ve always been odd. I just didn’t know then that my bouts of “brain flu” as I used to call it had a medical name and that it was an illness that could have caused me my life.
I remember that in high school, long before the “emo” generation had come to be known, my style had already been Gothic of sort. I emanate a kind of gloomy air without really intending to. To them, I am someone who is incapable of having a good time. 
During college, the bad emotions became more apparent. And I dealt with it by drinking. I remember mixing vodka in my orange juice. I’d go to class dead drunk. There was even a time during my swimming class when I couldn’t remember how I crossed the pool. I couldn’t remember getting in the water. I passed with a grade of 1.75.
I am in accelerated class in college. How I managed it while being plagued with depression is beyond me. I have not been diagnosed then, and so I am running purely on will power. No medicine nor therapy to aid me. Fatigue was a constant ramp and the feeling of hopelessness was almost reaching its threshold. I abused substances to help me cope. I engaged in risky behaviours to fill in the emptiness that seem to grow bigger than I am every single day. I still had a long way to go. To give up had never been a welcomed notion as far as I am concerned. I am never one to quit. Maybe, my persistence and pride did saved my life all those times. 
Along that time though is when I started to cut. Not deep enough to warrant intervention. Just deep enough to bleed. I did not want to die. I just wanted to feel. I am numb and I did not know why. I felt alone and frightened. I knew something is going on inside my head I could not control. 
I finished college and went on to Med School. I am 3rd year med proper, during a psychiatry class that I was introduced to Depression. It stared me in the eye, and I knew then that my secret demon had a name. 
I knew I had to be managed. But I was afraid to be found out. I had this absurd idea that when the school finds me depressed, I will not be allowed to graduate, and I couldn’t accept that. So, I self medicated. I researched, did my very own, personal PCP, asked a teacher an Rx of Fluoxetine and boom! For the first time in my life, I felt free. I felt the gray cloud lift up, the perpetual veil in my eyes is gone. I felt a different person after that. 
The freedom was short lived. Taking the antidepressant aggravated my insomnia. It also affected my eating habits. I lost my appetite so drastically I was almost skin and bones. By the time I started clerkship, no resident wants me in their OR because it was simply too tedious to find a gown that I won’t trip on to, and find me surgical gloves that fit snuggly on my hands. They were also afraid I’d collapse on them during a 12 hours long Whipple surgery. I stopped the antidepressant. I still didn’t know better. 
As the years passed by, the depression grew worse. And by the time I was finally diagnosed and properly managed, I’d have tried suicide more than 50 times, and I am nowhere near who I really am. The suicide attempts, I could say now with conviction that it was not because I wanted to die. It was simply a part of the  fulminant stage of clinical depression. I had no thoughts about death. My consciousness never once consented to dying. Suicide is just  something the ailing brain pushes you to do and you are helpless to do anything about it. I did not want to die. I wanted help. I knew I needed help. I just did not know how to get it. And I am a doctor. I can’t begin to imagine how others might be feeling. 
Why am I sharing this? Because I wanted people to know that Depression is not a “status illness”. It is not a hype disease. It is real and it has our faces all over it. I am one of the lucky ones. I got to catch it before it literally blew me away to kingdom come. I am not saying I don’t have it anymore. I still do. Unfortunately, it still has no definite cure. But I was able to reclaim my life from it at long last. If one medicine doesn’t work, don’t give up. There are more chances that one will work. You also have to wait at least 2 weeks for the first noticeable improvement, so hang on and don’t let go no matter what. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to talk about it. Fight the stigma. You are not crazy. You are simply ill. People who brand you as “nuts” are people who don’t know better. They are morons and their opinions don’t matter, BUT you do. We do.