Was I ever a happy child? Without thinking, my parents would definitely say I was, and then they’d go into a lengthy detail of describing my achievements.

“ She was such a competitive spirit. She was smart beyond her years”.

Was I ever a happy child?

I’m a good student sure. I ponder the abstract and understand without trying what most would perceive as unconceivable jargons. The same mind that does not conceal horror; That see the world without filters, without frills, without the protective lies that preserve one’s fragile sanity.

Was I a happy child?

Maybe in my own eccentric way I was. But I knew darkness in a way others do not. Because even while I laugh, I am aware of a spot in my heart that does not really fill up. A void that refuses to accept unadulterated glee.

I knew nothing about Depression as a child. I was shielded from the sharp edges the world so often wielded indiscriminately, — until I came face to face with the monsters.

Fear is protective, they say, until it misfires. Then it becomes an enemy. A shackle or a box beneath the ground. Limiting. Suffocating.

I was a happy child, at least up to the extent I knew how happiness should make one feel. I am now simply a grateful person, for what I have and what I am capable of giving in spite of my darkness.

I’ve seen the demons, therefore I understand. I’ve been alone, therefore I reach out. I’ve felt the all encompassing embrace of depression, the sharp cuts of hate, the racing thoughts of anxiety, and the ephemeral kiss of panic. I met some of the deadliest monsters a mind can ever create, and I made it out. I made it out.

No one who’d gone to battle comes back the same. I know I’ve never been the same since.

Are the changes blessings or curses?

To now have eyes that see too much, hearing that catches the scream of silence, skin that holds enough stories of its own, and a heart that simultaneously bond excessively and not at all. The middle ground had all but disappeared somewhere among the ruins of the past.

Was I a happy child?

I started on life probably happy I don’t know. Maybe, somewhere along the way, while I skip and danced under the bright afternoon sun, I fell, in a hole, unsuspecting, betrayed and wounded.

Dark holes don’t kill you immediately.

It corrupts you instead.

I got in happy, I emerged hollowed out and mutated, haunted by the dark. By ghosts. By my own mind.

I am good at imitating normalcy. I’m good at projecting acceptable behaviours. I made it out.

My mind, in spite of it being infested by sadness and fear, is better than most. I understand abstracts. I am abstract. I see the relationships of invisible congruence and oppositions. I see the unseen. I am more than functional. I exceed expectations. Intelligence is as protective as invisibility, — or morality.

Am I happy?

I guess in my own way I am. My wounds are now but scars, and the darkness in my past allows me to appreciate the stars. The flickers. The dying ember.

Why do I seek the broken?

Because it’s my way of putting myself back together, — one broken soul at a time.

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​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.

I’ve walked these sterile corridors for so many years but not once did I walked it without my chest drumming like crazy. I remember April some years back when I first walked on these floors as a newly minted physician, proudly clutching my very first lightweight cardiac stethoscope ( I used to have the disposable kind that one can buy in drugstores for P250), amazed and frightened at the same time at the chaotic scenes before me. “I’m ready”, I told myself. It was not long after when I realized that no one can ever be ready for the battles a doctor faces. No one. Not even a dreamer such as I am. I witnessed how people I’ve been with in the starting line all transformed into someone unrecognizable halfway through the journey. I lost my idealism somewhere along the tiny spaces I tried to curl up in one night too many, to steal a desperately needed sleep; maybe I lost it somewhere along hallways where charts fly, and voices are raised, where hearts are broken and pride are pulverized; when my worth is challenged again and again, until I could no longer remember how it feels like to be secure in my own skin. It is only in Medicine where people are stripped off all pride and self confidence so that one day, they can trust their very own judgement. Ironic that doctors are broken in pieces before they can be trusted to heal others.

“Being a doctor is not just putting on that long white coat”, my Dad used to say to me. Being a doctor is that drumming of the heart before facing every patient, that fight in the soul every time we wrestle with death for someone else, and that stony façade we’ve been trained to wear when we wanted so much to cry. Emotion had always been a doctor’s great nemesis. It slows us down when there is so much work to be done. It taints objectivity, and it weakens the resolve to face more sufferings.

We can’t be healers forever, in fact, we can’t be healers for too long. Doctors die young, go mad or both. And the length of time to create a doctor (or mutate one) is simply too complex to compensate for those we lose along the way. Some die from stress related illness, a huge number commit suicide and more are murdered for mundane reasons. Is the long white gown still worth it?

My life may be worth more than the stale coffee I’ve consumed from the old hospital vending machine all these years; more than the blinding light of day after going on duty for 35 hours; more than the piles of census and case reports; more than the social media shaming; more than the accusing words from disgruntled patients and relatives who thought I had all the answers; more than the family holidays and birthdays I’ve missed; more than the money I could have earned; more than all the disappointments I’ve learned to collect one by one. But one life I make better is what defines who I am as a healer. The day I decided to walk the hospital floor, wearing the white long gown that represents the profession is when I ceased to be just me.