“How much does it hurt?”
“Okay, anak. Give me ten minutes and we will pay the clinic a visit.”
I was that girl.
Despite the fear and anxiety my family always housed, bravery was the option they unwaiverly chose. It could not have been easy nursing a child who constantly complained of a hurting chest, breathing difficulties, itchy and bleeding rashes, or gnarling stomach pains. Because at the tender age of seven, doctors diagnosed me with gastric ulcer and eczema. By eight, ambiguous hospital data showed that I either had a heart disease, bone inflammation, or both. And by eleven, I was a consistent migraineur.
Beauty and pain
As depressing as it sounds, my childhood was filled with sudden and sharp chest or stomach pains, and quick trips to the clinic in the dead of the night.
X-rays, pills, and Chinese cough syrups became a common sight. Eventually, my parents started arguing in hushed tones about my condition, afraid that I might somehow overhear their issues. They often quarrelled about the do’s and do not’s, which could affect my condition. Each would blame the other for my grave situation. I felt like it was always my fault. I would tiptoe back to my room – weep silently while clutching my pillow over my chest in pain.
Mornings, however, were always something I looked forward to, along with school. There, within the confined walls of the classroom, I felt normal, stable and secure.
Lessons, books, notebooks and even the occasional Physical Education class I could not skip, would brighten up my day. I managed to ignore school bullies. I made friends and exchanged friendship bracelets with them. For short and timely moments, rays of sunshine would burst forth and I pretended to be as normal as a little girl could be.
That is, until I would faint from exhaustion and wake up seeing concerned looks on everybody’s faces. That was what I hated the most – people looking at me as someone to be pitied upon, like a drenched puppy or a lost kitten. I started hating myself.
Light in the shadows
During what my mother would call “rest periods,” which actually pertain to being confined in a room, papers and crayons were my constant companions. I discovered and drew the world I would like to live in. I built walls of glass around me – never wanting to trust anyone but my family and friends, and never wanting to feel any more pain. I just wanted to shut the world out and hold make believe tea parties with my sister. It was in that way that I continued to find reasons to live; my imaginary worlds, my family, and my friends, were my conduit towards hope.
Live and let go
Despite living like a bitter and clammed-up shell, I desperately tried to live and push the boundaries of what I could and could not do. Sundays would always be a trip to Baywalk or to the nearby park, where my dad would treat me to a cone of vanilla sorbetes.
During fourth grade, I spent each waking moment up in our rooftop – doing my homework there. I also spent a lot of time playing patintero with my playmates. The late months of the year always include a nightly trip to themed parks. Piano lessons, swimming and badminton games filled the blank spaces between my hysteric episodes.
I smiled and laughed in each of these moments – my parents laughed along with me. It takes a great amount of courage to smile in the face of pain – whether physical, or emotional, or even both. But all it takes are the tiny nuances in life to make you forget about sorrow and make you believe that life is still worth living.
To tell the truth, my crayon drawings as a confined kid were no more than doodles and stick-persons, and the bracelets that circled my wrists then were only yards of string and colourful beads. Still, it was in those little moments that color reached my bland life and sugar dusted my bitter pills (literally).
It os those little joys that matter because at the end of the day life counts as much as one would like it to.
I still go through periods of recurring headaches and nausea, and the dull stomach pains have not ceased. But, I thank God that my chest pains have vanished, and have not come to haunt me again.
With a new perspective, at 17, I feel complete, happy and revitalized.