By EMMA P VALENCIA, MD
TOMORROW I’m going to visit him.
Used to go to Fairview, but now, I have to travel farther just to pay him a visit. A long postponed visit to my friend. I had planned it earlier, but for one reason or another, it did not push true.
Maybe, it was meant to be tomorrow. He would have adjusted to the new surroundings and companions. He would not be irritable anymore. And he would probably meet me with a smile.
I was told he had to be transferred to this new “home’ because he caused trouble in his previous residence. But who would not be so hot-headed if you are “locked” up with people whom you don’t even know from Adam, and who would not even laugh at your jokes?
“Emma, ang mga kasama ko mga baliw (Emma, these people here are crazy!) and we would laugh out really hard , because he said it with a straight face.
He knew he was one of them, but this was his lucid moment, so he was distinguishing himself from the rest who stared at walls and laughed at and with invisible visitors.
How many years ago had it been when he first “broke down?”
About 30 years ago, if I remember right. When he got back from abroad where he was “institutionalised”, he narrated to me how he was supposedly maltreated in that foreign mental institution.
The emotional and psychic trauma must have been that heavy, it was imprinted in his mind, and he would go back to that experience every time he felt depressed.
Later, he tried to end it all, but it was not meant to be consummated because I dreamt the night before that he was looking for me and was crying for help.
And so, the very next day, I went to his house but did not see him because his mother said he went out early. I dilly-dallied, stayed a little longer, sat on the sofa and leafed through materials on the table.
Serendipity? I saw a notebook lying on the table and went through the notes written on it. At the back of the notebook was written something like Jose Rizal’s “Adios Patria Adorada”.
It was a farewell note -- to everybody who cared -- from my friend. So, where is he now? Only in one place. The one he frequented the most -- the Faculty building at UP.
And so, together with his brother, we drove to UP with my heart on my throat, my heartbeat racing as did the car his brother drove. Just in the nick of time.
We found him on the roof, but he would not budge. Finally persuaded to come down, we drove directly to Makati Med’s basement.
That was the beginning of his long schizophrenic journey. I would spend many hours on the phone, listening to his fantastic stories of aliens controlling his mind, of impregnating him, while I helped him sift through the thoughts, differentiating the imagined from the probable, the truth and untruth.
He was an intelligent fellow, so I had to be at my logical best, my truthful best, and my doctor-best.
But in between moments of bending reality, he is really a thoughtful friend. He never missed to call on my birthday, would remind me of my mom and dad’s birthdays, regale me with stories about my sisters, which I have already forgotten, anecdotes about our classmates - like a group of boys getting caught with playboy magazine, of pushing chairs to create noise to camouflage the sound of farting.
We would have such a howling time. But after laughing so much, there would be the heart-wrenching moments - moments I felt so inadequate.
“Emma, why did God give me intelligence when I would not be able to use it? Sana ginawa na lang niya akong moron (He should have created me a moron).
“Why is he keeping me alive when I have not contributed anything to society, a burden to my siblings? When I have those horrible thoughts, I feel chased by so many entities, I am scared, I want to hide, but there is no place to hide. When I am lucid, I feel my uselessness, I feel trapped.”
Somehow, I needed to give some answers, and so every time these moments transpired, I had to fathom my own beliefs, lay my soul bare because this is an anguished soul asking, not for clear cut answers, but only for a glimpse of hope, and the possible meaning of his suffering.
I can only narrate my own journey, my own sufferings and doubts, so that he would not feel alone, because I don’t have the answers.
Finally, after a long while, I will be able to see him.
I will bring his favourite siopao and siomai from Jona’s.
I don’t know if he would be allowed enough time to regale me with funny stories about our classmates.
Or he might be in a foul mood and refuse to see me.
In that case, I will just come back some other time.
We will see. Tomorrow.
(Dr EMMA P Valencia, MD, is a Health Policy Analyst, writer, poet and journalist, who shuttles between Manila and California. She once worked with Senator Eduardo J Angara to assist him on important health policy legislations.)