Straightjacket Toothaches

First Saturday of the year.

Yup, I know I’m kind of a bum but really, I hate leaving my room. I hate to go outside and think I only have three days of vacation. But I have to stick with my plans. Paying a dentist a freaky visit would be the number of my list.

As long as my memory serves me right, my last dental would be in grade school, almost eleven years I think.  A toothache on my lower jaw made me squeal in no time, making my mom arrange an appointment with the nearest dentist. It is when the Tomb raider and Evolution rocked the cinemas. My mom made me choose whether pull my aching tooth out and go to the movies or spend my weekend in my room and read books.  Well, I think I made the wrong choice…

Eleven years have passed and my palms are sweating, my fear with dentist grew bigger than I’ve expected.  My mom didn’t want be there the whole the time, since according to her I’m officially a man; I have to figure out how to manage facing my fears. “Well Ma, this is a tooth for crying out loud, a tooth to be extracted out of my gum, out of my mouth and out of my life.”

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Mama just gave me that “you’re-silly-exagerating-things-don’t-be-a-scardy-cat-or-I’ll-hit-you-with-this-spatula” look. I just smiled back at her and after a second she left in the waiting room.

I just remembered that a friend was only a block away from the dentist’s office. It’s not bad to have a companion in this life changing situation.

After exchanging some sms with Angie, she came and sat beside me. She cracked some jokes and told me some stories about the people in the asylum she last visited.

“Minsan nga nung nagconduct ako ng art class with my students, may napansin akong babae, grabe friend, she keeps on playing with her hands, iniikot niya yung kamay niya sa taboi ng tenga niya, looks like she’s like a radio getting a signal from the outer space or somewhere beyond.”*

And I grinned, I just imagined how they looks like, Angie and her students in scrub suits distributing crayons and Oslo papers to those mentally ill patients. With schizophrenias, traumas and mind bending pain.

She continued, “ tapos nung turn na niya magexplain about her drawing, she didn’t say anything but kept doing her thing, iniikot parin niya ang kanyang kamay na tila may hawak na turner sa tainga. I ask her kung ano yung idinorowing niya pero ginagawa pa rin yung habit niya. Nung tinanu8ng ko siya kung ano yung ginagawa niya, nagsimula naman siyang magsalita ng pabulong, she sounds Chinese pero gibberish kaya I can’t finalize my judgement.”

“Edi di niya napaliwanag yung drawing niya?”

“Yun na nga I keep asking her but she still doing her thing, sabi nga ng mga caretaker sa room na ‘Mam, kumukuha pa po ng signal’ sabay tawa, yung iba naman ang sabi ‘nag-aadjust naman daw ng volume’” she took a glance outside, “tatanungin ko nga sana kung bakit niya iyon di masagot at lagi niya iyon ginagawa…”

“pero bawal magtanong ng BAKIT di ba?”

“yun nga eh, so my question ended up,’ano ang ginagawa mo? Anong dahilan?” hindi nagiging sympathetic”

I just learned from her to avoid asking WHY to a mentally ill patient. That three letter word means so much to their lives; it can pull a screw out of their healing thinking. A sexually abused patient ran wild after an intern asked her “bakit ka tumatalon sa kama?”, the patient just looked at him, stopped and began to ran.

“ We’ll there’s this patient about our age, he got the looks I tell you, but sayang, may factory defect.”

‘Yikes! Child abuse!” then I laughed.

“Adik!” she laughed back, “One time, bigla syang lumapit sakit tapos bigla akong tinapik and he said ‘Ilabas niyo na po ako dito, matino naman ako eh, sige na oh’ , pinansin ko siya at sabi ko naman pinaalaga siya dito para gamutin siya pero alam mo na ang mga ganun, makulit, pero syempre kailangan nating maging patient friend.”

“syempre,” sigh! “nakakita ka nga ng gwapo me sakit nga lang”

“Yun nga eh,  May time ngang yung mga student ko yung kinukulit niya,:”

‘sige na uwi mo na ako’

‘sige na’

‘bakit naman? Marunong ka bang manlaba? Magluto?’

“Sinuway ko nga:”

‘hoy! Wag niyong hamunin nyan mamya lalong umasa yan.”

“Minsan nga during our art class bigla syang lumapit sa akin along with his art materials, ‘Mam, pakisabi sa tatay ko na sunduin na niya ako dito, gusto ko na umuwi dito, mababaliw ako dito eh’ and then bigla syang pumunit ng papel sa side ng bond paper, tapos nagsulat then inabot niya sa akin yung cellphone number ng tatay niya;”

‘Yan ang number ni Tatay, pakisabi pasunduin ako kay ate, pakisabi pakibilisan, okay?’

Sigh!

“Bakit naman siya nabaliw? Batang bata pa, ka-edad natin sabi mo…”

“Yun nga, nakwento sa akin minsan ng tauhan ng asylum,; ‘Mam, alam niyo ba, yang si *** ay dating estudyanteng nagduduty dito’ , nagulat ako and I asked kung bakit nabaliw , di naman masagot ni manong.”

“Sayang..” sounding almost gay.

“Schizophrenia daw. “

“bakit naman nabaliw yun?”

“Siguro bumagsak sa battery exam, alam mo naman kung gaano yun kahirap diba? Kami rin halos mabaliw.” And she cracked “kaya pag may meeting ako sa mga students ko I’ll tell them, ‘alam niyo magiingat kayo ha, baka mamya ayaw niyo nang umalis dito, there are only three reasons, Una, nagkagusto kayo sa pasyente niyo, pangalawa, masyadong nagustuhan niyo ang pagkain dito at pangatlo baka pasyente narin kayo.”

And then we laughed on that piece of cornball.

“paano kaya yun? May kaibigan ba iyon? Dinadalaw kaya siya dun? I can’t imagine being in an asylum as our young age…”

She took my cell and began to film my moment

She smiled and said, “Okay lang yan friend, you can do it! Just face your fear! Don’t be afraid.”

I thanked her.

“Laki laki mo na eh, takot ka pa din sa dentista”

Sarcastic grin.

“Salamat ha friend!” Sigh!

I took a step to the OR room, and observe the dentist as she picks her tools. On the other hand, her patient, mouth wide open, but you can see a smile on her eyes.

And I just told myself,

“You know what, you can do, you must do it, some of those who were in Asylum faced their fear and admit themselves to therapies just to be healed, some of them conquered it and already took a step outside of the crazy hall, some, well, didn’t won because they let fear ruin their plans, they became more insane because of losing.”

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And some of them were, well… just confined by their family, they don’t have a choice, they didn’t have any chance to argue, they were just locked up in a straightjacket and face their worst fear, worst realizations that they’re out of there mind, need to be treated and after that, they can smell victory and reunite with their families.

Boy, I think I have to buy more ice cream after this…

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