It was back in 2012 when I was lying in the males’ quarters, around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, in one of the busiest hospital in Cebu when I said to myself “I choose happiness”. That moment became the most significant turning point in my life.
I was in deep deep depression, it’s what others would say – rock bottom. Yes, I was hitting the rock bottom. All the signs and symptoms of depression manifested in me. I know this because I am a doctor. It’s like when I look at myself in the mirror, I can spot the symptoms which I read from my Psychiatry book. I had suicidal thoughts because death seemed to be a great escape from all the burden and misery surrounding me. Negative thoughts occupy my mind most of the time and I always hear myself saying that I am not good enough. My face failed to hide my sorrow, even to the point that one of my mentor, a neurosurgeon, told me that I looked like a ‘zombie’. Sometimes, I would stare blankly during a meal and my wife would snap me out of my daydream and she would ask if I was all right and I would lie saying "yes, I'm fine". She knows that I’m stressed with work but she didn’t know how depressed I was.
It was not always like this. I was a cheerful person. I get sad sometimes because of the normal hiccups in life but never this miserable. After the medical board exams, I immediately went into General Surgery training. The start of the residency training was going quite well. The training program, by the way, was a 5-year course. I was getting along with my colleagues and I loved reading my books and eventually I got high scores. In the middle of my residency training, I got interested in Plastic Surgery. I then learned that another government hospital in my place was going to open a Plastic Surgery Department, the first training offered outside Manila. I got really excited. The prerequisite to proceed to plastic surgery is only 4 years general surgery training, so I figured I will not finish general surgery and proceed to plastics. Many of the general surgery consultants did not approve my decision, they opted me to finish the 5-year GS training before transferring to a subspecialty. But I did not listen, I was so fixed to become a plastic surgeon.
I transferred to the other hospital when I got accepted in the plastic surgery training. I was the only resident in the program because, like i said, it was new. The first few months were good, I was really high, I said to myself that it was what I was meant to do. Problems started to come up after a while, my surgeries started to have many complications. I was being scolded almost everyday by my consultants. My mentors were perfectionists, any minor detail that I would miss, I would be reprimanded. I know, it's part of the game, its part of the training but I was not handling it well. I was making good in the general surgery training and suddenly I'm a no good surgeon in this new training. It all went upside down, I lost my touch. I don't know if I got lazy in reading my books or I just lost hope in reading because I did not seem to know the answer to the simplest question my consultants threw at me during our mini conferences. I was getting desperate and it went down into a vicious cycle. More complications followed with more ranting from my mentor, even in front of other people. It came to a point that I wanted to cry but I was not able to, I became numb to the pain and humiliation. Each day I slowly slid down to the pessimistic path, and we all know this aggravated the situation. I tried to stay afloat for 2 and a half years, but I wasn't successful, I was drowning in depression. It was so hard to get out of bed in the morning, and all I saw in the world was despair. I blamed myself for transferring to this subspecialty, I blamed myself for not completing general surgery, I blamed myself for not being good enough. I was angry at myself and I was angry with my mentors. I was anticipating that they would kick me out, and when that happens how would I feed my family? My two kids are already going to start with pre-school, where would I get the money if I lose my job? I do not want to go back to general surgery because I don't want to operate anymore, I was stressed out, all enthusiasm was sucked out of me. I envy my colleagues who are very happy with their work. I didn't appreciate my family's support. I lost my appetite, I lost my sex drive, I became a zombie, I lost all hope.
In the middle of this crisis, I would sometimes go to my Uncle's clinic which was only a couple of blocks away, to have lunch with him. When he saw me, he immediately knew what I was going through. He advised me to listen to some of his audio books about positive thinking and self motivation. He told me that there is a 'secret' about living our lives and that happiness is a choice and it comes from within. I heard, but I did not listen, his advice just flew out of my other ear maybe because I was so depressed to listen to anything. After lunch, I would go back to the hospital and lie down on the bed thinking about negative things even thinking about suicide. However, one afternoon, I suddenly had an epiphany! I told myself "I cannot continue to punish myself like this" and in that instant I remembered the words - Happiness is a choice. So I shouted the words in my mind, "I CHOOSE HAPPINESS!". The next day, I went back to my uncle's clinic with my flash drive and copied all his audio books and videos. Upon seeing my enthusiasm about all of these, he said, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear". The first video that he advised me to see was "The Secret" and that movie literally changed my life.
I was kicked out from plastic surgery training in the middle of 2012, I cried, I'm not ashamed to admit that, but it didn't really affected me that much anymore. I knew that there will be more work opportunities that will come up. I am Catholic, so I replaced the word Universe with God because for me, they are synonymous. I did not have a clue what I would do after plastic surgery but I just kept my faith that God will not abandon me. I followed the teachings of "the secret", I started to give thanks with all the things around me. I started to notice the trees, the sun, the clouds, the flowers, how wonderful the creations of the Lord are.
My cousin suggested that I apply as a doctor offshore, in an oil rig, I thought it was a great idea, the salary was great and the rotation was good. I get to work in the rig for 28 days then stay home for 28 days and then vice versa, and the best part is, I am also paid during my time off. So everyday, I visualized that I am already working in the rig and thanked God for the job as if I already have it. After 1 year and 5 months, I finally got the job. I also had many job opportunities that came my way while waiting for my dream job. I worked in three hospitals and was getting the money I needed for my children's education, pay off my debts and even put some money on financial investments. I started to eat well again and also started to do some workout again. I picked up my life slowly. My life turned around because I shifted my thoughts and feelings to what I really wanted. Instead of thinking about what I don't want, I focused my attention to what I really want. So, I visualized my perfect home, my perfect job, my perfect car, my perfect vacation and my perfect relationships everyday.
Now, I continue to share my experience to my close friends and would tell them that all we need is to believe, have faith and give thanks. And one more thing, feel good!