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  • I'll Be Happy When

    Right now, I’m just overwhelmed with a mixture of feelings… I was never used to writing at the height of my emotions because then I would be irrational. It happened yesterday, right when I’m starting to get used to the hang-ups of what has been starting to turn out to be my daily work routine. You wake up on a Monday…go to work. You wake up on a Tuesday…and go to work. Then it’s Wednesday. Then it’s Thursday and so on. Next week it will be Monday again, Tuesday again, so on and so forth. Until yesterday, I was shaken up or should I say beaten up by one of my ‘big’ kids that it served as a point of realization for me.

    I was riding on the fx bound home and, really, I couldn’t help but cry. Good thing it’s dim as tears are welling up beneath my eyes. It just feels so sad… Earlier that day, my ‘big’ kid as I have said threw tantrums because of a petty thing – I didn’t fix her hair into a “pigtail” just because I have only one rubber band with me at that time and she doesn’t want a “ponytail”. She got really agitated, she was hurting herself, and she almost broke the wooden tables and chairs inside the room. She banged and pushed all the things on the table that they scattered all over the floor. Worse, she broke the aircon, and she almost broke the window. I was trying to restrain her, as any OT would do, but I just can’t. I can’t remember how many times I hit my head on the wall just because I was trying to protect her from getting harmed or from hurting herself during the incident. I admit she was so much stronger, taller and faster than I am that I can’t contain her. Finally, her nanny came in and she tried to calm her. When she finally relaxed, and her nanny was out already, we continued with our session. I tried my best to control my emotions, I didn’t want to cry as she performs the activities… I was crying not because I got hurt. Really, it was nothing to me. I’ve seen or handled worse. Her nanny even told me that it was not the worst yet that she did. As an OT, I was used to handling kids with behavioral problems ranging from mild to severe – from simple pinching, biting, kicking to almost ruining the entire therapy room. I cried because…I felt worthless during that time. I wasn’t able to do anything. Being a licensed occupational therapist…who am I to lecture caregivers and parents regarding behavioral modification techniques when I can’t even restrain or control this kid from throwing tantrums?or from wrecking the room? After 4 years of college, I felt like I’ve learned nothing. I definitely felt terribly awful… Before our session ends, right when she’s about to finish our coloring activity, I gave her a blank sheet of paper where she could scribble or what we call in psychiatry, “sublimate” her aggressiveness. I was surprised to see her drawing circles which later on turned out to be “smiley faces”, and she filled out the entire sheet of paper. She colored them and after that she folded the paper into four. I was watching her as she does it and I was shocked that she handed it to me then kissed me on the cheek. Oh I get it! She actually made a sorry card for me. *aww..* This kid is non-verbal and she has autism. Although she can imitate verbally the words “sorry” when her nanny asked her to say so after she threw tantrums…this is really a big deal for me - to think that she actually thought of making a card to make up for what she has done? Isn’t that sweet! =)

    When I’m finally bound home…that’s when I pondered over the things that happened. Now I realized, all those “clinical reasoning” and “self-reflection” lectures by Mam Cabatan really come in handy in the real work setting. You begin to notice your mistakes and at the end of the day, you learn from them. How could I forget our psych lectures during internship?that to manage an aggressive patient, it’s not always best to confront him. If he’s mad to death, be calm and objective. That’s what I should have done during that incident. I should have tried to calm her down instead right when I see that being firm no longer works - that is what Behavioral Modification Technique is all about.

    “I’ll be happy when…” Now I realize how sad that sounds and how many people commit that same mistake. According to the book I’ve read entitled “Being Happy” - If we’re unhappy, it’s because life is not as we want it. Life is not matching our expectations of how it “ought” to be and so we’re unhappy. Happiness is a decision.” Like what the father of one of my patients told me, I’ve been living a fast-tracked, clock-driven life, I should take a break every once in a while. Wu-wei…just go with the flow. I think that’s how other happy people’s lives are. Hoff said: “When we learn to work with our Inner nature, and with the natural laws operating around us, we reach the level of Wu Wei. Then we work with the natural order of things and operate on the principle of minimal effort. Since the natural world follows that principle, it does not make mistakes. Mistakes are made – or imagined – by man, the creature with the overloaded Brain who separates himself from the supporting network of natural laws by interfering and trying too hard.” I’m always setting standards for myself. I’ve always been obsessive-compulsive, perfectionist-idealist type of person…and now it has consumed me. It’s starting to set boundaries of what I could measure up for happiness. “I’ll be happy when…” Now I know I should be happy because I’m blessed for all these. And just like Winnie the Pooh’s philosophy – while Eayore frets, and Piglet hesitates and Owl pontificates…Pooh just is. I am what I am now, and it’s exactly what I need to be happy. I commit mistakes, I learn from them, and everyday I grow as a better person.

    Right now, my head still aches during that incident...but it doesn't matter. It would continue to remind me of my desire to shape the behavior of my kid, to fulfill my wish if it's ever possible, to see her live as normally as any individual could. ^_^