A 17-year old male came into the emergency room for acute onset of abdominal pain that was accompanied by persistent and constant belching, especially after eating. He also reported symptoms of chest pain and shortness of breath, but his ECG was unremarkable. He claimed to have passed black-colored stools. He was not advised for inpatient care but was eventually admitted for close observation, and endoscopy was performed for suspicion of gastric ulcers. Erythema of the gastric mucosa along the lesser and great curvature was found. He was eventually diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (or GERD). Such is the story of a typical teenager who had already missed school for more than a month.

The doctors said it was nothing serious. His friends said it was an overreaction. The former reassured the patient, but the latter didn’t help the patient. He had lost 25 pounds in 2 weeks—a significant amount of weight loss considering that the patient had a normal diet. He had not been in contact with friends for more than 2 weeks but at the time that social media was booming, it was hard for his friends not to reach out to him. He had been sad for more than 2 weeks, holding a rosary at night thinking that it was his last day to live. He was grateful for the mornings he was still alive. He had suicidal ideations but no attempts were made except for a few glances outside the window lying above his head. He had lost all interest in his studies and leisure activities. Desperate attempts to enjoy life included playing video games and watching television shows that he used to enjoy. The worst feeling that he felt was that he lost all feeling of purpose and definition. His goal everyday was to count how many days he had lived through this phase. Counting the ticks of the clock distracted him from other things that would’ve otherwise hurt him. The ordeal that had preceded this phase was not described in detail by the patient. It would’ve been too much for any normal human being, let alone a teenager, to undergo such a trial. He described it as something that was normal, but his psychiatrist was flabbergasted.

The doctors said it was nothing serious. They ran a battery of tests and everything came out “normal”. A comprehensive psychiatric evaluation was done. A diagnosis of major depressive disorder (MDD) was being considered. The patient did well and the results indicated he was as happy as ever. But the 2-hour examination and evaluation tool had its faults and pitfalls, especially with a patient of above average intelligence, doing well in school and in his academics. The first few questions had made him aware that this was an examination he had to pass. He became self-aware and self-conscious that he would be diagnosed with MDD if he failed the test. He manipulated his own answers. All that he intended to answer, he answered the opposite.

“What is happiness for you?” Happiness is about being purposeful and enjoying the simplest things in life. “What do you see in this picture (of a rainbow)?” A rainbow is a beautiful blend of colors that comes after a stormy weather. “How do you interpret this picture (of a home)?” A home is where a family stays, loves and make wonderful moments and memories together. “How would you describe this picture (of a boy alone and looking into the sky?” The boy is at his crossroads and looking up to the sky because he knows he has a bright future ahead. If these answers were the complete opposite of what the patient had originally intended to answer, imagine the answers if he had answered them truthfully. There would be no happiness for him, all sadness. A rainbow is nonexistent and signifies a false illusion of a bright future. A home is where violence was the atmosphere for almost a year and where memories of worse outweighed memories of bad. The boy wasn’t looking up. Instead he was thinking whether he would go to heaven if he killed himself.

His friends said it was overreaction. When the patient came back to school for the first time in more than a month, he felt fragile, vulnerable and subjected to the gossip of many others. The first hour of class felt like days. The second hour of class felt familiar as abdominal pain had once again hit. While standing and attempting to walk, he was clutching his abdomen as if something had just ruptured. He was rushed to the school clinic but found that he needed only bed rest. He eventually decided to skip school the rest of the day and went back home. A tough decision was ahead. He was on a crossroads of whether he wanted to continue school or just choose to continue his stay home. His family and true friends convinced him that he could. His psychiatrist advised that he could if he wanted to, but he eventually went back to school. Never mind the garrulous mouths of others when there were the real people who had guided him all the way back into the thick of things. He graduated not with flying color by his standards, but with more confidence than he ever has in his life. Such is the story of a teenager who couldn’t last hours when he went back to school but eventually survived, struggled a lot of times, failed and succeeded at many times up until the present.

Had you not read beyond the first paragraph and skipped to the last paragraph, his story would have been completely misinterpreted and misconstrued as a simple overreaction. Between the first and last paragraphs lie the struggles of the many people who are affected today. Be willing to listen, understand and empathize.

Such is the feeling of tranquility thereafter. Such is the story of your current student council president.