For Elena (original)

All of us, or at least the majority of us, become doctors because we want to help people. We’re idealists, hoping that we can make a difference in people’s lives. After two weeks with a refugee doctor, I realised that sometimes, we can’t.

Everyday, I heard stories of families being separated because of war, innocent loved ones being killed or even worse, being deported back to the place they fled from.

I was frustrated. So frustrated that their stories stayed with me even after I left the clinic, even during my sleep. I hated that my patients had to go through this and worst of all, I hated the fact that I can’t do anything about it.

During my final day, I received a patient about my age who has been through a lot more pain than anyone in their 20s should do. I asked her what she wanted me to do and she just said she wanted someone to listen to what’s inside her heart. Even though I was happy she eventually left the clinic with a smile, I was burdened more than ever.

I realised that as a doctor, and as a person, I’m limited. I can’t change the world, I can’t stop the evil that’s happening around us, and I can’t undo what has happened to the victims I meet. What I can do though, is be there for them and pray. And so that’s what I’ve been doing.

This is a song I wrote for that patient (the title is not her real name) and all the other patients I met and will meet. To my patients, I’m sorry for everything that has happened, but I hope and pray that everything will be okay from now on.

 

I’m tired. (KUA/student-lead ward finally over)

I’m tired. For the past two weeks of this student-lead ward placement, I’ve been met with prejudice, discrimination and disrespect. Even some trying to undermine my role as in this case, the doctor. It turns out, it doesn’t matter how many times I present myself as the doctor. Just because of my appearance, it will never sink in for some. During the day, I told myself to hold on for just a few more hours but… I broke down.
 
The world is unfair I told myself. No matter what I’ll do, some people will just never take me seriously. Why did I even choose this profession in the first place? After crying on the phone to my friend, I returned to the ward.
 
At the end of the day, as it was our last shift at the placement, I said goodbye to our patients. They then told me that they were sorry to see me leave, and thanked me for all that we’ve done.
 
“With you guys around, I will always feel safe even if I’m home alone. We always hear nonsense on the news, when they should really be publishing about the work you all do. I wanted you to know that and, thank you very much for everything.”
 
I remembered why I wanted to be a doctor again. ❤️

World Health Day 2017: my story

I know this might come as a shock to some of you, but I have long thought that it’s about time for me to speak openly about it. Especially today, on the launch of WHO’s 2017 World Health Day campaign. Two years ago, I was suffering from depression. #letstalk 
I was doing well academically: published as an undergrad and was even invited to present my research internationally across the world. I was proud of what I had achieved, but others around me did not share my happiness. I was bullied in my medical school. I sought help from my medical school but I was told that it was my fault. They referred me to doctors and psychologists/psychiatrists for my depression, who all disagreed with my medical school. However, my medical school didn’t listen. I was forced on medication and psychotherapy. I then started to believe that maybe there was something wrong with me, that it was my fault I was being bullied.

I left my medical school that following summer and moved back home to Sweden from the UK. I was ashamed of the weak and lost person I perceived myself to have become. I chose to isolate myself and battle with my thoughts alone, as I didn’t want my depression to be noticed. Until one day, my sister sent me contact information to a therapist, and I secretly started to go.

After half a year of therapy later, I came back to my now new medical school, continuing where I left off in the UK. I learnt that everything that happened wasn’t my fault, and I was no longer ashamed. Now, I can talk about it more openly and I’m back to the same old happy and always smiling Sam that I’ve always been. 

So to all those battling depression, you are not alone. Acknowledge it, open up, and talk. I’ll listen if no one else will. If needed, professional help is always available. No matter what, never believe that it’s your fault and never be ashamed. We’re all human so in the end, we’re allowed to act as one every now and then! 😊

Happy International Women’s Day 2017

Throwback to my days following Marie Curie’s footsteps, working at the same institution where she and her husband used to work and teach at in Paris. Where the laboratory where she made her two Nobel Prize winning discoveries, was only a few footsteps away from mine. The lab where I later became one of the few in the world to know how to successfully utilise a novel modern research technique.

Today is in honour of Marie Curie and all other strong female role models out there. Thank you for paving the way for other girls like me to have a chance in science and the world. Now, it’s our turn. Happy International Women’s Day everyone, only the sky’s the limit.

 

Hi, I like, do research and stuff. #gotmylabcoattoday

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No man is an island (Psychiatry in Växjö)

I’m now on my final week in psychiatry in Växjö, and so far it’s been amazing. This week is a bit special though, as now I’m in Children’s Psychiatry. Otherwise during the past three weeks I’ve been in Adult Psychiatry, rotating within Emergency Psychiatry, Psychosis, Geriatric Psychiatry, General Psychiatry and lastly what I call the Psychiatric Jail. I’ve seen a great array of cases, and I think if there’s something I’ll bring from my placement, that would be that no man is an island.

Psychiatry is all about relationships. Well, for the main part anyway except for perhaps the cases of schizophrenia, autism etc. Otherwise, it’s all about relationships.

Relationships with your family, with your partner and of course with yourself.

When I was in the Emergency Psychiatry clinic on Valentine’s day, we all of a sudden saw a rise of emergency bookings compared to the day before. 10 patients vs the 2 yesterday on a Monday. It’s just a regular Tuesday I thought, but nope. It’s Valentine’s Day. The next day, only one patient came to the clinic.

Patients came in with depression which started from their divorce and/or patients coming in with suicidal thoughts from failed relationships. I thought to myself, this must be because of the holiday. If you’re surrounded by things that will constantly remind you about love, loved ones and relationships, if you don’t feel loved, it’s not too surprising if you would do something crazy on Valentine’s day.

As humans, we have a strong sense of belonging. Sure, being strong and independent is a quality to be desired and to strive for, but being independent doesn’t mean one is alone. Being independent means you are in control of yourself and your surroundings. With surroundings, I don’t only mean the things around us, but also with whom we live our lives with. Because it is through these people we feel like we belong and we gain purpose. It is through these people we find a home. And a home is a place where we feel loved.

When I meet these patients in the clinic, it saddens me that they are deprived of a home where they feel like they belong, a place where they receive love. If these basic needs were met, I believe a majority of these patients wouldn’t be here in the first place. If they have a place where they feel love, it will be easier for them to have love within them for themselves. And with self-love comes our power as human beings. Without power, what are we then?

It’s true what they say, love makes the world go around. Love is the answer. I believe this is more true than ever in psychiatry. Sure, as doctors we can give medication to try and help their situations, but if they don’t have that love within, medication is only a band-aid. If they haven’t nurtured a love within, with the help of others’ love for them, then they definitely need it now. In the end, no man is an island.

…But then again, what the heck what do I know, I’m only a student ✌️️

Sometimes (original) – Valentines 2017

Aaaaaaand it’s that time of the year again. Valentine’s day – or more like Single Awareness Day (SAD) in my case. As per tradition, I write a song every Valentine’s reflecting my current relationship status. Basically, it’s to show where I am in terms of my love life to those who ask lol.

Now that I’m nearing the end of my medical studies, and I guess now that I’m coming to that age as well, being asked why I’m still single is something that comes more frequently than I’d like to admit.

Here are some examples of things I hear:

“Sam, you should prioritise your love life too!”

“Have you found anyone yet? Remember ___? He’s single and I think you guys would be great for each other!”

“You have an important duty to spread your genes to the world.”

Well sure, there may be some truth in all those statements… but why the rush? As a response to all those asking me why I’m still single, here’s a song I wrote called “Sometimes,” which sheds a light on my current stance in this topic.

Hope you all had a better Valentine’s Day that I did – note to self, Valentine’s day is probably one of the worst days to work at an emergency psychiatric clinic. But someone’s got to right?

Hope you all felt the love on Valentine’s Day! ❤

My previous Valentine’s Day songs:

2016: Single Awareness Day, Again
2015: Valentine
2014: Single Awareness Day
2013: You 
2012: A song for you – my Valentine’s day songwriting tradition was born!

Sometimes (original) by Sam Valles – Valentine’s Day 2017

Chords:
Verses: E A C#m A B
Bridge: A E C#m A B
Chorus: E A C#m B

Lyrics:
Verse 1:
I like to think sometimes, sometimes
I like to hope sometimes, sometimes
That someday, sometime, I’ll know, I’ll be ready

I like to pray sometimes, sometimes
I like to dream sometimes, sometimes
That someone, somewhere, out there, is waiting for me

Bridge 1:
But no matter where I go and no matter where I stay
I say, no no, not today
And no matter who I meet, and no matter who I know
I say no no, even if I like him so

Chorus 1:
I guess I’m vulnerable, fighting to flee
From these feelings surrounding me
But deep inside I hope, I’ll see
That someone, somewhere, someday, will set me free

Verse 2:
I like to sing sometimes, sometimes
I like to say sometimes, sometimes
That no matter wherever, whenever, I’m better off free

But then I think sometimes, sometimes
It must be nice sometimes, sometimes
That someone, somewhere, out there, is there for me

Bridge 2:
But no matter what I do there’s a message in my head
That says, no no, don’t be mislead
And no matter what they say I will always run away
Because I’m scared, will I let them in someday

Chorus 2:
I guess I’m vulnerable admittingly
Scared of giving a piece of me
But deep inside I hope I’ll meet
That someone somewhere who’ll make me believe

But yes I’m vulnerable, but that’s not me
I believe that feelings don’t make me weak
I’m just waiting to be ready
To give me to someone who cares for me

Outro (like verse):
I like to think sometimes, sometimes
I like to dream sometimes, sometimes
That someday, someone, out there, will love me for me

 

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5 lessons I learnt from failure

For my entire life, I have never failed an exam. Study or no study, somehow, I’ve been lucky with exams. I have always taken pride in my ability to have a perfect pass record and my high marks. Failure, has never been an option neither a possibility for me. Then I came to Linköping and I failed my first exam ever. Twice.

I was devastated. For a long time, I questioned my abilities. How have I managed so far when I can’t even pass an exam, even after redoing it? I was discouraged, and all of a sudden, my belief in my natural superpower of doing well in exams was gone. Countless tears were shed and I was crushed inside. Then I thought, perhaps I made the worst mistake of my life by transferring to medical school in Sweden. I doubted myself and my decision.

I felt like a failure. I felt unworthy of staying in medical school in Linköping if I couldn’t even pass this exam after another try. Nevertheless, I persevered. I listened to my friends who told me that it’s okay to fail, and it’s understandable. You’ve never studied in Swedish and this is your first time taking an exam in Linköping and in Swedish they said. I held on to that thought for the entire of last semester, with the fear of being put on academic probation in the back of my head. I retook the exam once again in January, and I passed. Third time’s a charm.

Failing, was definitely a tough experience to go through, but I believe that it is a valuable experience to have. After all, we learn from our mistakes right? Failure is the best teacher.

 

5 LESSONS FAILURE TAUGHT ME

1. Failure doesn’t define you, but rather what you do about it afterwards

I had this idea that by failing, I will always be marked as a failure. Something that will continue to haunt me for the rest of my life. I was wrong. After failing, no one seems to remember that I failed, but only remember the fact that I passed. Looking at successful people in the world, like Bill Gates and Michael Jordan. Are they remembered for dropping out of college or not making it to their basketball team? Nope, they are only remembered for what they had achieved afterwards.

smooth save gymnastics girl on bar

2. Failure is simply an opportunity for growth

After finding out that I had failed, I repeated to myself of how I knew nothing. I beat myself about it, telling myself how stupid I was that nothing had gone in my head during my entire time studying. When I got to see my score, I found out that I was only 3 points away from passing. The second time, 4 points away (wrong way I know).

Failing doesn’t mean that one isn’t capable of succeeding, but rather one isn’t there just yet. 3 points away to be precise in my case. In this case, one is given the opportunity to continue developing using the lessons learnt from one’s failure, so that one in the end one can reach one’s goal in the best way possible.

you can dust it off and try again aliyah gif

3. If your friends and family believe in you, so should you

When I had failed, my friends and family kept telling me nonchalantly, oh don’t worry you’ll make it next time. I kept saying I would do my best, but I already had failed twice so my statistics looked grim. How come my friends and family trusted my abilities so much but I didn’t? Once passing, I was over the moon, and then they told me that they told me so.

If I had believed in what my friends and family said, I would’ve saved myself all the mental anguish and anxieties from the fear of failing yet again. There really is a strength in faith, especially faith in oneself. If they didn’t believe in me, who knows if I would’ve passed if I didn’t even believe that I would. The first step in doing something is believing one can accomplish it right?

child saying you have got to believe in yourself gif giphy

4. Not reaching one’s own expectations doesn’t make one a failure

I expected myself to have gone through medical school without failing a single exam, and on the time I expected myself to finish. I was supposed to be a graduated doctor by 23, with a perfect academic record. I’m graduating at 24, in Sweden, with a few failed exams here and there. Does that make me a worse doctor? Does that make me a failure? Nope, in the end I will still become a doctor, which is my goal in the first place. With a lot more experience than I had expected to graduate with.

arrested development i don't know what I expected

5. Failing is not the end of the world

You failed, so what. Life goes on. In the words of my favourite prayer:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

In other words, better luck next time!

i'm rooting for you patrick star spongebob gif

My 2016 year of travel

img_6963

Hafa adai from Guam, USA!

As you all know, I can never sit still. Not only do I move around at least once a month because of medical school, but I also have the bad case of the travel bug.

2016 has taken me to many new places, places I never thought I’d ever be able to see. Places I never had even imagined, meeting new friends for a lifetime and making of course unforgettable memories. I thought 2015 was going to be hard to beat, but 2016 raised the bar even higher. 2017, where will you take me this year?

Click here to see My 2015 year of travel.

All photos are from my Instagram.

1. Ended 2015 singing for the Pope at the Vatican, and so began 2016

 

2. Exploring the cold, cold Chicago with my newly-met relatives

If you plant this bean, would Chicago grow out? Hohoho #Chicago #bean #giantbean #mileniumpark

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3. Started my new life in a new medical school in a new city, Linköping, Sweden

 

4. Weekend escapade with friends to Tallinn, Estonia

 

5. As usual, I always seem to come back to Hong Kong

During my aimless walk around Hong Kong central, I notice a cute blonde guy holding a map doing the same in front of me. I continue walking and end up at Man Mo Temple. While exploring the temple, I notice the same guy taking photos in a corner. Now curious, on his way out, I decided to follow him a bit to see where he was going. I pass him and continue walking on the other side of the street. After a while, I look at the other side of the street and notice him walking directly parallel to me. I smiled, and turned to a side street of antiques. I reach a crossing by a main road and as I stop to turn around, I notice that he was directly behind me. We exchange smiles but unfortunately our eyes met for a final time, as the business of Hong Kong beckons one to always continue… If only I had the courage to say hi, perhaps I wouldn't be sitting all alone in Starbucks right now. I have 2h left here, maybe I'll see him again. But in a busy city like Hong Kong, one can only dream right? #solotravelatitsbest #manmotemple #hongkong #hk #solottravel #temple #samcation

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6. Explored the country of my birth Philippines solo for the first time in my life

 

7. Oh, and I also learned how to surf in Baler, Philippines

 

8. …and celebrated 20+ years of friendship with my childhood best friend Chy in Bohol, Philippines 🙂

 

9. Celebrated my sister’s 25th birthday in Iceland

Midnight swimming at the Blue Lagoon ❤️

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10. Met the Pope together with 2 million other Catholic youths during the World Youth Days in Krakow, Poland

11. …and met the Pope again during the Swedish Papal visit in Malmö

 

12. Getting lost in translation in Tokyo, Japan

 

13. Living the tropical paradise dream in Guam, USA

Looking out into infinity 🇬🇺🌊 #disviewdoe #dispooldoe #whenyoureasurgeonintheUSA #guam

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14. Where I really did make memories and connections worth a lifetime

 

I knew 2015 was going to be hard to beat, but 2016 delivered. But now comes 2017, my final year in medical school (if all goes as planned). Even though I know I’ll have a tough final year ahead, I have a feeling I’ll still end up getting lost in translation in a new city or on another beach in another tropical paradise. Or well, I hope so anyway.

To kickstart my 2017 year of travel, New York, see you in less than two weeks! 😀

Merry Christmas everyone!

After two weeks of FoF at Linköping (basically public health, social medicine, health psychology etc), I’m now home  in Stockholm celebrating the holidays with my family. It’s nice to be off for a while, but as you know, we students don’t really get a vacation since we’re studying… We have our final exams in January. 😦 But nevertheless, it’s nice to be home! So merry Christmas everyone from my family to yours! How are you celebrating your Christmas? 🙂