Saturday morning came, and I was waiting at my laptop for Dr. Regi.
Jeremie had emailed the payment link the day before. I paid Php 1,800 for the session.
I had the site open on my laptop. Here there were some technical issues.
I had installed VSee on my phone, so that I could see the chat option. Dr. Regi messaged to say that he was still with another patient, so I waited.
A while later, he messaged again to say that he couldn’t call me. So I went to my laptop and started the appointment. At the same time I saw that he was trying to call me via VSee on my phone. I declined the call on my phone, and the browser on my laptop said I had ended my appointment!
In a panic, I messaged Jeremie to say that I accidentally ended my appointment. He set another one for me right away, and I ended up taking Dr. Regi’s call on my phone.
I wasn’t ready to take the call on my phone instead of on my laptop, so I had to scrounge around for a stand. I apologized several times, as I kept adjusting my phone and figuring out how to position it. He just laughed and said it was ok.
“Uy, pareho pa tayo ng suot!” Dr. Regi joked.
I looked at my shirt, and his. We were both wearing red and white striped shirts. I laughed a little, and that seemed like a good start.
The session lasted for about an hour. Jeremie was right. Dr. Regi was like a cool tito, the one who told you things straight up and said harsh truths but in a way that didn’t hurt or offend. He looked a little bit like Dr. Michael Tan, anthropologist, writer and former Chancellor of my alma mater, University of the Philippines Diliman. He laughed a lot.
As with Jeremie, I told Dr. Regi about my crying episodes, my constant worry, my need for control. I told him about how I was at work, with friends, with family. I told him how I was always out there, doing things, organizing and planning, and how I had so little time and patience and energy for anything beyond work ever since I became a mother. I told him how sometimes it felt like people just kept bringing problems to my doorstep, expecting me to fix things, and how I was so tired of it, how I had to tell them, I just can’t anymore.
I talked a lot. Dr. Regi listened, and asked questions sometimes. I appreciated the fact that he explained the reason for the questions he was asking, like when he was trying to figure out if I’m prone to manic behavior.
He told me I have an obsessive-compulsive personality. “Di naman disorder, pero parang ganun yung personality mo,” he said.
He correctly guessed that I reacted badly to criticism, no matter how constructive; that every mistake seemed to have catastrophic consequences. He correctly guessed that I liked to take control of situations, and that people tended to turn to me when there was a problem to be solved, because they felt/knew that I would figure out a solution and make it happen. He correctly guessed that I was easily distracted by things that needed to get done, because I just couldn’t leave them alone.
And he confirmed Jeremie’s assessment: anxiety and depression. “And taas nga ng GAD mo e,” he said, looking at his notes.
I don’t remember what else I told him, but I remember crying. I remember writing down keywords when he explained my condition and how we would manage it: cognitive behavior therapy, cognitive distortion, mindfulness. He told me I could read up on them, so that I would understand.
He told me that we could go the pharmacological route: antidepressants. Or we could go with psychotherapy. He said I could try mindfulness exercises, breathing, meditation, journaling. I told him I had been writing a lot.
“Yoga, na-try mo na? OK din yun!” he said cheerfully. I told him that yoga had been very helpful for me, postpartum, and I wanted to try that again.
I told him I didn’t want to take antidepressants yet, but that I would try to manage with psychotherapy first.
He told me, we can’t fix this with one visit, okay? He reminded me that there’s no cure, no solution, only management, and coping mechanisms. He reminded me that I would be okay, but that I had to be patient with myself.
I think our call lasted more than an hour. I felt better afterwards, as if a weight had been lifted. I knew what I had, finally, for sure, and I could figure out how to deal with it.
We didn’t schedule another visit, but he emailed me a few days later, with a prescription and a medical certificate, spelling out my condition and how it would be treated. It was a little jarring to see the words typed out, attached to my name: “Presently, the clinical impression is Major Depressive Episode, moderate, with anxiety. She is treated and managed with medication and psychoeducation.”
Since then, I’ve been trying to be patient with myself. I’ve had one panic attack, and maybe two crying episodes. But I’ve also done yoga almost every day, and I’ve tried to observe my temper, my feelings, and my actions.
I haven’t started taking the antidepressants, because honestly, the thought scares me. But I have them, and just having them, ready for me, is comforting.
I haven’t been okay. And I know I’m not going to magically get better. But at least now I know what I have, and now I know what I can do.
It’s okay to not be okay, especially now. Times are kind of shit. But you can get help. And if you feel like things are just overwhelming and exhausting, you should get help.
It’s okay to not be okay, and it’s okay to ask for help.