Mental health: It’s okay to not be okay. (Part 2/3)

(Read part 1 here.)

At 8:00 on Thursday night, I started the call. I just did the video call through my browser, so there was no chat option. I spoke to Dr. Jeremie E. De Guzman, MD, MBA, MSc, Front Desk – Triage Officer, and Head of Medical Operations.

After initial introductions, Jeremie sent me an email with a payment link. I was able to choose how I wanted to pay, and the payment portal was pretty convenient. I paid Php 800. When he confirmed that they had received the payment, we started the session.

Jeremie told me, the first session is always with the Triage Officer, and it’s always 30 minutes long. It was basically an assessment, which is what triage in the hospital is for anyway. (Here’s a fascinating history of the term and the system.)

He asked basic health questions, like existing conditions, medical allergies, surgeries. He asked about habits that have an impact on health, like drug use or alcohol consumption, exercise.

Then he asked me about my panic attack.

I think that’s when I started crying.

I told him about the days when I couldn’t stop crying. I told him I was always worried–about everything. Did I lock the door? Did I turn off the stove? I told him how I always have to go back and check–several times. Am I spending enough time with my son? Am I delivering at work? I told him I always felt like I wasn’t good enough. I told him about feeling helpless and overwhelmed. I told him how I was probably overcommitted, because I was used to performing emotional labor for family and friends.

He asked questions, and explained that they were part of the assessment, so he could recommend a healthcare provider for me. He asked if I thought about harming myself in the past two weeks. He asked about risky behavior, like drugs or alcohol. He asked about my sleep patterns.

It was a little jarring to be pouring my heart out, sobbing and blowing my nose noisily, while the person I was talking to was tapping away at his keyboard, but I knew he was writing down what I was saying and taking notes for the next doctor to review. He seemed kind and patient, and if he were my officemate he looked like the sort of guy who would randomly put a bottle of Mineshine on my desk if I were having a bad day.

Jeremie told me that it was okay to say no. That it’s okay to want to help friends and family, but it’s okay to need time and energy for ourselves too. He taught me breathing exercises to help me calm down next time I have a panic attack.

Jeremie told me that he knew the kind of work I did, with MSF, and that it was very stressful. He said it was perfectly understandable to be exhausted and overwhelmed by that, on top of my job as a mother. He told me, now is the time to rely on your support system.

I asked him what he thought my condition was, and he said, it seems like anxiety and depression. I sighed. I’ve always suspected I had those conditions.

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I may have shed a few more tears when he told me my condition.

He asked if I was okay with being assigned to Trina, since she was my friend, or if I preferred someone else. I said I didn’t mind either way. He instead assigned me Dr. Regi Pamugas. “I think you’ll like him,” Jeremie said. “He’s like a cool tito. And I think you’ll find he’s a lot like your doctors in MSF. He goes to the boondocks and helps people there.”

“Was he a Doctor to the Barrios?” I asked.

“No, he just likes helping people,” Jeremie smiled.

Sounds like a nice guy.

Tearfully we ended the session. Jeremie scheduled a session for me with Dr. Regi over the weekend.

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