Dr. O, Doctor and Patient in One

In honor of Mental Health Awareness month, I’ve decided to share my story.

I suffer from anxiety and depression. While my disease is well controlled at this time, like any other ailment it is important that I stay on my medication regimen and practice habits that contribute positively to my mental health, which sometimes even includes psychotherapy.

There, I said it.

It has always surprised me that people are equally (or even more) uncomfortable speaking about mental health as they are speaking about private body parts. And, I fully anticipate the criticism that will come from this by colleagues and friends, as I do expect many people will be taken aback that I, a local physician, would publicly share my mental health diagnosis. But my hope is that a handful of those reading will feel a connection and further understand that there is hope and a way of treating such a disease.

Without getting too much into the cause of the disease and how it works, I think that it is important to understand that anxiety, depression, alcoholism/substance, PTSD, etc. have many contributing factors including family history (a genetic predisposition), traumatic life events and sometimes conditioning.

Until one can acknowledge their diagnosis they may compensate by always being the “fixer” of other peoples’ problems (this is me), becoming reclusive, or trying to self-medicate with drugs, alcohol, sex, etc.

I didn’t choose these diagnoses just like one doesn’t choose to have Sickle Cell, Cancer or Lupus but once I accepted it and the treatment it made my world and the lives of those around me much better. I am not cured but doing well in treatment which allows me to function day to day and do what I do best, FIX.

Luckily, I have a very understanding partner, a supportive family and a small circle of friends and colleagues that I am able to talk to when I am experiencing a low. At times they can see a low coming before I can. They know not to text, “Call me later I have something to tell you”, because that will bring me from 0-10 on my anxiety scale.

Understanding your family’s feelings regarding this disease can be challenging, because you are so consumed with your own thoughts and fears.

Caring for a loved one with depression is not as easy as treating a loved one with a cold i.e. chicken soup, lots of fluids, ibuprofen and tissues. A person with a mental health diagnosis needs a different kind of T.L.C.

My husband has described it best to me; he says, “I could give you a million dollars when you are in a low and you wouldn’t even care.” Even treated, I still have times when I could stay in bed all weekend. In my experience I’d rather have a physical ailment (I’ll happily take a broken leg over anxiety and depression). Now that I wrote that, with my luck I’ll break my leg, LOL.

If you know or think you might have anxiety or depression or if you suspect this in your child or other loved one you should start with an appointment with your Primary Care Provider.

Depending on that person’s training and/or comfort level and the degree of assistance the patient needs they may choose to treat or refer you to a specialist. The specialist may be a psychologist, who treats via counseling and does NOT prescribe medications; or a psychiatrist that does some counseling and prescribing. In my experience a combination approach is the best and most successful in treatment.

I serve many roles, owner of Your Time Medical, P.C. in Dunkirk, MD, medical director at Bella Salon and Spa in California, MD, a substance abuse treatment provider, Family Medicine Practitioner and these are an extension of my treatment. I find the greatest satisfaction and enjoyment making my patients and friends feel better physically, mentally and cosmetically.

My diagnosis has encouraged me to have an open mind when treating my patients with anxiety, depression and more recently in my medical spa practice. While treating acne, giving Botox or treating a female with unwanted facial hair (laser hair removal), I am improving their self-esteem and self-confidence. There’s no better feeling than when someone says “Thank you for your help…Thank you for listening. Thank you for not judging me.”

For you, dear readers take a deep sigh of relief know, you are not alone, remember, I’m right here with you.

Dr. O
I. Monet Ouwinga, MD is a Brooklyn, New York native completing undergraduate at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York and first generation of Haitian decent. Dr. O (as she prefers to be called) completed her basic sciences, obtained her MD at the University of the Americas on the island of Nevis. Completing her clinical rotations in North Carolina and Illinois, Dr. O did her residency in Illinois at Loyola-Cook County Family Medicine and served as Chief resident at her last year. Along with participating in multiple international medical missions, to Haiti and Peru she completed a fellowship in Maternal Child Health at West Suburban Hospital in, Illinois. Dr. O, a born city girl, has dedicated her life to treating patients with the same care she would provide to family members and friends. She has recently become more active in the mental health community, especially after sharing her own diagnosis of Anxiety and Depression. She is passionate about helping others with various ailments from routine visits to complicated diagnosis, ages from new born to geriatrics, in office, online or in their home. Dr. O has made a home in Southern Maryland with her husband and son in 2014 and it has proven to be one of the best life decisions she has made. Together with Travis Roberts, CRNP at their practice OT Family Medicine in Calvert County, they take care of the young, old and everyone in between with dignity and respect.