(Part 3 of 3 of a series on my life with mental illness.)
According to the National Institute of Mental Health:
Treatment for psychotic depression requires a longer hospital stay and close follow-up by a mental health professional. Combinations of tricyclic antidepressants and antipsychotic medications have been most effective in easing symptoms.
Treatment is very effective for psychotic depression and people are able to recover, usually within a year, but continual medical follow-up may be necessary. Generally, the depressive symptoms have a much higher rate of recurrence than the psychotic symptoms. It is important, however, that a person experiencing these symptoms be properly diagnosed because treatment is different than for other major depressive illnesses and risk of suicide is greater.
After the first few weeks of treatment, which for me included antipsychotic and antidepressant medication and talk therapy, I discovered that my paranoia and hallucinations only start happening when I'm majorly depressed as well as overly stressed. Because of that, I was able to get support from the American Disabilities Act office at Stanford. The counselor there was able to make sure I could space out my final exams so that I didn't have a bunch stacked together at once, I could also take a reduced course load without losing my fulltime student status, and perhaps most importantly, she became the main point of contact with any professors who were suspicious of my intentions or otherwise required some sort of proof from me (of which there were actually quite a few).
Because the Stanford student health plan was awesome, my therapy sessions with my psychiatrist only cost me $10 a session, and my medication was equally affordable. My psychiatrist was a Stanford Medical School resident, and he was also my therapist. Because he was bright and young and had a wicked sense of humor, we had great rapport, and he helped me all the way to his and my graduation.
I say all this to demonstrate that the only way I was able to recuperate at all was because every single one of these pieces was not only available, but easy for me to take advantage of. At the time, I was in no shape to comparison-shop doctors, deal with insurance companies, or advocate for my own rights, no way. And with every confidence, I assert that if any part of my support network were not given to me, I would not be here today. My parents would have buried me, completely baffled as to what went wrong. Tim would have married someone else, probably someone gorgeous but boring. And most importantly, there would be some other blogger in my place, posting pictures of HER kids, and they would not be nearly as cute as Isaac or Emi!
Nowadays, I'm good. I stopped taking my antipsychotic medication after graduation, and I even stopped taking my antidepressant medication when I discovered I was pregnant with Isaac. I made sure I was under the care of a psychiatrist in case I had any postpartum depression, but surprisingly, I didn't! And now, every couple of years or so, I get depressed again, but never as deeply as when I was in college, and I have been able to work through it. Every new day is a gift and an adventure.
Thank you so, so much for reading my story. Please share your own.
PS: Sometimes, when the kids are quiet, or I am taking a shower or watering the garden, it hits me all at once, the fact that I could have just as easily not have made it out of college alive. It is a very overwhelming feeling, a punch in the gut and a chill in the spine, and I do admit I cry. But now, I cry out of gratitude.