(Part 2 of 3 of a series on my life with mental illness.)
296.34: Major Depressive Disorder, Recurrent, Severe With Psychotic Features
I was diagnosed a few years before there was Wikipedia and Google to over-research one's medical conditions, and I never thought to look up psychotic depression since. Now is a good time as any, I suppose. According to WebMD:
People with psychotic depression may get angry for no apparent reason.
I once verbally accosted some friends of a friend at a little get-together in their dorm room because I did not approve of their topic of discussion. Granted, they were drunk while I was sober, and they were comparing various milk alternatives (soy vs. almond vs. hemp) for what seemed like half an hour. But they didn't deserve me walking up to them and declaring, "Well, that was the worst conversation I ever heard in my life! Fuck you, and you, and you, and you, for making me sit through this bullshit." My friend was mortified, but when he tried to stop me from leaving, I was so angry, I almost punched him.
Needless to say, I alienated myself from a lot of my social circle at that time. Thank you to those who stayed by me even when I lashed out at them, though. Sorry, guys.
Or they may spend a lot of time by themselves or in bed, sleeping during the day and staying awake at night.
That explains the weeks on end I would lie on the living room futon, scheduling my entire day around the Animal Planet broadcast schedule, instead of going to class, keeping down a job, calling my parents, eating regularly, or hanging out with my friends.
When people asked me what it felt like to be depressed, I would say that it felt like I weighed 1,000 pounds, and usually they thought I was just making fun of my weight. But it literally felt like I had to drag 1,000 extra pounds with me everywhere I went, even just to go to the bathroom. This isolated, sedentary life was already exhausting me, so the real world with its train schedules, traffic, social niceties I could no longer parse, and cacophony of sound was too daunting to face most days.
Most people would see "psychotic" and think of the ranting and raving guy on the street corner, but for me at least, the overarching theme was paranoia and dread. I was overall pretty "street legal" (my shrink called it "passing the Macy's test," i.e., if I were dropped into the middle of a Macy's in my current condition, would I be able to fit in?), but I would constantly freak myself out by finding clues that would "support" my paranoid theory of the day. If I entered the library, I would swear everyone was staring at me, judging me harshly. Or if three green cars drove by, maybe, just maybe, someone was spying on me. Just little thoughts like that, kind of like how kids can freak themselves out after watching a scary movie.
If you felt that way, wouldn't you rather stay in and watch "Emergency Vets" too?
A person with psychotic depression may neglect appearance by not bathing or changing clothes.
Even Tim, my husband, knows this is one of the first and most reliable indicators that I may be getting depressed again. Once the showering goes, the mood soon follows. I have no idea why this is so, and I'm sure it contributes to people's prejudices that depression is just laziness, but believe me when I say that it's not just laziness, it is a deep-seated aversion that actually takes up a lot of energy to work with. I also have avoidance issues with speaking on the phone when I get depressed.
Perhaps he or she barely talks or else says things that make no sense.
Insert "but that's Julie on a good day too" joke here. :)
Breaking the Sense of Stigma
These images were taken from a synopsis from CHAI (Counselors helping South Asians/Indians) on a recent AAPI White House briefing on mental health and suicide, including personal stories from prominent D.C. Asian and Pacific Americans on their experiences with mental illness. There is still so much work to do, starting from educating and helping ourselves and our families to society in general, but it is really encouraging to see medical professionals and lawmakers take our community and our problems seriously.