I've always been drawn to personality tests, mostly because I would really like for someone to tell me what kind of person I am, instead of having to patch together my hodge podge of self-contradictory ideals, trying to make sense of it all and never really succeeding.
Even something simple like "Am I an optimist or a pessimist?" I cannot answer. I can recall times I've been a fool for hope and unicorns, and other times when my outlook is so bleak I become a toxic black hole and suck everyone's hope out of them. Obviously human nature is multi-dimensional and cannot be pigeonholed into these tidy boxes, and personalities change over time, but I still like to see where I stand, at least for the moment.
This is why I was drawn to a Facebook quiz recently that claims to emulate the Keirsey Temperament Sorter. The personality type it gave for my friend was so accurate, I had to try it out for myself. This is what I got:
I relate to all of it except for the telephone part, although I do give good text message.
Anyway, I encourage you to try it for yourself, in Facebook format or otherwise.
(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.
(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.
(First of a series on my life with mental illness.)
The first time I really had to accept the fact that there was something wrong with me was the beginning of my junior year of college. I was fresh from taking a year off to work at a fledgling Amazon.com in Seattle (they had *just* opened their Music store then), and there I decided to change my major from pre-med psychology to Computer Science. Stanford is known for its rigorous CS degree, and it is a pretty jam-packed major even for people starting it their freshman year. However, I decided to pack in 4 years' worth of prerequisites into 2 because I didn't want my parents spending tens of thousands MORE dollars because of my late-breaking change of heart. That meant stacking 4 to 5 engineering courses each quarter, including summers. Not a smart strategy, it turns out.
I remember it was a week or two after my 21st birthday, mid-November. I was so far gone from the stress, that I actually started hallucinating. I holed myself up in my dorm room for two weeks, not coming out to eat or attend classes (I think I just lived off of my stash of cup ramen), convinced there were cameras installed all over campus used to observe how a person of below-average ability and intellect (me) would cope at a top-tier university. I would imagine these bespectacled professors looking down at me, rubbing their bearded chins, scribbling down "not coping well at all" into their ledgers.
My RA somehow found me in this state and convinced me to go to the emergency room. I was admitted into the mental ward, and after a few days, they called my dad to pick me up so I can take a break from Stanford and get treated. He later told me he cried the whole six hour drive up from LA. We packed my room up and drove back down in silence.
After a year of rest, meds, therapy, and taking the intro CS courses in a much lower-pressure environment at my parents' local junior college, I went back to Stanford to finish out my degree. The road was bumpy and extremely stressful, and although I had support all throughout, I still had to go back to that ward a couple more times to get back on my feet again and fight another round. But finally, after two years, I did graduate. And life got so much better.
The Facts about Mental Illness
Many people think that mental illness is something that only happens to “other people.” The facts are:
• One in four American adults suffers from a diagnosable mental health illness in a given year.
• Research shows half of all mental disorders start by age 14 and three-quarters start by age 24.
• An average of 6 to 8 years pass after the onset of mood disorder symptoms – 9 to 23 years for anxiety disorder symptoms – before young people get help.
• Treatment is available and full recovery is possible. With support and treatment, between 70 and 90 percent of individuals have a significant reduction in symptoms and improved quality of life.
While the facts may show the need for Californians to seek help, many don’t because of fear of judgment, isolation and discrimination. The stigma associated with mental illness can be more destructive than the illness itself.
What Californians Can Do
• Learn more about mental illness, choose facts over myths.
• Recognize that many of us will experience a mental illness at some point in our lives, and someone who has been diagnosed with a mental illness isn’t so different after all.
• Speak and act from a place of compassion and acceptance, rather than fear and ignorance.
• Visit EachMindMatters.org to get informed and join California’s mental health movement.(Source: CalMHSA)
I feel like I left the readers in a lurch at the end of my little anecdote last week. Reliving the moment when Kevin (who is now the godfather of my children) rebuked me back into existence rendered me incapable of blathering further.
So let's see...I barely got through college. Tim actually helped me in my last semester, being my project partner when no one in my actual class would pair up with me (that is a whole separate can of worms). But Cs get degrees, and I finally received mine the June of 2002.
Nowadays, I am good. I purposefully opted out of the ambitious rat race the Stanford Computer Science department trains you for, but I still have a toe dipped into the pool of technology. Just a toe, though, so I don't get too overwhelmed again. I still get to show by example that whether you're a man or a woman, you contribute your talents and make your own living. I get to work with colleagues I respect and adore, in an industry that fascinates me, earning a decent wage, while I get to be home for my children. It's unorthodox and probably doesn't make sense to my old academic advisor or to anyone really, but this life has its own unique balance and harmony, much like me.
Every time I hear that another observant, empathic, sensitive, beautiful kid gave up after too many battles with the cruelty of others, a part of me also dies. I have felt that viscous sludge of helplessness and loneliness that comes with knowing I didn't fit in anywhere. And I know first-hand that those kinds of kids are experts at concealing their suffering. In the past, I have tried to distract myself from my misery by being the busiest, most helpful, most outwardly happy person in the room. I have at certain times worn the ache like a fur stole, a status symbol of dysfunction, rolling my eyes at those unfamiliar with the DSM-IV and the rest of the mental health world. How ignorant they seemed in their little bubbles of shallow happiness! Other times, I was punk rock confrontational, daring the normal people of the world to label me a freak, then scaring them to pieces with my I-have-nothing-left-to-lose antics. Other times, I would only have the energy to poke at the ache like a downed power line and relish the jolt of fresh pain, occasionally remembering to eat or call my mother and regale her with more stories of how well I'm doing.
I am better than most at recognizing the children who hurt, but am still at a loss at what to do to help them other than offering my story and my shoulder to lean on.
I wonder if all our children would benefit from an emotional intelligence curriculum, taught alongside reading, writing, and mathematics. There is a certain literacy to understanding human behavior...to recognize what you are feeling and how to safely express the feeling, and how to interact with others and their myriad of feelings. Some of it is instinctual, but more and more I see that very important parts have to be learned. For example, it may be instinctual for most children to see a crying face and recognize that the person is sad, but it is not instinctual for kids like Isaac to remember to regularly scan his friends' faces for that feedback. In the past, he would heckle and tease to his heart's content without realizing his playmate's feelings were getting hurt. The friend would then walk away in a huff, and Isaac was left thinking to himself, "Geez, what's his problem?" It took a lot of training to get him to REALLY look at people's faces, to observe, to ask permission, to cooperate, to seek the opinions of others, and he still doesn't do it all the time. It would be amazing if he and his classmates got the same message from his teacher as well. In the meantime, we forge ahead, hoping that he and Emi will be happy and depression-free, but will know who to turn to if they are not.
Please watch this video!
"To This Day," by Shane Koyczan
Like most good poetry, this video made me realize that I had known this truth, "They were wrong," but didn't have words for it until the poet uttered them for me. Instinctually, the other day when Emi came home in tears because a boy in her class said her pig drawing was ugly, the first thing I asked her was, "Do you believe him? Do you think your drawing was ugly?" And when she said no, her pig was fabulous, I knew deep down she would be fine, for now at least.
Three words form the key to taking all power away from a bully, to know in your gut that they're full of shit. Or at the very least, to briefly entertain the notion: what if they were wrong? What if they were lying just to make you feel bad, and make themselves feel better because of it?
I remember the what if, that infinitesimal possibility that maybe I wasn't a crybaby, or a freak, or a "retard," or a fat walrus (or was it elephant seal?). Most of the time I definitely believed their words. I remember walking on my tiptoes everywhere because a boy once told me I made the windows rattle with every step I took. I remember the day my so-called friend printed and distributed a newsletter about me to everyone in my class, pointing out all of my imperfections, from my belly to my laugh.
But somehow, my soul must have asked at the right times, "Wouldn't it be totally funny if they were wrong?" because I survived all that.
I would wish you a happy new year, but seeing that it's already February, I'll wish you a happy President's Day instead!
So, what's going on in House Mang?
Emi is doing GREAT in school, thanks to a multi-pronged strategy that includes:
1. Pulling her out of the on-site afterschool program and having her picked up and taken care of by one of my best friends and supernanny extraordinaire until Isaac comes home from school.
2. Tim taking over the morning routine, since he has a lighter touch with Emi than I do at that hour. I'm a cranky drill sargeant ("Move IT move IT!") and he's more reasonable. Plus, he and Emi get to bond and she feels more secure about her world as a whole, and feels less of the need to act out for attention. It's all very awwwwwww.
3. The leaps she made in therapy about identifying and coping with the huge emotions she feels. In fact, she's so much happier now, we went down to seeing the counselor once every two weeks, and next week's session will be a "goodbye-for-now" session!
Emi still gets into tiny bits of trouble at school, but it's for things that seem refreshingly normal: talking to the person behind her in line, forgetting to raise her hand, and one time she didn't come home with a good behavior slip because she made a snoring noise because she thought a story was boring.
Isaac is slowly turning into a tween. Sometimes, he stiffens when I grab his head to kiss the top when I drop him off at school, or he snaps back at me when he feels unjustly chastised. Other times, he starts stammering and falling over himself when he encounters a pretty girl (usually MUCH older than him, harrumph). He just started up a new season of his basketball league, his class is currently working on a musical, he just finished up reports on the Island Fox (California's only native carnivore, found only on the Channel Islands, didn't ya know) and Marco Polo. For a while, he was devouring the Harry Potter books, but stopped near the beginning of Order of the Phoenix, which I actually think is appropriate for his current stage of emotional maturity. He is currently reading books like the How to Train Your Dragon series, the Warriors series, and Dragon Rider.
The other day, I was getting ready to assemble a digital piano, and as Tim rushed over to help me, Isaac shooed him away, saying "This is woman's work!" Since when was working with heavy pieces of furniture woman's work!?!?!? So, later on, I decided to pick his brain a bit about gender roles. Interpret as you will, because I just crawled up into a ball and rocked myself back and forth:
Me: So...working with assembling furniture is woman's work, eh?
Isaac: Yup! It's because you are careful and Daddy does not read the instructions.
Me: What else is woman's work? How about cooking and washing the dishes?
Isaac: Daddy washes the dishes. And the cooks at Polly's Pies are men.
Me: Hey! I cook at home too! How about earning money?
Isaac: You both earn money. But Daddy earns more money.
Me: Why do you think that is?
Isaac: Because women earn 70 cents for every dollar a man earns for the same job. Which is weird, because I think women do most of the real work, and men stand around and make plans and blueprints and say, "What if we did this? What if we tried that?" and then laugh really loud, which doesn't seem like real work.
Me: Where on earth did you get this impression?
Isaac: At Daddy's office.
Me: I work too, but at home. And I work hard, even though I'm often in my pajamas. Do you think that's real work?
Isaac: Yeah, I know that because you yell at me to leave you alone when I ask you if I can watch TV.
Me: ... Sorry about that.
Isaac: It's okay.
Me: So when you grow up and become a man, you expect to stand around and make plans?
Isaac: No, I'd rather work with all the women.
As for me, I'm doing well. I still get excited about a lot of shit, currently I am gagging over the current season of "RuPaul's Drag Race." I'm rooting for Detox, Honey Mahogany, and Jinkx Monsoon. I want to marry Ivy Winters because he looks like a young Morrissey and dresses like the 11th Doctor. Which reminds me...I will be attending Gallifrey One this weekend; really looking forward to it, as it will be my first one!
My alma mater won the Rose Bowl this year, and we were there to witness it in person! It was so much fun!
Tim is only slightly mortified by the props given to his singing voice. He's still totally hot.
Today is Day #5 of the 12 days, and I am so excited to be chosen for this opportunity, as Lane Bryant is already one of my favorite places to shop!
I headed over to the Long Beach Towne Center location yesterday to pick out a holiday outfit. My style can be best described as quirky retro rock star, and I was on the lookout for neutral colors with bright or metallic accents: something comfortable enough to wear during the day, then I can just throw on some gold chains and smoky eye shadow and be able to take on the big city by night.
Right when I entered the store, I was greeted with sassy, uplifting music and lots of adorable clothes just BEGGING me to try them on and take them home.
It looks a little on the casual side on the model, but it fits me tighter all around and I paired it with dark jeans, so I truly believe it can be dressed up for a night out:
Just for kicks, this cowl neck sweatshirt also caught my eye. It has the perfect California casual, effortless chic vibe:
After a nice, relaxing hour of shopping with my pint-size bestie and a couple awesome new tops, and I'm totally ready to kick off my holiday season!
What's even more amazing is that I can share the love with a giveaway! Two of you will also receive $30 gift cards. All you have to do is pin your favorite Lane Bryant looks to your own Pinterest account using the #LB12Days hashtag. Then leave the link to your pin in a comment below to be eligible for a prize. Easy peasy, puddin' pie!
Today's special surprise offers are:
In store and online: Select sweaters are $20 (Rayon V, Dolman V and Shaker sweaters), 40%-off all sleepwear
In store only: All earrings $5
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective, and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
I'll admit it: something about this summer and beginning of the school year has aged me. At least I don't look older than my age, but six months ago, I would have a 90% chance of getting carded for alcohol and a 20% chance of getting carded for an R-rated movie. Now people pretty much believe me when I say I am about to turn 34. That's at least a 13 year age difference in 3 months!
I blame kindergarten and insomnia.
Let's see how I did with last year's birthday resolutions (Spoiler: not that great):
Here are some personal goals I have for the following year of life:
1. Camp outdoors with tents, sleeping bags, the whole nine yards.
We got as far as spending a month's wages at REI to purchase a tent, bags, flashlights, and the like, and we set up camp in the backyard. We lit a lot of fires, so I'm pretty confident we have that part covered when we do actually go camping for reals, but we still are looking for a family who we can camp with for our first time.
2. Travel to a country or state I've never been to before.
Whoo hoo! I went to North Carolina recently for Tim's friend's wedding. Got that one in right in the nick of time. HOLLA at NC vinegar-based barbecue! It rocks.
3. Teach the kids to sing in harmony on a Simon & Garfunkel song.
I did start paving the way for this goal...trouble is, my kids are still a little shaky with singing on key, period. This may be a 5-year goal.
4. Bike from my house to my parents' house via the San Gabriel River Bike Trail.
Haven't tried it yet! I have convinced myself that I need a better bike.
5. Run a 5k!
I walked one on Thanksgiving last year. Then I tried training to run one and tweaked my knee, which gave me just enough reason to stop altogether. Gotta get back on track!
6. Build something with wood (maybe a new coop?).
Nope. And oh, by the way, the chickens died over the summer. Cheep Cheep was maimed by a cat we think, and apparently she crawled into a bag of straw and passed away in there. Then Rosie, without her coopbuddy, wasted away and died a few weeks later. I stood in vigil by her nestside and wept when she gave her last breath, bellowing "You're a good hen, Rosie, you and Cheep Cheep save some worms for me in chicken heaven, I'm so glad you're together again, you beautiful girls!" Not one of my prettier moments, but I loved those damn birds!
7. Work harder to spread the love and help my fellow man. I am admiring the Occupy movement from afar; maybe it's time to lessen the distance.
I took the kids to bring over some blankets and donuts to the people at Occupy Long Beach one weekend morning, does that count? :) On a smaller scale, I have gotten to know my kids more and have fallen in love with them as a result. And there's always fun to be had on Facebook. I am so, so lucky to be able to chew the shit with my friends there.
As for any poignant observations or ruminations, I have none at the moment. I feel a bit like a rental car: just slightly loose in the hinges and in need of an oil change. Can someone bring me some La Mer up in here? Just spread it on my toast, sweetie darlings. Mama needs to get moisturized, mmkay?