Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What Does a Depressed Person Look Like

The entire time I have been off work I have been sure that my insurance company is spying on me. This fear has caused me so much stress and grief. Dr. X. has really tried to encourage me to keep trying to play, smile, do things that I enjoy doing, despite both my depression and my concerns about the insurance company seeing me enjoying myself.

He says, act like they are watching you and do it anyways. I have tried really hard to do just that, but my worries about the insurance company misconstruing my joy in the moment, with wellness, and my ability to return to work, keeps me feeling terrified about doing things. It seems I may be worrying for a reason.

Over on Shrink Rap there is a post that will scare the hell out of anyone who is depressed and on disability. It tells the story of how a woman placed photos of herself on facebook showing her having fun and vacationing. Her insurer removed her from disability benefits for her depression partially based on how happy she appeared in her pictures.

The article made my me outraged, but it was the 668 comments after the article that made my blood bubble and boil. I could not believe how little so many people understand about what it is to live with and try to survive, and recover, from major/clinical depression.

I organized the comments by "agree", and the fourth most common agreed upon comment was:
  • 525 people agreed: "...it is clear this woman is a scam artist".

Not far down the page were more unbelievable "agree" comments...

  • 262 people agreed, "...I hate to be cruel but from the facts presented, I'm leaning towards support of the insurance company's side. If she's ok to take trips, have parties, and go bar-hopping, how is she not ok to report to work every day? "
  • 212 people agreed..."Oops, looks like you got caught to me !!! Back to work we go....like the rest of the depressed workforce of today"
  • 143 people agreed..."This woman sounds like a real go-getter"

How is it "clear this woman is a scam artist"? She posted pictures of a smiling self, enjoying the company of friends and a vacation on the beach. Do depressed people never go out with family or friends? Does major depression always preclude smiles, laughter and enjoyable moments on vacations?

I know for me, smiles come easily sometimes, and must be forced or faked other times. Even if I am severely depressed, I often find myself in situations where my mood suddenly lifts for a short period of time (when I teach art is an example). I have been so depressed I felt suicidal, unable to get out of bed, and was sure I was unable to get to my class...and then I walk through the door, see a student and my persona suddenly switches into high gear, and no one in the world would ever guess I was depressed. The problem is, afterwards, I almost always need to nap because I exhaust myself.

Does my ability to lift my mood mean I am not really depressed? I have wondered about this a lot. I cannot reconcile my depressed self with its thoughts of suicide, plans for suicide, hopelessness, and intensely low mood, with the persona that seems to be bubbly, personable and for some moments maybe even "happy".

I know that others have a difficult time believing I am depressed sometimes because I often am able to hide my sadness, or even become "unsad" for short periods of time. This has caused me a great deal of stress, because people are constantly underestimate, and often dismissing, how sad I am, and how much my depression impacts and continues to destroy my life, and my desire to live.

Another commenter writes, "If she's ok to take trips, have parties, and go bar-hopping, how is she not ok to report to work every day?" Can a person, who is truly depressed go on a vacation and enjoy any of it?

For me my depression often stops me from doing things, going places, being with people, but I still push myself to participate in these activities. Sometimes I even enjoy the activities I do. Can you believe I am depressed and actually enjoy some things? I do sometimes go away on a vacation.

Most of the time I still feel as depressed as I would be back at home, often the stress of being away from home is too much, but sometimes, the vacation provides me with moments of relief, and a break from myself. Do moments of relief mean wellness? Does it mean I can work?

Whether I am able, or not able, to work is complicated. When this depressive episode began I was severely depressed and somehow still managed to work at a job that required a great deal of energy and effort. My fear of losing my job pushed me to keep working well past the time I should have kept working. I struggled for two years to maintain my work, but near the end I shut down completely and would sit and listen to people at work explain things or discuss things...yet I could not understand what was going on anymore.

I know for me stress really triggers me and increases my depression. Currently I do some volunteer work, but only a few hours a week. I know I am not able to manage more than a few hours right now. Even with just those few hours it takes me a long time to recuperate.

I feel so scared I will not be given the time I need to get well, that I will be told I need to go back to work before I feel well enough to manage working. I question myself everyday about how it is that I am able to participate in life; write in my blog, volunteer, take singing lessons, see friends, yet am unable to manage working. I guess the simplest explanation is that the singing lesson is an hour long and then I can go home and sleep. My volunteering is a few hours a week, then I can go home and be alone, and sleep. My blog is just all the thoughts already in my head, being typed onto the page. It is cathartic for me to write...and then I can sleep. My friends know I am depressed, so I can just be most of the time.

I don't think that my sleeping after every little increment of work, at a job, would be very acceptable to any company. There is a term called "Presenteeism" that is replacing "Absenteeism" as what a company is not looking for. A person who shows up for work, yet is not well enough to fully participate in work costs companies a lot of money in lost revenue and work accomplished. The "Presentee shows up, does very little, and gets paid. It does not help the company to have a worker who is unable to fully participate in work.

Anyways I ramble...but I want to show that people who are severely depressed can sometimes lift themselves enough to do things others might perceive to be impossible to someone who is unaware what depression is really like. This just points to the resilience of the people pushing themselves to help themselves move towards wellness.


Annie said...

Aqua- I have never heard of something so wrong. How does the insurance company know what she truly needs. I agree with you that the insurance company was wrong!
They were the scam in this case!
Thanks for an interesting post.
Peace, Annie

Rach said...

I have no energy to discuss the injustice of this case.

That being said, I agree with you Aqua - in my own case, my own situation is so variable (in both the nature and severity of my symptoms), that sometimes I look awesome (ie: when I go to Israel) and sometimes I look hellish (ie: the last 3 weeks).

People need to find better things to do than stalking people on facebook and making false accusations based on profile pictures.

EJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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Shaqayeq said...

yes, you are right.Insurance companies are always looking for a sign to dismiss the rights of people.

I have had work injury for 8 months. and it s not still quite okay and I v been recently very sad and i think I am depressed ( it s been a months that i cant sleep more than 3 hours per night, lost weight clearly, and i feel like nothing). Since 4 months ago ( means after 4 months of my injury) insurance company started calling me and putting me in pressure that why you are not getting well? Our human resource, at company also puts me in pressure. I started feeling so guilty and like a burden! sometimes i felt they don't believe me.

tomorrow i have a review with the doctor. It s been few weeks that i have decided that I am gonna tell him to close the case. I really prefer to be alone for a while, no call no pressure. I sincerely feel i want to stay with my pain alone.