Well This Sucks (Depression)
A week ago, I went in for a doctor appointment, the end result of which was that I’ve started taking Zoloft for depression.
I feel like there should be a punchline here. “This is what I get for reading about Arizona politics” or “I blame the mess that is my current first draft.”
This hasn’t been a paralyzing, debilitating problem. I’ve been going to work, writing, taking care of the kids, going to karate … everything I’m supposed to do. But I haven’t been enjoying it. I’ve had less patience with my family. It’s gotten steadily harder to find the energy or motivation to do things. I’m spending more and more time feeling annoyed or apathetic.
It should not feel that draining or overwhelming to answer a simple e-mail.
I took any number of those depression self-assessments, most of which told me I was either mildly or moderately depressed. Even so, it took me close to a year to finally call and make an appointment to do something about it. Why did I wait so long? Probably the same reason I hesitated to blog about this.
I have no problem blogging about my diabetes. I’ve never felt ashamed of that disease, and I’ve never hesitated to talk about it, or to do whatever I needed in order to take care of myself.
This felt different. I’m diabetic because my pancreas took early retirement. That’s not my fault. But in my head, I was depressed because I wasn’t strong enough to deal with everything.
I know better. I was a psych major, and I’m married to a licensed counselor. I’ve watched people close to me start antidepressants, and I’ve seen how much of a difference it can make in their lives. I’ve never thought of them as weak, or of antidepressants as a sign that they’ve somehow failed at life.
It feels different when it’s you. There’s a double-standard. I know perfectly well that depression isn’t something you can simply will yourself through. I understand that neurochemical imbalance can be a physiological problem, just like a lazy pancreas. But I told myself it wasn’t really depression. I was just stressed. I needed some down time. I could tough it out. Eventually it would get better.
I can’t remember exactly when I stopped believing it would get better.
These aren’t things I’ve talked about online. There are aspects of my life that don’t make it onto the blog, and this certainly wasn’t what I wanted to project as Jim C. Hines, World Famous Author/Blogger/Cover Model!
We’re starting with a low dosage, and it will probably be a month or more before the medication starts to have an effect. Maybe longer. I was extremely hesitant about this. I don’t like the idea of messing with my brain … except that depression is a sign that my brain has already gotten messed up. I’m a bit worried about side effects too, though I’m told those should be minimal.
I have felt a little better this past week. I’d blame it on the placebo effect, except that I know perfectly well the meds don’t work this fast. Instead, I think it’s because I’m doing something. I don’t feel stuck, and there’s hope that I’ll get back to feeling like me again.
I am not asking for advice. If that changes, I’ll let y’all know.
Anyway, this is why I’ve been a bit slower to respond to e-mail, though I’m trying not to let anything slip through the cracks. This is why the rape fundraiser this year is a little less organized, and I didn’t get it posted right at the start of the month.
I’m not going to turn the blog into all-depression, all-the-time, any more than I blog about diabetes all the time. But given how open I’ve tried to be about the latter, it felt dishonest to not talk about the former, too. It felt dishonest to me. And, after all, the first step in solving a problem is acknowledgment, right?
April 16, 2012 @ 9:54 am
Right. *nods* Thanks for putting your neck out, one more person saying “Depression is not abnormal” is excellent. I hope it solves what it needs to, and that things get better.
April 16, 2012 @ 10:13 am
You’re the second person I’ve heard talking about this recently. It really helps to know I’m not alone 🙂 Thanks for being so open and brave. Hope you feel better soon.
Jim C. Hines
April 16, 2012 @ 10:21 am
Thanks. I hope so too!
Jim C. Hines
April 16, 2012 @ 10:21 am
You’re definitely not alone 🙂
Not Ready to Come Out
April 16, 2012 @ 10:29 am
I hear ya. Been there. Done that. Got the T-shirt. Twice. Depression sucks. I’m glad you finally decided to do something about it — and I commend you for blogging about it. There are a lot of double-standards I can’t stand in this world. This is one of them. And yet, I’m still hesitant to come out publicly about it. :-/ If you ever want to chat with someone else who’s been there, I’m here. I’m sure you already know this, but it does get better.
April 16, 2012 @ 10:32 am
This really resonates with me Jim, and it’s making me thing about what I need to do. All of it rings true, but particularly this part:
“I’ve been going to work, writing, taking care of the kids, going to karate … everything I’m supposed to do. But I haven’t been enjoying it. I’ve had less patience with my family. It’s gotten steadily harder to find the energy or motivation to do things. I’m spending more and more time feeling annoyed or apathetic.”
Now I have some thinking and doing of my own to do; thanks for writing about this.
April 16, 2012 @ 10:32 am
Thanks for sharing this, Jim. I’d just like to say that knowing this makes you a stronger person in my eyes.
Because hey, cover models are people, too.
April 16, 2012 @ 10:33 am
When I went on Zoloft myself several years ago, I decided I was going to be open & honest about it, and am encouraged that you are brave enough to do the same.
If you have any questions about my experience with it, drop me a note, and I’ll be glad to share.
(And as a side note, congrats on the Hugo nod. My partner UrsulaV and I hope we get the chance to meet you at WorldCon.)
April 16, 2012 @ 10:36 am
It’s a smart choice1, my brother. I noticed the effects of the zoloft right away — it kept me up all night and in the bathroom all day. The dry mouth was the worst and I had to switch to a non-alcohol based mouthwash. Despite all that, it was definitely still the right decision. In my case, it bought me time and emotional space to deal with the underlying issues in therapy.
If you want to talk to another writer about my experience, just let me know. You’re not in this alone.
Jim C. Hines
April 16, 2012 @ 10:40 am
Wait, we get a T-shirt? Sweet!
And thank you 🙂
Jim C. Hines
April 16, 2012 @ 10:41 am
It reminds me of heart attacks, in a way. Most people are familiar with the classic signs, but not all heart attacks manifest in the same way. There are some particularly striking differences in symptoms experienced by men and women, too.
I’m still reading and learning, but I get the sense some of this holds true for depression as well.
Jim C. Hines
April 16, 2012 @ 10:43 am
Thanks for the Hugo congrats, too. By all means, please come up and say hi at Worldcon!
April 16, 2012 @ 10:43 am
Depression sucks. I’m sorry you’re one of us who has to deal with it. I hope the Zoloft is the right drug for you and that it takes effect quickly.
Jim C. Hines
April 16, 2012 @ 10:43 am
“Because hey, cover models are people, too.”
Darn right! We’re just people with random cramps in our backs and legs!
Jim C. Hines
April 16, 2012 @ 10:44 am
Thanks, Charlie. No side effects yet, but it’s only been a week, and I’m starting with a very low dosage. We’ll see how it goes.
April 16, 2012 @ 10:47 am
There is a huge variation in how people react to various meds. I have had some spectacular failures with anti-depressants, with Zoloft being the drug with the least negative reaction. I took it for years and the best it ever did was leave me vaguely miserable. So, after many years and tens of thousands of dollars, I gave up on getting help. Now I’m mostly waiting for something in my body to break so I don’t have to continue.
Depression sucks. It sucks even more when there is no help or support available. Be heartened. Y the fact you do have support and that people really do care. I live in a world where not only no one cares whether I live or die, but no one will notice I’m dead until months later.
April 16, 2012 @ 10:53 am
I’m sorry to hear this, but I certainly can sympathize. I’ve now been unemployed 9+ years due to generalized anxiety disorder and depression. The depression has piled on exponentially lately as I hit 40 (while still single and childless), and see no hope on the horizon for finding a way to make money with a meaningful career.
On the other hand, it’s not always so bad- there are things that cheer me up. Like your novels! So thank you for what you do. It may be a bit more of a struggle currently… but you help make us schmos out here find some joy through their own dark clouds!
April 16, 2012 @ 10:53 am
“But I haven’t been enjoying it.”
Thanks for being one more person being willing to say “yes, I have a mental illness, and that’s okay.” There are too few of us who feel safe saying that. (For me it’s bipolar, ADD, generalized anxiety, at the least.) For me the hard part is always, how do I explain to people that there are very good, inescapable reasons why I can’t remember things from one minute to the next and have to be reminded of the simplest things over and over. That there are good reasons why it’s hard for me to get up the energy to do much at all, even things I think I enjoy. That there are just going to be times when I don’t answer email, don’t post book reviews, and so on… and that’s just the way it has to be. But sometimes there’s no way to do that without sounding like I’m whining or trying to make excuses, so I end up living with the fact that I know people are judging me in their own way.
Meh. Sorry. That turned into a whine anyway. What I meant to say is, good luck. Obviously make sure you have a good psychiatrist ’cause a bad one can really mess you up. (Still trying to undo the damage from the last inappropriate med.) Hopefully the meds will kick in and things will get better soon for you!
April 16, 2012 @ 11:19 am
Thank you for blogging about this. Your being willing to be open and honest about this will encourage others to start to de-stigmatize mood disorders. (Not to put that cross on you – simply that this post, already written, will do that.)
Jim C. Hines
April 16, 2012 @ 11:21 am
My geekness must be growing, because I find myself wanting to quote Doctor Who, when the Doctor talks about being centuries old and visiting countless worlds, and the fact that he’s never met anyone who wasn’t important.
It sounds like you’re feeling alone and hopeless and exhausted. And if you’re in the U.S., I know our health care system does a shitty job of caring for those with mental health issues.
I don’t know you. I don’t know your situation, how old you are, or anything like that, so I can’t sit here and promise it will get better or anything like that. But I hope you’ll find the strength to try again to get help. I know that here in the Lansing area we’ve got a free crisis hotline that also provides referrals, some of which were low-cost or free.
I hope things get better for you.
April 16, 2012 @ 11:47 am
Been there, too, Jim. Hope the Zoloft kicks in soon for you. (No need to respond to this.)
April 16, 2012 @ 12:01 pm
I’m a diabetic and I got diagnosed with a mix of depression and burnout today.
I won’t be getting medication though, but cognitive therapy.
The best of luck to you.
April 16, 2012 @ 12:02 pm
I could have written pretty much all of this post. I moved up to Seattle for grad school and was promptly hit with some nasty seasonal affective disorder (not helped by grad school either!) that probably exacerbated some underlying mild depression. I tried the lifestyle stuff–exercise, lightbox, eating consistently–and when I still had a bad week when nothing felt like it would ever get any better (despite my logical-brain knowing that it had to), I went on antidepressants.
And even with the seasonal nature of the disorder showing that there *is* something wonky with my brain chemistry, I still hesitate to tell anyone I’m not close to that I’m on meds for it. I’ll talk about doing martial arts, I’ll talk about using my lightbox, but the meds seem to mean I’m weak and/or broken. And this is a judgement I don’t put on anyone else–I’ve also seen them do wonderful things for people around me. I’m trying to get past that, but damn is internalized stigma hard to shake.
April 16, 2012 @ 12:06 pm
Seriously, **** depression.
You’re right about the double-standard. I’m the same way. Other people’s depression = medical condition that needs treatment; my depression = failing at life.
Congrats on getting help! I hope things continue to improve.
April 16, 2012 @ 12:27 pm
I’m sorry to hear depression got teeth into you. I think depression is especially insidious because what other condition makes you less likely to seek out treatment — because you can’t imagine it helping, or don’t think you deserve it, or just don’t have the energy to interact with the health case system.
Good luck and give yourself a break, ok?
April 16, 2012 @ 12:28 pm
I feel your pain. I’ve been on (and off) antidepressants for 16+ years, and it’s hard to admit that the lack of enjoyment and underlying “blah” is actually depression. It’s not always about crying all day for no apparent reason (as mine started out all those years ago). You may have just inspired me to push myself to actually take my meds. Thanks. (And I’m sure Dave thanks you, too… he’s been after me on this point for a while.)
April 16, 2012 @ 1:22 pm
Welcome to the club, we’ve got jackets (mine says Wellbutrin). Going through life with Big D, numb with occasional bouts of anger, is no way to go if you have alternatives (did that for four years, once, because I didn’t know what it was – last time it snuck up on me I went to my doctor as soon as a I could). Thanks for sharing, Jim. The more people share, the more others will realize they aren’t alone. It’s a large club, and it’s nice to see new faces.
Jim C. Hines
April 16, 2012 @ 1:25 pm
Falling behind on comments here and elsewhere, so I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for the good wishes, and for sharing your own stories and experiences.
April 16, 2012 @ 1:44 pm
I’m a depressed diabetic, too. And when it comes to the side effects of antidepressants, I’m King. Get ’em all. But they do eventually tolerate out (at least, mine did) and in the end it’s no big deal. When the dosage is right and the drug has built up in your system you should end up feeling…normal. Which is really all I ever wanted. There are still up and down days, but the downs are much easier to deal with. The worst time will be right now, after you’ve recognized that you need the help and before the medication has built up in your system. But it does get better…much much better. Hunker down and ride this part out and before you know it you’ll notice that things don’t seem nearly so bad.
April 16, 2012 @ 2:00 pm
My partner and I have both dealt with depression, so hugs to you for doing something about it! Just remember: depression lies! It tells you whatever it takes to stay in your head (you’re too tired, call the doc tomorrow/you’re worthless/the doc won’t believe you/you’re weak, etc etc ad infinitum). These are all lies so you won’t try to evict the bad guest in your head. Weirdly, Dorrie’s motto from Finding Nemo works for me: Jusy keep swimming!
April 16, 2012 @ 2:03 pm
A virtual hug to you and kudos for taking the time to post about it here. As usual, I know I’ll learn a lot from you sharing your journey and experiences – the good and the bad. I hope things start looking up again soon & any side effects are minimal.
April 16, 2012 @ 2:15 pm
At least you recognized it when you did, Jim. You could have fallen far worse before you got help. Just remember that there are many different meds and you may have to try a few different kinds and dosages to find the right one for you. I’ve written about my depression before, but I always seemed to suffer for months before I did anything, and now I just take the meds whether *I* think I need them or not, because most likely I do need them. The gray fuzzy-head blahs are no fun.
April 16, 2012 @ 3:36 pm
Am there doing this, though medicated now. I call it “rising to the occasion, more or less,” meaning that I manage to do the stuff I have to do but if there isn’t anything, I just sit and stare. And as you say, no joy.
Drugs help. Glad you’re giving them a shot.
April 16, 2012 @ 4:55 pm
Depression is a tough road. I think sometimes creative types also get it in their head that they should be able to art their depression away, or when things are going well you’ll go “I can’t be depressed. I have x/y/z going on that’s kinda awesome!”
I just came out of a heavy depressive funk into a, uh, slightly less heavy one and I can finally do stuff again. So I’ve been there.
I hope the meds work out and you don’t have to do too much fiddling before you find the right amount/type.
April 16, 2012 @ 9:45 pm
Part of the disease of depression is that the depressed person sees it as weakness of will. I’m glad you’ve gotten past that part and gotten medical treatment, Jim. I hope the meds help and you feel better and supported. In the meantime, you join a long tradition of wonderful writers dealing with this problem. Do what you can do and don’t worry about the rest.
April 17, 2012 @ 4:55 am
What Heather said: anhedonia sucks.
Kudos on doing the writing and posting and sharing thing… and doubly so for being willing to buck the stigma enough to seek help, and then write about it. I’ve had several rounds with dysthymia starting as a teenager. Recognized when a friend’s husband became depressed several years ago – he refused to acknowledge it or have it treated, and it eventually caused them to divorce. Recognized it in my own husband just over a year ago, and finally got him diagnosed and treated for primary ADHD and secondary anxiety and depression.
Yes, mental illness sucks, just like any other medical condition, but it does NOT imply a moral failure. Thanks for being one more voice out there with that message.
April 17, 2012 @ 6:16 am
You are definitely not alone!
April 17, 2012 @ 6:24 am
Thank you for blogging about this. Over the last few years I’ve been very open about the fact that I’m dealing with depresssion on and off and have gotten the negative reactions – even from people who spend hours talking about their pysical illnesses and injuries. The message basically was: talking about the grossest details of an injury/physical illness is fine/acceptable, sharing experiences about depression is not and means soneone is naive/stupid and someone to be mocked.
I hate that double standard, so thank you for being so open about it and sharing your experiences and thoughts with us.
Hugs and all the best to you and your family.
Jim C. Hines
April 17, 2012 @ 7:53 am
“I can’t be depressed. I have x/y/z going on that’s kinda awesome!”
There’s definitely been that. I really do have a lot of great things going on in my life, so it feels … ungrateful, I guess, to then turn around and say I’m feeling depressed.
But that kind of thinking also suggests that depression is a logical condition. It also ignores that while there are some amazing things happening, there’s also a fair amount of stress from various quarters.
April 17, 2012 @ 10:38 am
Thank you for this, Jim. I can relate so much to what you wrote, and so many of the other commenters as well. It’s really important that there are people standing up to say “yes, depression is an illness, it’s not a moral failing, and no, you can’t just ‘buck-up’ and get over it.” The more awareness we can raise, the better it will be.
I went through a lot of therapy and several medications years ago. Some of the medications worked for a while, or worked partially, but in the long run they messed me up even more than the depression. And my therapist at the time was not a good fit. So I quit all of that. And for awhile I was fine. And then I went back to graduate school and crashed back into depression big time. Sure, I still went to all my classes, went to work, made good grades and all of that, but I was miserable. It took me over a year of carrying the number for our Employment Assistance Program around in my cell phone before I called and made an appointment (after jumping through a whole bunch of hoops due to changes in the program that hadn’t been updated on the website). Like your first week of Zoloft, just the fact that I was doing something to get help gave me an immediate lift. And I still have a lot of work to do, but I think my new therapist is a much better fit, and while she’s suggested I try medication, she respects my decision not to.
I hope the Zoloft helps you. Best wishes.
April 17, 2012 @ 11:33 am
*engages in manly hug*
I’d say something like “welcome to the club”, but that would make me look like a dick.
Two zolofts and weekly counseling here and a weekly meeting in a suicide crisis center here. The most important thing I think is that people understand that you are not just feeling down. If your friends and family recognize your problem it will be easier.
It really started getting embarrassing once I reacted with a “meh” to personal hygiene and my daily obligations. But I think I am putting up a good fight.
Be strong Jim. I’ve got plenty of manly hugs to pass around and I needed my own share as well.
April 17, 2012 @ 2:15 pm
People do care. Even if your family isn’t there, or isn’t stepping up, there are people who know what you are going through and want to help you. Please give it another shot. Also, and I know you probably won’t like the sound of this, but some recent studies have shown electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) can be effective for depression that is resistant to treatment with meds. Carrie Fisher (of Princess Leia fame) has written and spoken about her struggle with depression and treatment with ECT. Unlike what you see in bad B-movies, ECT is always done with anaesthesia, so there is no pain, but there can be a bit of memory loss. Also look into sleep deprivation therapy. Hang in there. This is very difficult and my heart goes out to you. Feel free to drop me an email cathshaffer (at) gmail (dot) com if you want to talk more about ideas and resources.
April 17, 2012 @ 4:25 pm
Thank you for posting this. Everything you said just echoed everything I had felt when I was depressed. For years, I avoided medication just because I felt like I should have been stronger and gotten over it on my own. Once things got so bad that I felt I didn’t have a choice, I finally began taking Cellexa. The medication made a huge difference in my quality of life and I was eventually able to get to a point where I no longer felt depressed. It will pass. And good for you for seeking treatment and being strong enough to share it with your readers. Talking about it makes a huge difference.
April 17, 2012 @ 6:55 pm
None of us are as popular as we think we are in good times, or as alone as we feel during bad times. Just know that there are a lot of people who are wishing you the best and hoping that you get back to how you should be feeling.
April 17, 2012 @ 11:40 pm
You mention self-assessment tests. Are there any publicly available tests that you would recommend?
Jim C. Hines
April 18, 2012 @ 8:01 am
Dawn – most of them were pretty similar to http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/llw/depression_screen.cfm
April 18, 2012 @ 10:03 am
Some years ago, I wrote, “I have chronic depression. Sometimes, despite good drugs, good therapy, and good things happening in my life, my neurochemistry looks up at me in the morning and, like George Carlin’s Rice Crispies, says, ‘Snap, crackle, fuck you.'”
A while after that, I wrote that for me, antidepressant meds are like a climber’s belaying rope: they may not keep me from falling off the mountain, but they do keep me from plummeting to my death on the sharp rocks below.
Good luck with the Zoloft. It helped me.
April 18, 2012 @ 1:01 pm
I’m spending more and more time feeling annoyed or apathetic
Yep, that was me- I finally got up the courage to email my doctor and discuss it, and now, a few months down the road, I’m glad I did.
April 18, 2012 @ 2:09 pm
BTDT. Bravo to you for blogging about it. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, but it’s so hard not to be. Take courage, you’ve just given other people hope, help, and support.
In the meantime, I use torturing my characters as a supplement to the meds. It’s no solution, or anything, but it does make me feel slightly better. 😉
April 18, 2012 @ 2:13 pm
On a fairly unrelated note, at the Dragon Moon Press table at Ad Astra con this past weekend, your name was dropped as a way to sell When the Hero Comes Home. It sold very well. 🙂
Jim C. Hines
April 18, 2012 @ 2:40 pm
April 18, 2012 @ 11:45 pm
I feel your pain Jim. I blogged about this earlier this month (my depression, not yours :-p) and I decided my slogan is going to be ‘Fuck Depression’. It has that certain je ne sais quoi, no?
April 19, 2012 @ 12:52 am
Maybe longer. I was extremely hesitant about this. I don’t like the idea of messing with my brain … except that depression is a sign that my brain has already gotten messed up.
I felt like this with respect to medication for years (and further messed myself up). I’m glad you’re taking action with this now. That is wise.
It took me a while to find the right medication to treat my bipolar, but it makes such a difference in my life. Days that were unconquerable suddenly became feasible. The medication doesn’t always completely make up for the brain chemistry—some days are just awful regardless—but it does help.
I hope the Zoloft works! And thank you for speaking out about depression.
April 19, 2012 @ 1:54 am
By the way, I wrote something up on my blog about the topic of medication: We Are All Made of Chemistry.
April 19, 2012 @ 11:51 am
Do what you have to do to take care of yourself. Your family needs you.
Your fans also need you. I’m just about finished with “The Snow Queen’s Shadow”. I know it’s a selfish reason, but I want you around a long time to write more books. [img]http://www.pic4ever.com/images/128fs318181.gif[/img]
Jim C. Hines
April 19, 2012 @ 12:31 pm
Thanks, Dave. No worries, I’m not going anywhere…
April 19, 2012 @ 5:28 pm
I just wanted to drop in and say thank you for writing this. It is one of a few major things that has made me go off and make a doc appointment.
April 20, 2012 @ 8:25 am
Jim, thanks so much for taking care of yourself, and for talking about this. You’re in my thoughts.
J. Mark Miller
April 23, 2012 @ 11:41 am
I’ve been there myself, and have recently found myself there again. Take care of yourself, and thanks for the transparency so that others like us will get the help they need too.
April 23, 2012 @ 12:39 pm
Welcome to the club. Take care and thanks for the knowledge that I’m not alone.
April 24, 2012 @ 4:04 pm
I found this blog via a link to “Posing Like a Man”. When I saw this post I had to comment.
I too have depression, and have for most of my 49 years. I don’t take drugs for it, therapy worked for me. This is likely due to having a minor case. I expect to die with depression, or at least with it on my terms. For all that, I consider myself quite lucky in that mine is mostly controllable.
Good for you Jim for being open and honest about your mental illness. I have family members with much worse than depression, and seeing their openness and honesty made it easier for me.
The main thing most people do not get about mental illness is that the first “victim” in one’s own brain. Not only can you usually not spot your own depression, but its as if your brain is co-opted into joining the dark side. Being able to see the problem is half the battle.
My mine line defense against depression has been reading. I literally carry a book with me everywhere. In the long run I think this has proved to be quite positive.
Anyway, I just wanted to welcome you to the club. There are a lot of us over here.
April 25, 2012 @ 10:55 am
I really liked your post about depression (which sounds kinda like an oxymoron). I’ve struggled with it for years, and I feel like you’ve described a lot of the symptoms very well. Hang in there! The only good thing about depression is knowing what others who are dealing with it are going through, and thereby being able to offer some kind of support. I hope you start feeling better soon!
May 24, 2012 @ 3:20 pm
Hey, the other thing about not getting help is, You’re Fucking Depressed, it takes too much energy to get through the day to day let alone take on one more thing. I spent nearly 14 years knowing i had a problem and still not able to do anything about it.
But once I found the right brain chemical, wow. Everyone could tell the difference. And my doctor has stopped talking about “maybe we can stop” because my brain chemistry is on permanent screw up. I miss a day and I can tell. I miss two and look out world, Sh%$ is gonna fly.
Good luck on finding the chemical balance that allows your creativity to continue to flow and you life to not feel like it sucks.